Every weekday afternoon at 2:45, a yellow school bus pulls up in front of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center on the Sag Harbor Turnpike.
More and more kids these days are piling out with their heavy backpacks to attend the Center’s After-School program. There they will do their homework under a teacher’s supervision, do arts and crafts, learn computer skills, play in the playground, participate in karate class or dance or art appreciation, go on occasional field trips to the Hampton Library or the Dan Flavin Art Institute or the Children’s Museum, until their parents pick them up at 6:30 p.m. There is a nominal fee for the After-School program, but increasing numbers of local families can’t afford to pay anything. Still, the children come, with the Center absorbing the extra costs. “We don’t turn any child away,” says the Center’s executive director, Michelle Cannon.
Every morning at 8 a.m. a parade of cars pulls up in front of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center as parents deliver their much younger children, two, three and four, to Head Start. They scamper into the McCall building, named for the late Penny and David McCall, generous benefactors of the Center who were killed in Albania during the Kosovo conflict, to attend the popular federal program for preschoolers, the only one on the East End. Head Start rents the McCall building from the Center, but the funds for rent were cut off during the sequester following the government shutdown—and won’t be reinstated until 2014. That leaves the Center short a critical $15,000 while the program continues, rent-free. “We aren’t going to turn out Head Start,” says Cannon.
The Center, one of the oldest institutions in Bridgehampton, can’t catch a break. A big source of revenue has traditionally been a golf benefit, but this year no golf club on the East End had a day free for the Center. A holiday benefit gospel concert with the Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem Alumni Ensemble planned for December 18 has been postponed because of an unforeseen schedule conflict. Meanwhile, the financial pressure on the Center mounts, as do the needs of the community. The Center runs a food pantry for low-income families and seniors, but the growing demand for food is exceeding the Center’s capacity to fill it.
Cannon remains optimistic about the Center’s future, including the renovation of a small, multi-use cottage on the property to house a thrift shop, a program for teens and 21st Century Workplace Skills, an upcoming 36 class workshop offered by BOCES to instruct students in resume writing, creating spreadsheets, becoming a notary public and strategies for taking civil service exams, among other employment tools. But even she is uneasy at the loss of revenue coupled with the rising need for services. “If we don’t raise $50,000 by the end of this year, we’ll have to scale back our programs,” she says. “And that would diminish the lives of many, many local children and their families.” Nonetheless, the Center is going ahead with its Christmas party at 6 p.m. on December 19, with presents for the children donated by the Bridgehampton National Bank, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons and the Lion’s Club.
All are welcome.
Donations to the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center can be mailed to P.O. Box 1197, 551 Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton, NY 11932 or made online at nycharities.org.