Nonprofits Combine Efforts to Add Veteran Services at Art Center

The Spirit of Huntington Art Center and Rise Life Services said Friday that they are combining forces to expand and add resources for veterans while continuing to operate as a center for people with autism and special needs.

The combined center will be called Rise in Spirit Community Arts Center and is buying the building, previously a public library, which the art center had leased for eight years. The South Huntington School District owned the building.

Veterans and others will be able to obtain peer support, education, arts, music, mental health, and job training  at the center. Suffolk County is home to the largest veterans’ population in the state. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that one in six children have been diagnosed with a developmental disability (ages 3-17). 
“Through this collaboration we will now have the ability to offer more robust programs, all conducted by working professionals, that employ education, vocation and recreation to inspire creativity and elevate lives in our community,” the center said.
North Shore Dance, a third nonprofit that offer its services, said it “is looking to inspire a diverse population with dance and movement classes,” open to all abilities and ages, at the center.
Charles Evdos, executive director, Rise Life Services which is based in Riverhead, said  “We’re giving them the opportunity to improve their quality of life with the variety of of services we’re providing.”
He said the joint project would also create 50 new jobs in Huntington, and that the center could serve as a model for collaborations around the country.
Michael Kitakis, executive director of the art center, said, “In the special needs community, you need both vocation and recreation. You can’t just have a place that just has a little bit of art. You want art, you want the music, you want the whole community arts center coming together to offer all these great services.”
Among those participating in the announcement were Bellone, State Sen. Jim Gaughran, Tom Ronayne, director of Suffolk County veterans services; Dr. David Bennardo, former South Huntington superintendent and councilman-elect and Dr. Vito D’Elia, South Huntington superintendent.