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Workshop Seeks Support for Port Chester Children

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- Community leaders gathered at the Carver Center Wednesday to discuss ways of engaging local businesses to fund support programs for early childhood development.

"We want to present to the business community the idea that placing an emphasis on early childhood development leads to economic prosperity," said Becky Ruegger, who chairs the Early Childhood Network, which incorporates a number of local community organizations.

Ruegger, a Rye resident and consultant with the Carver Center on family counseling and children's mental health since 1986, presented the argument that focusing on early childhood development creates a local, educated workforce, which leads to higher productivity for local businesses, lowers unemployment and keeps money flowing into the community.

"We have businesses hiring people from outside of town because the local workforce lacks education," said Jessica Rivera, who works with the Guidance Center, which provides mental health counseling for children and families.

The workshop addressed the impact of obstacles children in Port Chester may face, such as poverty, inadequate healthcare and poor nutrition. "When children fall behind, they tend to stay behind unless they are exposed to intensive support services," said Ruegger.

Ruegger hopes to develop a strategy to engage the local business community and sought input from members of other organizations at the workshop. "We need to craft a message that appeals to businesses," said Rivera. "They need to know what's in it for them and what they can do." Rivera said there are plenty of businesses in Port Chester that could afford to invest in developing a local workforce and that it's just a matter of convincing them that it's mutually beneficial. "Everybody should have an interest in making sure the community they're working in is happy," she said.

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