By Keith S. Shikowitz
West Haverstraw NY – Every year in August, parents are faced with handling a double-edged sword. The beginning of a new school year. It is great on one blade because they are happy their little and not so little ones will be back in school and not annoying them at home crying, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” The unhappy blade on this sword is the cost of getting them back to school. Between the new clothes that need to be bought because junior outgrew the ones from last year and the cost of the school supplies, it can be a horror. What doesn’t help this situation is the state the economy is in today. Prices for everything have gone up. Over 60% of the American population is living paycheck to paycheck. People are looking for help from anywhere they can get it. More people than ever have been going to food banks for help to feed their families.
The ABC Early Learning Academy lent the people in the West Haverstraw community a hand in dealing with this price crisis. On Saturday August 26, 2023, Natacha – Francois Audain, Director/Principal of the academy held her first School Supply Giveaway outside the school located at 96 West Railroad Avenue in Garnerville.
Over 400 people attended the event which included a bouncy house, cotton candy, popcorn, hamburgers and hot dogs as well as a clown and balloon animal sculptures. Five local elected officials also attended. State Senator Bill Weber, Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips, West Haverstraw Mayor Rob D’Amelio, West Haverstraw Village Trustee Ramon Lopez and West Haverstraw Village Trustee Ralph Kirschkel. The local Starfleet International club, the USS Abraham Lincoln, a science fiction club part of Starfleet International, Commanding Officer, presented a donation to the school to help pay for the bookbags and other supplies.
After being introduced to the crowd, Francois-Audain opened the festivities.
“Good afternoon everyone. My name is Natacha Audain. It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to ABC Early Learning Academy today. Thank you so much for coming out. Before I start saying anything about the daycare, I would like to acknowledge the West Haverstraw Mayor D’Amelio, who is here with us today. We also have our senator, State Senator Bill Weber who is also here with us today. What an honor.”
She then went on to explain the reason everyone was gathered. “All of you are here today and saying why are we here? What is the purpose of us being here today? It’s basically very simple. I’m going to put it into just a few words. It’s all about the kids in our community. It’s all about giving back. It’s all about helping each other. It’s all about looking as a businessperson in the Village of West Haverstraw to see the needs that we have in our community and to step up and be a part of the solution. This is why we are here today. I thank all of you for coming out to support this event where we are going to give bags to the community by allowing the children to pick out their book bags to take to school in September.”
Audain thanked Mayor D’Amelio for supporting this event. Thank you so much. Saying that he’s a very big supporter. Along with State Senator Weber who is very, very big behind this event. “Thank you so much. These are our big supporters putting together this event for it to be here today.”
We would also like to thank United Lighted Festival, Miss Jackie Contrerras who is also a very big contributor to this event. Also we would acknowledge Mr. Ramon Soto, representing the County Executive’s office. When I called him I said, Ramon, I have this idea. Do you think in less than a week we can do this? He said, Natacha, it’s never too late to do good things in our community. Let’s go for it and this is the turnout. I would also like to acknowledge the former Mayor of Spring Valley Mayor Naomi Jasmine who is here with us as well. We would like to thank our blue men and women. Our officers. The Sheriff department. Finally before I give the mike, I can talk til tomorrow. I will like to thank all of the staff. Miss Abreu, Miss Nadia, Miss Carla, Miss Jessica, Miss Antoinette, and I see Miss Kharla, Miss Alba and Miss Noelisa. I would like to let the community know that this is the only day care, ABC Early Learning Academy in Rockland County which has a nurse on board. I would like to acknowledge her. Come here please. Don’t be shy. I won’t bite. We are also working on bringing a social worker on board pretty soon to bring her expertise to help us better serve our community within the center. At this time, I would like to call on Mayor D’Amelio.
Before D’Amelio spoke the Commanding officer of the USS Abraham Lincoln asked to speak and make a presentation. “My Sci fi club is part of a worldwide organization. We do a lot of charitable work to bring charity throughout the world. Each group does its own stuff. We just did a raffle for the Upper Room House of Worship in Spring Valley for their building fund. We want to give another $50 to Natacha for the bags and to buy more stuff for the kids.”
“Thank you so very much.” Audain then said what their plan was for next year. “Today we are starting with three hundred bags and next year, we do have the plan and strategy in place for us to have 3000 bags to give to our community next year. I am very, very excited about that. We also have with us one of the trustees from the Village of West Haverstraw, Trustee Ramon Lopez. They are the backbones of our community. They are working for us every day. They are giving us their support. They do come out to the events in the community, which is very important. On this note I have the pleasure to call the Mayor of West Haverstraw Mayor D’Amelio to please come forward.”
