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CAMBA Connection August 2012

Rev. Dan Ramm Residence Wins Award for Excellence and Innovation

CAMBA Connection, August 2012

                                                                             Photo Credit: Vanni Archive

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has recognized CAMBA Housing Ventures’ newest completed development as one of the borough’s finest.

The Rev. Dan Ramm Residence received a 2012 Building Brooklyn Award last month in the “Residential – Supportive Housing” category. With on-site services provided by CAMBA for all residents, the Flatbush development provides 53 units for working individuals and formerly homeless individuals leaving the city’s shelters.

At this year’s Building Brooklyn Awards ceremony, the residence was one of 12 buildings borough-wide to take home awards in a range of categories.

“This building is transformational – it provides secure, serene and healthful homes that will enable its residents to thrive,” said Joanne Oplustil, Executive Director of CAMBA/CAMBA Housing Ventures. “We are honored to receive this award and grateful to all of our partners who made this building possible.”

Learn more about our award in this Real Estate Weekly article.


BP3D Speaks Out on Sugary Drink Portion Size

CAMBA Connection, August 2012


“There should be a dramatic shift in the amount of affordable healthy options available to offset the abundance of low-cost unhealthy food choices available." --- Kimberly George, Executive Director of the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition.

At a recent public hearing in Long Island City, Queens, staff from the Brooklyn Partnership to Drive Down Diabetes (BP3D) educated policymakers on the dangers of large sugary drinks. Organized by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the hearing was for the city’s proposed cap on the portion sizes of sugary drinks sold at certain establishments. The proposal is hailed by supporters as a way to bring about healthier eating habits and reduce the incidence of obesity and diabetes throughout the city.

“The environment of our fellow New Yorkers who live in areas that are affected by obesity must change, and must change drastically so that it will be easier for them to make healthier choices," said Stephen Beasley, BP3D Program Supervisor.

BP3D is a partnership among CAMBA, the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition and other agencies that fight diabetes and obesity in the Brooklyn communities affected most.

"Our Brooklyn Partnership to Drive Down Diabetes helps connect the nearly 10% of Brooklyn residents living with diabetes to nutrition and fitness options - and we’re relieved that smaller-sized sugary drinks can help them make easier choices and live longer, healthier lives," said Joanne Oplustil, CAMBA's Executive Director.

Learn more about the partnership at  Read WNYC radio’s story with CAMBA’s testimony.


Beacon Center Teens Step It Up Against Domestic Violence

CAMBA Connection, August 2012


For the second year in a row, Colors of Peace, CAMBA’s step team from Beacon 269, made it to the finals of Nike Step It Up competition. Stepping to raise awareness of domestic violence, the team was one of 14 from around NYC to take the stage before a raucous crowd on July 18th for the finals at NYU’s Skirball Center.

Colors of Peace drove their message home and made their Beacon, and CAMBA, proud. Watch a video of Colors of Peace at the finals.


Client Spotlight: Digging Out of Debt with CAMBA Consumer Law Services

CAMBA Connection, August 2012

In late 2011 Ms. M was devastated by the loss of her son.  Shortly after, she also lost her job and her only means of support.  The stress was almost unbearable. With no income, Ms. M worried that she would become homeless, but with an upcoming tax refund, she hoped that she could pay a few months’ rent and find a new job before falling behind.

But as soon as Ms. M deposited her tax refund, she saw that her bank account was frozen. Ms. M called CAMBA Legal Services and they met with her the next day… 

In the most recent quarter of 2012, NY State residents had more than $1 trillion in delinquent debt. Much of this debt belongs to low-income and minority consumers who, over the last few years, have found themselves the unfortunate victims of abusive debt-collection practices.

Cases like Ms. M’s are all too common both in New York State and at the office of CAMBA’s Consumer Law Services, part of CAMBA Legal Services (CLS). According to Matthew Schedler, Staff Attorney with CAMBA Consumer Law Services, debt collectors often sue consumers with little or no proof of unpaid debts. The collectors fail to notify the person being sued and, when the consumer doesn't show for court, the collector wins a default judgment.

“People learn they’ve been sued in collection actions and don’t know what to do,” said Schedler. “We’re working to get more people into court and to get fewer default judgments.”

CAMBA Consumer Law Services sees around 1,000 clients each year, Schedler says---most of whom have some kind of credit problem. The office takes walk-ins and frequent referrals from other CAMBA programs to help serve people with multiple needs.

“We see CAMBA clients facing domestic violence issues, foreclosure and other housing issues… We want to support these clients in a holistic way and put them on a path to self-sufficiency.”

CAMBA Consumer Law Services also engages in legislative advocacy to help change the system of debt-collection---to make it harder for people to be victimized by abusive collectors and fraudulent claims.

For Ms. M, the frozen bank account led to the discovery that three consumer collection suits had been filed against her. She had been sued and already lost.

