Linda Sloane Interview:
This is file # 15, cycle 3 today’s date is Dec.13, 2017. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Linda Sloane. She is going to talk about the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau, her time at Salisbury Central and Lee Kellogg School in Falls Village and anything else she wants to talk about. First we will start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
JM:Where were you born?
LS:I was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
JM:Your parents’ names?
LS:My father’s name was Irving Sloane and my mother’s name was Mary Ellen Woolford Sloane.
JM:You have siblings?
LS:I do. I have an older brother names Roy and a younger brother named David. I am the only girl in the middle of two boys.
JM:How did you come to this area?
LS:It was through my husband. He grew up here. When we met up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we made a decision and we wanted to move down here. But my father also owned a home up here in Millerton, New York before I met my husband. It was a funny coincidence when I met my husband, and he said,” Nobody knows where I live. I am from Lakeville, Ct.” I said, “Actually I do know where that is because I sent weekends in Millerton, N.Y.”
JM:You came to Salisbury Central School when?
LS:I came in 1979.
JM:What grades did you teach?
LS:I started in fourth grade and was in that for 4 years I think. Then I took a leave of absence for a year to get my Master’s in Counseling. When I came back, I went into 6th grade. I only taught for one year because I got pregnant that year. I left then. When I came back, I came back as a school psychologist for a year.
JM:After you left Salisbury Central School as the school psychologist, then did you go into Region#1?
LS:As a school psychologist I was employed by Region #1. When I was consulting in my job as a school psychologist I wound up at the Lee Kellogg School in Falls Village in the kindergarten room. Peg Flynn was the teacher then and the classroom felt like home because my original roots were K, 1, 2, multiage classroom up in Cambridge, Mass. It was a half time job and I had just had a new baby. The school psychologist‘s job was very hard to up parameters on because there were PPT’s almost every day after school and lots of other meetings. It seemed like a dream job for me. I talked to Ed Kirby. He was like “Oh no you are going to change again?” I did get the job at Kellogg and I was there until I retired last June (2017)
JM:Where did you hear about the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau?
LS:When I first started at Kellogg I was a half time kindergarten teacher. My Master’s degree was in counseling so for another part time job as my boys were a little older, I did counseling work through the Housatonic mental Health Center which has many permutations on its name but that was the name when I was there. I did family and children work. That was how I came to know about the Director of the Youth Service Bureau who at the time was Cynthia Bianchi. Often cases that looked like they were going to be going on for a long time and needed a lot of case management would be referred over to the Mental Health Center. I often was the counselor whom the cases got referred to because there weren’t that many child and family therapists.
JM:Did the Youth Service Bureau begin after or before the Mental Health Center?
LS:It began after the Mental Health Center. It was established in 1991. We celebrated our 25th year about one or two years ago. Richard O’Connor was one of the directors for a long time. He was part of the original thinking about the youth bureau but he was not as big a player as some other people. It was started by a number of people in the area: Dick Taber being one (See file #64 Richard Taber) Roberta Willis (See File #63, cycle 2 Roberta Willis) Donald T. Warner (See tape #44 A-D) who was a big factor in it. These people were concerned about the misuse of drugs and alcohol by the young kids in the area. They felt that because this area is so geographically remote that other towns in the state had youth service bureaus and we did not. They were anxious to start one up here and it was an idea that was blessed. It has been building since then.
JM:It is amazing how many services have been developed just because people saw a need. They may not be a professional in that area, but they see the need and get it started.
LS:That was one of the things that I think Donald T. Warner will always be remembered for is that he was a real idea man in that way. When he saw a need, he would just pull together a bunch of friends and say, “What do you think about this? We should try to do this.” He was a real doer in that way.
JM:You actually got involved with the Youth Bureau through you counseling job?
LS:Yes. It was probably around 1997 or so was when I was approached by someone on the board to ask me if I would like to join the board.
JM:You have been on the board ever since?
LS:I have, so much for term limits.
JM:If it is something you really feel passionate about, you don’t want to leave it. What is the age of the youth who is being served is what?
LS:We do everything from pre-school through to the age of 21. It needs to be someone who resides in Region #1 catchment area, all the towns that are part of Region #1 school system.
JM:Where do you get your funding?
LS:We get funding from a variety of sources. We get some money from the state, not as much as we used to. We are line items in every town budget, but it varies from town to town how much money they give us, based on their ability to give. Every town has been very generous to their capacity and continues to be. They all contribute to our capital campaign which is lovely. We get most of our funding from private donations; a good 65% to 70% of our funding comes from that. We have some grants and other things from local foundations. We are careful about grants because they can develop mission creep. You get a grant that makes you do something that is a little bit off what you really do, but you do it for the money. The next thing you know your grant is over here and your mission is way over here. Our director (Nick Pohl Ed.) had been very good about looking at those carefully to see if they really hold to our mission.
