BEDFORD, N.Y. — The Community Center of Northern Westchester will hold a celebration this weekend to mark 20 years of easing the pain of low-income residents who are often forced to choose between paying their electric bill, filling up their car or buying food.
The benefit cocktail party and silent auction at Bedford’s St. Matthew’s Church on Saturday, Oct. 20, will bring together volunteers, donors, staff and guests to look back on the center’s 20-year history.
At first, the center provided the essentials of living through its food pantry and clothing bank. Later on, it added social, educational and career readiness programs and services.
Executive director Sherry Wolf, who has led the center at 84 Bedford Road in Katonah for the past five years, said that with the support of 29 religious, civic and education organizations that serve as community partners, the center's range of services has greatly expanded over the years.
“[The center] has always had the mission of helping people regain their self-sufficiency,” Wolf said. “That’s always been there, even in the very earliest days before there even was a building.”
In the beginning of the recession in late 2008, Wolf said, the center saw a dramatic rise in usage: Last year, 1,800 families from 30 communities in Northern Westchester used the center at least once.
“It’s so hard to ask for a handout, and it’s our job to make it as pleasant and as easy for people as possible,” said Wolf.
Local volunteers can donate their skills to the center in a variety of ways, whether it be teaching English or computer skills, working in the center’s garden, helping manage donated items or helping raise money.
This year’s benefit committee co-chairs are Sue Brofman and Jeff Goodwin, and Andy Vitrone of Katonah gourmet foods purveyors Wm. Nicholas & Co.
“Everyone involved in this organization is wonderful,” said Vitrone. “It’s easy to want to jump in and do your part.”
According to auction co-chair Celeste Potash, bidding will take place through a online bidding service, allowing attendees to bid via mobile devices in advance or at the event itself.
Auction items currently include a pair of tickets, backstage passes and a signed cast poster to “The Book of Mormon,” a selection of rare wines and a hot-air balloon ride. The auction catalog is posted online.
The center is currently collecting food for holiday meals and warm new sleepwear for children to distribute in December.