MIDDLETOWN—Local officials, staff, and well-wishers arrived at newly renovated offices on Jan. 29 for the official opening of the Dispute Resolution Center in Middletown.
The open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at DRC’s offices on Main Street was full to bursting with about 100 friends and associates dropping in to tour the site.
DRC Director Donna Ramlow moved gracefully among the guests and did the official ribbon cutting for the office. Quick to acknowledge board members and staff, the director graciously credited everyone who made the day special.
Ramlow explained why the organization moved from Campbell Hall. “We actually wanted to come to Middletown to be able to better serve our clients. We are looking to have more walk-ins and to be better able to help the different communities.”
A new training room, equipped by a grant secured by Assemblyman James Skoufis, will support several programs including Parents Apart, basic mediation services, and training for the CASA program.
Dawn Colby, program coordinator for the Parent Visit Coach program helps parents to meet the needs of their children during visitation. Program staff supervises visitation with families that are in foster care. “We are teaching them parenting, safety, and making sure that the kids are getting what they need during their visits.”
New York State Senator Bonacic expressed his enthusiastic support for DRC’s work, especially CASA. “This is a great place because, first of all, they provide vital services to families and children. I always tip my hat for the volunteers who try to bring a better quality of life to families and strengthen families.”
Orange County family court judge Christine Krahulik was happy to see the room set aside for supervised visitation. “It’s nice to see where I’m referring the litigants that come before me knowing that it’s a comfortable place and it’s warm and welcoming. I think it’s beautiful.”
She also praised the DRC’s work in mediation and with the CASA program. “We use CASA for many of our neglect cases. We refer a lot of folks to the mediation program. Parents Apart is a big program that we utilize when there is a lot of conflict with the custody or visitation issues between parents.”
New York Assemblyman James Skoufis joined the ribbon cutting and was key to getting a grant for communications equipment and furniture for the nonprofit that is part of the state court system. “The DRC is a tremendous asset to our community. They relieve a tremendous burden off the court system,” Skoufis said. “They provide a tremendous savings to our county and to our region with the work that they do.”
He called the new offices a better fit than their former location. “Much of the population that they serve comes from the urban areas of this region. It’s a tremendous location.”
DRC Board President James Rollins noted the road to reach the special day. “We’ve come a long way, and if you’ve seen our facility on 207, we are really excited about being in our new digs.”
According to its website, the mediation nonprofit was established in 1982 as the Orange County Mediation Project, Inc. (OCMP). In 1986 the agency expanded to include Putnam County’s mediation efforts. The name was changed in 1993 to Orange County Mediation Project and, later, the Dispute Resolution Center.
DRC has expanded its services in the 1990s to offer more than its core program of community mediation—special education mediation, custody visitation mediation, and Parent Education and Custody Effectiveness (P.E.A.C.E.) in the early 1990s.
“In 1997, DRC’s proposal for a Supreme Court referred divorce mediation program was chosen as one of the five pilot programs by Chief Justice Judith Kaye’s Judicial Commission,” according to its website. School and youth programs also expanded. The geographic reach has grown to include Sullivan and Ulster counties.
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