Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center (EWECC) is once again inviting the East End community to join them at Kilmore Farm in Wainscott for some "rockin and stompin fun" during EWECC's 3rd Annual Barn Dance.
"It's shaping up to be a really good time! This is the third year we've had it and it's grown each year because of word of mouth, attracting a lot of fun people that like to dance," Maureen Wikane, head of the Center, shared. "It's just a very different setting than events out here in the summer, in that it's in a beautiful barn and it's on a horse farm. There's a great feeling of tranquility and it's just a lovely place to be."
EWECC expects nearly 300 guests at this year's Dance on Saturday, June 2, which will feature "country cuisine" from The Art of Eating, live music, line dancing, a silent auction, wine from Amagansett Wine & Spirits, Montauk Brewing Company brews, sweet tea, flowers by C.Whitmore Gardens, and more.
"We have The Roadhouse Band again because everyone has liked them so much," Wikane noted.
Hilaria Baldwin, Eleanor Whitmore, and Alec Baldwin at last year's benefit. (Courtesy Photo)
While the benefit has taken place at the Wainscott-based farm since its inception, this year that will be particularly meaningful - as honoree Nancy McCaffrey has a special tie to Kilmore Farm. "It's actually her daughter and son-in-law that own the barn - so it's fun because it's a family event for them. Nancy's been on the board for over 20 years, and she is actually a teacher herself," Wikane explained. "Her leadership skills have greatly enhanced the Center and we're all so grateful for her."
And, that family connection rings true for many involved with the benefit. "One of the things that makes this event so special is we're honoring Nancy, who's a 12th generation Hamptonite, she was born and raised in Bridgehampton. Her children live here, her grandchildren live here, but also, there's a whole multigenerational thing happening with our host committee, with many of the people that have been so supportive of the Center," Joan Overlock, Director of Development and Marketing, said. "Of course, there's Eleanor Whitmore, and Mariah, her granddaughter, is the chairperson of our host committee. The Hummel family is involved - there's lots of families that have been here for a long time and they're participating in a multigenerational way and that's what makes it a fun party. It's a real mix of generations coming together, having a wonderful time, celebrating and raising money for such an important cause.
"Nancy is truly a pillar of the East Hampton and East End society. She has been involved in so many organizations and really made a difference in the quality of life out here," Overlock added. "She served on our board for over 23 years and has been here for so many transitions and has really helped us grow to become the size that the organization is today. Right now, we educate 120 children a year. That's a long way from when it was a day care center taking care of maybe 25 kids."
Line dancing was a hit. (Photo: Nicole Barylski)
In addition to EWECC, McCaffrey has also dedicated her time to many other vital East End causes. "To the Center, she is obviously so meaningful to us, but that's not her only activity. She served on the Town Zoning Board of Appeals, she was the past president of the Wainscott School Board, she was a teacher for more than 27 years at Most Holy Trinity Church, and she's really always been there for people," Overlock said. "She does a lot of quiet good in town. She's a member of the Wainscott Sewing Society, which is really about preserving the integrity of the Village. So she's made big impact."
The Center is the sole not-for-profit educational organization that offers full-day, year-round child care in East Hampton.
"Our mission is to be a dynamic learning center and we provide as much innovative, research based early education as we can. This is the most important time in their lives to be in a situation that's nurturing and fostering their social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development," Wikane noted. "It's no longer a question of babysitting at this point; they are actively involved in learning - right from 18 months, when we first get them, right on through age 5. We really, really support brain development, which we know is so active at that particular age."
Since its inception, EWECC has welcomed over 4,000 children.
"We just keep improving and keep providing more and more of a depth of service for our children. We have an array of specialist who are available to the children here that any school would be pleased to have. We meet the needs of each individual child," Overlock said. "Each one of our lead teachers has a masters degree in early childhood education and each teacher is looking and evaluating students on an individual basis and if they can identify needs early on, then they help get the resources so that all of those children are performing on the level they should be for their age."
Crystalyn Hummel, Catherine Moss and Erin Burns. (Photo: Nicole Barylski)
The Barn Dance is the organization's biggest fundraiser of the year.
"The proceeds from the Barn Dance help us reinforce our work with specialists, keep our teachers and their ongoing educational pursuits, it goes to support our summer program," Overlock noted. "This year, we've entered into contract with the Springs School District and we will be providing pre-k for the school district, however the school district was only really able to afford a half day pre-k program and we have a full day pre-k program - really we're on the forefront of early education. We were the first ones in the area to have a full day pre-k program. So, part of our scholarship program will enable these families to extend the pre-k program to a full day."
As for the future, the Center plans to stay on the forefront of early education.
"Early education is so, so critical. 90 percent of the human brain is formed by the time a child is five-years-old. So, what happens between 18 months and five-years-old is really critical. For instance, an 18 month old - which is when our program starts - acquires one new vocabulary word every two hours. Imagine if that child is sitting home with no stimulation. We also know that children who are socially engaged learn better and faster," Overlock explained. "Early education is a must have because it effects the future of a successful education. So much of what we do here is prepare children for significant life transitions, which can be anything - a transition is going from pre-k to kindergarten, from being at home with mommy all the time to going to school for a couple of hours. A lot of what happens in early education is preparation for how to be resilient and we're learning more and more that lack of resiliency is one of the factors that's leading to so much of the troubles in middle school and high school and so much mental illness. In fact, our program director just joined the board of the resiliency initiative started by Kathy Burke-Gonzalez."
Admission to the 3rd Annual Barn Dance is $250 and $100 for those under 35. The Barn Dance will take place from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Kilmore Farm is located at 15 Town Line Road in Wainscott. For more information, visit ewecc.org.
Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com