In partnership with the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island (HWCLI), the South Country Library, located at 22 Station Road, in Bellport, hosted their first social services fair since the pandemic, on Thursday, March 16, from noon to 3 p.m. The event featured multiple nonprofit organizations conveniently set up at booths in the main corridor. These organizations took the opportunity to provide pertinent information on a variety of health care services, SNAP benefits, aid to the developmentally disabled, addiction services, housing assistance, childhood nutrition, mental health services, trauma counseling, senior nutrition, behavioral health, criminal justice, and more.
The organizations in attendance included the following: Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, which co-sponsored the event; Perinatal Health Services Program; The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; Community Development Corporation of Long Island; Bethpage Federal Credit Union; Stony Brook Cancer Center; LGBT Network; SEPA Mujer; Public Health Solutions; EAC Network; Child Advocacy Center; Suffolk County Department of Health, Office of Health Education; Boys and Girls Club of Bellport; Family Service League; YMCA; and LI Community Hospital Hospice’s Bereavement Support.
“It’s very well attended by our community. They’re definitely taking advantage of learning about all the organizations. We haven’t had a fair since before the pandemic, and they’re going to be more frequent based on the response. We’re going to have another fair in late summer. A veterans’ fair is sometime in the works, and there will be a job fair in June, a seniors’ fair, and another community fair,” said Jack M. Nix, adult reference librarian in charge of community engagement at the South Country Library.
Nix pointed out that events such as this are beneficial for both the community and the participating nonprofits “It’s a great networking opportunity for all the organizations. They’re exchanging information and hopefully forming collaborations. It’s a win-win for the organizations and for the guests,” the community-focused librarian explained.
Christine Cooper, outreach engagement specialist for the Community Development Corporation of Long Island, was impressed with the community interest on learning about services in the area. “It’s a really good turnout. It’s usually hit or miss at these events,” she said. Cooper was glad to be available to present potentially life-changing resources to people and to answer any questions that they might have, as well as to make connections with other organizations that set up tables there.
John Walton, a business development representative from the Bethpage Federal Credit Union, came all the way from Queens to be part of the social services fair in South Country, and was informing attendees about the benefits of using a not-for-profit Federal Credit Union instead of a bank, because rates are typically more reasonable and there are no banking fees.
The Health and Welfare Council of Long Island was represented at the head table by Kiersten Bartolotta, client services manager, and Donna Vargas, MSW, health care services manager. “It’s excellent finding a lot of people who need to be learning as much as they can about services,” said Bartolotta, who has noticed that the need for the services they provide has greatly increased since COVID.
“Now with the emergency ending, our clients are feeling the effects of the loss of services, such as reduction of benefits, food insecurity, and changes to health care and insurance. It’s been three years since people have had to update Medicaid insurance, if you’ve moved or had an income change. We’re here to provide that education,” Vargas said.
For more information about the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, visit hwcli.com. For more information about any of the other organizations at the event or to stay updated on the dates for upcoming fairs, visit sctylib.com.