Letter to the Editor: Saying Goodbye to Community Enrichment Mini-Center

Unique storefront's founder discusses why it was established, why it's closing and the future of its programming.

The following letter was written and submitted to Patch by Ann Salpeter Schockett

Thank you for asking me to write a letter concerning the recent closing of the storefront housing the Community Enrichment Mini-Center (CEmC) in Woodmere.

CEmC holds only the most positive memories for me and for people who used it over the past years. I’m thankful that during that time, it accomplished its primary goals. I was so proud to be a part of it and, though the space will soon be occupied by a new business, I am still continuing support for the Mini-Center’s and other community-based endeavors, now from a different desk at my home.

CEmC evolved from the Woodmere GOP’s storefront’s “Let’s Talk” programs started in 2010. As the new Woodmere GOP executive leader, I was receiving calls from people seeking help during a very difficult economic time. They needed to find jobs, start brand new careers, save their homes from foreclosure and get emotional and financial support so I helped them out the best I could and also started a “Let’s Talk” program of useful projects and seminars for and by the community no matter the political affiliation a person had.

Thanks to the efforts of local people and businesses who gave their time and effort, CEmC was ‘launched’ within a few months. The Woodmere Republican Club still had its headquarters there but now there were also other exciting and needed activities: workshops, seminars, support groups, networking and socializing opportunities, referral services, etc., and everything was either free or of very affordable admission.

Leann Murphy-Baker, a noted veteran advocate, became involved as co-chair and we expanded our services. Jaime Wysocki, landlord and owner of Dance Express, had given a fantastic opportunity to rent the storefront through creative leasing, and we all wanted to return that favor to others who might bring activity to the area.

Together, we promoted local talent and offered space during certain days and times to people and organizations who reflected our mission to offer non-replicated services to the community-at-large. It became an incubator of sorts and a user-friendly resource center to enrich people’s lives. In essence, it was a small storefront transformed it into a multi-functional and “green” work space with free office and meeting space and free PR advice from Peter Matuza of PMPR for young start-ups and non-profits to get their feet on the ground and possibly start renting themselves.

It is ironic that the very reason CEmC was founded was the very reason it could not afford to continue. The economic times proved to be a major difficulty since some of our angels were experiencing troubles of their own.

Some of the projects and highlights of CEmC included:

A Nassau County Lobby Day For Humane Rights For Animals — (This project will continue since it has been formally adopted by the Nassau County Federation of Republican Women and will take place again this April.) One-day event with seminars to teach people how to lobby followed by actual lobbying promoting NYS legislation that actually passed thanks to local legislators particularly Sen. Dean Skelos. Over 50 people participated including then-NYS Director of the HSUS Patrick Kwan!

Artist Of The Month Series — (We are looking to incorporate aspects of this program in the HWBA and SD 14 “Arts Under Sunrise.”) Directed by acclaimed artist Alli Berman of Woodmere, local talented displayed their artistic talent in an actual monthly community exhibit. About 400 people attended the monthly exhibits by locals including Kim Rugolsky (who also painted the gorgeous eagle in flight and scroll on the wall), Scott Wilke, Chris Sciarrotte, Samantha Tuchfeld, Zach Brown, Ellen Wolfe, Amy Chace, Lisa Cangemi, Debra Kasimakis, Leslie Markus, etc.

Chess Knights Clubs — Directed by Steve Salpeter, it taught up to 14 people of all ages and levels. The weekly club charged $1/per person/per night.

Woodmere Clean Sweep — (The HWBA, led by its President, Jaime Wysocki, has discussed continuing this project in both Hewlett and Woodmere this spring.) We had four successful semi-annual events directed by Ann DeMichael, former president of the Woodmere GOP, and Peter Matuza, former member of the board of the Woodmere GOP and CEmC. 

First Fridays Civics Group — I enjoyed leading this monthly, non-partisan civics discussion group open to all ages and levels.

Hardknox — (I will continue to help them with their fundraising and PR efforts.) Founded by Nicole Di Iorio, it gives real life and career opportunities for at-risk youth. CEmC gave them space for their meetings and helped promote it, fundraise for it and give scholarship monies to the youth.

Jewish Women Separated And Divorced Support Group — (The group is continuing to meet.) Led by Dawn Ackerman of Woodmere, it gave a special group of women the opportunity to share their common experiences each month. 

Let's Talk Open Community Series — Discussion groups to license classes by the Community Center and by the Woodmere GOP.

Mental House Counseling — Led by Anne Petraro, LMHC, CRC, CASAC, of East Rockaway, this was a much-needed referral service for professional counseling.

Philanthropy For The Future — Founded and directed by Yaakov Hawk of Woodmere, it is a new way to involve youth in giving. Yaakov had used the space for his own administrative needs and to meet at times with students doing charitable work. Yaakov is an amazing person who continues to do incredible community work!

Veteran House — Veteran Advocate Leann Murphy-Baker, also Chair of the CEmC, offered free advocacy at the CEmC for any US veteran. Leann continues her advocacy work and I am honored to be on her board as co-chair. Kathi and Louis Menella, proprietors of Bewitched Salon of Woodmere and MariaLisa Menella were main supporters of this much-needed service through charitable giving and a major 2011 Veteran fundraiser.

Volunteer Matchmakers — Samantha Tuchfeld, Director, founded the internship matching service for all ages, and used the space to promote that as well as other children’s programs she directed. 

Widows And Widowers Support — Arlene Sevetor, Leader, filled a need to hold monthly meetings with people looking to ‘relaunch’ their lives in a positive and fun atmosphere.

The latest services that the CEmC was proud to offer was in storing and distributing supplies, including sheets, blankets, toiletries, clothes, shoes, toys and other items to local, Nassau and Queens victims of Hurricane Sandy. We were there before sunrise and way after sunset to help out our neighbors, families and friends!

I’d like to borrow a well-used phrase, “It takes a community!” In this case, “It took a Community Enrichment Mini-Center” to accomplish some really great things for over the past couple of years!

On behalf of Leann and everyone associated with CEmC, much gratitude to all who helped us and our terrific community!

Ann Salpeter Schockett
Woodmere, NY


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