As part of its mission to support local organizations in their efforts in providing community services to low-income immigrants, last week, Backyard Foundation, a Mount Kisco-based philanthropic entity, made a donation of $130,500 each to two organizations: the Open Door Family Medical Centers and Neighbor’s Link.
These funds flow from the proceeds of the foundation’s first-ever fund-raising event, hosted in June 2006, on the campus of the Rippowam Cisqua School.
“We were able to raise a total of $261,00o [at that event]. Though we’re still in the process of collecting more pledges, we decided to give away the checks for whatever amount we had got so far,” said Hatsy Vallar, the foundation’s vice president, secretary, and treasurer.
“We’re thrilled to have received this money. The show of support from the community is very heart-warming. It tells us that the community recognizes the service we’re providing and that they realize there’s a real need for their support. [The funds] will help us tremendously in reducing our debts,” said Desta Lakew of Open Door.
The lion’s share of the corporate contributions came from the event’s prime sponsor, investment firm Merrill Lynch, which gifted a sum of $25,000.
The bulk of the individual donations came from the residents of Chappaqua, Bedford, Armonk, Katonah, Pound Ridge, and Mount Kisco, among others.
Though the money has been split equally between the two organizations, as far as Open Door goes, of its four offices, it’s the Mount Kisco outlet alone that’ll be the recipient of the entire $130,500 giving.
“We wanted the money to go to the Mount Kisco office because it’s the most cash-strapped,” said Vallar. This is because it doesn’t qualify for federal funding since it falls in an area designated as affluent.
“We have a unique situation in our Mount Kisco office. While our other three offices qualify for federal funds, we don’t, because, though it’s a medically underserved [zone]. The numbers don’t quite show us as a needy community,” said Lakew.
But the need is very real, which is what prompted Open Door to move into Mount Kisco towards the end of 2005. 98 percent of all those who walk in through its doors, fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. 45 percent are uninsured. And 65 percent are woman and children.
Open Door—a federally-qualified community health center—has been providing medical care to the working poor since the opening of its first clinic in the early 1970s.
In 2006, it served 34,000 patients in its four offices in Westchester—Ossining, Sleepy Hollow, Rye Brook, and Mount Kisco. The Mount Kisco branch served 3,000 in the same year.
Neighbors Link, a relatively new kid on the bloc, has been in existence since 2000.
It was established in Mount Kisco, with a view to helping fresh Latino immigrants in town to integrate with the neighborhoods they live in and the communities they work in, by teaching them English, telling them about employment opportunities, enhancing their skill set, and offering them social support network.
Both these organizations are geared heavily towards the Latino diaspora, with good reason. Almost 25 percent of Mount Kisco’s roughly 10,000 residents are of Latino descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Backyard Foundation is an all-volunteer-run and donation-driven organization. Set up in November 2006, with the express purpose of assisting Open Door and Neighbor’s Link, in the future, however, the foundation may pick a different set of beneficiaries, said Vallar. “
We’d started out with an eye toward helping these two organizations. From the humanitarian perspective, they were doing superlative community service for our immigrant population, who’re the backbone of the community, but are very often invisible and are struggling to make ends meet,” she said.