To understand the importance of the Redfern Cornerstone Community Center in a tight-knit community of Far Rockaway, start by asking its youngest residents.
Six-year-old Karina will tell you that she liked how Redfern was a place she could “meet new people and make new friends.”
Second-grader Deniya “really liked all of the trips we went on, going outside, and playing games.”
As a Cornerstone program, the center was also important to parents, who knew the Center as a place their kids would find a safe, enriching environment after school and during the summers; and to community members of all ages who looked to the Center for a fun, safe place to come together.
So when the center closed abruptly last March, parents, children, and community members alike were shocked and upset. Not wanting the community to lose this lynchpin, DYCD asked The Child Center of NY if we would become the Center’s new provider. We not only readily agreed to reopen it, but also revitalize it, with new and improved facilities and programming to meet the needs of the community as expressed by its members.
After months of The Child Center staff working tirelessly, with the support of the NYC Housing Authority and DYCD, Redfern opened for summer camp on Tuesday, July 18th, and celebrated with a cookout last week. The happiness was palpable as more than 100 community members and supporters came together at their beloved center, for the first time in four months.
“So many came out, and the word is spreading through the community that we’re open again,” says Program Director Lakia Echols, noting that supporters in attendance included representatives of State Senator James Sanders Jr.’s office, the 101st Precinct, the Redfern Houses Tenants Association, and local group FAITH (Fathers Alive in Hood).
Guests enjoyed traditional barbecue fare, as well as cotton candy and popcorn. A DJ added to the festive atmosphere and provided the perfect backdrop for dance competitions, while kids went wild in the bouncy house. At a particularly moving moment, children made a poster of their handprints, above which they wrote their thoughts about the reopening of the Center. “Happy to be back and to go on trips. Also, I like clubs and game room,” wrote fourth-grader Keva.
A special cake, made by a parent of the center who wanted to contribute to the occasion, was decorated with words that said it all: “Building our community together — brick by brick.”
“I’m so happy to see the unity in the community,” Echols said.
An official ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for September.