It’s been a year since the Redfern Cornerstone Community Center reopened after abruptly closing its doors the spring before. In a spirit of gratitude and in keeping with The Child Center’s emphasis on giving back, the theme this summer has been dubbed Redfern Plan.
“It’s similar to Drake’s ‘God’s Plan,’” explains Redfern Director Lakia Echols. “In his music video for the song, Drake gives close to a million dollars to people in need. Since we don’t have a million dollars to give back, we decided to give back with our time and service.”
Redfern’s middle school participants won a grant from DYCD to implement this “summer of service” and are allotting time in their busy schedules (between trips, sports, and other fun summer stuff) for giving back. So far, that’s included pitching in where needed around the center, helping seniors with the food pantry every other Thursday, and, earlier this month, working with fellow Far Rockaway-based organization Humans 4 Humans NYS packing and delivering food to the homeless.
The partnership with Humans 4 Humans came about through Echols’ role as a 101st Precinct community partner, working with local police to improve and strengthen relationships between community members and police, and within the community as a whole. Echols got to talking to fellow partner Sam Russell.
“I told Sam I wanted the kids to learn more about his Jewish culture because we are so disconnected,” says Echols. “He introduced Humans 4 Humans to me, and it was a perfect connection to not only bring our cultures together, but also teach the kids to give back to the less fortunate.”
Twenty middle school kids assembled over 100 bags to give to the homeless. The bags contained such necessities as toothbrushes and toothpaste, as well as food, like cereal bars, cereal cups, and raisins. The packages also included notes reading, “Have a nice day,” letting recipients know that the kids were praying for them, or with hand-drawn pictures of motivation. “One homeless guy didn’t even want a bag,” says Echols. “He just wanted a note to keep and brighten his day.”
“It was so heartwarming to see the kids complain at first and then, while they were completing the task — giving out the bags and seeing the impact — seeing them feel thankful and appreciating the little they have. It opened their eyes toward life and paying it forward. They don’t see the impact of the inter-generational and cultural bonds they are developing, but this experience will stay with them and go a long way toward making community service a consistent part of their lives.”
On the Humans 4 Humans Facebook page, Sam and his brother Nochum wrote of the experience, “The energy was amazing as everyone was filled with so much excitement to be able to help others. We split up into three groups and spread out through the busy city streets in search of those who needed our help. It was so beautiful to watch as these young kids slowly approached and offered some food to people … on the streets. Hearing these children say ‘may God bless you’ to these individuals as they walked away was truly heartwarming. Giving young children the opportunity to help others and give to the world is the way we’ll create a better future for everyone.” (Read the note to the right to see what kids had to say of the experience.)
Next up on the Redfern Plan agenda: Painting a mural at the Center. Stay tuned for pictures!