Lending a helping hand to locals

Pat-Med Youth and Community Services provides resources

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For almost 40 years, Patchogue-Medford Youth and Community Services (PMYCS) has been providing crucial services to youth and families. The nonprofit organization is changing the lives of the Patchogue-Medford community and soon will be impacting many more lives in surrounding towns as they experience a demand for their transformative resources.

The Patchogue-Medford School District and PMYCS work closely with one another in that the agency goes into the classrooms of the elementary schools and one middle school to provide educational programming to students. By intervening at such an early age, PMYCS strives to help today’s youth receive the support and foundation they need to succeed and develop as individuals.

“The mission is to enhance the quality of life for families in need, and it’s through our education recreation support services,” said Karen Drago, executive director of PMYCS. “It’s really making people’s lives better.”

The PMYCS community center is located at 390 Bay Avenue in Patchogue and serves as a safe space for children and families. The organization offers several services that are free or low in cost to accommodate struggling families who may still be facing the devastating repercussions of a worldwide pandemic.

Some of these services include recreation, holiday assistance such as baskets and Christmas gifts, providing school supplies, and even counseling. The program offers individual counseling for children, adults, and family counseling. If clients meet the income eligibility, counseling is free, and if not, it is $10 a session.

“With COVID, a lot of parents were stuck in the house with their young children, and once we said ‘Yes, we’re going to have in-person programming,’ our spaces were full in a matter of two days,” said Drago. “Same for the counseling. We do have an increase in the need for counseling services, especially after COVID. A lot of the youth that we are serving seem to have a hard time coming out of COVID and getting back into in-person.”

Parents can catch a break while kids have fun participating in summer and school break camps, except the week between Christmas and New Year’s because of closing due to the holiday season. Parents can also enroll their school-age children in eight-week recreational sessions offered in the winter, spring, and fall seasons, that take place once a week for a total of $40. PMYCS just concluded their spring recreation youth program, which consisted of cooking, gardening club, and silly science.

While PMYCS prominently serves Pat-Med residents, they also provide services that extend to individuals outside their community, such as a food pantry and clothing closet, which is linked to the pantry. The organization is receiving a high volume of calls from people in need, and will never turn away individuals or families that are in dire need of a hot meal or proper clothing.

Prior to PMYCS, Drago was working with the homeless population and after 12 years, she decided it was time for a change and began to look for another opportunity to gain more experience. Drago has always had a strong passion for helping others and when she came across the advertisement for the PMYCS position, she knew it was the right fit.

“When I started in August [2021], I wanted to keep the programming as it was running because I just needed to asses what the needs were, and there definitely is a need,” said Drago. “I was told when I was interviewing all the support that the agency has within the community, and we definitely do. The village is wonderful to us, all of the businesses and just meeting people in the area. Everybody supports one another.”

With the great success PMYCS has had over the past 40 years, Drago plans to keep everything the way it has been, but has some great ideas of her own for the future. One of the organization’s focuses for next year is continuing their outreach with high-school students through the creation of a teen group. Drago would also like to offer a “Mommy and Me” at the location, so people have a place to bring their toddlers when they are visiting the food pantry. With a high Spanish-speaking population, she also wants to strengthen PMYCS’s bilingual services to provide families with a sense of safety and encourage others to utilize their resources.

PMYCS typically holds three fundraisers every year consisting of their annual Golf Classic and pancake breakfast, taking place the Saturday of Easter weekend at the Patchogue Firehouse, and bowling, but since the Patchogue Bowling Alley closed, different ideas are in the works.

The PMYCS 2022 Golf Classic will be taking place this year on Thursday, June 16 at the Timber Point Golf Course with an 8 a.m. shotgun start. Attendees spend a beautiful day enjoying each other’s company for a great cause. The outing itinerary consists of breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour, dinner, and of course, golf! Awards, raffle baskets, and contests are just some of the outing activities. And the best part? All funds raised at the Golf Classic will help support PMYCS youth programs. Different packages and sponsorship opportunities are also available.

With the summer season quickly approaching, the organization is also preparing for their Summer Fun Weeks, a camp for elementary-school children. PMYCS offers three two-week sessions that will begin July 11 and from the hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., kids will be enjoying arts and crafts, sports, special guest appearances, free lunch and more.

“At least daily there’s multiple smiles coming across peoples faces, even the little ones, and it’s just really rewarding for me to be able do this kind of work,” said Drago proudly. “And just be out in the community and making connections and meet different people. We do a lot of partnerships. We try to work together to just better the community.”

For more information about PMYCS services, the 2022 Golf Classic, volunteer opportunities, donations and more, please call (631) 758-4100 or visit https://www.pmycs.org/.

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