FAMILY of Woodstock has been an irreplaceable anchor for residents of the mid-Hudson Valley since 1970. FAMILY’s 17 different programs—including shelters, food pantries, court advocacy, counseling and case management services, emergency hotlines, and child care support—all work together to provide care to those in need and help them achieve the change they seek.
After the Woodstock Festival in 1969, the eponymous town was inundated with young people, and the citizens of Woodstock responded by calling the police to rein in the growing disorder. Backlash ensued, a town meeting was called to rethink the response to this influx of troublemakers and lost souls, and thus was born an emergency hotline.
This same hotline is now (allegedly) the oldest continuously operating emergency switchboard in the country, as FAMILY has been answering that phone every day, 24 hours a day, for 45 years—though the scope of the hotline has expanded through the years to provide support to domestic battery victims, the homeless, and those considering suicide.
“It says that no matter what time of day or night, no matter where you are, there is somebody who will listen to you, and that, in essence, is what family is,” says Michael Berg, executive director of FAMILY of Woodstock. In order to keep up with the times, FAMILY is currently developing a texting hotline, a platform which may provide greater comfort to a distressed teenager or an adult victim too afraid to make a call.
FAMILY’s services are free of charge and completely confidential. Besides the hotline, those in need may go directly to one of FAMILY’s three walk-in centers (located in Ellenville, New Paltz, and Woodstock), where FAMILY’s network of 160 paid staff members and countless more volunteers share a commitment to helping clients gain the skills and support they need to move past their trauma and make long-lasting personal improvements.
Many of FAMILY’S 17 programs focus on improving the lives of our community’s youth. The FAMILY Inn is a shelter for homeless families, where staff also assist children with tutoring and education. The Day Care Subsidy Program helps working parents apply for financial assistance to help out with the cost of child care. And Kingston Cares is a free after-school (and summer) program that keeps kids physically active and allows them access to technology they may not have at home.
FAMILY also has a wide array of programs designed for adults. There is a shelter for single adults, where staff help clients apply for HUD, find a job, or complete their GED. “Evolve” is an evening support group for batterers, helping men and women learn and practice alternative ways to release their emotions, rather than engaging in violent behavior. FAMILY also works with local penitentiaries to help rehabilitate inmates and reintegrate those who have recently been released from the prison system.
“We’re always recruiting volunteers,” says Donna Dell, Team Leader of Auditing and Budgeting, “for without whom much of this work would not be possible.” Those interested in volunteering may call the Kingston office or visit the FAMILY website (info below). If you don’t have the time to volunteer, FAMILY accepts donations through their website, which enables staff to provide immediate needs like emergency prescriptions and nutritious food. There are also many fundraisers throughout the year, including the Woodstock Comedy Festival, which takes place each September.
FAMILY has been an integral part of our region for the last 45 years, espousing that “it takes all of us, working together, to build healthy, strong communities.”