Our Community Cares celebrates 10 years of helping

Pictured holding the scissors is OCC Board President Dawn Steward surrounded by board members, volunteers and guests. Photo by David Lee

CHATHAM – The charitable organization known as Our Community Cares (OCC) acknowledged the 10 year anniversary of its creation with a ribbon-cutting at its facility at 25 Hudson Avenue on Thursday, January 31, with the support of members of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and its giant scissors.

OCC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to help county residents in need. The OCC web page indicates that it assisted over 30 households in 2021 with financial, practical and emotional assistance thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers. Its record includes help to families whose homes have been destroyed by fire and families who have been faced with the compounded challenge of serious illness and accompanying medical bills. Read more…

Where will all our children go?

(The second in a series on the lack of child care in Columbia County)

GHENT—Investing in early childhood development is a winning strategy. Neglecting child care is costly. To date, the county is on the losing side.

The Nobel Laureate in Economics James Heckman has written that “Our economic future depends on providing the tools for upward mobility and building a highly educated, skilled workforce. Early childhood education is the most efficient way to accomplish these goals.”

Professor Heckman’s research found that quality preschool programs (especially those focused on infants and toddlers) returned from 7% to 13% per year on the investments made in them, based on increased school and career achievement as well as reduced costs in remedial education, health and criminal justice system expenditures.

Further, childcare generates gains in parental education, workforce participation and family income, which in turn enhances the viability of businesses and the general economy. With increased parental income, tax revenues rise. Read more…

Society meeting for (maybe?) the 200th time

Over the centuries the exact date for the first meeting of the Schodak, Stuyvesant, Kinderhook and Chatham Society for the Detection of Horse Thieves has been revised. It might have been 1805 or 1807 or 1827. Then at the 1955 meeting, documents were produced that indicate that the group was formed in 1823, which makes this year’s meeting on February 4 at Jackson’s the 200th convening of the society. Nobody seems to know if a stolen horse was ever actually returned by the organization, but a group of riders would have always be designated. They must have a good horse at the ready to chase down any perpetrator. Pictured (center) at the meeting is Congressman Marc Molinaro (R-19th) as he made a bid to become a new member of the society. At the top table are Society President Abram Vanalstyne (l) and President and Founder of Equine Advocates Susan Wagner (far l). Ms. Wagner attended the meeting to talk about horse rescue facility in Chatham. She emphasized the organization’s mission of education in the humane guardianship of horses. Photo by David Lee

Where the ‘unhoused’ went for the holidays

HUDSON—The Columbia County Department of Social Services (DSS) provided temporary housing at the end of December for 103 individuals in 77 families without homes. They were placed at eight separate motels, during the week of December 23-30, 2022, according to DSS Commissioner Robert Gibson and his assistant, Ann Delaney.

The 103 individuals consisted of 78 adults and 25 children. Of the adults, 59% were lodged within seven miles of the DSS’s Hudson office and 56% within Columbia County. The other counties where the DSS found lodging were Greene and Rensselaer. The average distance from the Hudson Office, weighted by the number of individuals, was 13.4 miles.

Every child was in a household with at least one adult. Of the children, 60% were lodged within six miles of the DSS office and 76% in Columbia County.

A plurality of the adults were in the Galvan Civic Motel (GCM) in Greenport, which includes space for helping the residents get permanent housing. The GCM opened in fall 2019 under contract with Columbia County to allocate part of its revenue to “on site support services” for DSS clients. The GCM has units for 24 households, but at the time the numbers reflect, some had just moved out to permanent housing and others had not moved in.

The following table gives the number of adults and the DSS housed in December 23-30 2022, by location. Read more…

Columbia County faces child care crisis

(The first of a new series)

GHENT—New York State classifies Columbia County as a “child care desert.” In practice that means the futures of children and their parents are stunted by the lack of available and affordable care.

Denise Bell is a first-time mother. She had to leave a job she loved, as a medical receptionist at Columbia Memorial Health, after her daughter Aurora was born. Aurora’s godmother had been caring for Aurora, but when she returned to college, Ms. Bell and her husband could not find a spot in daycare. So, she left work at Columbia Memorial—which, like most health care facilities, has staffing shortages—and, found part-time work that she can do from home.

Now, Ms. Bell says, the lack of daycare is “shaping my whole life.” Aurora is on the wait list at several centers, but Ms. Bell feels that “unless you work in daycare, your child doesn’t have a chance to get in.”

Actually, not even day care workers can find care for their children.

Aisha Hart works for Child Care Connections, a program of Family of Woodstock, Inc. (Family) that links parents to licensed and registered child care programs in Columbia and Greene counties. She is due to deliver her first child in April and started looking for a daycare slot back in November in the hope of being able to continue to work after the baby arrives. She is on several wait lists, but fears that even if a slot opens up (and she does not expect one for at least one year) her family may be not able to pay for it because “unless you can afford a second mortgage or two rents, you can’t afford daycare.” Read more…