The Thursday Club Donates $82,000 To Sleepy Hollow’s RSHM LIFE Center

May 1, 2021

By Bar­rett Sea­man– The Hudson Independent

Like many char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions in the river­towns, The Thurs­day Club typ­i­cally re­lies on a spring gala, re­plete with din­ner, danc­ing and both a silent and live auc­tion, to raise money that is then do­nated to a lo­cal cause deemed wor­thy dur­ing the pre­vi­ous year. And like many, the group this year, its 100th an­niver­sary, was forced to forego the fun and do its fundrais­ing by mail.

Thursday Club members Sarah Gardner (left), President Cathy Hansen, and Catherine Diao present a check to Sister Susan Gardella (right), Executive Director of the RSHM LIFE Center

Cau­tiously op­ti­mistic that they could raise maybe $30,000, the ladies of the Thurs­day Club as­ton­ished even them­selves by rais­ing $82,000.

The re­cip­i­ent of this year’s largesse is Sleepy Hol­low’s RSHM LIFE Cen­ter and its founder and dri­ving force, Sis­ter Su­san Gardella. In her let­ter to Sis­ter Su­san ex­plain­ing the club’s choice of re­cip­i­ent, Thurs­day Club pres­i­dent Cathy Hansen of Irv­ing­ton wrote:

“Mem­bers were en­thu­si­as­tic about the LIFE Cen­ter’s com­mit­ment to help­ing their stu­dents nav­i­gate the new world of on­line learn­ing and work­ing with them to en­sure they did not fall be­hind dur­ing a time of great stress and up­heaval. The fact that the LIFE Cen­ter also con­sis­tently re­sponds to needs of a whole fam­ily – dis­trib­ut­ing food and meals dur­ing the pan­demic, ar­rang­ing vac­cine ap­point­ments, help­ing fam­i­lies fig­ure out how to pay for rent and other ne­ces­si­ties – makes the LIFE Cen­ter shine as a bea­con of hope and car­ing.”

Dur­ing the first months of the pan­demic, the LIFE Cen­ter dis­trib­uted 12,000 pre­pared meals and al­most 15,000 pounds of gro­ceries and pro­duce to lo­cal fam­i­lies. In ad­di­tion to launch­ing a sum­mer pro­gram for 37 chil­dren, the Cen­ter also started Learn­ing Labs to sup­port re­mote learn­ing for grade school chil­dren. When school re­sumed full-time and in-per­son the LIFE Cen­ter piv­oted once again and re­con­fig­ured their build­ing space in or­der to ac­com­mo­date all 72 of their stu­dents in the af­ter-school pro­gram.

Since its found­ing in 1921, the Thurs­day Club has raised and do­nated over $2.6 mil­lion to area non-prof­its. The RSHM LIFE Cen­ter was also the re­cip­i­ent in 2016

A Year Like No Other…

It’s hard to believe that we will soon pass the one year mark of living through the Covid Pandemic. So many lives lost, so many lives changed. Here at the LIFE Center we are counting our blessings as we look back over the year.

We started with food distributions last March, moved into Summer Camp in July, and then to Learning Labs in September. Our Legal Office has remained open, working remotely, throughout the year. The ability to provide much needed food assistance through this year would not have been possible without the support of generous neighbors and our local Rotary Club.

The LIFE Center has remained open and staffed for 48 out of the last 52 weeks providing support for the people of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. Committed to remaining true to our mission to respond to people in need, we patiently await the next challenge as we move forward.

Aiden.Study

Our Covid Pivot

RSHM LIFE Center Celebrates 25 years

When the LIFE Center was founded 25 years ago our goal was to be of service to the community. These past 10 months have been a challenge we never could have imagined. The heroic efforts of our staff have enabled us to continue the LIFE Center mission to reach out to those in need.

The graph below will show you some of the things that have been accomplished so far.

Fall Brings More Changes

August is usually down time here at the LIFE Center. Staff are on vacation and we have painting and repair work done. This year included much more. Making plans to continue our ‘Covid Pivot’ were in full swing. There were meetings with school administrators, local organizations, and county officials. All had one thing in mind, how can we reopen programs to help children get back to school and families get back to a more normal life.

It took a great deal of planning but we were able to open in September. Our After School Program was converted into innovative ‘Learning Labs’. The school district adopted a hybrid learning schedule consisting of in-person and on-line. Children would be split into two cohorts. The Learning Labs were started to help parents who cannot work from home and those who may not feel they have the ability to help their children with on-line learning. Children are here working in a classroom setting with staff who can assist with technical and learning issues. All CDC and State guidelines for safety are followed. The Learning Labs have the added advantage of allowing the children to remain in a classroom setting with their peers all week thus reducing the stress on-line learning has caused many children.

