BronxWorks Closes 2014 With Celebration

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Why is it that the end of every year seems to come upon us with a rush?  Suddenly there’s an upsurge of festivity as we observe the winter holidays and rush towards the New Year with time out from routine workdays for family gatherings, parties with friends, and other observances. At BronxWorks the end of 2014 was celebrated from early December into early January with observances of Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day.  And, as ever, we were astonished by all the gifts and other donations made to BronxWorks by institutions and individuals.

One particularly generous patron, a newcomer to BronxWorks’ roster of gift givers, is a Manhattan-based Greek Orthodox church, the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, where church member Stella Pantelidis led a contingent of 20 ladies who organized a massive drive to collect toys and other items to benefit those enrolled in the BronxWorks Family Enrichment Program. Michelle Edmonds, FEP intake and quality improvement coordinator, said a gift pickup and distribution center was set up at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center to accommodate more than 15 bags of items that included toys, books, clothing, shoes and housewares.  

“An entire table was covered with gifts with an overflow moved to other sections of the Community Center’s conference room,” says Michelle.  “FEP made two trips to the church on separate days to pick up the gifts.”

Our heartfelt thanks to the “Ladies of the Philoptochos,” which was suggested as an appropriate collective designation for our benefactors.  (“Philoptochos” means “friends of the poor.”)

Two organizations, Pajama Program and Kids in Distressed Situations, loaded the administration office with clothing items that were distributed to pre-school and early elementary school-age children at several locations.  In addition, a small business owner, Crystal Nunez of Crystal Clean HKS, donated several bags of toys and clothing that added to the festivity at winter holiday parties for the families of children participating in several BronxWorks programs.

At the East Concourse Senior Center, ten seniors took part in a “Kwanzaa Narrative Quilting” workshop, according to Lucesita Lombillo, program specialist.  Under the instruction of Katelina Gyokeny, the quilters hand-sewed pieces of patterns and materials onto a white cloth to create a quilt representing the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, cooperative economics, purpose, collective work, creativity and faith.  Kwanzaa, which runs from December 26th to January 1st, is observed in many African American households and is similar to harvest celebrations prevalent in many traditional African societies.  The East Concourse center also held a New Year’s Eve bash and countdown December 29th, Lucesita said.  

The East Concourse Senior Center Kwanzaa quilt party features instructor Katelina Gyokeny and quilters Alma Lindsey, Ovella Steele, Marcci Sandoval, Miledis Avila-Acevedo, and Joyce Harley.

A collaboration between A.C. Moore, a retail chain, and Premier Yarns, a manufacturer, enrolled more than 10,000 shoppers at A.C. Moore to knit clothing items for children in need as part of World Visions Knit for Kids program, a November activity and appropriate prelude to Christmas. Some 500 handmade items such as blankets, hats, and sweaters were donated to families in need at the Nelson Avenue Family Residence, says Stive E. Joseph, director of social services.

The 160 children of families at the Willow Avenue Family Residence were treated to a party December 24th featuring a gift giveaway made possible by the Winter Wishes program of New York Cares, which has partnered with the residence since 2007.  The program asks children to write letters to the organization expresses their gift wishes which are then fulfilled by various volunteers, explained Marjorie Jeannot, residence director.  

In addition, 40 other gifts were distributed to the children by individual donors, including Jacqueline Gerrald, Esq.  The party also featured pizza and other snacks, games and arts and crafts.  On December 31st, the incoming New Year was celebrated by families at the residence with dancing and singing as highlights of the party.

Cynthia Garcia and her son decorate gingerbread houses at a party at the Early Childhood Learning Center at 1472 Montgomery Avenue.

Festivities at the Heights Senior Center on December 18th and 19th included a theater arts presentation in which seniors enacted the 12 days of Christmas, says Maria Rivera.  They also were served lunch by middle school students from MS 309.  Seniors in addition enjoyed a Christmas parade by the children featuring a dancing Christmas tree, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus.  On January 6th, the seniors celebrated Three Kings Day.  The gathering was very spirited and proved to be a fun-filled experience for older adults of all backgrounds.

At the Living Room/Safe Haven sanctuaries for street homeless people, two luncheons and a breakfast celebrated Christmas, with two of the events hosted by outside providers, says Alfred Charles, activity specialist for Living Room/Safe Haven.  Christmas luncheon December 4th was hosted by HOPE medical students from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who presented gifts and provided entertainment by the HOPE Choir.  A week later, the Living Room/Safe Haven held its annual luncheon and on Christmas morning clients were served a Christmas breakfast by the Faith Foundation, a ministry.  Altogether about 175 people enjoyed the festivities and received gifts such as hats, scarves, gloves, sweaters, pants, and toiletry care kits contributed by two benefactors, Alfred estimates.

Pre-school children enrolled in the early learning programs overseen by Dr. Marcia Lawrence participated in a December 19th gathering sponsored by FX Product Traina, a financial services marketing corporation, she said.  The company planned the party and provided snacks for 110 children who received Christmas gifts.  Mothers received gift cards.

Also for young pre-school children was a project of making gingerbread houses involving 25 parents and children celebrating Christmas at the Early Childhood Program at 1472 Montgomery Avenue, said Moyjae Aaron, program director.  About 25 families took part in creating houses decorated with candy.  Moyjae regards this as a learning experience as well as fun.  “Through this activity parents had the opportunity to engage in conversation with their child and observe how they use their fine motor skills and creative ideas by choosing materials to decorate their gingerbread houses,” she says. Hot cocoa and cookies were served as snacks.

Children at the Early Childhood Learning Center at 1472 Montgomery dig into holiday treats.

Children from the neighborhood served by the Classic Community Center were feted at a Winter Wonderland event on December 23rd, said Kiesha Roberts, director of the center. They saw a Christmas movie while munching on pizza and watched two performances by entertainer Chaz Green and his talented teens, youths from the neighborhood who sang and danced.  They went home with gifts donated by Toys for Tots, the Department of Youth and Community Development and Mr. Green, a total of about 250 presents in all.  They also left with bags of apples and yogurt, healthy living compliments by the City Harvest Fruit Bowl program.

Three Kings Day was celebrated at Betances Community Center with a free concert January 4 by John Brackett, a well-known hip-hop performer and rapper.  Mr. Brackett said the concert was a way for him “to try to give back to the South Bronx community,” the source of his music and inspiration.  He said he was born in the Soundview neighborhood which he calls the birthplace of hip-hop.

Neighborhood schools which benefit from BronxWorks programs also celebrated the holidays.  At P.S. 130, site of our Express to Success program, a “club showcase” was held on December 23 to showcase the talents of students, says Adam Castillo, program director.  Performances were presented by the school’s drama, dance, science and SWAG clubs, followed by an exhibit of work done by hands-on clubs such as art, cooking and book clubs.

BronxWorks’ Youth Workforce and Education program held an end-of-year celebration at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center on December 15.  The event included a basketball game between staff and students and the presentation of Rising, Shining Star and Super Stars recognition awards to outstanding students, said Natasha Gushin, of the department of children & youth services.  The following week YWE staffers presented participants with small children gifts for the children.

Imagination, creativity and, above all, generosity.  These were the themes binding all the end of year celebrations at BronxWorks, sparked by the generosity of the organizations and indivduals who donated gifts, refreshments, and entertainment to the parties.  What BronxWorks does on a daily basis for our neighbors in need is made possible thanks to our many wonderful partners and friends.  If you made a donation to our year-end appeal, gathered toys or food for holiday parties, or volunteered your time during the Thanksgiving through Christmas and Three Kings Day holidays, please accept this heartfelt thank you from all of us at BronxWorks.

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