From embracing a social justice movement to volunteerism and businesses adapting in a pandemic, the many ways New Castle stayed strong!
In June, New York protestors told NBC News that they were fighting two pandemics: the coronavirus and racism. During these difficult times, New Castle residents have banded together to stay #CommunityStrong.
At the foot of the Quaker Road Bridge, there have been local peaceful protests and “parades” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 13, over 100 people committed to sparking change in New Castle attended “A Rally for Change-Stand Up Against Racial Injustice,” an event held by New Castle Against Racism, a group of Horace Greeley students and alumni.
Members of the community created several Facebook pages to combat racism. One, for example, Chappaqua Anti-Racism Dialogue Group: Reconciling Privilege, provides a space for people to educate themselves, their friends and their families, according to the group’s page description.
Additionally, on Monday, August 3, dozens of community members congregated downtown for a peaceful Black Lives Matter march. People marched with such signs as “SAY THEIR NAMES,” “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” and “YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE BLACK TO BE OUTRAGED.”
Also looking to ignite change in New Castle are sisters and former Horace Greeley High School students, Bhavya and Divya Gopinath They collected video accounts from current students and alumni who shared stories about racism they faced within the school district.
They edited the stories into a compilation and sent the video to the Board of Education and Chappaqua Central School District administrators. Said the Gopinath sisters: “It’s easy to turn a blind eye to this and say that racism doesn’t exist in this privileged community, so we made this video, so the stories don’t go unnoticed.”
These efforts to combat racism in New Castle will continue to strengthen this community.
Chappaqua Central School District Superintendent Christine Ackerman sent an email to all members of the district that said, “The events described by our former students are appalling and illustrate why we must continue to take meaningful and deliberate action to effectuate change to address racism in our society. We understand there is a gap between our espoused values and current reality. We are committed to change.”
Bhavya and Divya Gopinath also received an email from Board of Education President Victoria Tipp on behalf of the Board of Education. The Board authorized the formation of a Community Advisory Committee on Anti-Racism, Equity and Social Justice to enact change in the district.
“We believe that these steps will make a significant and positive difference, and we are committed to seeing these actions through as we keep social justice at the center of our work moving forward,” said Ackerman.
Simultaneously, Chappaqua residents have been coping with the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges that the virus presents. However, throughout it, small businesses, families and individuals have found ways to stay strong.
“In over 13 years of business, we have never faced a more challenging and uncertain time as this past March. What kept us strong was the commitment and passion of our team and the loyalty of our patients. In a matter of days, we were able to pivot the practice to Telehealth,” said Matt Marucci of New Castle Physical Therapy & Personal Training. “This took persistence and ingenuity on the part of therapists and patients alike. We are up and running now with stringent COVID-19 precautions, but we continue to offer the Telehealth sessions we developed back in March. We are deeply grateful for all of the community support we have received during this challenging time.”
Another local business trying to provide access to physical activity while also staying safe is Armonk Tennis Club/Armonk Indoor. They modified their protocols with the safety of their clients as their top priority.
“We at Armonk Tennis Club and Armonk Indoor Sports Center realized soon into the quarantine how important sports are to our physical and mental well-being. As summer approached, we knew that people would want to get active again but in a safe manner. The rules and guidelines we implemented showed our tennis players and campers that their safety is our top priority, and the result has been a great summer. We understand that procedures must be modified in the fall as people come indoors, but we’re still excited about providing a safe environment for the community to learn, play, and compete in,” said Armonk Indoor representative Beau Shea.
Ultimately staying safe is a priority for many businesses. Bill Flooks from Beecher Funeral Home said that despite all the special challenges, “We have managed to get this far with Covid-19.” On behalf of the Flooks Family, he stated: “Keep up the good work, be smart, be prudent, be safe.”
Several area photographers including Donna Mueller, Carolyn Simpson and Randi Childs are still bringing smiles to families’ faces through the acclaimed #TheFrontPorchProject.
Local chambers throughout the area have been sharing news from the county regarding federal and regional grant and loan options, about available personal protective equipment (‘PPE’) and producing e-newsletters to the community in which businesses post their services. The Chappaqua Millwood Chamber most recently launched ‘New Castle Restart’ to fundraise for grants to small businesses impacted.
Additionally, during the spike in the number of coronavirus cases in Westchester County, community members banded together and rose to the occasion. Individuals and groups made masks for essential workers, those on the frontlines and the immunocompromised. A series of articles for theinsidepress.com spotlighted these extraordinary efforts.
There was also never a shortage of pizza and other welcome meals distributed to front line health care workers at local hospitals and to first responders thanks to an extraordinary response to a Chappaqua Moms fundraiser.
The Food Pantry at the Community Center of Northern Westchester donated over 7,400 pounds of food and necessities to those in need since late March according to Reverend Martha Jacobs, Senior Minister at the First Congregational Church in Chappaqua.
To stay community strong during the thick of the coronavirus pandemic, people searched for ways to help.
“I am deeply grateful to serve such a caring and engaged community as ours. While we clergy are used to checking in on our congregants, I have been humbled by the number of congregants who have turned the tables and reached out to inquire how we staff members are holding up,” said Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester Jonathan Jaffe. “Similarly, we were overwhelmed with offers by individuals seeking to volunteer and help in any way possible. Such moments underscore the sense of covenantal relationship within our community.”
Smart, Agile Community
New Castle Town Supervisor Ivy Pool is impressed by the leadership she has seen both at town hall and among the residents.
“New Castle is a smart, agile community that has time and again demonstrated our leadership in a range of areas. The coronavirus cluster that occurred at the HGHS graduation and related events was a wakeup call for all of us. To defeat the outbreak, we needed to come together as a community and double-down on our social distancing efforts and enforcement,” said Pool. “The outbreak didn’t happen just anywhere–it happened in New Castle, a community of leaders and achievers who were determined to do something.”
Determined to stop the spread, Pool and the rest of the town board passed the first local legislation in the state that required people to wear face masks whenever social distancing is not possible.
“With this new law in place, our police officers have a tool to enforce social distancing, and our community has responded beautifully to our calls to “mask up!” said Pool. “Coming together in the face of adversity is who we are; leading by example is what we do. We are #CommunityStrong.”