The Putnam County Children’s Committee acts to collect, administer and distribute financial aid to children who are in need of assistance for health, education and welfare. our help will begin after all other sources of aid have been exhausted.
The first meeting of the Putnam County Children’s Committee was held in 1918 at the home of Mrs. William Osborn. Mrs. Frederick Osborn, who was elected secretary and later served as chairman, gave an interview to the Brewster Standard on March 10, 1966 about the early years of the Committee. She continued to serve on the Committee for forty-eight years. Other founders were W. Rutger J. Planton of Lake Mahopac, Dr. E. Roberts Richie of Brewster, and Clayton Ryder of Carmel. Mrs. William Haldane of Cold Spring joined shortly afterward.
In response to the appalling conditions prevalent in the early years of the twentieth century a group of caring private citizens had formed The State Charities Aid Association in 1917. The fledgling Children’s Committee turned to this organization for guidance. Our Committee was particularly focused on the plight of children. Social Work as a profession had not yet been established, but the Committee secured the services of mary Helen Smith who had worked wit the Red Cross. She was sensitive and capable. Her work impressed the Putnam County Board of Supervisors. As a result, the County established the Child Welfare program. The Committee shared the expenses with the County from 1921 until 1938 when the State Department of Welfare began to share this financial burden with the County.
There were numerous committees throughout the state under the umbrella of the tax exempt State Charities Aid Association, later known as the State communities Aid Association. Their objective was to establish pilot projects in order to demonstrate the value of a particular public service which would later be adopted by the state or county. Having done this, our committee turned to other pilot projects which were taken over by the County. For example, in 1957 a health clinic was established and in 1960 a full time probation officer was employed.
As many committees became successful in transferring their services to the public sector they disbanded. Eventually the SCAA made the decision to terminate its role as an umbrella organization, nad notified the remaining committees that each one would be required to obtain its own 501(c)3 tax exempt status.
The Putnam County Children’s Committee agreed that many families were still “falling through the cracks” in the bureaucracy of public assistance, so they voted to continue to help needy families who had exhausted all other sources. Of course, tax exmept status was necessary to raise funds. This was finally achieved in 2009 by the tireless effort of Janet Canniff, the chairman, with the help of Judith Bruen, Laura Fiorello and Bernadette Heustis.