The Children’s Foundation of Amsterdam is growing

AMSTERDAM — When the Children’s Foundation started here in March 2015 to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect, it served 486 clients that year. That rose last year to more than 2,500—with indications that number will rise.

The all-volunteer nonprofit agency is moving from 100 Church St. to larger quarters nearby on East Main Street to accommodate the demand for services, according to its executive director, Melissa Ossenfort-Levoy.

A fifth annual Blue Ribbon 5K run, one-mile walk and family fun day is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 28 at Chalmers Field on the southside of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Outlook Bridge. It is aimed at raising funds for the agency and calling attention to services for families and children, such as the state’s confidential child abuse hotline during Child Abuse Awareness Month.

That will include a DJ, concessions, food, entertainment, vendors, bounce houses, children’s activities, face painting, caricature drawings and raffles.

“An overwhelming number of children in our community are suffering abuse and neglect,” she said.

It’s not always a parent’s fault. “Sometimes they don’t have the economic means to provide basic necessities,” she said.

Ossenfort-Levoy recalled the plight of a mother of six children, with four under 18, who had to flee domestic violence in Florida to an apartment here with nothing but some clothes. The Children’s Foundation provided furnishings, dishes, food, curtains, bedding and other essentials, as well as hooking her up to other social services.

Some needy families fall just above the income threshold to get full social services, she said.

Ossenfort-Levoy knows firsthand what children suffer since she has full custody of a seven-year-old girl who has “serious medical repercussions” from lead poisoning and malnutrition, she said.

Sometimes the Children’s Foundation has “an entire lobby full of people” but has a cumbersome paper system and personal laptops and needs computers and software to network as a system, she said.

The foundation receives no government money because it lacks a grant writer, she added.

Besides food, the foundation’s food pantry and a crisis center that provides basic items such as diapers and wipes, clothing and winter gear, and back-to-school supplies. It accepts donations for dresses, shoes and accessories and gift cards for up-dos, makeup and nail services.

The foundation works with other human service agencies such as Catholic Charities’ domestic violence program and Workforce Solutions, which aids clients in finding work and pursuing a high school diploma, she said.

On Saturday, April 14, more than 1,000 Pinwheels for Prevention were posted at city hall for dedication by Mayor Michael Villa. The nationwide event is aimed at promoting “a carefree childhood,” Ossenfort-Levoy said.

The foundation plans its fourth annual Ride Against Child Abuse and Barbecue in June at Adirondack Harley Davidson in Broadalbin, with details forthcoming.

For more information about the foundation and its events, call (518) 795-9454 or email [email protected] or [email protected] or P.O. Box 388, Hagaman, NY 12086.

By Kerry Minor

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