Imagine this scene: 60 people gathered in a room, everyone linked by a hand on the next one’s shoulder. Silently and collectively they take a breath and feel the power of their interconnectedness.

This was not an imaginary scene, but rather how Joan Henry of Mill Street Loft closed our recent launch event for the Dutchess Girls Collaborative’s new website. Using this Native American tradition and words that conjured up a basket woven together by the threads of our ideas, passion and commitment, Joan reminded us how working together we can be stronger than working individually.

I’m so proud to be one of the founders of the Dutchess Girls Collaborative, which aims to “empower girls on their journey to womanhood.” It’s yet another example of what working together can produce. Our new website, will be an important resource for girls throughout the county as well as their families, teachers, and others who care about them.

Collaboration and commitment work on many levels in our region.

I recently had a chance to revisit the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg. Although I’ve been familiar with the pioneering Center for many years, I hadn’t been on campus in quite some time and I was delighted to see in person the recent growth and progress —  the handsome new construction on campus, the committed work going on in the classrooms and the important outreach the impressive staff is doing with the extended community.

Last week, a forum hosted by Hyde Park Legislators Dan Kuffner and D.J. Sadowski and organized in collaboration with Family Services of Poughkeepsie brought much-needed public awareness to the issues surrounding domestic violence in our community. They outlined the variety of services available, ranging from advocacy on behalf of victims to youth education, counseling, emergency transportation, and a program for offenders to try and change their behavior.

Here is contact info for the participating agencies: Family Services’ Battered Women’s Services hotline: 845-485-5550; Family Services’ Crime Victims Assistance Program hotline: 845-452-7272; Grace Smith House: 845-471-3033; House of Hope: 845-765-0294.

Later this week I will launch my campaign’s Whistle Stop Tour from Columbia County’s Camphill Village and Triform, where adults with developmental disabilities, co-workers, and their children live and work together in an intentional community. This is another great example of how, working together, we can make life better for everyone in our community.

We often measure a society by how they care for their most vulnerable members, and I am proud to live in a region that supports these and other extraordinary social service communities. I look forward to being an advocate in Albany for this important sector of our society.