There’s a lot of heart in what goes on at the Quincy Senior Residence at 625 Quincy Street in Brooklyn. Just ask Tyrease Slaughter, age 7, who performed last Saturday before some 250 people at the Center’s annual Family and Friends Day fest.
The food delighted. The bright orange QSR tee-shirts and caps impressed. The presentations and gifts were generous. But there was something extra special about this year’s event, exquisitely organized and hosted by Phyllis Hurd, executive director of the of the five-year-old residence and Rhonda A. Lewis, CEO of QSR’s umbrella Bridge Street Development Corporation (BSDC).
“You can jump, you can say you’re in God’s Army, you can say, ‘Look at what I do,’ but it doesn’t mean a thing if your heart’s not in it,” sang out young Slaughter, a student of Excellence Charter School and grandson of Bedford Stuyvesant pioneer community advocate Ulysses Slaughter.
Each year, the Family and Friends event gets larger and includes something more than the year before. This year, Hurd presented star vocalist Linda Miller, performing a range of music. Hurd also showcased young emerging dancers and vocalists, drawing particular attention to the talents and gifts of young men in our community.
Ms. Miller, a former prodigy, now distinguished vocalst, who performed songs from her CD, “Rough Side of the Mountain,” was very generous in her salute to the young emerging stars. She told us, “It was something to witness disciplined young men performing, showing their work and praising the Lord.”
She praised the intergenerational aspect of the “reunion” event. Too often, if it’s a senior affair, the young people are left out, she told us. And if it is youth-focused, the seniors rarely get to witness their artistry.
As part of her mission to put heart into each event, director Hurd starts her event planning months in advance and builds on the successes of previous events. That effort is beyond her job description and day-to-day tasks. But it does not matter; Hurd sees her assignment as a kind of ministry; it’s something she wants to do. “What’s important is to see the seniors dancing, laughing, singing and knowing they are valued,” she told us.
“This year, I felt the best way to glorify and praise them was to reveal to them the results of their hard work; they needed to see young men being positive, giving and doing good,” she told us. “Too often, they are afraid and intimidated by what they see and hear. Today, they were allowed to see the other side, the success stories and that their work was not in vain.”
And there was a benefit to the young people. “They were cheered by their elders, and complimented,” observed Ms. Hurd. “So they felt valued. And because they feel valued, they will value others.”
Both Ms. Hurd and Ms. Lewis, who grew up with their families in Brooklyn, share the philosophy that seniors are the “jewels of the community” and they approach their respective positions, organically and holistically, with an informed and wizened spirit derived from the teachings and examples of the elders who guided them.
The ingredient of “heart” has a lot to do with the level of “compassionate energy,” noted Ms. Lewis, who hired Ms. Hurd, a former corporate finance analyst, as a temp a few short years ago and watched her grow to her current status as a professional community organizer (and somewhat of a celebrity in the community because of her reputation for proficiency).
Sometimes, their demands for efficiency and strategic planning may not be understood immediately, but nonetheless, Ms. Hurd and Ms. Lewis’ respective sets of eyes are always on the prize. And the results are always spectacular … as for the Quincy Street Residence’s Family & Friends Reunion Day.
Other talents showcased at the event were the lively QSR Choir and a vocal duet by Jason Slaughter, age 11, singing “Lately” and his brother Tyrease.
Just as entertaining was the presence of the indefatigable Ophelia Perry of Church Women United, and Alma Carroll and Vernell Albury, among so many other pioneers. In addition, State Sen.Velmanette Montgomery sent a special message through her omnipresent community affairs representative, Joan Eastmond.
“Residences should be more than places to be; they should be sanctuaries where people can live and age gracefully, and enjoy themselves,” said Ms. Hurd.
Ms. Lewis revealed to Our Time Press that BSDC is about to embark on another ground-breaking move for the community: the construction of the 23-unit Noel Pointer residence on now-vacant land on Lafayette Avenue. This effort– at which Ms. Hurd will undoubtedly play a major role in event planning — is on the heels of the success of the emergence of BSDC’s new Joshua Court residence at 300 Putnam Avenue – the first multifamily building in Bedford Stuyvesant to be outfitted with solar panels. We expect Ms. Lewis will see that young violinists and other musicians from the Noel Pointer School of Music will perform. (Details for this real estate initiative will be announced shortly.) To reach Quincy Street Senior Residence, call (718) 443-6329. To reach BSDC, call (718) 399-0146.