JM:Do you get any money from Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation?
LS:We do. There are a variety of fund there that are given to organizations that service kids and we do apply for their grant. They tend to be better ones as they don’t have a lot of restrictions about what you have to do or what you have to produce at the end.
JM:Do you do any events?
LS:We do. We have a variety of events that are “friend raisers”. They do not make a lot of money, but they just keep our name out there. We are reasonably mission-tight. We are not doing it currently, but we have had a Battle of the Bands for a number of years. That was a very popular event. Local garage bands would compete. That was a great event. We did Music on the Mountain for a while. It was a great opportunity for kids who were more into classical music and traditional music. It was a great venue to be able to play in Gordon Hall (Music Mountain Ed.) We do a gold tournament which is not mission-tight, but it is one of our bigger fund raisers. We also have for a number of years we have partnered with Hotchkiss to do something called “Bearcat 5K”, but due to the change in administration they have changed their focus and are no longer funding that. We started this year we joined in with the
Fall Festival and had a little 5k road race. It was great. There were a lot of people who came for the first year. Hopefully it will become a standard event. I think it is important to be part of the Festival; it has really grown and pulled in so many different groups that to not be there is almost a slight. It is such a community event. We need to be part of that event. It has a really nice spirit to it. We were very happy to partner with that event this year. I hope we are starting another tradition.
JM:What are the services that are offered?
LS:Our bread and butter is our counseling program. We have two full time licensed counselors Rebecca Sakl and Elizabeth Skaglund. They are somewhat split between the K-8 schools and the high school. It is not a perfect split and is a mobile service. The counselors come to the kids in the elementary school. We do have a lovely office to which the high school kids are able to walk to. It is on the high school campus. People know it is a separate arm, but I will have to give a shout out to Region #1 because they do give us some money to partner with them. They recognize our value and give a certain amount of money as well to support that work.
JM:If you are using these services, you do not have to pay as a family.
LS:No it is barrier free in the sense that you don’t have a lengthy intake process and you also don’t pay anything. The board went around and around about that. Should we charge something; some counselors believe that you should pay something because it makes you more motivated. We have really decided that families in crises we want them to get help as quickly as possible. They do not have to go through huge intake process and not let money be a factor in keeping help away. We try to remove a lot of the hurdles that a lot of people put in the way. “Oh I am not able to get counseling.”
JM: In this area transportation is such a big issue.
LS:It is a huge issue; geographically it is an enormous area. So that is a big issue. From Kent to come up to the HYSB is a long haul, but for the counseling to go down there and spend a day in the school that is very doable. It makes the service far more accessible for families, particularly in the far away towns. Counseling is our bread and butter. Part of that is also what we call case management. There are some cases where the family might need support from the town, such as social workers, fuel assistance, and/or food assistance. Sometimes the counselor is seeing the family, but they are also on the phone a lot trying to connect the families with other services that could help them have a more effective and functional life. We try to educate them about the area services. Sometime it means getting involved with a child psychiatrist who can dispense medication which we are not in a position to do. That is part of our work.
There is also a proactive and preventative approach which has a number of programs that are offered to the high school that come and go in terms of how popular they are and how easy it is to fill in depending on the schedule of the high school which right now is a little bit of a juggernaut. We have one program called” Empowering Young Women”. It has been a staple for a long time. High school girls
who have worked with a person with Women’s Emergence Support Services and HYSB that partnered to do that together. That has been a favorite program for a long time. They do everything from bringing in speakers for the girls to taking them off for an annual trip to New York City. They take the girls out of the country and give them exposure that way.
We also have done something called” Youth Philanthropy” which is a program which I really like because it teaches kids about giving back to their community. Kids who sign up t=for that identify an issue either here in the high school or in their community that they would like to raise awareness to that. The Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation in Torrington has offered a certain amount of money. The kids have to raise $500 and they are then granted $1500 to put forth their cause. One year they brought in a speaker t=another year they had a film. They try to educate their peers about whatever issue it is that they think is important for them to know about. Through the scheduling this year we are finding time to get the kids involved with that. It is a terrific idea. Living in this smaller community that this, we all know that we depend on the philanthropy involved here. It is good to teach kids early on the power of giving back.
Another program we have had for a long time which is called “FYI”. This is a series of workshops that were given on Saturdays by Joe Brien who does “Lost Arts”. He would do puppet making or stool making. He has a great little business that he is running too keep old arts alive. With “FYI” you must come with your parents. It was a great way to have parents and kids interacting together with television, just good old=fashioned hands-on work. We have taken a break from that for a while because the market has become pretty saturated. It will easily come back.
