Accent on New Paltz: Helping others to help themselves

Not a day goes by without hundreds of Ulster County residents being helped by the staff and volunteers at Family of New Paltz and its parent organization, Family of Woodstock. And yet, as a volunteer and proud member of the board of directors of this fine organization, I realize that, even after almost 50 years, the myriad of ways in which Family changes lives for the better is still one of our area’s best kept secrets.

Family of Woodstock dates back to 1970 and hosts the oldest continuously operating crisis hot line in the nation. Many local residents are familiar with the walk-in crisis center at 51 North Chestnut Street in New Paltz, which also houses a food bank and free store. It is uplifting to see so many generous people arrive each day with donations of money, food, clothing, personal hygiene items and small household articles which will help those in need in our community. What may not be as well known, however, due to the confidential nature of the help being provided, is what goes on upstairs at Family of New Paltz and in the associated Babb Learning Center located on the same property.

Each and every day, volunteers and staff case workers assist family members who are experiencing domestic abuse to find safe shelter. They help individuals fill out the multitude of forms required by our various government agencies. They provide computer skills training to help combat the impact of the “digital divide” and help those looking for work to conduct internet job searches and prepare their resumés.


One woman is now in her fourth year of employment thanks to a resumé that a volunteer helped her create at the Babb Learning Center and an online job application that the same volunteer helped her submit. A man in his 40s who is disabled and who had previously only been able to obtain temporary, part-time employment, will soon complete his first year of steady, full-time employment and was recently chosen as “Employee of the Month” by his employer.

Sometimes swift action and coordination are required when the volunteers and staff at Family’s walk-in crisis centers learn of a family in need. Just before Christmas last year, an elderly woman in our community who is raising her grandchild was threatened with eviction when she fell behind in her rent due to a serious illness which had kept her from her job. In that instance, New Paltz Rotary and St. Joseph’s Church joined with Family to provide emergency relief. The woman is now well again and has caught up with her rent, enabling her grandchild to remain in the same school district with her friends.

Stories such as these unfold every day at the New Paltz, Ellenville and Woodstock walk-in centers and at the various shelters operated by Family of Woodstock around the county. Family offers 19 specific programs that provide child care and after school services, health services, addiction recovery programs and assistance to runaways, veterans and the elderly. Family of Woodstock has created a group of caring, competent staff members and volunteers, the results of whose work reach far beyond the boundaries of the Village of Woodstock where it all began so many years ago.

For me the stories of lives forever changed is the strongest argument of all for continuing to keep Family in our hearts and minds. Here are some numbers to consider.

In 2016 alone, Family of Woodstock responded to over 140,000 separate contacts from individuals seeking help of some sort. Various departments of the agency responded by providing assistance to 1,443 victims of domestic abuse. Family food pantries, including our own walk-in center on North Chestnut Street, provided 103,662 meals, while an additional 71,054 meals were provided at various shelters operated by Family throughout Ulster County. Social services related to child abuse, disability payments, emergency housing, transportation and securing support from Social Security Disability, Medicaid and the New York State Women’s, Infants and Children Program (WIC) were provided to 9,170 individuals.

All of this work was accomplished by 150 full-time and part-time employees and an additional 150 volunteers. Thank you all.

Here in New Paltz our local Family organization will be hosting its tenth annual Rubber Duck Race on Sunday, May 7 at the New Paltz Regatta. As always, a table will be set up on the front lawn of the Gilded Otter, where you can sponsor a duck for $5 or purchase a “Quack Pack” of five ducks for $20. This will give you the chance to win one of the prizes awarded to the sponsors of the first five ducks to cross the finish line on the Wallkill River, just north of the Carmine Liberta Bridge. You will also be able to purchase a T-shirt or other item to show your support for this amazing organization, and information will be available on how to become a volunteer so that you too can help others to help themselves. All proceeds from the day will benefit Family of New Paltz and its parent organization.

For further details or to sponsor a duck, contact program director Ivan Echenique at (845) 255-7957. Hope to see you on May 7.