Heritage Trust partners with North Shore Youth Council

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The Mount Sinai Heritage Center will soon have new owners, but that doesn’t mean things are going to completely change.

Effective December 1, the North Shore Youth Council took over the operations and activities of the Heritage Trust.

Victoria Hazan, chair of the Heritage Trust, said that for the past two decades the center and its grounds had been run by a dedicated set of board members and volunteers, but it was time the center have a new life.

“We were looking to have it transferred to another nonprofit,” she said. “We loved their mission – NSYC is awesome and community oriented like us.”

Based primarily in Rocky Point, the NSYC has been an important part of its community since the early 1980s.

The organization grew out of concern over the high rates of substance abuse and runaways among teenagers on Long Island at the time.

Driven by a desire to save as many young people as possible from drugs and alcohol, these individuals spawned an innovative model of youth prevention programs that continues to this day. Eventually, the NSYC began to expand and offer additional services along the North Shore, including summer camps, after-school programs, and mentorships.

Robert Woods, executive director of the NSYC, said the organization has always had a close connection to the Heritage Trust.

“This partnership will allow us to bring more resources to the community and provide exciting new opportunities for thousands of residents,” he said. “With this expansion and increased space for NSYC, we will be able to do more of what we love and serve youth and families in greater capacities.”

Nor does it mean that NSYC will shut down or eliminate its presence at Rocky Point.

“We are expanding our services to reach families in other communities,” he said. “We are thrilled that this next chapter of our organization will expand into the heart of North Shore communities and build on the centre’s 20-year legacy.

Lori Baldassare, the trust’s founder and board member, said the NSYC was still affiliated with the group – her late husband Jaime was chairman of the NSYC board for a decade.

“They share a mission similar to ours,” she said. “That made sense.”

Although the deal isn’t fully done yet — Woods said it’s expected to be finalized within the next month — the NSYC has begun hosting events and supporting operations Heritage is known for, including the annual tree lighting and breakfast with Santa Claus.

“It’s great for NSYC to have a physical space to hold events and use what they didn’t have before,” Baldassare said.

Heritage Park, and the center within, began 25 years ago when the open ground was slated for the construction of a new Home Depot located at 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road. Baldassare was at the time a member of the Mount Sinai Hamlet Study for the City of Brookhaven.

“People said they didn’t have a central meeting place in the area — not just for Mount Sinai, but for the entire North Shore community,” she said. “The heritage center and the park have been able to create a sense of place.”

Not only will the center host heritage events in the near future, but Woods said he will be able to offer more activities for residents, including programs for LGBTQ youth and behavioral art classes.

“It was bittersweet,” Hazan said. “But in the end, it was the best thing we could have done for the park.”

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