Kids and Parents Shout Out Against City Budget Cuts
CAMBA Connection, April 2012
Every spring when the Mayor announces the next year’s Preliminary City budget, CAMBA staff members know they’re in for a fight. Threats of cuts to our City-funded programs have been a regular event of late---each year, different invaluable program areas find themselves on the chopping block. Right now, staff at our Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs are feeling the threat, with two after-school programs facing elimination altogether and more facing hampering cuts. Other City-funded CAMBA programs, such as those in adult literacy, security guard training, and domestic- and relationship-violence prevention, to name just a few, are also feeling the budgetary heat. But this year, as always, devoted CAMBA staff, clients, participants and their family members are making their voices heard---to fight the proposed cuts and save our imperiled services.
Throughout the last month, CAMBA has ramped up its involvement in two citywide campaigns to fight cuts in the NYC 2013 budget. As part of the Campaign for Children, a newly-formed campaign against cuts to childcare and after-school, our staff and students made a showing at two press conferences and public rallies---at City Hall and Brooklyn Borough Hall.
The response in Brooklyn was especially vocal, with more than 100 enthusiastic after-school kids waving posters, filling the room with echoing chants and soaking up the face-time in front of news cameras and politicians. CAMBA was represented by a student group from P.S. 269 in East Flatbush.
And since the mid-month rally at Borough Hall, the Campaign for Children---and CAMBA’s advocacy effort---has kicked into an even higher gear. The City recently announced the after-school programs slated for cuts, and the list includes CAMBA’s long-time programs at P.S. 249 and P.S. 139 in Flatbush. If these programs are cut in September, more than 400 children will lose their enriching after-school activities and, equally as important, parents may be forced to give up necessary income simply to stay home with their children.
Petronila Solano, who works as a housekeeper, said she would not be able to keep her job if P.S. 139’s after-school program is not refunded. Her two children – kindergartener Jocelyn and fifth-grader Antonio – attend every afternoon. “After-school is very important to me,” she said. “If it’s closed, I would have to give up my job. I don’t want them staying alone.”
“We’ve been running after-school at the two schools since 2005, so it would be a huge loss to parents and kids in the community,” said Christie Hodgkins, CAMBA Director of Youth Development in a recent story on the Ditmas Park Corner blog.
In the face of these now very real cuts, the campaign is going strong on several fronts: On April 30, more than 1,300 people citywide called the Mayor’s Office and then sent letters and emails throughout the week to urge the Mayor to restore funding for the programs. On May 9th, children, staff and parents will take part in a citywide “Lights Off Wednesday,” to include public flyering, petitions, appearances with elected officials and other creative ways to advocate for the programs.
In addition to the Campaign for Children, CAMBA is in its second year as part of the citywide Who Cares? I Do. Campaign, a broad-spectrum nonprofit partnership in place to protect human services in from annual budget cuts.
One of the Who Cares? I Do. advocacy events in April was a virtual rally to shed light on where people would find themselves “Without Human Services.” Staff, clients and participants from organizations around the City shared impassioned words about their programs through online videos and posts.
While efforts to save our threatened programs have been going strong, there’s still much to be done. Consider calling, emailing or writing a letter today to have your voice heard too. You can act through the Campaign for Children; for the Save Teen RAPP campaign, to save Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Programs in NYC; and for the Who Cares? I Do. Campaign to support our range of threatened services.
CAMBA Legal Services Receives State Award for Foreclosure Prevention
CAMBA Connection, April 2012
Thanks to a new grant from NY State, more homeowners facing foreclosure in Brooklyn will soon get the help they need to hold on to their homes. CAMBA’s Foreclosure Prevention Services program will be adding to its capacity with $100,000 in funding just awarded to CAMBA Legal Services by NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Homeowners who come to CAMBA to in need of foreclosure prevention services are, by definition, in a difficult situation. They may be saddled with subprime mortgages or the victim of predatory lending practices, or some other set of unfortunate circumstances has led to an imminent risk of them losing their home. Over the last year, CAMBA Legal Services has kept 220 such homeowners in their homes and now with the state award, the program will be able to serve even more.
“We’re very excited about this,” said Janet Miller, CAMBA Director of Legal Services programs. “We’ll be able to increase our capacity to keep people in their homes by providing additional foreclosure prevention services with this money.”
Foreclosure Prevention Services currently has two counselors and two attorneys working to aid homeowners and is now seeking a third attorney.
The funding is part of an effort by the Attorney General to bolster foreclosure prevention services around the state. CAMBA was one of 31 organizations state-wide to receive grants to aid homeowners, with awards ranging from $30,000 to $100,000.
“As our state faces tight budget times, we must be creative and aggressive in our efforts to support working families who are struggling to stay in their homes,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in in a story for WKBW in Buffalo. “Funding legal services is essential to bringing relief for the homeowners and communities that have been devastated by the crash of the housing market.”
