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Thanks, Didi, for going to bat for NECC

The Millerton News Editorial

There is no question that the North East Community Center (NECC) provides essential programs and social services, not just for its hometown village of Millerton, but to the many communities it serves throughout the Harlem Valley.

Among its funders and collaborators, according to its incredibly well laid out and newly updated website, www.neccmillerton.org, in addition to the town of North East, are the towns of Amenia, Dover, Pine Plains and the village of Millbrook; the Webutuck Central School District; the Foundation For Community Health, Inc.; the Eastern Dutchess Rural Health Network; the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region; the Dutchess County Office for the Aging; the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation; and a slew of others.

As the history section of the website explains, NECC began in 1988 under the auspices of The Northeast Community Council Inc. NECC was established in the winter of 1988 as a dba, thanks to Millerton residents Wendy Curtis and Sam Busselle.

Curtis and Busselle, long passionate advocates for improving Millerton and the quality of life for all who live here, urged the North East Town Board to pass a local statute.

According to the website, NECC’s “original purpose was to respond to the lack of social support services for Millerton and North East residents, who reside far from county services in Poughkeepsie.”

The community center was incorporated as a nonprofit in New York in 1990 and received federal recognition as a 501(C)3 nonprofit in 1994.

Being a nonprofit, of course, means it had to find and must continue to find alternative and ideally lucrative funding sources willing to sponsor the many creative programs NECC offers.

Under the superb guidance of Executive Director Christine Sergent, those services have grown to include programming not only at its 51 South Center St. headquarters (the building was purchased in 1993 thanks to a generous and far-sighted donor), but have also stretched out to Amenia, where its K-eighth grade after-school programming is housed at the Webutuck Elementary and middle school buildings at the Haight Road campus (which NECC permanently leased in 2017).

In fact, NECC’s budget is now operating at more than $1 million and its staff includes 12 full-time workers and 14 part-time workers. That budget helps the community center fund programs ranging from Toddler & Youth Programs to Family Programs to Community Programs to Food Access Programs to Transportation Programs to After-School Programs to Job Programs.

Among the vital services NECC has focused on during the past three decades has been childcare. That’s why just two weeks ago, State Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106) said she was excited to have secured $40,000 for the nonprofit as it provides for families in the region needing such assistance. Barrett shared news of the award on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 20.

Barrett said she found the money in the 2021 state budget. It came from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. The funds became available this past summer and Barrett was insistent they go toward programs in her district.

“I think they have been as responsive as they could possibly [be],” said Barrett about NECC. “It was obviously a very challenging time for all non-for-profits because their normal programming, as well as their normal fundraising events and outreach, were curtailed [during the pandemic].”

Which is another reason why she wanted to give the $40,000 to the community center, to help bolster its coffers and give it a boost for its childcare programming.

“I hope that people will continue to recognize what a treasure they have in the North East Community Center,” said the assemblymember.

Sergent explained that the funding from Barrett’s office is being paired with a small pilot grant from Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. She said it’s “the reason why we can finally take steps to assess the childcare needs of the community and consider NECC’s potential role in providing solutions to these needs in our area.”

In the upcoming months, NECC will conduct childcare assessments to plan for possible expansion, if its Board of Directors decides to do so. It’s also developing a business plan for the board to review and drafting a survey of childcare needs to send out community wide to solicit more input.

The Oct. 7 issue of The Millerton News interviewed Sergent, who said NECC wants to start a nonprofit childcare center in the former Astor Head Start site at 11 Park St. In early October, the Head Start program announced it would shift to a home-based program due to low enrollment after more than 30 years of operating out of its Millerton base.

“It’s still a work in progress, but we want to be something that benefits the families in the area and the businesses in the area that are striving to attract employees,” said Sergent, noting NECC received some start-up funds to get the project going.

We believe anything NECC can do to help support the community’s youth, as it has for the past 33 years, would be well worth the effort — just like the many other endeavors the community center has undertaken in the past three-plus decades.

We support NECC wholeheartedly, along with its fearless leader, Sergent, and her many trusted employees, volunteers and board members, with whatever they set their minds to do. We are certain it will be for the greater good.

We also want to thank our assemblymember, Didi Barrett, for once again remembering the Harlem Valley and working to squeeze every penny out of the state budget she could for us.

Thanks, too, to Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation -— which is always around with the just the right grant to fill in the gaps at just the right time.

This is the perfect example of a community coming together to get a deed done for the common good. And what better “good” is there then our children? Well done, everyone. Well done indeed!

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