There is another program called “Peers Educating Peers” which is designed to facilitate communication skills in middle school kids which they need. It helps reduce bullying and standing up for kids and standing up for yourself, and personal advocacy. It is meant as a preventative program to build self-esteem so the kid is less likely to get involved with drug and alcohol. The program has Kids working with other kids to help build those skills.
JM:A program seems to stick better if it is peer related.
LS:Definitely. I think the kids who have done it have really liked it. Many of them that I have seen are empowered. They speak up and stand up for themselves; it is good in that way. Then there are those events so there are three baskets: the counseling, the empowerment programs, and the summer Internship Program which is my favorite one.
This program takes high school level kids and helps them find jobs in local non-profits. They give them a $700 grant at the end of their work time. It is a way of employing them by doing unusual things. The Equiis Foundation in Sharon working with horses, people who are recovering vets who work with horses. She has been terrific about having volunteers there from t this program. Kids who love farms and horses this is a perfect match –up for them. It is another way to bring that love to another great cause. The library in Sharon has had them, and the Cornwall library.
JM:do you do anything with the Time Out Foundation? (See tape #143A David McArthur)
LS:I don’t think so. I would have to check on that. That would be a good one.
JM:That is David McArthur. He gives kids therapy through horses.
LS:I don’t think we have placed any kids there in the work study program. That is a possibility. It is a program that we are working to expand. It is something that individual towns really like. It is very possible that each town in addition to what they pay, they would also be willing to kick in the $700 or $1400 to cover the kids from their town to be part of that. It is something that a lot of our donors really like. In addition to them working at these places they also taught how to write a resume, how to manage money, how to go to an interview, how do you keep your poise when you are being interviewed by someone you have never met before.
JM:That is very similar to the Summer Youth Program here in Salisbury. (Director See File #55 John Mongeau, File #63 David Bayersdorfer, File #65 Patty Stevens, s: participants File #58 Jim Bartram, File # 108 John Bartram, File #32, cycle 2 Nathan LaChaine, and File 41, cycle 2 Caroline Fallon, (File #2, cycle 3 Kevin Wiggins)
LS:It has been great. The Berkshire Taconic community foundation has been very generous so we are looking to expand, a funding source for that and possible the program as well.
JM:I would not think you would run out of students.
LS:No, sometimes it is not as easy to recruit students because not so many students know about it. As more student get to know about it, it will be easier to recruit. They do a certain amount of screening; it is not that they are looking for a certain type of kid. There is a somewhat therapeutic quality in it. One of our lead clinicians supervises that and she goes on site, she talks to the kids. There is a nice connection with the counselors of HYSB as well. Sometimes the kids are already being seen by a HBYS counselor, so this it is a great opportunity through the summer to give them some support and something to feel good about and to be involved with.
JM:The children who are referred, are they always referred from the schools?
LS:Not always I think in the elementary schools it is often the school or the parent. At the high school level they will self-refer or refer peers. They have a friend who is really struggling with such and such. “Can I bring him or her the next time?” The high school had been good about letting kids come over to us as needed. They go to the guidance person and say, “I am struggling with ____, could I go?” They are very willing to send kids over there. That is nice. The confidentiality is maintained a bit better over there. They are not right ion the main stream of the high school. That has worked well also. I am surprised we talked about that at a board meeting one day. I was very surprised that there are quite a few self-referrals which I think is good because the kids know about HYSB and are willing to seek help.
JM:If they are referring themselves, they are not feeling that they are being pushed into it by adults.
JM:That empowers them in a way.
LS:We do have something called a Juvenile Review Board which has a few more teeth to it than some of the other things we do. We have a state trooper on it. It is for kids at the high school who may be truant. So the child gets referred there instead of to the courts. Then there is some kind of consequence or whatever the board decides to keep them out of the court system. That board meets once a month. That has been very successful; our counselors sit on the Review Board, a state trooper and a couple of other people. It has been a really good way of keeping the bad spiral from happening when you start getting involved with the court system. It is good for everybody. It has some teeth because the parent then has to make sure that the recommendations are carried out, as for example mandatory counseling. That is what you have to do now. Someone has found drugs in their locker, so now you need to have x amount of hours in counseling at HYSB. This is the first years that it has all come together and it seems to be doing what it was set up to do.
JM:You have a Board of Directors?
LS:Right now there are 13 of us which included our Executive Director. That is one of our missions this year is to expanding our board. We have just added one new member. We would like to add a few more within the next year; that is a big push.
JM:Who is your current President?
LS: Our current President is Nancy Byrd who got involved with the HYSB because she was a recipient of the Donald T. Warner Award which we give most every year in honor of Donald T. Warner and his volunteerism and philanthropy in the area. She was a recipient about 10 or 12 years ago. She got interested and now she was head of our capital campaign and fund development during that time. She did an amazing job with that. She is a very strong good board chair.
