PLYMOUTH — Leadership Academy, February's Human Services and Non-Profits Day, was held recently at the Enterprise Center. It began with a panel discussion about the challenges facing local Human Services non-profit organization providers.
Cathy Bentwood of Plymouth's Pemi-Bridge House and a representative of Voices Against Violence (VAV) described and discussed their respective programs. The Pemi-Bridge House provides housing opportunities for homeless persons and families in our region. A current challenge is the acquisition of additional property to provide more support and housing in the Plymouth/Ashland/Holderness area for homeless military veterans. Voices Against Violence provides shelter to domestic violence victims that are in eminent danger. Victims also receive personal services in the form of support, encouragement, and empowerment. For VAV, funding the program is complex with numerous grants they receive from the towns within its service area. Other funding comes from fund raisers, such as the "Winter Ball".
The afternoon began with a panel discussion about the challenges facing Family Services and Care NPOs that focus on local youth. Jessica Dutille of Plymouth's Pemi Youth Center and Joy Nolan of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) described and discussed their respective programs. The Pemi Youth Center is a place for all students to enjoy after school. As with most non-profit organizations, funding has been the challenge, but thanks to fund raisers and their partnership with Plymouth State University and other organizations, the Youth Center's future is secure. According to Ms. Nolan, a major challenge for CASA is to find volunteers that are willing to support affected youth through the 22-month legal process.
The day ended with a panel discussion about other local community services. Moe Lafrieniere of First Star Tonight and Leslie Dion of Bristol's Tapply Thompson Community Center described and discussed their respective programs. FST's mission is to provide support to families with critically or terminally ill children. Since its creation the program has helped over 500 children; currently the program is helping over 20 families. The majority of the program's funding comes from the yearly fundraiser dinner it holds at Fosters Steakhouse in Plymouth.
The Tapply Thompson Community Center is responsible for the Center's operations and maintenance. Ms. Dion explained that the organization also operates and maintains recreation and parks programs for eight towns in the Newfound area. She oversees the yearly "Santa's Village" program at the Center that brings the Holiday spirit to hundreds of local youth. In summer, she oversees the "Westward Bound" program which sends twelve local youth to National Parks in the Western United States. Funding for these programs comes from the eight towns along with fund raisers such as the NH Marathon.
Next month's Leadership Academy day focuses on Criminal Justice.
The purpose of the Leadership Academy Program is to cultivate civic awareness and engagement among existing and emerging leaders within the region. Program participants are exposed to the many challenges and opportunities facing the region, and are encouraged to engage in those where they can exercise their passion and expertise toward improving the community.