Since the children are on site for the entire school day plus the normal After School hours several programs needed to be temporarily paused; Parents & Tots, ESL, and Friday Night Fever. These program will resume when regular school schedules are back in place and some of the Covid distancing restrictions are lifted

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An Unusual Summer

July is SummerFun time here at the LIFE Center. Our 5 week camp is filled with trips to educational and fun spots in the tri-state area, swimming at Mariandale Center, games, sports and laughing children.

The Covid Pandemic put an end to our usual plans. We didn’t know if we could have a summer program and we anxiously awaited the updated CDC guidelines. Parents were hoping to begin working again, they were slowly getting calls about jobs but they needed a safe place for their children to spend the days. They also knew their children missed seeing their friends.

Finally the word came, summer programs could open if they followed strict guidelines. There would be smaller numbers, no trips, swimming was out and all would need to wear masks throughout the day. We studied the protocols for cleaning and safety we would need to follow and planned our next steps.

SummerFun 2020 was a great success. Everyone stayed safe and healthy and most importantly, everyone had fun!

RSHM LIFE Center Celebrates 25 Years with 12,000 Meals

News Article from Patch.com

Anniversary plans make way for providing food for families affected by shutdowns.

Staff member Ryan Cassermere makes sure families get the food they need during the 3 months food was distributed by the LIFE Center to residents affected by New York State PAUSE. Area restaurants, funded by community donations, fueled the distribution.

Though the New York State PAUSE put an end to large celebrations, Sleepy Hollow’s RSHM LIFE Center marked their 25th Anniversary on a scale no one could have imagined. Since March 26, over 12,000 meals were distributed and delivered to vulnerable families, along with 14,000 pounds of groceries and fresh produce, from the organization’s headquarters on Beekman Avenue.

The LIFE Center has been a trusted source of accurate information and assistance for low-income, immigrants since 1995, keeping them abreast of the changing immigration landscape and protecting the stability of families, focusing on the learning needs of the entire family. When New York State stay-at-home directives kept many parents from their place of employment, the LIFE Center switched gears and used their community connections to provide Life Center and other local families in need a resource for nutritious food.

Meals and produce boxes were provided by local restaurants including; J.P. Doyle’s, Tarry Tavern, Horsefeathers, Bridgeview Tavern, Grass Roots Kitchen, The Flavor Vault, Stone Barns Center, RiverMarket, Capri Pizza, Sunset Cove and Los Andes Bakery and funded by donations, with the assistance of the Rotary Club of the Tarrytowns.

“The Life Center staff has made a Herculean effort since March to make sure those hit hardest by this pandemic had food for their families, a task that is especially amazing considering the many new processes put in place, given providing food has not been the LIFE Center’s primary mission,” said Sleepy Hollow Village Trustee Rachelle Gebler. “This most recent service to the community crowns a 25 year span of providing a safe place for families and children to learn and grow and ultimately make better lives for themselves.”

Volunteers, staff and clients of RSHM LIFE Center managed an anniversary surprise for Executive Director Sr. Susan Gardella, inviting the LIFE Center community to send video greetings. Compiled by LIFE Center Assistant Director Andrea Carson, the video gave clients the opportunity to show their appreciation for the organization and staff.

In the video, Mrs. Rodriguez summarized the feelings of many of the LIFE Center families, “Thank you for opening your doors for me and my family when we first came from our country, trying to accomplish the American Dream. Because you were there for us, things were easier. Today I feel proud of my children for all of their accomplishments, but we didn’t do it alone. We did it because you were in our lives making things possible.” The video is available on the LIFE Center Facebook page.

The LIFE Center kicks off it’s Summer Fun Program this week, offering families the opportunity for safe, structured and supervised care for their children so parents can return to work. Instructors are modifying games and activities to build in distancing as well as other accommodations to meet New York State guidelines. Space week and Shark week will be among the themes for games, crafts and STEM activities for children in grades K – 5. Because months of online learning took its toll on academic achievement and English language fluency for many students, Summer Fun will have an enhanced focus on learning while still providing the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and renewing friendships safely.

“We had planned to gather our grant funders, donors, alumni, families, staff and volunteers to celebrate together on The LIFE Center’s 25th Anniversary June 5th,” explained Sr. Susan, who was one of the founding members of the organization in 1995 and has been Executive Director since 2001. “It is fitting that the activities of the day, instead, are geared to meet the current needs of our families, and focus on planning for summer camp to provide our children with structure, academic support, and fun.”

The LIFE Center relies on private funding to provide services to more than 1,100 people per year.

2020 Begins

The first months of 2020 filled with excitement and promise.

As we move towards our 25th anniversary we are making plans for celebrations to mark the milestone. We are planning parties with reunions of past students, families and staff. We also think it is time to freshen up our logo and website and so the work on all of these things begins.

We hope you like our new logo.

RSHM LIFE Center logo