Written by Chris Boyle Friday, 28 February 2014 00:00
Serving the needs of the less fortunate members of the community for nearly a century, the Westbury Neighborhood House has stood the test of time as a beacon of hope to the community; one that more and more people desperately need in these harsh economic times.
The Neighborhood House is an independent, not-for-profit, volunteer-driven charity that serves the Westbury, Carle Place, New Cassel, and Old Westbury areas. Originally founded in 1916 in a house located on Union Ave., the group quickly outgrew that location and in 1920, moved to a two-story house located at 334 Winthrop St., where they have remained ever since.
Life-long Westbury resident Raymond Muntz, who retired from a career at the Grumman Corporation, said he’s always been an active member of the community. He has worked at the Neighborhood House for the past 10 years, serving the last five as President of its Board of Directors.
Muntz stated that back when the Neighborhood House was originally founded, circumstances were different in the community. Early deeds the organization performed involved providing services that local schools and government now provide for themselves, including lunches for children, nurse services and trash collection.
“Sometimes we have school groups visit here and I tell them that things that we take for granted weren’t happening 100 years ago,” he said.
Nassau County and the school districts eventually took over many of these duties themselves, so over time the Neighborhood House evolved and moved on to providing other vital services for the community. Muntz noted that prospective clients must first go through an intake process, where they discuss their needs and resources with a social worker. If deemed eligible for assistance, they are given access to food, clothing, counseling, housewares and other resources aimed at getting them back on their feet. At holiday time toys and turkeys are also provided.
Of course, this kind of assistance, while completely free to clients, doesn’t come cheap to the Neighborhood House. The charitable group is always on the lookout for funding sources to keep their operation running, Muntz said.
“Our annual operational budget is in the $35,000 range,” he said. “About a third of that comes from annual appeal letters that we send out to the community, asking them to please donate. We don’t get anything from Nassau County, but occasionally we get a grant from something known as the Good Neighbor Fund. When they are trying to reach a certain goal and it’s something that we’re trying to do as well, they’ll give us a grant. It’s not reliable, but when we get it, it helps. We also ask for small donations for some of the clothing we have available here.”
However, the Neighborhood House is making a plea to the community to enlist as many of their associates as possible in assisting their efforts, as Muntz said lately they’ve found themselves delving into their reserve funds to stay afloat.
“We had two former board members will us money, but lately we’ve been eating into that, which we don’t want to do,” he said. “In the appeal letters that we send out, I say that we’re looking into the future, and we don’t want to wait until the last minute to tell them that we’re out of money. We appreciate what people donate and we ask that they get a friend to donate as well.”
The Neighborhood House currently has about 20 volunteers and while this is adequate for the most part, Muntz said they are always looking for more.
Amityville resident Ruth Pellegrino is a licensed Social Worker at the Neighborhood House who handles a great deal of the paperwork that the charitable group’s activities tend to generate. She works hands-on with many of the families that the group assists, offering her services as a counselor when she encounters individuals or families in distress.
“I currently have files on almost 1,700 families that we’re actively helping right now,” she said. “We manage to keep up with all of those people because we only allow one visit a month, unless it’s a desperate emergency. But being able to help all of these people makes me feel very good, when they come in and tell you, ‘thank you so much.’Then it feels really good.”
While the mission of the Westbury Neighborhood House at times seems to be an uphill battle, Muntz said that the ability to positively touch so many lives in the community makes all the hard work more than worth it.
“We’re just fortunate that we can do it. We have people that would probably starve without our help,” he said. “Even if you don’t live here and it’s an emergency, we won’t turn you away. We’ll help you one time and then try to find you resources in the town that you live in. For example, we had a woman from Smithtown that had heard of us come in for help. We gave her some food and household stuff, worked with her maybe three or four times. Then, maybe five months later, she came in, thanked us, and even offered to make a donation. It’s really nice when something like that happens.”
Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:00
Westbury High School students are teaching younger children from Park Avenue Elementary School valuable life lessons about money and business skills through the High School Heroes program.
In this program, high school students that are taking Renate Johnson’s Junior Achievement class will go into first grade classrooms to teach 45-minute lessons.
“It is a program that gives high school and younger students confidence and teaches them about business and financial literacy,” said Johnson.
Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00
The Westbury Historical Society will host Dr. Natalie Naylor, professor emerita at Hofstra University and author of Women in Long Island’s Past: Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives at their next meeting on March 9.
Naylor’s presentation will focus on the place of women in Long Island’s history, including several prominent women from Westbury’s past.
Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00
Albertson resident and Kellenberg sophomore Gabby Schreib qualified for the Millrose Games in New York City. Schreib qualified as a member of the Sprint Medley Relay along with Danielle Correia, Bridget McNierney, and Jazmine Fray.
The Kellenberg relay’s close second place finish in January’s Millrose Trials has moved them closer to defending the title they won in the same relay at last year’s Millrose Games. Schreib and her teammates time is currently second in the United States for girls track and field performances.
Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00
Congratulations to Westbury athletes Michael Esposito, Eileen Harris, Brett Harris, and Michael Going, each of whom won awards in Race # 1 of the Jonas Chiropractic Run Nassau Series co-hosted by Nassau County and the Greater Long Island Running Club.
Michael Esposito, age 15, took home the second place award in the 15-19 age group with a time of 23 minutes, 6 seconds. Eileen Harris, age 42, earned the first place award in the women’s 40-44 age group. She completed the race with her 45 year old husband, Brett Harris, who was the third place award winner in the men’s 45-49 age group. Michael Going, age 41, scored third place honors in the 40-44 age group with a time of 20 minutes, 51 seconds.