The Butterfly Effect Project celebrated the grand opening of its new office at First Baptist Church of Riverhead yesterday with a reception for supporters and an announcement of a new partnership.
The organization, founded in 2014 by Riverhead native Tia Fulford to mentor girls in underserved communities, is teaming up with the Family Community Life Center, Fulford and FCLC executive director Shirley Coverdale said.
In partnership, the two organizations will undertake intergenerational programs. The initiative will begin right away, even before the construction of the community center planned for a 12-acre site adjacent to the church on Northville Turnpike. The center is an integral part of a development plan that also includes 132 workforce housing rental apartments.
“We’ve been discussing it for the last several months,” Coverdale said. “The Family Community Life Center has always talked about being intergenerational and multicultural. This seemed like a natural fit,” she said.
“This gives us a stable foundation and a huge support system,” Fulford said.
“A lot of our girls are looking for grandparents,” she said.
The Butterfly Effect Project, which Fulford started with a handful of girls whose families could not afford many other youth activities, has grown to a group of more than 200 kids.
Fulford and Coverdale said intergenerational programs build understanding. A “memory cafe” event that brought kids and seniors together “smashed” preconceptions on both sides, Coverdale said.
The church is currently fundraising for renovations needed to make its lower level fully handicapped accessible, Coverdale said. It plans to install a ramp and renovate the lower level bathrooms.
“This is all very exciting for us,” Fulford said. The Butterfly Effect Project, a tax-exempt nonprofit, will collaborate with FCLC but remain a separate legal entity, she said.
Yesterday Fulford also announced the addition of a new BEP board member, Ron Fisher of Flanders. Fisher is a member of the Riverhead Board of Education and the current president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.
The group’s new office was crowded with well-wishers, including Riverhead Councilwoman Catherine Kent, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright, representatives of Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, Rep. Lee Zeldin and County Executive Steve Bellone, Riverhead Charter School principal Raymond Ankrum, First Baptist Church Senior Pastor Charles Coverdale, Pastor Cynthia Liggon and Pastor Montez Johnson.
Robin Berkeley of Riverhead, whose daughter Stephanie was one of the original “butterflies” said the mentorship and experience she got from membership in the group “made a big difference” in her daughter’s life. The girls participated in many activities — everything from a summer reading program to feeding the homeless.
Her daughter, now 16, is a junior volunteer with the Butterfly Effect Project and is involved in RYLA, a youth leadership program run by Rotary.
“There’s not much she’s afraid to do now,” Berkeley said.
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