the Spirit of Huntington Arts Center and Life services on the rise said Friday they were joining forces to expand and add resources for veterans while continuing to operate as a center for people with autism and special needs.
The combined center will be called Rise in Spirit Community Arts Center and purchases the building, formerly a public library, that the arts center had leased for eight years. The South Huntington School District owned the building.
Veterans and others will be able to get peer support, education, arts, music, mental health and job training at the center. Suffolk County is home to the largest veteran population in the state. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that a out of six children have been diagnosed with intellectual disability (ages 3-17).
“Through this collaboration, we will now have the ability to offer more robust programs, all professionally led, that employ education, vocation and recreation to inspire creativity and enhance life in our community,” said said the center.
North Shore Dance, a third nonprofit that offers its services, said it “seeks to inspire a diverse demographic with dance and movement classes,” open to all levels and ages, across center.
Charles Evdos, Executive Director of Rise Life Services, based in Riverhead, said: “We empower them to improve their quality of life through the variety of services we provide.
He said the joint project would also create 50 new jobs in Huntington and the center could serve as a model for collaborations across the country.
Michael Kitakis, executive director of the arts centre, said: “In the special needs community, you need both vocation and recreation. You can’t just have a place that just has a bit of art. You want art, you want music, you want the whole community arts center to come together to provide all of these great services.
Among those who participated in the announcement were Bellone, State Senator Jim Gaughran, Tom Ronayne, Director of Veterans Services for Suffolk County; Dr. David Bennardo, former superintendent and elected councilor of South Huntington and Dr. Vito D’Elia, superintendent of South Huntington.