Written by Stephanie Davy, email@example.com Wednesday, 07 May 2014 00:00
The Youth and Family Counseling Agency of Oyster Bay-East Norwich celebrates 45 years of community service this year. On Saturday night, April 26, YFCA’s spring fundraiser “Set Sail” got underway at the Sagamore Yacht Club with more than 100 supporters in attendance. Guests were there to honor Abby and George O’Neill, founding members of YFCA. The O’Neills were unable to be there, but two of their six children, daughters Grace O’Neill Caulkins and Wendy O’Neill, were there to represent them.
“They have been so wonderful through the years, and their philanthropy is really an example to aspire to,” said YFCA Executive Director Barbara Rakusin. “It’s wonderful to see all of Oyster Bay and East Norwich supporting our organization. Abby and George will be very happy.”
She explained that the elder O’Neills couldn’t be there as they are getting older, but that Abby had prepared a statement that she recorded.
NYS Senator Carl Marcellino was there to support YFCA and said, “To coin a cliché, the O’Neills have truly been pillars of our community. They have held this community together, and kept it alive and thriving for everyone who lives here.”
In lieu of a silent auction, the committee held a Silent Sponsor challenge. Guests had the opportunity to sponsor enrichment programs including: Experience on the Water, Local Sports, Camp, Music and Art, Technical Enrichment, Life Skills, Leap of Faith, and Parent Child Home Program.
Robin Senior, president of the YFCA, spoke about the organization that Abby and George O’Neill founded. “Abby and George O’Neill moved to Oyster Bay in the 1950s and almost immediately saw there were unmet needs in the community. There were parents who couldn’t afford to buy their children Christmas presents, and others who needed money for food or to pay their gas bills.”
Senior continued, “So, 45 years ago YFCA was born and since then has been helping people lead healthier lives through counseling and a myriad of other programs including substance abuse, emergency services, teen mentoring and a pre-school preparation program known as the Parent Child Home Program.”
Senior praised the organization’s founders, dedicated workforce, and supporters, pointing out that the staff treats everyone equally, with dignity and respect, and helps nearly 200 children and families each year.
“Forty years ago, Abby, who was always interested in children—by then she and George had six of their own—learned of the national Parent Child Home Program, designed to reduce the number of high school dropouts by building a language and literacy-rich home environment,” said Senior. “Abby brought the first such program to Long Island.”
In the past year YFCA facilitated the placement of six children into private pre-K programs when the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District’s program was filled.
Senior closed her remarks by saying, “Finally you should know that no one is ever turned away because of an inability to pay, and with the growing Hispanic community all our services are now offered in both English and Spanish. However, none of the good the Youth and Family Counseling Agency does would be possible without Abby and George’s foresight and generosity. Unfortunately, they could not be with us tonight. We do, however, have two of their daughters, Gail O’Neill Caulkins and Wendy O’Neill, to accept this small token of our appreciation.”
Senior presented Gail and Wendy with a planter made of pieces of birch trees filled with red geraniums.
“Mom and Dad have always been part of the solution to these sorts of problems. They worked hard to create YFCA, and they are proud to be a part of this organization,” said Gail.
Abby O’Neill’s taped presentation, just a minute or so long, was played. She thanked everyone and talked a bit about the early years of the YFCA. “In 1969 the YFCA was founded by a group of us who recognized there were citizens who needed assistance…We hope the YFCA will continue to thrive for many years to come.”
The O'Neills were presented with a Proclamation from the State Senate from Sen. Marcellino and citations from Nassau County Legislator Don McKenzie and Maggie Martinez Malito, Executive Director of the Nassau County Youth Board.
For more information, visit www.yfcaoysterbay.org.