Port Chester families have turned to the Carver Center since 1943.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Port Chester families have turned to the Carver Center since 1943. Having started as a small childcare service and food pantry, the organization has grown to serve thousands through its educational and recreational programs, as well as its extensive social services.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Joseph Kwasniewski, who has sprinted up the ladder of success within its walls, Carver Center is soaring to new heights.
He walked though the Center’s doors in 2009 when then Director Kerry Walsh hired Kwas Builders, his family’s construction company, to maximize the building’s space. After managing various construction projects, he was offered the Facilities Director position. He implemented $250,000 in capital improvements, and drastically improved energy efficiency. That led to his promotion to Business/Facility Director, whereby he conducted a $150,000 renovation and retained substantial revenue for the organization through use of government contracts.
“In my second or third year, I understood the impact of what we do here,” said Kwasniewski, whose background as a finance major and construction crackerjack has proven invaluable. “The Carver Center resonated with me.”
Before long, Kwasniewski was overseeing the Finance/Human Resources, IT, and Aquatics/Fitness Departments, as well as the teen and children’s programs. Consequently, in late 2012 when Walsh moved on, he stepped in as Acting Director. Five months ago, at age 28, Kwasniewski was named Executive Director.
By all accounts, he has been the driving force behind rebuilding and reinvigorating the Carver Center’s prominent role in Port Chester. Kwasniewski has made it his mission to strengthen the core of the organization, integrate more appropriate economics to the programs, and assure that every demographic in the low-income community is well served.
“I am most proud of the team I’ve put together and the culture I’ve built here, one of collective results as opposed to individual success. We all trust each other and we’re all committed to a common goal,” he stressed. “This is the catalyst to our success.”
Kwasniewski is embracing the momentum he has gathered to launch a groundbreaking pilot afterschool program in collaboration with the Port Chester School District. Having cultivated funding through public and private resources, as well as grants, the Executive Director intends to alleviate the gap in childcare as a result of loss of funding last year. The overall goal is to serve hundreds more children through partnership initiatives that will meet the needs of underprivileged youth, while expanding the programs already in place.
“An off-site flagship program would be able to serve more kids. It would also free space here, so we can expand on-site programs,” he noted. “If executed, the full-scale program will improve the entire landscape of the education system in Port Chester.”
Passionate about education, Kwasniewski also owns and operates Cornerstone Children’s Center in Scarsdale with his twin brother John. The preschool, which is run by Rye resident Marion Anderson, currently has 95 students enrolled. Confident that Cornerstone is in good hands, he spends all his time at Carver. He needs to in order to implement the ambitious and comprehensive operational/stabilization plan he has devised for the institution.
“We’ve set measurable goals,” stated Kwasniewski. “It’s realistic and feasible to make this organization sustainable, while meeting its mission.”
For information on Carver Center’s programs for children, teens, seniors, aquatics and fitness programs, food and clothing pantries or for volunteer opportunities, visit www.carvercenter.org or call 305-6010.