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Amid the pandemic, NY's 'Ashokan Center' extends its virtual reach / The Daily Freeman

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The Daily Freeman's Diane Pineiro-Zucker writes......The Ashokan Center has always focused on hands-on outdoor education and the environment, so when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early March, 2020, it immediately became clear that things were about to change drastically, said Jay Ungar, the center's president and chief executive officer.

The Ashokan Center, at 477 Beaverkill Road in Olivebridge, has served about 5,000 schoolchildren annually during academic years since 1967 and has offered on-site dance camps for adults and families each spring and summer since 1980. But it saw enrollment drop and then disappear as the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing made it difficult if not impossible to continue business as usual.

"We leapt into the world of what's now called virtual programming," Ungar said. "I rebel against that word because virtual reality is not real, but online programming is real. It's the real thing, only it's online."

COVID "has been devastating to many non-profits and commercial businesses and small businesses. It's rewriting the world as we know it," Ungar said. "Who knows what the world will be like when we reach whatever the next step is? But for this particular organization, the Ashokan Center, while it's been a struggle and it's been difficult, it has opened possibilities that we never thought of before.

"So, our world is going to continue to include some of this virtual programming in the future and we never would have embarked on it if we hadn't essentially been forced."