After two and a half years of service, Linda Ortiz is stepping down as director of Community Action of Southold Town, which provides a number of services for the town’s neediest residents.
In her place, the anti-poverty organization has appointed Sarah Benjamin of Greenport, who had worked for Eastern Suffolk BOCES for more than a decade.
“Ms. Ortiz is heading in a different direction, but we are lucky to have Sarah Benjamin as our new director,” said CAST president Denis Noncarrow. “She knows a ton of people from different organizations, so she’ll be improving our cross-group communication to coordinate with other agencies and ensure we aren’t duplicating services.”
Ms. Benjamin, who stepped into the director’s position this month, said she is looking forward to collaborating with other agencies and to continuing existing services, such as keeping the CAST food pantry stocked.
She said she’s also interested in raising money to provide new services, such as early literacy programs for children.
Ms. Benjamin said her background in education, which includes teaching at private preschools in Southold, led to her desire to offer educational programming for parents as part of CAST’s mission.
“My feeling is that the two goals we have at CAST are to help families in need become self-sufficient, while on the other hand providing a safety net for those families,” Ms. Benjamin said. “Education is helpful for self-sufficiency. One long-term goal I have is to raise money to provide programming for parents who have young children. 90 percent of a child’s brain develops within the first three years of their life and most people don’t know that. It’s incredibly important for parents to work, play and communicate with their children during their early years and to help them get ready to go to school.”
Ms. Benjamin said making the most of a child’s formative years increases a child’s chance of succeeding in school and completing their high school education, and that science and research have shown this is important for a child’s success and independence.
“76 percent of people in prison don’t have a high school degree,” she said. “It really matters.”