In a high-income community on the East End where, for most, privilege is a given, Bonnie Michelle Cannon’s desire to help underprivileged families is undeniably commendable. As the Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center — (BCCRC), Cannon is personally invested in her students’ success. Her unique approach assisting marginalized families obtain critical personal and educational resources is unsurpassed. Through the Center, Ms. Cannon is instrumental in creating innovative programs, and with her educational team helps to meet basic needs of their clients while also offering specialized services. Unfortunately, many disadvantaged families in the East End community are still in desperate need of food and services. Prior to the pandemic, the foundation’s food pantry was serving 70 families per week; today post-COVID, they are serving 700 families and desperately need community support.
Cannon, who has been with BCCRC for 13 years, says the Center has evolved tremendously. “In order to be successful for the children, I have to be involved with each individual family and the entire community.” As a result of the children’s specific needs, Cannon has created and launched variousprograms such as the Latinix Program which teaches English and Spanish for translation purposes and “Teach Me How to Fish,” a high-skilled work force training program. In addition, an important member of the Center’s educational team is a substance misuse activist. Cannon explains, “Most of my clients that come here are black and brown families; they are single working mothers or are dysfunctional families and ones with substance abuse issues. These are the people I service. We are much more than just a childcare center. We are a historically black community-based organization, and our mission is to serve all East End marginalized children and families.”
Actress Christine Evangelista, who currently stars in AMC ‘s hit TV show Fear the Walking Dead, resides in Bridgehampton and sits on the advisory board of BCCRC. The Hollywood actress, who portrays Sherry on AMC’s post- apocalyptic horror drama series is known for her TV and film roles on The Arrangement, The Walking Dead and Bleed for This, spends her free time promoting the Center’s mission. When she is not filming, the native New Yorker enjoys raising awareness and funds for the Center’s less fortunate families. Evangelista hosted BCCRC’s annual CARe Wash event this summer which raised 50k for families in need.
Evangelista credits the Center with being much more than an after-school program, one that also teaches life skills and helps to prepare its clients for the future. “They help families with financial planning and help students obtain college scholarships. These kids are amazing, and even watching them today at this event, they are so “hands on.”
Also in attendance at the CARe Wash Event was Michael Davies the President and CEO of Embassy Row, a New York City-based television production company that is a unit of Sony Pictures Television. Davies, a British television producer known for developing TV personalities such as Jimmy Kimmel of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Andy Cohen of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, is also the producer of several American hit TV shows including the popular game shows, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and The Newlywed Game and is co-host of the NBC show Men in Blazers. The founder of Embassy Row sits on the advisory board of the BCCRC foundation with Evangelista, his significant other. This energetic
duo resides together in the charming seaside village and appreciates helping underprivileged families in the community. Davies explains, “The Center just runs this amazing program caring for about 500 families in the wealthiest zip codes in the country, and they take care of these families from birth and help with really everything in their lives.”
Evangelista goes on to say, “Both Michael and I want to invest locally in our community. In the past year, we really put the pedal to the medal and have been working closely with the Center. One thing we learned from the pandemic is we have the power to do things, and it is important to act locally. Here, in one of the wealthiest places in the world, the line for the food pantry during the pandemic was down the block, so Michael and I really felt the need to do things to help out.”
Also in attendance at the 2nd annual CARe Wash event was CNN Journalist Don Lemon who showed up to support the cause as well as Joey Wolffer, board member of BCCRC, who donates her free time to assist the foundation in its mission.
The Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center has been in existence since its inception in 1954 and is situated on farmland that was donated to the Center. After a tragic accident in the 1940’s when a migrant campfire killed two children of seasonal workers, a farmer donated six acres of property to create the foundation. Cannon describes the programs this unique child-care center offers. “We start with our babies. We have a pre -K program for our 3 to 5-year olds, and we have an after-school program that is for our 5-year-olds to teens.” BCCRC also has a teen program that is called D.R.E.A.M. Teens, which stands for dedication, responsibility, education, attitude, and motivation. “Many of the people that we work with don’t know anything about going to college or the college admission process. We have a college prep-program where I offer one-on-one counseling, and I work with the families and the kids.”
With the help of Cannon and her educational team, one of the Center’s students, Christian, received a full scholarship to Buffalo State College. Christian was raised by his single mom and comes from a family of two. His story is just one which demonstrates the positive and powerful impact the Center has had on the lives of many people who have walked through its doors.