Top College News Subscribe to the Newsletter

Community Works supports local orgs

Features Editor

Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 15:12

dutchess outreach

Courtesy of Vassar

Dutchess Outreach, an organization devoted to helping those in need in the community, currently focusing on feeding the hungry, is one of several organizations that will benefit from Community Works.

When caught up in the flurry of finals, it’s easy to forget that many of the issues we’re writing our papers about are happening in Vassar’s own backyard.

Community Works, however, an organization whose goal is to raise funds for local nonprofit agencies, is thinking about it all of the time.

Every year, Community Works accepts nominations from the Vassar community for recipients of the fund’s donations and through a selection process undertaken by the board, composed of coaches, professors and employees alike, typically choose around 10 of them.

John McCleary, Professor of Mathematics and Community Works Chair, said, “We’re interested in everyone’s suggestions because so many different people are connected to Poughkeepsie and the surrounding community in a variety of ways. This year we had almost 40 nominations. A subcommittee gets that number down around 20, and then the full committee meets, discusses and votes on the organizations to be funded.”

Vice President for Communications Susan DeKrey added, “People with different backgrounds and experiences on the committee bring greater knowledge about community needs and the organizations and agencies working to meet those needs.”

This year, there are 11 recipients including The Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse of Dutchess County, the Children’s Media Project, the Dutchess County SPCA, Dutchess Outreach, the Grace Smith House all of which general fall under the categories of need which the Works program historically supports.

Their goal is to raise $100,000 to disperse among the organizations.

While $100,000 may seem like a nearly impossible goal, the Works’ organization is confident they will achieve it. In fact, there have been some years in which they have surpassed this mark. More importantly, DeKrey noted, “The groups Community Works funds have ambitious goals as well so it’s well worth doing all we can to achieve it.”

McCleary said, “Work done by agencies in certain areas has always been important for Community Works to support, such as domestic violence, housing, hunger, education and the arts.” He went on to note that the Works’ alliance with these programs have more ties to Vassar than just through Community Works and are frequently in collaboration with individual Vassar students or other Vassar organizations.

“Many of our organizations are well known to Vassar through their involvement in the Field Work program, and the college’s other educational and outreach projects. Talking with some of the directors of the agencies selected for the new Community Works grants, I found that they view Vassar and our students as real partners. Combined with support from Community Works, these partnerships do a lot to burst the bubble,” said McCleary.

DeKrey echoed his sentiments, stating, “That strong foundation with many of the organizations Community Works funds is already there. The funding further reinforces the college’s commitment to being part of and supporting the local community.”

Libby Pei ’13, Assistant to the President and Community Works member, is working even harder to involve students in these initiatives.

She said, “As one of only two student committee members, my role is primarily focused on getting the student body involved in the campaign. Fundraising initiatives are often hard with students but it seems that so far, students have been eager to contribute to Community Works.” Though many students don’t have that much spending money available to them, Pei said students have certainly been made an effort to get involved.

“Working with individual institutions allows for what feels like a more direct connection and contribution back to Poughkeepsie. There are so many great local organizations that would benefit from our support; I only wish we could assist more groups each year,” said Pei.

One of the organizations which has received continual support from Vassar over the years is Dutchess Outreach, an agency whose mission it is to meet the basic needs of those in need as well as create a greater consciousness of hunger and other social problems.

Of their successes, DeKrey said, “[They] served over 200,000 meals between July 2011 and the end of June 2012. That encourages the committee to keep working to raise funds and we hope it encourages people to give.”

Executive Director of Dutchess Outreach Brian Ridell remarked that the need for food has become increasingly pressing over time and most of the money will certainly go towards stocking their pantry and funding free meals.

“Right now our biggest initiative is for food. I would say if you spoke to me three years ago we were averaging about 240 households a month. Now, we’re close to 400 a month which has picked up particularly in the last year—there’s also a tremendous increase in the amount of people coming to our food pantry from the city limits,” he said. As it turns out, Outreach’s evening meals program also has ties to Vassar. Ridell said the idea had originally come from Vassar’s Hunger Action organization about 10 years ago. It started humbly, offering a few nights a month of free dinners, but now has garnered enough support to be hosted almost every night, said Ridell.

However, he went on to mention that the needs of the Poughkeepsie are constantly evolving which is why it is ideal that Community Works allows Outreach to use their funds unrestrictedly, that is, in whatever way they see fit. For Ridell this freedom is crucial to the success of collaborative efforts in achieving their mutual goals.

He said, “The need is growing and when we look at the scale of hunger and all of the different groups involved in trying to alleviate it, I think when resources are put in the right place, and this is an example of this, unrestricted money being able to be used where we need it, these problems are manageable. There are terrific social problems but when resources are put in the right place they become surmountable.” 

Recommended: Articles that may interest you

Be the first to comment on this article!

log out