Ms. M had to move quickly to regain access to her funds.  First, CLS helped her file papers to vacate the judgments and attempt to reopen the cases. When the alleged creditors strongly opposed relief, CLS went to court and argued on Ms. M’s behalf.  When CLS looked at the papers provided by the plaintiffs (the creditors), they found some glaring problems: One of the lawsuits was filed well past expiration, while in another, the Summons and Complaint were delivered by a disgraced process server who had lied hundreds of times and eventually had his license revoked.

Fortunately, Ms. M’s motions were granted, her bank account was released and the cases against her reopened. This gave her access to her tax refund so she could pay her rent. CLS is confident that with additional advocacy all of the actions against Ms. M will be dismissed.

While meeting with Mrs. M, CLS also discovered that she was having difficulty paying $300 a month she owed for a federal student loan. CLS helped Ms. M get her payments deferred and will be applying for an income based repayment option to  reduce her payments to zero while she is unemployed and tie any future repayment to her earnings.

Because of CAMBA’s involvement, Ms. M was able to preserve her housing, gain access to her bank account and lower her bills so that her limited income could go towards life’s necessities. 


Employee Profile: Rita Cordova-Padron

Counselor/Group Facilitator, Women's Prevention Services
CAMBA Connection, August 2012


What’s your current position and program and how long have you worked at CAMBA?
I am Counselor/Group Facilitator for Women’s Prevention Services, part of CAMBA's HIV/AIDS Services. I have been at CAMBA since August of last year. I also worked as a temporary Interviewer/Surveyor for the Flatbush Neighborhood Promise Initiative this past spring.

Where did you grow up and how long have you lived in NYC?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I spent my childhood in the town of Vega Baja in the north part of Puerto Rico. Vega Baja has the burial grounds of our native Taíno Indians, so it’s an area of great archeological value. Also, there’s a lagoon that was once over-populated by turtles.

I migrated to Hartford, Connecticut, 33 years ago at the age of 18. It was the first time I experienced a cold winter and saw or touched snow. I’ve been in NYC since 1988.

What do you enjoy outside of work?
Besides coming to work, I dedicate my life to raise my twins David Omar and Adriana Alexandra. I enjoy reading, cooking, walking and connecting with families and friends. This summer, I joined the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Community Supported Agriculture---helping to sustain organic farming.

I also do some consultant work for other CBOs. I am assisting in the development of a training manual for the Bronx Health Link Inc.’s Bronx Community Research Review Board.

What part of your job do you find most rewarding?
I think the opportunity to work with a team of wonderful women: Risha Muñoz, Lucesita Ramos, Lisa Koffler and Geneva Musgrave. They’re all committed to educating women and their families about their sexual and reproductive health and about preventing the transmission and acquisition of HIV and STDs. Also working on a one-to-one basis with women and knowing that they consider our offices a safe haven for them and their families.

Tell about a memorable work-related experience you’ve had.
An always priceless moment in the Women’s Prevention Services is to see clients using the tools that my co-workers and I pass on to them through the educational behavioral interventions. Also, when we have clients literally walking in and escorting people they just met right off the street to our location at 884 Flatbush Ave… because they want them to get our services too.

How has your work changed the rest of your life?
I have been working in HIV/AIDS since I was 20 years old, since the beginning of the pandemic. I have dedicated my life to this field and will continue until there is a cure.

I believe that there is always room for growth. On a daily basis I learn and gain new perspectives because I have to place myself in the shoes of women who are struggling, who come from different cultural backgrounds and who are facing life-changing and challenging experiences.

What other profession have you always wanted to try?
This year I enrolled at Empire State College-Brooklyn Campus to complete my degree. I want to complete a Certification as Medical Interpreter and Translator. I want to obtain a Master Degree in Spanish Translation. Also I would like to explore graphic design.

What is your favorite spot or thing to do in New York City?
I have three favorite spots:
1) A family meeting place: Mexican Restaurant El Cantinero at 86 University Place in Manhattan. I have been going there for the past 25-plus years.
2) Cheryl’s Global Soul Restaurant at 236 Underhill Avenue in Brooklyn. This is a family secret---the owners are Cheryl Smith and her partner, my cousin Edel Cordova. I highly recommend it.
3) The Museum of Natural History and the planetarium---I LOVE IT!!!!!

If an actor/actress were to play you in a movie, who would it be and why?
A great Mexican actress, Angélica Aragón… what a lady! She is one of the best well-known actresses in Latin America. She is beautiful and can play any part in movies, soap operas, live theater. She is a jewel and has got skills. Why? Why not? It’s just a wish… the sister has what it takes: heart and determination.

What one thing would you like colleagues at CAMBA to know about you that they probably don’t already know?
Many moons ago I was involved in a National Liberation movement. I participated in a political tour advocating for the freedom of Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war incarcerated in US federal prisons. I also had the opportunity to visit with political prisoners in Germany from the Red Army Faction. It happens that for the first time since the late ‘70s, some of these prisoners were  allowed to have physical contact with outsiders or visitors. Guess whose face was the first they were able to touch in 20 years? Mine. Incredible!!!!

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