Message from Redfern Director Lakia Echols

Last week, we began the campaign for Far Rockaway’s Redfern Cornerstone Community Center, which closed abruptly last year. I’m from the Far Rockaway community — grew up here, went to school here, and now serve as Director of the Cornerstone program. So I know it from both sides, and here’s what I can tell you: The children of Redfern need this community center more than ever.

Most of our participants come from a struggling background, below the poverty line, and, if not for the center, they really have no other place to go. We don’t have tutoring services or any educational programs (besides the library) in the community where parents can seek additional help. A lot of our youth have been traumatized from walking in their own apartment buildings, looking at people on drugs, gang members fighting, and even being in the house when a family member who has committed a crime gets arrested in front of their eyes. Our services are highly needed to help better these kids in life and education.

When the Redfern center closed, I thought, who will look out for these kids now?

The answer was The Child Center — and its supporters. Only because of the steadfast support of ordinary people, The Child Center was able to step in without hesitation — without a budget or staffing or any advance notice — and agree to be the new provider.

Redfern Cornerstone was always a safe place where the community could come together, but it’s truly becoming a place where children can grow. We are building a healthy, enriching environment through education, recreation, and the arts and working with our young people to build character and set lifelong goals.

But The Child Center inherited Redfern’s $50,000 deficit, and we’re struggling to ensure it has the basics, let alone activities that will keep kids coming. For example, we have some computers, but the kids would really like to have programming to learn coding — and someone to teach it. That would provide them with marketable skills that they want to learn.

This is why this campaign is so important to us, because it will help us get our participants on a better level and also stay motivated to come here and off the streets.

Participants like Tristian, who would love to see robotics here, or Angel, who said to me, “The center helps me a lot with my reading and math skills because I been failing in my schoolwork. This center impacts me because I been improving in school. It is difficult to go to other places for fun because my mother is in a wheelchair, so coming to Redfern center is much easier for my siblings and my mother. I wish we had a gym, but since we don’t, I try to work with what we have.” I could go on and on about our kids. They want to do better. They want to excel at things. The lack of opportunity is just so overwhelming… but it doesn’t have to be.

If you could step in with a donation of any size, we can give them the chance to learn coding, to get better at math, to have a safe place to play sports.

We can also hire staff to help them deal with the trauma they’ve experienced: behavioral counselors we call youth advocates who form positive relationships with youth who have behavioral and emotional challenges, to guide them in developing positive social-emotional skills, serve as mentors (they are young and usually from the neighborhood), connect them with other services as necessary, and generally help them set goals and achieve school success.

It all sounds like a lot, but as someone who knows this place, believe me when I say it’s doable. Just look at the list below and see how a gift of any size can help us fill critical needs right now.

Please join the Redfern campaign! For one more week, your gift will go directly to Redfern; give today, and we will immediately begin purchasing the things we need to make a difference to our kids.

Together we can replace a cycle of poverty with a cycle of opportunity that will benefit our young people and this community for a long time to come.

Thank you for your support!

Lakia Echols
Director, Redfern Cornerstone Community Center


Pays a tutor’s salary for one month. Tutors are needed because most of our students are below standard in reading and math.


Buys two months’ worth of art supplies, such as construction paper, markers, colored pencils, crayons, and glue.


Purchases an age-appropriate PlayStation 4 game — these games really keep the kids coming!

Donate Now

Descriptions of impact are symbolic. Your gift will be considered a contribution to the entire mission of Redfern and will be used to purchase goods, staffing, or services at Redfern Cornerstone Community Center.

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