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Non-Profits Seize Advocacy Opportunity at Annual Summit [VIDEO]

Summit X, the annual leadership conference sponsored by the Westchester Community Foundation and United Way of Westchester and Putnam, drew 700 participants.

The region's health, arts, education, environmental and outreach advocacy groups gathered at today's Not-For-Profit Leadership Summit to work on topics from social media to work-life balance to managing employees in tough economic times.

The event marked the launch of Nonprofit Westchester, a cooperative initiative of the county's extensive network of non-profit agencies for political lobbying and advocacy. 

Catherine Marsh, head of the Westchester Community Foundation, announced the new venture at the start of the event at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tarrytown. It's essential in such a challenging environment to create better awareness of the importance of non-profits, who are too often ignored by politicians running for office and after election, she said.

"Imagine if we had the ability to easily share our talents...regardless of agency size, mission or budget," Marsh said.

Non-Profit Westchester's leadership committee will be chaired by Susan Wayne, president of Family Services of Westchester. Wayne pointed out that the non-profit sector is a powerhouse of the region's economy: There are  more than 5,000 non-profit organizations in the county, with more than 90,000 employees, spending $6.9 billion annually. 

The group's organizing committee includes heads of some of Westchester's most prominent nonprofits in addition to Marsh and Wayne: Naomi Adler of the United Way; Carola Bracco of Neighbors Link; Cora Greenberg, Westchester Children's Association; Kathleen Halas, Child Care Council of Westchester, Rick Hobish, Pro Bono Partnership; Terry Kirchner, Westchester Library System; Amy Kohn, MHA of Westchester, Janet Langsam, ArtsWestchester; Bob Miller of Westhab; Markham Rollins, Volunteer Center United Way; and Keith Safian, Phelps Memorial Hospital Center.

Nearly 700 participants attended the event which was organized by the United Way of Westchester and Putnam and the Westchester Community Foundation. 

Participants from both non-profits and regional businesses made time to network at the many tables and displays in between workshops and speakers. Marian Randazzo and Sue Berman of Workplace Solutions in Elmsford attracted passers-by at 8 a.m. with a Keurig coffee maker and all the fixings. 

"We thought it would be a good opportunity to support the United Way and for people to learn a little bit about us as well," Randazzo said.

Abbie Relkin of the Mental Health Association of Westchester dropped by to grab a cup of coffee. The MHA—which has participated in the annual event for 10 years—was manning a table too, she said. 

The primary sponsor of the event was TD Bank. "This is the sixth year we've been a sponsor," said Retail Market Manager Adam Kintish. "TD wants to be recognized as the community bank in Westchester."

Adler said before the event that she was pleased to have New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as keynote speaker and Bartley "BJ" Costello as the breakfast speaker.

"It is a perfect time to dive deeper into the subject of reforming regulations of the nonprofit sector with the Attorney General and to learn from BJ how nonprofits can work together more effectively to lead legislators in the direction of smart policies," Adler said.

Speaking at breakfast, Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino told the audience the county is continuing its efforts to make it easier for not-for-profit organizations to do business with Westchester.

“Doing business with the county government should not seem like cruel and unusual punishment, but sometimes it does,” said Astorino, offering a status report on  to reduce the red tape that non-profit groups faces when they work with county government. Astorino said he believes the effort has been successful, but more needs to be accomplished.

Astorino said the county’s goal is to increase accountability, but to reduce the paperwork required for public-private partnerships that help provide a variety of services to local residents.

Bruce Apar May 07, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Yorktown Organizations United (YOUNited) thanks Yorktown Teen Center President Helena Rodriguez for attending today's Summit. We look forward to her summary of the conference at our May 9 community foundation meeting 7 p.m. at Yorktown Town Hall.
Lanning Taliaferro May 08, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Thanks, Bruce. We'll be interested to hear about the meeting!

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