Mission & Vision
The Community Center of Northern Westchester seeks to improve the well-being and self-sufficiency of neighbors in need in Northern Westchester by providing food, clothing, programs, and other resources. We are committed to treating all with dignity and respect. We encourage broad involvement and participation by residents and organizations in the communities we serve.
The Center continually identifies and assesses the changing needs and resources of the community, modifying its programs accordingly to meet the needs of its clients in the best possible ways. Our goal is to help our neighbors return to self-sufficiency.
The history of the Community Center is a wonderful example of the results that can be achieved when local citizens come together, recognize the needs of others who are less fortunate, and commit their time and energy to make meaningful and positive changes in the lives of others in their own back yard.
The Center’s origin dates back to 1991, when a few members of the loosely-organized Katonah Ecumenical Gathering were seeking ways to help local people in need -- looking to expand on a small food pantry being run by the First Presbyterian Church of Katonah, as well as the Midnight Run, which supplies food and used clothing to the homeless in New York City. The initial outcome was a slightly larger food pantry, set up in premises next door to the Katonah Memorial House. The Community Center was from the start non-denominational, although it was supported by a broad coalition of local churches, synagogues and civic groups. Bart Tyler, a local business owner, promised to pay the rent, but the Center has always depended on local donations to pay the bills. To this day, the Community Center of Northern Westchester has received no direct government support, and relies on private grants and donations.
A larger and more permanent space was found in a tumbledown building across Bedford Road, known as the King House. The building, which was owned by New York City's Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), had fallen into terminal disrepair and was about to be demolished. But thanks to the vision and determination of Ralph Van Sicklin, then president of the Katonah Lions Club, who saw the need and the potential in this space and figuratively stood in front of the wrecking ball and said "no," the building was preserved. Van Sicklin convinced the DEP to lease the King property "for a nominal sum" to the Town, which in turn made it available to the Community Center.
Having secured the building, Van Sicklin and Alexia Jurschak, a board member of both the Community Center and Katonah Village Improvement Society (KVIS), then led a massive volunteer effort to rebuild the King House from the ground up. The KVIS marshaled its membership; local contractors donated time and materials; and seemingly everyone in Katonah turned out at one point or another to contribute their time, energy and hard work. The result was the new and permanent home of the Community Center, which opened its doors in 1998 and continues to serve our neighbors in need.
In the words of Bedford Town Supervisor Lee Roberts, who was involved from the very start of this endeavor, "few causes in town have exemplified community spirit more than the grassroots effort to establish the Community Center in Katonah."