D’Amelio kept his speech short and to the point. “Thank you Natacha. Like Natacha said, with me today is Trustee Ramon Lopez. Again, Natacha talks about the support she gets from my office. I’m only one vote of five. Ramon is one of the other five. I can’t do it without my village board. I want to thank Ramon and my village board for all they do. How about a big round of applause for Natacha and the energy level she brings. UNBELIEVABLE!! She’s off the charts. I can’t keep up with her. I don’t think anybody can. She stole a lot of my speech when she talked about the nurse and everything. She talked about; she said the municipality is part of the backbone of it.”
“I’ll take that the other way.” He turned the compliment back on Audain. “Businesses like yours are the backbone of our community, not me, Ramon, Kenia, Ralph or Bob. We have several day care centers in West Haverstraw. We still don’t meet the need of the demographic of our village. We need more. We’re so happy that Natacha opened up this day care. I’ve got to be honest with you and I might have some owners of some day care centers get annoyed at me, we have quite a few in the village. We don’t have a single one, we have day care centers that have been there for years. We don’t have a SINGLE ONE who’s done as much as she has done in six months in our community, THREE months in our community, you set an example. You set a benchmark, thank you. I don’t want to keep anyone longer. I’m thinking that if I keep talking, I can slip the mike and cut the line and get on the bouncy house. Let me just have trustee Lopez say a few words.”
Lopez kept his comments shorter. “I just want to congratulate our early childhood academy. It has been a success. We wish her the best and based on the amount of kids that are here, you really don’t know about childhood until you have kids. She’; doing an excellent job. We wish her the best. This is a great start.”
Natacha introduced Town Supervisor Phillips.
“How is everybody doing today? We have so many great things going on in Haverstraw. Not only with Natacha with this day care center, but we have the airshow going on. Ramon’s here. We just had our Latin Festival. Latin Night. We have so many events for the people in our community. You know what. This is special because our children are our future. Unless we get them the education and the services they need, our country will not continue to be the country it has been. The American dream. Natacha, what you are doing here is a wonderful thing. On behalf of the people of Haverstraw, we’d like to present you with this bouquet of flowers. Let’s bring up our State Senator Bill Weber as well. Come on up her guys. Natacha, on behalf of the people of the Town of Haverstraw, we would like to present you with this bouquet of flowers. We hope to be here to celebrate your 25th anniversary.”
“Our Town Supervisor, that is very, very nice. Thank you so much. Without our staff I couldn’t be here today. We couldn’t do it. I receive the bouquet on behalf of the staff. Thank you so much. At this time we would like to call on our State Senator, Bill Weber.” Audain stated.
“Thank you Natacha and thank you for allowing me come to such a great event here today. Natacha called our office back in early February, January or February. We were able to help her get a desert grant for over $400,000 dollars to help her open up a dream of hers. A dream for the people of West Haverstraw and the people of Haverstraw in general. Really filling a void that was very much needed in this area.”
Turning towards Audain, he added, “We’ll work with you obviously going forward for any needs you have and any community members here. We’re so thrilled to be here to see the success you’ve achieved here and to fill such a very big need. You know my kids went to early childhood learning center. They got such a great experience and they were really school ready by the time they got out of it so I know the students that come out of here will be so much far better off when they get into the school. Thank you and anything we can do we will continue to help you. Congratulations.”
Weber was supposed to be the last of the speakers but Audain took the mike with a smile and a glee in her voice. “I have just such a great news I can not hold on and wait to share it with you guys. Earlier before we started, I had a conversation with the Mayor, and I told him that in less than three weeks we were able to pull about 300 book bags. For next year we basically started working already and we do have a plan with a strategy in place to have 3000 book bags to help out within the community. The Mayor of West Haverstraw and Ramon, just gave me such a big news, I’m speechless right now. We said we are going to get 3000 and he is going to get 1000. That means 4000. I am so excited. This is such a great news to our community. Thank you so much Mayor.”
D’Amelio gave the credit for the suggestion to Lopez. “It was Ramon who gave me the suggestion. I’ve got to be honest with you. It was Ramon who just gave me the suggestion. Like I said before. I get the accolades, but it’s my whole village board. It was Ramon’s idea.”
West Haverstraw Trustee and candidate for Haverstraw Town Council, Ralph Kirschkel was at the event in the beginning but had to leave before the official kick off for a previous engagement, but he wanted to comment on the event. “The event Tremendous. Just the amount of support from the community and to the community made for a great day to be a part of the North Rockland community. I was very proud to be a part of this inaugural event. It was something we needed; this was a bonus. I was just happy to have the childcare there.”
This is only the first of the events Audain has planned for giving back to the community. Her next venture is toys for children at the holidays. “Also, please keep an eye on us. We’ve already started working on toys for December for the kids in the community as well. So please keep eyes on ABC Early Learning Academy for December.”