Ulster BOCES and People’s Place Forge Mutually Beneficial Partnership

Ulster BOCES and People’s Place Forge Mutually Beneficial Partnership

This year, Ulster BOCES programs began partnering with the Kingston-based People’s Place Thrift Store, Food Pantry, Wellness Empowerment Center & Community Cafe. Approximately 20 students–known as “young professionals” at Ulster BOCES–have been rolling up their sleeves every week to help out the not-for-profit People’s Place, which has been assisting Ulster County residents in need since 1972.

Young professionals from several programs, including Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing; Transitional Occupation Program (TOP-C); and Hospitality, Culinary Arts, and Pastry Arts, are assisting the dedicated staff and volunteers of People’s Place with some of the many tasks needed to keep the organization functioning efficiently.

“The partnership with People’s Place is enriching our young professionals’ educational experience in countless ways,” said Ulster BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Jonah M. Schenker. “Not only are they increasing their capacity through their performance of the work needed, they are also experiencing the intrinsic benefits of contributing to their community firsthand.”

People’s Place Executive Director Christine Hein and her staff have been identifying different ways in which Ulster BOCES and People’s Place can complement and fortify each other’s respective missions. To that end, People’s Place is offering various service opportunities to the young professionals. 

The TOP-C young professionals are enthusiastic about their work at People’s Place. Their efforts earned them the Presidential Volunteer Gold Award, which they received through their participation in SkillsUSA, a workforce development organization for students. Included with the award was a letter congratulating the TOP-C class from President Joe Biden.

Cory All of the Saugerties Central School District looks forward every week to his volunteer work at the People’s Place thrift store, whose sales play a major role in funding the food pantry and community cafe. (According to Hein, People's Place served more than 1.5 million meals in 2023, and the demand is even greater in 2024.) Cory, who is enrolled in the TOP-C program, is learning how to pay attention to details, as he sorts clothing, inspecting each item carefully for stains or holes. “I very much enjoy everything, knowing I’m helping out the community,” he said. “This makes me very happy.” Above all, Cory said his time volunteering has taught him an important virtue: “patience.”

Fellow TOP-C young professional Nathan Lesmes of the Ellenville Central School District said that he specifically enjoys loading the truck at People’s Place and doing other hands-on tasks. Ryan Armstrong of the Kingston City School District (KCSD) is equally enthusiastic. “I feel awesome helping,” he said. Lawrence Cole of KCSD said he knew of People’s Place before his internship (which tasked him with sorting clothes, scooping beans, and preparing special holiday food bags), but had never been inside. “I think what they are doing is great,” he said. TOP-C instructor Maggie Schoonmaker said that the class’s experience has shown them how to work as a team which, she notes, is a critical life and job skill. 

Zachary Whittaker, a KCSD senior, brings his Ulster BOCES Culinary Arts knowledge and skills every week to the People’s Place Community Cafe, where he helps transform donated foods into healthy entrées and soups. Cafe Manager and Chef Dennis Quinn said that Zach is learning how to think “outside the box” as he creates menu options from random ingredients. “Having Zach here has allowed him to get training and an experience like no other,” Quinn pointed out.  

Danny Zayas, a senior from the Wallkill Central School District, designed several wooden winter holiday ornaments for People’s Place using Fusion 360 computer software, and crafted more than 200 with a laser engraver in his Ulster BOCES Advanced Robotics & Manufacturing class. The project took him more than two months to complete. “I already volunteer at a food pantry in my town, so I know how the money from the ornament sales goes to get more product,” he said. “It feels nice to help them get money that benefits people. I will most definitely do this again next year. Definitely.”

Hein said that the Ulster BOCES students bring not only their skills and eagerness to learn and help, but also good vibes. “We absolutely love their helping hands and smiling faces,” she said. “They are always eager to assist. We are also so thrilled to be an important part of their educational outreach experience. We feel their time here at People's Place will help them in the ‘real world’ working place.”

Hein believes that the volunteers from Ulster BOCES are developing team-building and interpersonal communication skills, and are also learning about workplace and employment procedures and safety compliance measures. “We love that they are team players and their youthful energy!” she said. 

For more information about Ulster BOCES Career and Technical programs, visit www.ulsterboces.org/cte.

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