Brooklyn Neighborhood Services celebrated two historic milestones during its elegant September 14th “25 & 1 – A New Beginning” Awards Reception at Weeksville Heritage Center: the organization’s first year as a fully independent community development organization and its 25th year serving the community under the Neighborhood Housing Services umbrella..
BNS, formerly an affiliate of the Neighborhood Housing Services, continues to provide, said Board president Jeffrey Charles-Pierre, “services to people in unserved neighborhoods by creating and preserving affordable housing opportunities for financial empowerment and homeownership. And we have more people doing a better job than the year before”.
Charles-Pierre and BNS Executive Director Richard Trouth praised the board, staff, volunteers and partners for working together, “doing good things” and “making a difference in the lives of families and individuals in the community”.
BNS’ 2017 honorees were praised “for making a major impact in the lives of many residents of the borough and beyond”, said Trouth, adding, “Their expertise spans across education, philanthropy, real estate, youth education, politics, senior advocacy and more”.
BNS’ Community Partner Awards were given to honorees Dr. Kim Best, currently Chair, Restoration Alliance Club, 79th Precinct Council, and Daniel Fisher, President, 81st Precinct Council. Presenter Sundra Franklin cited them for providing “service to the community every day and pretty much every night and pushing their young people, The Explorers, to (engage in community work).”
Dr. Best expressed concern for our youth and urged the community to continue working with them. Mr. Fisher also expressed the need for organizations to get involved in youth projects “to make our neighborhood stronger.”
Board presenter Brena Bracy-Seals awarded the Neighborhood Recognition honor to Ms. Lena Scarborough Gates, Principal, Ronald E. McNair Public School 5, for her valuable work in education.
BNS’ Presidential Awards, the first ever, given by Charles-Pierre to Bessie Edwards, the real estate expert and visionary, and Mr. Fred L. Price, education advocate and philanthropist.
Both delivered messages describing their respective passions for the community; the award as an inspiration to continue doing the work they do; their personal journeys to arrive where they are and the importance of information-sharing and communication. “The community is my passion,” said Mr. Price. “My goal has been to serve my people, especially now that the challenges are all clear and dramatically in front of us.”
Paul G. Hawthorne, Board Vice President, presented the Award of Appreciation to NYS Assembly member Wright, the evening’s dynamic guest speaker. He thanked her for “representing us and taking our interests up to Albany”. In turn, Hon. Wright said, “I do look forward to working with BNS and the other housing partners”.
Mr. Sam Pinn, considered the dean of community activism, was presented the coveted Catherine L. Arline Citizen Participation Award by board member Tory Netto. Mr. Pinn, who knew Ms. Arline – the beloved community leader and former BNS board member — for some 60 years of his 82 years, delivered an emotional salute to her and other great Brooklyn activists. He said, “I stand here on the shoulders of many others who came before me”, naming Joan Maynard, for whom he announced a street would be named, the second Saturday in October; the Reverends Milton Galamison (Siloam Presbyterian Church), William Augustus Jones (Bethany Baptist Church) and Gardner C. Taylor (Concord Baptist Church of Christ); Brother Sonny Carson, Sister Lucille Rose, Congressman Major Owens and Sister Janie Green. He also recalled his association for 16 years with Brooklyn CORE and his current work with community-based organizations, including senior citizens and day care programs.
He summed up the feelings of everyone attending the “25 & 1- A New Beginning” reception with the mandate “to do the great work that you are doing of being BNS. I appreciate the fact that you are willing to get out there and do what you can do in your field to cut (gentrification) off at the pass.”
Mr. James C. Durrah, BNS Treasurer and fundraising chair, closed the awards segment by acknowledging, too, the good works of the organization in enriching lives. He gave a nod to The Rev. Dr. Valerie Durrah, his wife of 40 years, and his good friend Carlton Brown. Ms. Durrah and Brown shared honorary chair duties with David Greaves of DBG Media, Publishers of Our Time Press, and Bernice Elizabeth Green, the evening’s host.
Also recognized during the evening was board member Cheryl Wright; staff member Madeline Roman; Gerard D. Miller, housing counselor, financial literacy and resiliency services; Courtney E. Corbin, foreclosure specialist; Kevin D. Washington, homeowner services manager and Andrea Green, the community outreach coordinator.
Said Trouth, “We work together as a strong team, we believe in what we do and we never look back. With the staff that I have here and the board and all of the support from friends and sponsors, we are here”.
Earlier in the evening The Reverend Gwen Dingle, pastor, the Pentecostal House of Prayer, delivered the moving invocation, and special guest Rob Fields, the new Interim Executive Director, Weeksville, welcomed BNS to the historic landmark site. In his remarks, which can be read in their full manifestation on page 15, Field drew a connection for BNS to, yet, another anniversary, Weeksville’s 180t,h which occurs next year. Mr. Fields said, “Having affordable housing and homeownership means that you can focus on a few things other than “will my family be safe and warm? It means you are not worrying about where your family can live but how you and your family can be part of a neighborhood and help that become a community.
“Being financially literate means that you are willing to take on and capable of taking on the responsibility of being a homeowner. So, the original investors and families who made up Weeksville came here for that reason – to have a place of their own. So, it is in that spirit that I applaud Brooklyn Neighborhood Services and all the honorees tonight.”