“Our biggest issue over the years has been transportation,” says Jim Tinger, longtime director of the New Paltz Youth Program (NPYP). “We like to take field trips to expose the kids to different activities and events that are not just in New Paltz, to give them an idea of the different cultural centers here in the Hudson Valley and do it as a group where they’re supervised. Sometimes that’s as big as going to a museum in the city, and sometimes it’s as easy as going to Skate Time in Accord.”
But the youth program that serves middle and high school students has to rely on parent volunteers or Tinger using their own vehicles to transport the kids. There are a wide range of activities offered, from trips to Dorney Park and Six Flags to camping, swimming and hiking excursions, but participation is limited by how many cars and drivers are available. “Almost every single thing we do has a cut-off because of that,” Tinger says. “It becomes a scramble for the kids to get permission slips signed and be the first to get those in. And some kids wind up losing out.”
The idea to purchase a van for transporting kids on field trips has come up several times in the 20-odd years Tinger has directed the program, he says. But it’s never come to fruition until now. The town has given the go-ahead to the group to raise funds to purchase a van, and maybe even two by pooling their efforts with the town recreation department. The thing is, notes Tinger, the van isn’t intended to drive kids home at night; it’ll be specifically for field trips. And the youth group would only need a van for 25-30 days out of each year. When they’re not using it, the community center could, or it could be used to transport seniors. “I’d be happy myself to volunteer to drive seniors in the van to the polls on election days,” he says.
The plan is to purchase a 15-passenger van; a special license is not needed for a vehicle of that size, so any licensed driver could drive it. A good used van of the type they’ve been considering will cost in the neighborhood of $35,000.
A GoFundMe.com campaign has begun for online donations, and a series of car washes are planned for the upcoming months. Car washes have traditionally been the youth program’s most successful fundraisers, says Tinger, with no money for advertising needed and just a few hours on a Saturday at the middle school. The kids bring in customers by holding up signs on the street, and people love to see them working, says Tinger, even donating more money to the program through tipping.
There will be a “Baked Ziti Night” fundraiser at Tommy C’s deli at 138 Main Street on Friday, April 8 from 4:30-8 p.m. A complete baked ziti dinner with salad, bread and dessert can be purchased for eat-in or take-out for $12.99.
The youth group is also applying for grants, including the community funding grant from Ulster Saving’s Bank and another from Lowe’s, but given the uncertainty of grants, the bulk of the funding will probably come from the community patronizing the program’s fundraisers. “I have a lot of volunteers from the college and helpers here,” says Tinger, “so I think we’ll have the manpower to do these projects. We just have to get into the groove.”
Buses that the school district is getting rid of are not of use because the vehicles are already at the end of their useful life at that point. The youth program also cannot by law drive vehicles that look like school buses, so the cost of modifying them would not be worth it.
The New Paltz Youth Program has been offering year-round educational, recreational and social opportunities for local students in middle and high school since 1989. The youth center at 220 Main Street opens daily at 2 p.m. They offer recreation that includes basketball, billiards, board games, foosball, ping-pong, skateboarding and video games and regularly scheduled Saturday night GAMES with music, crafts and sports activities. Individual counseling and peer education training is offered as well as tutoring, family mediation and crisis intervention. They do CPR and first aid training and have a library/computer lab resource center. All activities and services are free. More information can be obtained by calling (845) 255-5140 or visit www.newpaltzyouthprogram.org.