Family of Woodstock
“We wanted to make it comfortable for people to be able to come to us and seek help. We wanted to make it a safe place.” – Michael Berg, Executive Director, Family of Woodstock
Family of Woodstock is Ulster County’s major provider of human services, covering community, family, and individual needs. Their mission is to provide confidential, fully accessible crisis intervention, information, prevention, and support services to address the needs of individuals, children, and families. Services include: crisis intervention, emergency shelters for both the homeless and victims of domestic violence (they are the only provider of shelter services in Ulster), child care programs, case management services, food programs, and criminal justice programs.
Family of Woodstock also does substantial work on suicide prevention, particularly with young people, and is about to undertake a major heroin initiative that will include training both staff and the community at large in the administering of Narcan, a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose. This is part of a process to encourage opioid users and their friends and families to seek out Family of Woodstock programs as a safe place where they can get information on recovery and other supports.
According to Berg, “We were aware that people with drug problems, people with mental health problems, people who have broken the law, people who have domestic violence problems, weren't going to randomly walk up to a strange organization. We wanted to build services that made it comfortable to come and test us out. We offered a food pantry, free clothing exchange, jobs and housing boards. People could even use our phone. We didn’t even ask them their names, they didn’t have to tell us. And then, between the anonymous hotline and people walking in, they started to talk to us. People come to us thinking they’re escaping the system. That’s exactly what we want them to feel, and we connect them to the system in a safe way.”
Family of Woodstock started as a help line in response to the large number of youth that came to Woodstock after the 1969 music festival, and remains the oldest continuously running telephone help line in the United States.
In addition to providing general operating support, the Dyson Foundation provided a mini-grant to assist with succession planning. These grants fall within the Health & Safety Net and Strengthening Nonprofits funding themes.