4 County Organizations Making a Difference
What these groups are doing and why.
With a strong, active base of businesses and an involved citizenry, Westchester County is an ideal place for not-for-profit organizations to carry out their missions and be major economic contributors.
Here are profiles of three such organizations:
“Kids should have a voice and be able to express opinions about things. Kids X-Press does that by giving their voice a platform that validates their ideas.” That’s how Nivia Viera, Kids X-Press Founder and Publisher, explains the motivation behind her Westchester-based quarterly magazine, which currently reaches 140,000 readers.
Founded in 2001, Kids X-Press has steadily grown as a vehicle through which issues impacting teens are aired and analyzed by a group of young Westchester residents. And, thanks to Kids X-Press, these insights are then distributed far beyond the county’s borders. Copies can be found in schools, libraries, community centers and stores throughout the New York metropolitan area, as well as in Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago and New Orleans.
Each 28-page issue contains personal stories, poetry, current events and even interviews with notables, including former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There’s also a focus on issues directly impacting school kids, such as childhood obesity and youth violence.
Feature topics run the gamut from conservation and the environment to bullying.
Viera’s operation also produces topic-specific issues sponsored by major corporations. A science issue was funded by BASF, while Bayer supported an edition about diabetes. Viera is confident that with the backing of corporations, the production of single-cause critical issues will continue to expand.
On the web at: kidsxpress.net
THOMAS H. SLATER COMMUNITY CENTER
Westchester excels at providing assistance to those in need. One prime example is the Thomas H. Slater Community Center in White Plains, which, since 1979, has offered critical assistance to county residents in challenging circumstances.
In March 2013, it debuted a Haitian Resource Center. According to Executive Director Heather Miller, “Slater is the only group now catering to the county’s rising Haitian population, which now numbers some 10,000.” The resource center assists with translation, school advocacy, immigration, citizenship and health care issues. In addition, “the center also celebrates Haitian culture and wants to be better known as a focal point where community members can meet,” Miller says.
For the community as a whole, Slater – located in the midst of the Winbrook Housing complex – is an advocate for the prevention and reduction of social problems. Homework help is available for middle school children, and there’s also a fitness and nutrition program, as well as warm-weather offerings that include a summer camp.
Furthermore, in collaboration with other agencies and organizations, Slater provides space at its facility for Head Start programs. The center also features a variety of after-school programs, a school pantry, narcotics anonymous, a variety of counseling services and activities for adults. Plus, Slater adds, “The Jerome Robinson Drum Corps gives young people the chance to participate in drumming and marching in practices and parades.”
The City of White Plains, which owns the Slater structure, provides 75 percent of its operating funds.
GIRL SCOUTS HEART OF THE HUDSON
According to Pamela I. Anderson, CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson, Inc., “We develop girls into leaders.”
The organization that serves seven Hudson Valley counties is the largest Girl Scout council in New York State, with more than half of its 3,400 troops and groups coming from Westchester County.
“Camping is a critical pat of what we offer, but so are the cookie sales by which scouts gain financial literacy,” Anderson says. “Though not involved in actual cookie production, scouts learn how to sell them, deliver a sales pitch, set goals and definitely build confidence.”
A portion of the money earned via cookie sales goes to each individual Girl Scout troop. These funds frequently are the basis for memorable trips to destinations such as Europe.
With its central administrative office located in Pleasantville, Heart of the Hudson works hard to make sure scouting opportunities are accessible to everyone. “Along with our broad volunteer corps, we make every effort to ensure that scouting is available to the largest possible population base,” Anderson explains. “We serve girls in underserved areas. That means we go to housing projects or public schools in areas without wealthy participants.”
Her organization also trains mothers of Spanish-speaking girls in their own language to develop a troop.
On the web at: girlscoutshh.org
LOCAL DEVEOPMENT CORPORATION
As leaders of non-profit groups came to Tarrytown in the spring for the United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s 2013 Not-For-Profit Leadership Summit, Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino urged them to seek help from the county’s new Local Development Corporation (LDC) in growing their operations.
While addressing the gathering, Astorino spoke of the community improvement and job growth potential of non-profit groups. The LDC has the capability to connect them with low-cost and tax-exempt financing, which, as Astorino noted, “can save non-profits a great deal of money in financing costs” at no risk to taxpayers.
Some operations that have received LDC assistance include:
Iona College (New Rochelle) for acquisition and improvements to five faculty residences
Kendal on Hudson continuing-care facility (Sleepy Hollow) for capital improvements to the existing facility
Northern Westchester Hospital (Mount Kisco) for six new operating suites and 13 pre/post anesthesia care unit beds
Phelps Memorial Hospital (Sleepy Hollow) for construction, renovation and equipping of a surgical suite
SUNY Purchase (Purchase) for work on the Alumni Village student housing complex
White Plains Hospital (White Plains) for a six-story patient building and five new operating rooms