Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center (BHCCRC) has become a pillar in the local community for everything from its long list of programs to the caring staff and lasting effects it has on all those who go there. The center is a refuge and resource for all in the community.
“Our mission states that the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center is a historically Black, community-based institution serving all marginalized East End children and families. The center encourages, educates and empowers all East End children and their families,” explains Debra McEneaney, BHCCRC marketing and community advisor. “We offer quality educational and enrichment programs for all ages. We educate, inspire, build self-esteem and create opportunity. We are a full-service community center. We are a family. We change lives!”
Since the center became a not-for-profit in 1954, it has grown and adapted to help everyone in the community. “The center has served marginalized families, primarily African American and Latino, ever since,” McEneaney continues. “We are a lifeline for working families. Our population, many from single-parent homes and many immigrants with English as the second language, need extra help and guidance. The center now has a Latino department to aid these families, a community outreach advocate, a substance misuse specialist and an in-house social worker.”
BHCCRC offers an array of different programs for everyone in the community, including after-school programs, a summer program, SAT classes, one-on-one college prep and workforce training. They also have a food pantry, emergency assistance and in-house counseling. Even if what someone may need is not offered at the center, the staff will help guide them in the right direction, says Shanae Pritchard, assistant to Director Bonnie Cannon. “Whatever the need is, the center is most likely able to help, and if we do not have the direct resources, we have people who will guide those individuals or families step by step.”
Pritchard believes that it is not one service that makes the center what it is, instead it is the sense of community and people behind the center that make it such a pivotal landing spot for so many. “I believe the center itself has an impact on the community because of the way we engage with our families,” Pritchard says. “We do not just give them food or provide a place for their children after school; we work with them and help them through things every step of the way — something like an extended family.”
When the pandemic first started in the spring of 2020, BHCCRC realized their community needed help and didn’t wait to get started. The food pantry at the center went from monthly to weekly to better serve those in need. Pre-COVID, the pantry was providing food for about 70 individuals, but since spring 2020 the pantry has been providing for hundreds, some weeks up to 800. In 2020, the center provided more than 20,000 bags of groceries to families and seniors in need.
The children that go to BHCCRC after school are not just placed in front of a television or given busy work to fill their time, instead they are showered with compassion, praise and love. “We start each day with affirmations teaching our kids that they matter, that they are important and loved. We pride ourselves on teaching leadership, public speaking and building good character,” McEneaney says.
“I know [John] is in a safe place until I get off work,” explains Ana, whose son is brought to the center after school. While there, John gets all of his homework done and does art projects to bring home, but Ana says his biggest takeaway from the program is the socialization and new friends he makes at the center.
For Robin Gianis, the center made it possible for her to provide for her son while also raising him the way she always wanted to. “The BHCCRC helped me keep my life together at a time when I nearly felt like it was falling apart. The center provided me and my son, who started there when he was a kindergartener, with a safe place to grow and learn,” Gianis explains. Even now her son still remembers all of the amazing programs he was able to be a part of during his time there. “He will never forget the dance classes, the swimming lessons and all of the wonderful art teachers and art projects they did there.” Gianis adds, “That place is a real lifesaver for working parents. They go above and beyond for our children.”
Teens and adults are not forgotten at the center, where SAT classes are offered along with financial aid assistance. The center’s program Teach Me How to Fish is offered to adults ages 18–45 who are not on the track for college but instead looking for better paying jobs and the possibility of improving racial and economic equity. There is also the Thinking Forward lecture series that provides educational talks to the community.
Whether it’s providing help to those in need or inspiring the community to open their minds, it is no surprise that BHCCRC has become a hub for community outreach, engagement and growth for more than 60 years.
To learn more about the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, visit bhccrc.org.