In line with the “creative and aggressive” efforts the Attorney General is pursuing, CAMBA has been adding to its foreclosure prevention services in other ways as well. CAMBA foreclosure prevention counselors are now on-hand weekly to meet with borrowers at the newly established Bank of America Customer Assistance Center on Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn.
The Center for New York City Neighborhoods and Bank of America are funding this new service, with the goal of making sure that all of homeowners who come in---whether in delinquency or actual foreclosure proceedings---meet with a foreclosure prevention counselor to help put together a modification application or, at the very least, better understand the options and remedies available.
Beyond the recent support from the State and others, and the new opportunities it is providing, CAMBA Legal Services is hopeful for more in the future. “The Attorney General’s Office has been very supportive of foreclosure prevention services,” said Miller. "We are optimistic that this support will allow us to come closer to meeting the tremendous need for foreclosure prevention services in our community."
Respite Partners and Volunteers Get a Night of Recognition
CAMBA Connection, April 2012
CAMBA has many invaluable partners: like-minded nonprofits, supportive businesses, local elected officials… the list goes on. All give time, resources, support, whatever they can to further our work, and all are recognized and appreciated by our staff and administration. Nowhere is this more true than for the Respite Bed Program, to which so many volunteers give their nights, and institutions their space and services. For this commitment of all involved, nothing less than an evening in their honor is truly fitting.
The Respite Bed Program is a network of over 35 churches and synagogues that donate their time and space to serve homeless clients of The Gathering Place, CAMBA’s drop-in center. Each site provides a safe bed and a warm dinner to anywhere from 6 to 20 guests nightly, and the program runs with generous help from more than 2,000 committed volunteers each year.
To recognize its volunteers, partner organizations and host sites of the past year, the staff of the Respite Bed Program held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Night on April 25th at Church of the Assumption in Brooklyn Heights.
“Respite volunteers cook and serve dinner; wash and sort the linen; and sleep overnight at the sites,” said Elizabeth Stephens, Assistant Program Manager of the Respite Bed Program. “Not only do volunteers provide the physical labor of running the program but they also provide the emotional soul of the program. Volunteers welcome each guest as a person; listening and sharing in their successes and challenges.”
On hand were more than 150 volunteers and representatives from Respite sites, along with CAMBA staff and City officials. The evening featured a pre-meal blessing led by Father James King of Church of the Assumption, a buffet supper, partner-group recognition and a slew of heart-felt speeches.
The evening included gracious words by Paul Jardine, NYC Department of Homeless Services Program Administrator; Joanne Oplustil, CAMBA’s Executive Director; and Allan F. Kramer, II, a member of the CAMBA Board of Directors.
In all, 19 host sites and 28 partner congregations and organizations were honored at the event, which was all about one universally-shared sentiment: “Volunteers are the backbone of the Respite Bed Program,” said Stephens. “This night is a brief moment for us to stop and thank them for the amazing dedication and love they share with our guests.”
Employee Profile: Luz Rivera
Office Manager/Purchasing Department,
1720 Church Avenue
What is your current position and program and how long have you worked at CAMBA?
I've been Office Manager for about 15 years.
What other positions, if any, have you held at CAMBA and at what sites have you worked?
Attendance Monitor under the AIDP and Receptionist.
What part of your job do you find most rewarding?
Knowing that in some small part I am involved with every program in the agency.
What are two important things that you have learned while working at CAMBA?
1- Respect is not given. It is earned… and 2- Everyone counts.
Why do you do what you do (your job)?
My job gives me an opportunity to connect with everyone in the agency… I am happy to help the programs in any way I can. I always say to the members of my team: Supplies are not the first thing on the staff's mind when they come in the morning, especially the programs that have to deal with people who need help, such as housing, health, family problems, etc.
What one thing would you most like colleagues at CAMBA to know about you that they may not already know?
In 1989, I was in an ad for a voter registration announcement. No one knows about it because my part stayed in the editing room, on the floor. LOL!!!
Where did you grow up? Are you originally from New York City? If not, how long have you lived in NYC?
I grow up in Puerto Rico. I came to the States and straight to NYC in 1978.
What are your favorite styles of music?
I love all kinds of music, Latin (you knew that ), pop (old pop) and classical (you didn’t see that coming, right?).
If an actor/actress were to play you in a movie, who would it be and why?
Rosie Perez---I am sure they would use Sofia Vergara's accent. :)
What is your favorite spot or thing to do in New York City?
Walking around in Prospect Park on sunny days.
Where is your favorite place to get lunch in Brooklyn?
What profession other than your own would you like to try out?
I would try teaching.
What is your favorite story about life in New York City?
I have to say when the YANKEES WON THE 2000 WORLD SERIES. My husband is still not happy about it. POOR BABY… NOT! It is not a story, but I thought I would mention it anyway.