By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO October 17, 2003 To get youth involved in the community at an early age helps to insure they will be productive, community-minded people more likely to stay out of trouble.
Thats the message and the aim of the KidsAct After School Program, a partnership between Catskills IDEA (Institute for the Development of Entertainment Arts) and the Monticello and Eldred central school districts. The outreach effort offering performance and artistic opportunities for local children operates in Monticello, Wurtsboro, White Lake, and Eldred.
But due to state funding cuts, KidsAct is facing a 43 percent reduction in its budget. These cuts have not only affected KidsAct, but afterschool programs throughout the state. It appears that 43 have lost funding, and most of the 117 left will face just as drastic measures as KidsAct.
A rally to protest these cuts was held on October 7 at the Rutherford Elementary School in Monticello. Well over 80 parents, children, local officials and concerned citizens attended.
This is a call to action, Catskills IDEA Executive Director Stan Raiff remarked. We have to have our voices heard. There are more than 1,000 kids in this program. The program plays an important role in their lives. We need help.
Raiff announced that they did have enough money to keep the program going until January. After that, there may be layoffs or eliminations of some of the sites and programs.
There are 22 staff positions and programs at risk, commented KidsAct Director Lilly Blue. This is a nurturing environment for the children. We listen and hear them. The results have improved dramatically.
Blue concluded her comments in tears. Children and their parents then talked about the benefits of the program. Then the meeting was turned over to local government officials.
We have to get the groups together and fight, Sullivan County Legislature Chair Leni Binder stated. This program should not be cut. We have to start a letter campaign. We could take a bus trip to Albany. We have to make enough noise until they listen.
This is all about you, Sullivan County Child Care Council Executive Director Karen Cooke told the children. Together we can make a difference. It is important that [Albany] hear your voice.
Similar wishes were expressed by New York State Assembly 98th District candidates Alan Sorensen (who attended) and Aileen Gunther. Letters of support have also come from New York State Senator John Bonacic and United States Congressman Maurice Hinchey.
The rally ended with a plea for the parents and their neighbors to start a letter-writing campaign. Attendees then viewed artwork and listened to a song all by the KidsAct students pleading for the program.
For info or to offer assistance, contact Stan Raiff at 796-4332.