Thursday, April 21, 2011

12th Annual Kids Count Legislative Breakfast

Kids Count in Milford

The 12th annual Kids Count of Milford’s Legislative Breakfast was held April 13th at the Milford Yacht Club.  This powerful event is a chance for Milford’s non profits, especially the charities that focus on children and families, to educate and inspire our legislators at the state level to care for us even better.  To let them hear from the executive directors of the non profits in our cities as well as parents of children who need the services they offer and to help them speak in a way that is informed and passionate about the need to continue funding. 

Invited were Senator Gayle Slossberg, Representatives Paul Davis, Kim Rose and Richard Roy.  Present were Mr. Davis and for half of the event, Mr. Roy. 

Mayor Richetelli introduced Milford’s new superintendent of schools, Dr. Elizabeth Feser, who spoke about her enthusiasm for our city’s schools and the new possibilities she offers. Dr. Feser’s years of experience and passion for teaching institutions were evident in her speaking and her posture on education.

The main thrust of this event was to point out the need for continued funding for our nonprofits and to educate not only our legislators, but also the public.  Barry Kasdan, CEO of Bridges, pointed out that while the public may want lowered taxes
there is no savings to be gained by cutting mental health services to families.  He gave facts and figures on the cost effectiveness of community based care vs. institution care. “Of all non profits in Connecticut who have budgets of a million and over and who get government contracts and grants,  70% of those are in deficit.”

Charlie Clifford of the YMCA said that Connecticut is one of four states that spent more on incarceration than on higher education.  He also gave practical advice to the legislatures and parents on how to campaign for funding important programs.

The scene stealers of the day, though, were Mrs. Susan Stelez’s third grade class from Pumpkin Delight School.  Mrs. Stelez won “The Champion of Young Children’s Award” for her 30 year of teaching to over 800 students and her devotion to developing young minds.  Her class performed for the breakfast crowd, which included many Executive directors from non profits in the city. 

Gary Johnson, of the United Way presented the “Lifetime of Championing Children” award to Peggy Kelly, Executive Director of Kid’s Count.  Their mission is “to develop, enhance and promote the education, social and emotional well being of children from birth to age five so that they enter kindergarten ready to learn”. 

Representative Paul Davis, who spoke, said that his wife and son are both teachers and that while the tax payers are asking for cuts, he sees the need to educate the public about these important social programs.  “Educating the public to see this as an investment in their future”, was a theme spoken over and over. When he was asked how to educate the public he said that, “making this a financial issue and realizing that if we don’t do this it will actually cost us money in the future” was the best marketing strategy. 

“It is foolish to think that there are savings when we cut essential community services. In reality we simply shift costs to a more expensive level of care, which is government- based. This is wasteful if not irresponsible at this time of fiscal crisis”, says Barry Kasdan.

Mrs. Stelez’s third graders chanted “I’m glad that Milford’s my hometown” and spoke about teamwork, independence, participation, volunteers and  problem solving as being part of a citizen’s responsibility. They spoke about taking care of others in a way that promotes community involvement and respect.  Mrs. Stelez’s third grade: Some of the forward-thinkers of tomorrow who we hope will make a difference on today’s legislators.


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