JM:Where do you meet and what time?
LS:We meet at the new home for the HYSB which is over the 6 bay garage to the right of the high school. We have a great conference room there. Our conference table was made from one of the Twin Oaks (off R.t 41 at the top of the hill going toward Sharon Ed.) We meet there once a month on the second Thursday of the month from 4:30 until 6 or 6:30 PM. One thing that has evolved which is good, we have a much stronger committee structure now; that is where a lot of the work happens. You are
just reporting on what you have accomplished. We are not spending a lot of time on minutiae which is good.
JM:You had a capital fund drive in order to renovate that space.
LS:We did. We used to be in the “White House” which is a tiny little white house to the right of the high school. It has been around for so long. When I was a school psychologist that was where our offices were. That was when Dr. Skelly was still in the district. It was like a little rabbit warren then and then it got even less attention as time went on. It used to be where the Special Education offices were. It just got to the point where it was really falling apart. The school definitely was not going to put the money into it. They very nicely gave us a year’s notice that the building was going to be demolished. We will do whatever we can to support you to find a place. We thought about relocating, but we realized that part of our mission was enhanced by being on the high school campus. It is not a part of the public school system. The rent now is right. We pay for heat and so forth. They kept the same agreement as we had at the White House. It is a far superior space to the White House. After the capital fund drive was finished and the space was all done, some of the kids would come in and look around and say, “WOW! This is all for us?” They saw the difference; it is a beautiful space. We hold events there.
JM:Tell me about the Donald T. Warner Community Award.
LS:The Donald T. Warner Award started probably about a couple of years before I joined the board. It was not that old at that point. The HYSB was so grateful for Donald t. Warner for both his money and a lot of other people who have been loyal donors right from the get go and continue to be to this day. He was instrumental in starting in starting the service. He was board chair and he helped hire Cynthia Bianchi. It felt right to give back to his family and what they did. It is a real honor to get it; it honors community service. We hope to make it a bigger event this coming year. It was suggested to us that it should become a much more prominent community event because a lot of people in this community do a lot and they get recognized and more people should know about that.
JM:Is that the same as what you mentioned as a community award?
LS:Yes it is. We are hoping to add another one this year. It would recognize the creative spirit in the area of people who have started ideas like someone like Lori Belter who helped get the Musical Society do Broadway and other shows that happen at the high school every year. She was one of the real movers and shakers behind that. Another example is the group of women who started Trade Secrets. We want to recognize that sort of thing as well.
JM:What is the purpose of the Donald t. Warner community Award?
LS: It is to recognize individuals in the community who have given very consistent and strong service, particularly to the organizations that benefit kids and youth in the area: some recipients were Carl Williams, a longtime resident who always volunteered. He was on the finance Board. He was very involved with SWSA. He made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives (See tape #111A Carl Williams).
Another award was given to Bill & Sue Morrill who were very humble about receiving the award and very shy about it. There are people who do a tremendous about of philanthropy in the area and give a great deal of their time to a variety of organizations. People like that we felt should have a spotlight shined on them. Everybody who has gotten this always says the same thing” I never did this to get an award. It is surprising to me that I am getting an award. I have done it because it matters to me and I want to make a difference.”
JM:You also mentioned that Jack Mahoney got it,
LS:Yes, and Charlotte Reid (See tape #89 Charlotte Reid) and Gordon Johnson. Those were some of the early recipients.
JM:Do you have a wish list for HYSB?
LS:I think our wish list is we would love to have a true endowment. We have the small beginnings of one. That will be our next push. We would also be able to get our name out there so that no family would ever feel like they did not have a place to go. We need to continue to build our brand and our name recognition in the community so the circle of people who trust us and respect what we do will continue to grow.
JM:Word of mouth is a lot better that the paper. Is there anything that you would like to add to this interview before we close?
LS:I want to give a shout out to a couple of key people. I am not sure that the HYSB would be where it is today without that perfect hiring of Cynthia Bianchi. She was hired while she was in the Southwest and was interviewed in a phone booth I think by Roberta Willis. Cynthia grew up here; her mom was very anxious to have her come back and she was ready to return. It was serendipitous that the two came together. I can’t imagine a better person to have taken on that job. She did it all; she was a one man show for a long time and gradually we added support services for her. She did a lot by herself: she was the Executive Director and provided services. She is a very gifted counselor. She gave us great shoulders to stand on. I am always indebted to her. We are very fortunate in the next ED we chose has grown into the job beautifully. Nick Pohl is a younger guy; he totally gets the mission and a hard worker, very bright. He works very hard to keep our mission true to what it was from Day 1.
JM:Thank you so much Linda. This has been wonderful.
LS:It is easy to talk about the place that I love so much.