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Westchester community groups face tough times
Catherine Marsh has just finished the complicated process of giving away $1.5 million to 68 groups that serve low-income communities throughout Westchester. And while she feels good about that, her mood is far from happy.
While Westchester is a wealthy county, it relies on its working poor folks to keep the suburban economic engine running as they fill low-paying jobs at stores, restaurants, offices and more. Their future has become increasingly difficult because the $1.7 billion county budget passed on Dec. 7 includes cuts that will impact community-based services.
“Whether it’s allowing someone to go to work because they know their elderly parents are taken care of or an after-school program for kids, when you cut those things, it makes me sad because it affects everyone’s quality of life,” said Marsh, executive director of Westchester Community Foundation in Hartsdale.
While her organization will help non-profits to provide services through 2013, every community group in the county is scrambling for new funding sources to shore up their meager operating budgets. County funding will be extremely hard to replace and could jeopardize the survival of some programs, she warned.
Meanwhile, the funding that she is providing through WCF is making its way through various neighborhoods. Its grants range in size from $1,000 that will help Grace Church Community Center in White Plains sent homeless boys to summer camp, to $90,000 to fund Westchester Not-for-Profit Housing Coalition’s county-wide efforts to promote affordable housing.
In between are the many groups which, taken together, provide a snapshot of a county energized by diverse communities with rarely-discussed needs.
WCF focuses on funding programs that address issues related to youth education, health and the environment. A full list of all funded programs is attached at the end of this post. Here are a few of the highlights:
· $20,000 to support family literacy program for immigrants in Tarrytown (Foundation for the Public Schools of Tarrytown).
· $15,000 for a farm-to-school program that provides fresh local food to low income students (Friends of Hilltop Hanover Farm).
· $65,000 for civil legal services to low-income residents (Legal Services of Hudson Valley).
· $6,000 for scholarships for poor Jewish students (Music Conservatory of Westcheester).
· $30,000 to promote safer streets and fight for mass transit on the new Tappan Zee Bridge (Tri-State Transportation Campaign).
· $2,500 to support an intergenerational sewing program (Neighborhood House).
· $20,000 to study the feasibility of creating a pedestrian/bike lane that will connect downtown Yonkers to the Bronx (Groundwork Hudson Valley).
The list goes on and on, as will the conversations in coming weeks. Like Marsh, the executive directors at the various non-profits around Westchester are going through the budget numbers. She is meeting with many of them to figure out how hard they’ve been hit, which will influence the foundation's 2013 giving strategies.
“There's a lot of discussion going on now, a lot of information sharing going on now,” said Marsh.