The Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center (EWECC) welcomed a spectacular turnout at its annual Barn Dance at the idyllic Kilmore Farm in Wainscott on Saturday, June 3.
The event – which supports the East Hampton-based not-for-profit organization that provides essential enriching preschool education and daycare for working families – commenced outside of the festively decorated barn with cocktails, wine provided by Amagansett Wine & Spirits, Montauk Brewing Co. beer and hors d’oeuvres from the Art of Eating. Afterwards, guests headed inside for an awards ceremony and video tribute to this year’s honoree, Nancy McCaffrey – who was presented with a proclamation from New York State by Assembly Fred W. Thiele, Jr. A buffet dinner and line dancing with tunes from Roadhouse Band followed.
“I’m overwhelmed with this honor. The Center has always been such a wonderful place,” McCaffrey told us. “The education that they provide for the children and for East Hampton Town is just unbelievable – there’s no other place like it, which is why I’ve been involved for quite a while.”
Reflecting back on her time with EWECC, the longtime board member is astounded by the organization’s progress. “When I was on the Town Board in East Hampton, Audrey Gaines, who was in charge of the youth part of human services, was on the board here and asked me to join and I’ve been involved ever since,” she added. “It really has grown from just a day care center to the marvelous educational center that it is today. The staff are really the people that have done the growth and the way they have provided for the children and worked with them has been amazing.”
Now in its third year, EWECC is thrilled that community has helped turn the benefit into a summer tradition. “The most exciting part is seeing everyone who comes back year after year to support the Center, but also the new faces. Every year it grows, every year the awareness of the event and of the Center and what we do grows, and we just always appreciate everyone’s support,” shared event Co-Chair Mariah Whitmore, granddaughter of Eleanor Whitmore – who the Center was named after. “It’s very important to the Center – it’s a huge fundraising benefit for us. It means a lot in terms of operating funds and scholarships.”
In addition to commemorating McCaffrey, the evening also served as the launch of a new EWECC scholarship. “We strive to help the families so they can come to the Center on a scholarship. Right now, we’re halfway through a drive to fund that scholarship. It’s going to be mostly for the 3-year-old program and the families contact us and we help them out,” Maureen Wikane, who has served as Director of the Center since its inception, noted. “This is the best community and they come out for us and they come out for the children – that’s what it’s really about. We’re very grateful and we’re so grateful to Mary Ann McCaffrey and David Eagan for opening up these doors.”
“We’re really excited it means we can take on children and families and really continue to support the community,” Whitmore added.
For Kilmore Farm co-owner Mary Ann McCaffrey, whose mother Nancy was honored, it was a thrill to be able to host the celebration at Kilmore Farm. “It’s just amazing. My mother’s been involved for so many years and has been so supportive of the Center and all the work that they do,” she shared. “It’s just invaluable to the families in East Hampton and now Springs.”
Joan Overlock, Director of Development and Marketing, was also overwhelmed by the turnout. “It just means the world because it means that these are all people who really care about what we do and when I think about the journey of 20 years ago as a day care center and today it’s this incredible center for learning, for 18 months to five-years-old,” Overlock noted. “It’s like the benefit is growing with us and that’s great and that’s what it’s about. We just want more and more people to believe and support what we do.”
As we learn more about early education, the importance of places like EWECC become even more evident. “All the information, all the evidence about early learning it keeps piling up. At 18 months, it’s one new word every two hours. Things like nutrition – it’s not just nutrition for healthy bodies, it’s for the brain too,” Overlock explained. “A child’s brain consumes twice the amount of energy from food that an adult’s does. A lot of our families are nutritionally challenged so it’s stuff like that that is really important.”
Since its inception in 1997, EWECC has welcomed over 4,000 children, and there were several EWECC parents and family members in attendance at the Barn Dance.
“This event, I have to say, it’s so heartening to see everybody here and what I love is that it’s young and old. We’ve got people from all walks. I think part of that is that it’s such a family oriented organization,” Overlock said. “Our program is not just geared for the children, it’s for the families. Family is really at the core of everything we do, and when I think of family, I think of multi-generations and look what’s here.”
“People I think forget that it’s a small town out here and it really is,” Whitemore added. “Across all categories everybody really knows each other and they come out and show support and we’re so appreciative of that.”
For more information, visit ewecc.org.