North East Community Center
NECC gets online for van vote
Reprinted with permission from The Millerton News, copyright The Lakeville Journal Company, LLC, 2011.

MILLERTON — The North East Community Center had the rare opportunity to win a wheelchair-accessible van last week, courtesy of Toyota.

The automobile company has been running the Toyota 100 Cars for Good competition, a car giveaway contest managed through Facebook. Toyota donates one car to one of five entities on a daily basis for 100 days. NECC was chosen among 500 finalists that applied.

"It was a big deal," said NECC Executive Director Jenny Hansell, adding Toyota also gave the community center a Flip video camera to create a two-minute video about the program and what it would do with the car (although NECC actually preselected a wheelchair-accessible minivan as its car of choice).

"We interviewed people all over who relied on our cars to get them to their doctors appointments and to the Marathon Project sessions or other places," Hansell sad. "The video was on YouTube so people could see it before they voted. It really told the story very well of who we are and what we do."

The whole project came about after a former NECC employee stumbled across the competition this spring and, knowing that the community center is always in need of transportation, contacted Hansell.

"She sent the application, and we were chosen," Hansell said.

From there the NECC staff set about informing everyone they knew to prepare to vote in their favor on Wednesday, July 6. The only catch: The voting had to be done through a Facebook account, which made some people uncomfortable.

"It was a funny competition because it was only on Facebook, and not everybody wants to be on Facebook, for some very good reasons," Hansell said. "So people concerned with privacy and not letting big corporations have their information were not willing to do that, and I totally respect that."

The contest only allowed one vote per Facebook account, and during that vote was the only chance to view a group's standing. For most of the day the community center was running in third place behind two other organizations, one of which was an animal shelter, which Hansell said is hard to beat. In the end, NECC lost, but the staff does not feel defeated.

"We did our best. At the end of the day we got to keep the video camera and got a $1,000 grant, which is great," Hansell said. "A lot of people also heard about us who hadn't heard about us before. And people were excited to help us.

"I want to say thank you to the people who voted for us and asked their friends to vote for us," she continued. "I saw postings from near and far. It was a wonderful, fun day and it's always a cliche when a person doesn't win the Academy Award and they say it was an honor to be chosen, and you kind of roll your eyes. But it's true, it was an honor and a thrill to see how many people campaigned for us. It's great to see people appreciate our wonderfully talented staff and all they do for our community and for people to see it's important."