Ask the Expert: How Can I Approach My Local Community Center When My Family's Needs Are Not Met?

Community centers serve as essential resources for its neighbors and aim to create an inclusive environment, though there are some who feel that their family's needs are not being met. The executive director of the JCC Mid-Westchester and her team offer suggestions on how to best advocate for your family and have your voice heard.

It's simple: Just ask!

boy with finger paintParents should view JCC Mid-Westchester and other local community organizations as a resource for them and their children. If they have any concerns whatsoever, they should approach a teacher, social worker, or any of the program directors with their questions or suggestions. Collaboration and communication are key and you should be able to speak with the center’s Executive Director, if need be, to share your needs and concerns.

For example, ask the preschool program director to expand the hours that programming is available to meet the needs of children and their families if that is something that would help you (e.g., our JCC offers extended hours until 6pm).

In addition, JCC offers a myriad of preschool and early childhood after school programs. Program directors communicate with the pre-schools staff on shared children and families and reach out to the JCC’s social workers when they identify a family or child that may benefit from additional outreach or support.

The goal is to establish an ongoing relationship with families and extended family members of the community so the community organization can respond to each person’s needs in a seamless fashion. In our case, when everyone, including families, administration, and staff communicate openly and work collaboratively to serve the needs of the JCC families, solutions to any issues that may arise should not be hard to find.  

Karen Kolodny is the executive director of Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the community by providing cultural, social, educational, and reacreational and fitness programs, and Jewish identity-building opportunities to people of all ages.

Kolodny has certificates from New York University in arts administration and business technology. She earned her bachelor's in civil law and common law from McGill University and a master of law from Cambridge University. She lives in NYC with her husband and two teenage daughters.

Kolodny's colleagues Julie Dorfman, Nancy Kaplan, and Penny Randall, who play essential roles in various departments, including the JCC Mid-Westchester's Early Childhood, Special Education and Services, and Family Center, contributed to this article.