Month: September, 2011

Start spreading the news (Insert Frank Sinatra here)…


Dear Jules,

Oh My Goodness, I found my way to the Bronx today, via the NYC subway this past Friday.  Google  map in hand I began the hike to POTS (Part Of The Solution). I can’t lie…I’m feeling a bit out of my comfort zone. 25 minutes later, I’ve found it. I see a group of people gathered outside of my  charity destination.

Kim gave me a tour of the centre, which was recently renovated and expanded to offer more services to the varying needs of the community. POTS offers support services that include legal and medical counsel, a clothing and food bank, accessible showers, a post office and  barber (to name just a few) . I had the opportunity to chat with James, who has been a front line worker with POTS for the past 18 years. The biggest trend he’s seen the last couple of years is the increase in the needs of the working poor. POTS have a unique relationship between their clients and the community. Mutual respect and dignity is the bottom line.

A couple of buses later,  I was making my way  to the North East Bronx to visit BBCC (Bronx Bethany Community Corporation).  The rain held off  as I walked through the residential community admiring the small community gardens that provided some fresh summer harvest between the closely packed homes.

In one of those homes I found BBCC …right in the heart of the community. I met with Richard and Melanie who talked about BBCCs mission.  Through very creative arts classes, their After School Enrichment program is meeting the needs of children in the community ages 5 to 12.  Small group classes teach Music, Dance, Arts &Crafts, Martial Arts and Strategic Learning. I think that this statement from a parent sums it up nicely. “ My children will be well rounded people, able to go anywhere and thrive in new environments. When they leave this program, they will have grown academically and socially. They will know that learning is more than just academics”   My visit here came was to an end much too quickly.

Well the rain Gods had  unleashed the fury that floods are made of. I have never  seen rain fall so hard. Melanie drove me to the subway that brought me back to Times Square. The rain was just a nightmare, the streets were flooded, no taxi’s to be found and the umbrellas were no match for the wind.

Thank goodness Tim Jaccard of AMT Children of Hope Foundation, Baby Safe Haven met me in Manhattan. (He saved me a 2 hour trip outside of the city).  I was nervous about this meeting because I knew we’d be talking about a subject that dealt with babies being abandoned.  As a mother,  I hoped that I could listen and understand without prejudges.

As a result of Tim’s passion and diligence, the Safe Haven Bill was passed in 2001. This has saved 2783 newborn babies across the nation to date. The Safe Have Bill has removed the criminal abandonment and child endangerment charges that would be laid on the Mother. Newborn babies can be safely left at any hospital without question. The mother will not be prosecuted and the police will not investigate. The process of a closed adoption then begins and that’s the part that gets me weeping;  the image of a scared young girl who has kept her pregnancy a secret from everyone, who has had no prenatal care, has no support system or after birth plan.  They find themselves giving birth alone and scared, then panic and leave the baby to die in a garbage bin.

Can you imagine how horrible it would be for anyone who finds this blessed little being abandoned?  An abandoned baby is exactly what  Tim came across in 1998.  His personal experience led him to advocate for the Safe haven Bill as well as for the Island of Hope burial site for Baby Jane and Joe Doe.  I leave our meeting, not with a heavy heart, but with an admiration for the devotion of this organization and all the heroes that champion for children who may have never made it.

Thanks Julie for the opportunity to meet these wonderful people, I wish you were here with me.  I can now cross off visiting the Bronx via Planes, trains and buses off my bucket list! See you soon .xo. Colleen.

Thanks to YOU Colleen!

Living vicariously through Colleen.

My memories of site visits come flooding back as I read Colleens email.

She’s in NYC on a girlfriends weekend and took advantage of her time there, to visit the charities YPI students granted to this past school year.

I often think of the wonderful people, ideas and organizations that taught me so much and helped shape a smarter and more aware “me”.  Looking forward to our paths crossing again!

In Colleens words……….

Hey Jules-

September 22, 2011

What a trip so far. My plane was delayed into NYC but my Cab ride made up for it in time. When I started to smell the combo of burnt engine and melting brake pads the good catholic girl in me broke into a mantra of Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s. They worked. I made it to Restore NYC 15 minutes early and didn’t have to use the fire extingisher. Gawd , how I love New York!

With luggage in tow I was warmly greeted by Faith Huckel, Executive Director and Founder of Restore NYC, a Charity providing freedom and hope to survivors of sex trafficking. An organization dedicated to long term healing, housing and support to women who have been brave enough to escape a life of commercial sexual exploitation. Aprroximately 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year. I’m shocked.
Faith tells me about how the the process works. “Snakeheads” are the mega pimps that have networks in countries of poverty and political strife. They promise girls the “American dream” …..a home, gainful employment, good health and safety. They leave out the other details like forced rapes, physical restraints, confinement and beatings. Awful stuff, I can’t even imagine.( yep, got the leaky eyes listening to some of the horrific details of the life of a modern day slave)Then there is this bright light that shines in Faiths eye’s ( her name is not lost in the irony of the profession) and she tells me about the healing. The active partnering between Restore and the 4 different law enforcement agencies are working to put a stop to active Brothels and the snakeheads.The first “safe house ” in NYC has been established along with long term support to deal with the mental and physical abuse.I really liked Faith and her passion and determination make a difference.

I’m off to visit some charities in the Bronx today. Its muggy and hot in the city and looks like rain (great another bad hair day!) I will write soon and let you know about all the great people I meet.

xo Colleeny

PS. On 3rd avenue, I saw an entire block of 24 hour drug stores. There must have been 5 in a row! Gota love this city.

Thanks for sharing Colleen.  Continued safe travels!