Family on the front line: Executive director Michael Berg assesses the situation on the ground

Michael Berg

“It’s like Woodstock 99 for four months….” says Michael Berg, Executive Director of Family of Woodstock, which began its mission back in 1970 with the goal of helping its communities with “any problem under the sun…” And now, a new one, the Corona virus pandemic which has the non-profit organization, which runs shelters, provides emergency food pantries, domestic violence services, court advocates, counseling, hotlines and child care supports, up and running around the clock.

“We’re really busy and worried about staff. We’re transacting business digitally and over the phone, helping with emergency funds. We’re cooking a huge amount of food at the Hodge center, where there’s a remarkable amount of volunteers created by Rise Up Kingston.” He said that one day last week they had prepared 300 lunches and 350 dinners yesterday. “I expect it will go up.”

The hot lines are running. “We’re setting up phone lines so volunteers and staff can work from home, and we’re encouraging county to send us hot line callers.

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“The number of calls in the middle of the night have increased substantially,” said Berg.

“People are just scared, worried about their families. People are still not getting tested. We’re struggling getting people tested because we need them to keep working. It’s a tough time. People are really scared.

“The strength of Family is to get people to talk it out. We’re encouraging people to talk through their emotions. It helps people to express their fear and their trauma. People can’t escape it, no matter what channel or radio station, its all you hear. You can’t escape and it builds up that tension.”

Asked about reports that gun sales have risen dramatically, Berg lamented.

“Buying guns? That’s sad, and people are afraid that people are going to come take their stuff. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

“My fear is that it’s not going to be short term at all. When I hear the Governor of California, my reaction is, how am I going to keep these essential services going? My people are very dedicated. We’ve answered these phones for 50 years now and it’s not going to stop. I may be doing the night shift myself but it’s not going to stop.

“One thing we need to learn is that we were not prepared. There’s enough ‘not being prepared’ to go around and I don’t want to get into the politics of it, but I hope we learn a lesson from this.

“When I hear the CDC was cut a billion it leaves me shaking my head. What’s important? The welfare of our people.”

He also has economic concerns.

“I’m worried about the businesses, I think we’ll see gaping holes in the stores. People don’t have reserves. I think that as a country and as a system we have to look at that…make the difference between the haves ad have-nots be too great… People have to live, it doesn’t help to have people thrown out into the streets. We have to do better than this.”

“We don’t tout ourselves too much, but when the crises happen, people turn to us. I’m very proud of our agency.”

 

Family of Woodstock is operating

During the coronavirus pandemic, Family of Woodstock is maintaining its County-wide 24-hour hotline, which plays play a critical role, not only in disseminating current information, but responding to the isolation and fear that many of our citizens are going to have.

Family is also maintaining its food pantries at its walk-in centers in Woodstock, New Paltz and Ellenville, as well as running its four shelters including Family House, a runaway and homeless youth shelter; Family Inn, a shelter for homeless families; Darmstadt, a shelter for homeless individual adults; and the Washbourne House, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and their children, as well as both MidWay Transitional Living Programs for older homeless adolescents who do not have family support.

Family is also preparing hot meals at the Everette Hodge Community Center in Kingston and working with local organizations and volunteers to distribute the meals to families in Kingston who cannot access food distribution points or cannot afford to purchase food.

Its Child Care Connections, Family’s Child Care Resource and Referral Program, will continue to support local child care programming and work with local providers to expand their capacity as a result of the fact that schools are closed.

Family also can provide emergency funds. Its John St., Kingston office will process requests for emergency funding for local citizens, utilizing the emergency funds created by United Way and Radio Kingston. Funds will be used for such emergencies as utility cut-offs, rent, food, medical needs, etc.

Case Management and Crisis Intervention

In addition to the work of the Hotline, Family’s case managers will be outreaching to their consumers to make sure that they’re ok and to encourage them to contact Family by phone, text, or e-mail. This is as a result of the fact that we are following recommendations to limit walk-ins.
For help in these matters, call Family of Woodstock at 845-679-2485 or see https://www.familyofwoodstockinc.org/.

There are 3 comments

  1. Constance Bailey

    Family of Woodstock is a listening organization, a one-on-one, cut-the-red tape, kind of an organization. It’s a fall-back organization when there’s no one else to fall back on. It’s Family. If you can only afford to help one group in this time of urgent need, chose Family.
    Thank you, Michael Berg and staff, for your brave work on the front lines!

  2. Carlissa Floryan Stratford

    Hi! I’ll never forget Family House in Woodstock for the awesome love and support they showed my family and myself. I think I was there 2-3 times, 2 of my sisters were there also. We loved Family House. How is Josie? Haven’t seen or heard from anyone is years, heck I’m 49 now and was like 12 when I was there. God Bless and stay safe everyone!

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