FULTON, NY – Oswego County Opportunities sent out an S.O.S, and its plea for help was heard.
In its 17th year, the annual OCO Bowl-A-Fun bowling tournament fundraiser at Lakeview Lanes was designated to help a program that recently lost federal funding leaving risk of closure.
A crucial part of the Homeless Services offered through OCO, the future has been jeopardized for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter that houses youth in need of safe lodging, after federal funding for the program was cut.
Quickly springing into action, the OCO Bowl-A-Fun planning committee decided to use the annual fundraiser event as an S.O.S., developing a “Save Our Shelter” theme.
The event raised $30,000 before deducting the expenses for the Bowl-A-Fun, of which the remaining total will be devoted to expenses associated with operating the shelter.
“Our kids need a safe place to go,” said OCO Executive Director Diane Cooper Currier. “Without this shelter, these kids would be left to the streets with increased chances of being victimized and left to survive mostly entirely on their own. That shelter saves them from all sorts of harm.”
The shelter is located in Oswego in a typical house environment that serves up to four youth at any given time and is staffed at all hours.
“They may be homeless, they may have ran away for their safety, they may have been kicked out. These kids really come from all types of situations and that’s where our shelter steps in and provides them with 30 days of housing with an extension opportunity for 30 additional days,” explained Jill Fratangelo, Homeless Services Program Manager.
She continued to explain that while staying in the shelter, the youth are supplied with supports that allow them to leave the shelter into a stable, secure environment.
Of those supports, the youth in the shelter are provided food, bedding, clothing, hygiene products, transportation to appointments, recreational activities, and life skills that guide the youth to developing a healthy, successful life, Fratangelo said.
The shelter was utilized 96% of the time in 2016 and housed more than 40 co-ed youth from the ages of 16 to 20 throughout the year.
“The shelter is really just a great program to assist our youth in need with finding a safe situation at an uncertain time. More than just housing though, they can be offered the tools to move forward successfully. What it comes down to is, if this wasn’t here, where would they be? What supports would they be getting if our shelter was gone?” Fratangelo questioned.
The annual Bowl-A-Fun brought in 33 teams to participate in a fun tournament offering prizes for highest score bowler, lowest score bowler, highest team pledges, highest team score and team spirit.
Bowlers were drawn to the event for both its fun nature as well as the worthy cause.
Local businesses and individual groups alike came together to register teams for the tournament.
“I love it because it sends a strong message for our youth to have a safe place to go. It’s an important message that we can stand behind,” said Jennifer Whalen, bowling with her employer’s team, Pathfinder Bank and her five-year-old daughter.
Whalen and her daughter, Braelynn, have participated in the annual fundraiser for the past few years as they understand and support the impact that OCO has on the local community, she said.
National Grid entered a team into the bowling tournament for the fifth year in a row.
“National Grid is very happy to participate in this worthy event. We always look forward to coming for this fun event. For five years now it has been fun, fun, fun!” said Wally Dengos, jurisdictional manager for National Grid.
Participating for the first year, Tina Stephens, branch manager of Community Bank, said she and her team were proud to be a part of the event.
“Community Bank is very supportive of our community in all aspects. We are thrilled to support OCO with all they do for our community,” Stephens said.
Teams were able to participate in two flights of bowling while enjoying free food and drinks with the added opportunity to test their luck with a 50/50 raffle, prize wheel and silent auction.
In fitting with the shelter theme, OCO teamed with local carpentry students at the CiTi campus who constructed 15 birdhouses of which OCO staff creatively decorated.
The houses were then auctioned off at the Bowl-A-Fun.
While George Hoffman of “The Dinosaur” radio stations emceed the event in the bowling alley, live music from Hank Cooper and Dave Domicolo was available in the seating area.
Although the jam-packed event was able to provide some much needed additional funding, along with a recent donation from the Richard S. Shineman Foundation, there is still much work to be done to secure the nearly $200,000 it costs yearly to run the shelter.
“Every little bit helps to get us by until more funding opportunities come up. For now, we will get by on fundraisers and donations,” Fratangelo said.
Anyone interested in making a donation should contact Margaret Barclay, OCO Development Coordinator, at (315) 598-4717 ext. 1082.
The Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter is just one of more than 50 programs that benefit the lives of 20,000 individuals and families annually through OCO.
Having just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, OCO has remained true to its vision through the years, “to inspire partnerships and provide services that empower people, support communities, and change lives.”
For more information on the many programs OCO offers, visit http://www.oco.org/
If you or someone you know is facing homelessness, the OCO 24 hour crisis hotline is available at any time at (315) 342-7618 to discuss individual options and arrange pick up from a safe location to transport to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter, if needed.