When Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) was forced to shut its doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic back in March, the Bridgehampton-based Museum, which welcomes nearly 75,000 visitors annually, remained committed to the community and its mission of sparking imagination and fostering learning. CMEE quickly launched digital programming, CMEE @ Home, and also addressed one of the biggest issues stemming from the pandemic – food insecurity.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Steve Long, Children’s Museum of the East End President, about the CMEE food pantry and other emergency initiatives, a Virtual Trivia Night benefit, current programming, and more.
How has CMEE’s efforts shifted during the pandemic?
SL: To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, CMEE closed its doors in mid-March. Because there was no guidebook for what museums should do in a pandemic, our staff organized an online survey to learn how we could continue serving the needs of our members, especially those who are most vulnerable. Of the 91 families who responded, the vast majority were unemployed and struggling to put food on the table. If children can’t eat, they can’t play and learn. In response, CMEE launched several emergency initiatives to help families cope with the crisis, including a weekly food pantry. We also developed an array of online educational programs and family support groups. While these efforts were developed in direct response to COVD-19, they mirror the same commitment to the community that has always guided CMEE.
How many families are currently relying on CMEE’s services?
SL: With the food pantry serving 70 to 80 families, our summer reading programming serving an additional 32, and our myriad other educational initiatives and support groups, it’s fair to say that the Museum is engaging hundreds of families on a weekly basis.
Tell us a little bit about the upcoming Virtual Trivia Night benefit on Thursday, July 23 and what proceeds will support.
SL: We’re lucky enough to have the East End’s premier quizmaster on our staff. Though he’s mostly retired from hosting trivia these days, he didn’t hesitate when asked to dust off the microphone to help the Museum’s COVID-19 response efforts. There was a little concern that everyone’s “zoomed out” after the last few months, but he knows how to keep these events entertaining and fun. Of course, cocktails never hurt!
What programming is CMEE offering at the moment?
SL: While the Museum remains closed to the public for the time being, we continue to offer virtual programming to underserved children. We recently launched a virtual reading club to combat “summer slide.” We’ve also had a group of kids working with local digital artist Roz Dimon to create a collaborative work about living in the time of COVID-19. We plan to debut LA VIDA EN TIEMPOS DE COVID with a special drive-through exhibition in August. A scaled-back version of our summer programming begins this week as well. In order to ensure the safety of kids, parents, and our educators, we’ve kept the groups small, implemented cleaning procedures beyond what the CDC recommends, and plan to spend as much time outside as possible. As long as Suffolk County’s response to COVID-19 continues to be a success, we plan to slowly reopen in phases.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
SL: We’re investing a tremendous amount of resources and staff time to ensure that families can visit CMEE safely when we reopen. We miss seeing everyone and we can’t wait to welcome our community again at the Museum.
For more information, call 631-537-8250 or visit www.cmee.org.