NECC seeks last-minute support for virtual brunch
MILLERTON — Just as the North East Community Center (NECC) has supported the local community for the last 30 years, the NECC is hoping residents and local businesses will return the favor and support its virtual Chef & Farmers Brunch — its major summer fundraiser that helps replenish its coffers so it can continue to provide essential services and programs to youth in Millerton and around the Harlem Valley year round.
Under normal circumstances, NECC’s annual brunch is a grand community affair geared toward raising awareness about the community center, the region’s restaurants and the farms and residents who dedicate their time and efforts — many of them as volunteers — to help move their communities forward.
With COVID-19 being declared a pandemic in March of 2020, NECC Executive Director Christine Sergent said they knew they weren’t going to be able to do the brunch at all since it usually takes them eight to nine months to prepare. Given the unknown factors surrounding the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccinations, she said NECC was prevented from planning for the brunch ahead of time, which led to them canceling the event.
However, Sergent said she did a lot of research and spoke with a lot of people — many of whom had experience organizing fundraisers and virtual events. The feedback she kept getting, she said, was that the NECC is an organization with a clear mission “and the kind of work we do is why people support us.
“People care that we’re fulfilling that purpose,” she continued, “… and it seemed that we could just ask and people would be there for us and help.”
When the Chef & Farmer Brunch Fundraiser went virtual last year, Sergent was advised not to be ostentatious, so she kept its digital campaign simple and humble. After struggling back and forth with what to do this year, Sergent decided to implement a campaign similar to last year’s, complete with digital releases and videos promoting their community work.
This year, they added a few components to celebrate the local angle, such as recipes and videos featuring local farmers, chefs and restaurants that have worked with NECC on past Chef & Farmer Brunches — including Full Circus Farm in Pine Plains and both Rock Steady Farm and 52 Main in Millerton.
The 2021 campaign kicked off mid-June with the release of an initial video on June 18. Sergent said it will continue past the usual Chef & Farmer Brunch date, until Sunday, July 25.
Sergent said the main drawback of going virtual is that NECC “is a very personal organization,” which is sometimes hard to express via video.
“The work we do is typically one-on-one or in groups in real time, whether we’re educating children, transporting seniors or holding an event, activity or workshop for the community,” she said. “In-person is where we find that most, so that is really hard for us not to do this year and that’s what we miss the most.”
In the meantime, the community center has received many donations from longtime supporters. Donors have also started volunteering at its many programs, and new residents have also started reaching out to learn more about the organization.
“The most amazing thing is how supportive this community has been to the NECC,” Sergent said. “More importantly, to the people we’re serving.”
Between August and September, Sergent said NECC hopes to bring back more of its community activities and in-person resources that people used to access before COVID-19 hit, including hearing tests, senior exercise activities and community workshops.
While all of the NECC staff has returned to its office at 51 South Center St. in Millerton, the building currently isn’t open to the public, with the exception of programs like the Teen Team and the Food Pantry.
Now that some of its programs are in-person, Sergent said she looks forward to bringing back more activities this fall.
Additionally, she said NECC anticipates participating in Millerton’s Fall Food Festival this September and organizing its annual Hispanic Heritage Festival on Columbus Day weekend, along with another community event currently in the works.
To make a donation to the Chef & Farmer Brunch fundraiser, go online to www.neccmillerton.org or send a check in the mail to Chef & Farmer Brunch Fundraiser, NECC, 51 South Center St., Millerton 12546 NY.
For more information, call 518-789-4259 or go to www.neccmillerton.org.