Project Most, a nonprofit organization that runs after-school and summer programs for young children, has announced that it will offer Saturday sessions beginning on Jan. 11 at the Neighborhood House in East Hampton. A full nine-week summer camp there is also on the horizon.
The group’s new partnership with the Neighborhood House is a win-win for both organizations, according to Rebecca Morgan Taylor, executive director of Project Most, and Alicia Osborne, president of the Neighborhood House.
“We have a great program, but we don’t always have the ability to do programming outside of the schools,” Ms. Taylor said. “Right now, we can only offer programs to students who attend John M. Marshall Elementary School and Springs, and within the actual school buildings. We have this dream to grow Project Most into this community learning center offering affordable programs to all of the community.”
That’s exactly what they’re calling it — the Community Learning Center. “We think this is going to be really a great use of the space,” Ms. Osborne said. “It’s been underused. A lot of people don’t really even know it’s there. Everybody’s very excited about this on both sides.”
Starting on Jan. 11, Project Most will offer full-day and half-day options for children in prekindergarten through fifth grade. The full day is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and half-day sessions are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. Activities in the arts and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will be offered, along with sports and games. It will be open to all children from the region, not just kids in East Hampton and Springs.
“We’ve seen for a long time that there is a lack of affordable programming here, and programming in general. There’s just not that much for kids and families to do,” said Martha Stotzky, who oversees marketing and development for Project Most. “For 18 years, we’ve been refining what we do. We’ve got a whole stable of really great teaching artists and professionals — dancers, chefs, nutritionists, yoga teachers, and more.”
The program is particularly expected to benefit parents who work weekends and need something for their kids to do. “This is a very seasonal area that we live in, and not everyone is off on Saturdays from work,” Ms. Taylor said. “We know that from the families who use Project Most. We felt that offering Saturdays would be beneficial to the community.”
For families interested in signing up, there will be open house hours on Jan. 30 from 4 to 6 p.m. and Feb. 2 from 1 to 4 p.m.
The Neighborhood House now hosts a daytime prekindergarten program for 3 and 4-year-olds, and rents space to various groups and individuals who need somewhere to hold events and parties. Renting space to Project Most will not displace the “early learning program,” Ms. Osborne said.
“Their mission coincides with ours,” she said. “We’re here to help the community and help kids, and they do that in spades. We are thrilled to be providing them with space.”
In the past, Project Most has been able to offer only limited programs when school’s out for winter and spring breaks and the summertime, but the new arrangement will allow it to offer a full slate of year-round activities. It will also allow Project Most to increase the number of children it serves.
The Neighborhood House property will be home to a new greenhouse and garden for Project Most. Its garden program at the Springs School was displaced when a construction crew dug up the garden to install a modern septic system behind the school. The Neighborhood House will also be home to the cooking program, and dance students there can take advantage of the stage. Students taking part in those activities will be bused there after school.
“Having our own space allows us to have a STEM program and leave the activity where the kids can come back the next day,” Ms. Taylor said, “and an art program that we don’t have to pack up after 45 minutes.”
She said they are grateful to the Stephenson Pope Babcock Foundation, which is supporting Project Most so that tuition for the Saturday activities and summer sessions can be kept as low as possible.
Along with adding new programs, Project Most has hired three new staff members. Silvia Quesada Hidalgo will be the community outreach, marketing, and small-events coordinator, and Dakota Arkin Cafourek will focus on donor relations and major gifts. Jacqueline Gravina-Wohlleb, a certified teacher, will come on board to manage the group’s offerings at the Neighborhood House.
Ms. Quesada Hildalgo said she is especially looking forward to strengthening resources for the Latino community here — needs that she says she truly understands — and being helpful for everyone in general.
“Our tremendous work as a nonprofit is helping the community and its residents, and creating a remarkable social impact,” she said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of this project.”