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CAMBA Connection May 2013

CAMBA Volunteers Get a Night of Thanks


On so many nights throughout the year, the volunteers in our Respite Bed Program bring much-needed meals and beds to the City's homeless people. For one night this month, these same volunteers received the recognition they deserve at the annual Respite Bed Program Volunteer Appreciation Event.

More than 150 people filled the hall of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Brooklyn Heights. Volunteers, representatives from partner sites, CAMBA staff and City officials shared a meal and took part in a ceremony honoring Respite Bed's work and the many people who make it possible.

The Respite Bed Program is a network of 20 churches and synagogues that donate their time and space to serve homeless clients of The Gathering Place, CAMBA’s Drop-In Center. The program provides almost 13,000 meals and beds annually and runs on the kindness of 2,000 volunteers who prepare food and sleep at the sites.

"It was so nice for the volunteers to come together and see other people who do the same work," said Ramona Gant, the Respite Bed Operations Manager.

Also addressing the crowd that night were two representatives from the NYC Department of Homeless Services, Respite Bed staff members and CAMBA President and CEO Joanne Oplustil.

Learn about volunteering for the Respite Bed Program here.


Speaker Show High-Schoolers Paths to Success


From real estate development to running a bakery... students at CAMBA’s Learning to Work (LTW) program at Cascades High School in Manhattan’s Lower East Side recently got a taste of career possibilities from two high-powered New York City professionals.

The presentations were part of CAMBA’s annual Speakers Series, where young, successful professionals share their stories to inspire---and challenge---older high school students to pursue careers of their own.

Kerri Holloway, Vice President and Community Reinvestment Officer at the Bank of New York Mellon Corp., described her stepping stones to a successful community development career. Armed with a journalism degree, she veered into New York City real estate and then economic development before joining BNY Mellon. Today, Kerri manages her bank’s community reinvestment efforts in the Tri-State region.

“Become active in your prospective field,” Kerri counseled students, who shared their career plans with her.

Shannon Pridgen has been cooking since childhood. But even with these years of practice, Shannon went to school to gain formal culinary and business training before opening her bakery, Heavenly Crumbs, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Baking was one skill---running a business required a different recipe. Shannon said she stumbled initially until she developed a solid business plan. It was an apt lesson for the Cascades Economics and Entrepreneur class, which was studying the art of business planning while operating their own café.

“I read somewhere that you don’t master a recipe until you do it a thousand times. And it’s true,” she told students---encouraging them to keep trying until they meet their goals.


CAMBA Events Old and New Bring Out Crowds


From the gently rolling hills of Prospect Park to the sculptures of Zimbabwe, May was a month of fun and fundraising for CAMBA and our supporters.

Our first  ever run/walk, the Healthy Way 5k, raised $20k, as more than 200 runners and walkers participated in a 3.1 mile race around Prospect Park on May 5. (See photos on our Facebook page.)

The race was sponsored by EmblemHealth and our six team sponsors: Beardwood & Co., The Flatbush Food Coop, Garden Works, Gotham City Runners, Jeffrey Sobel Consulting and Mary Kay Gallagher Real Estate. A group of CAMBA clients was able to join the race, thanks to generous registrants who donated entry fees.

On May 16, CAMBA’s Shona Gallery opened its doors for our 22nd annual Shona Sculpture Benefit Sale. The three-day event kicked off with an opening night reception, honoring four individuals who have made a difference in the CAMBA community. Honorees included: Eugenie Woo and Christopher Scott, proprietors of Brooklyn Commune; Mary McDonald, Principal of P.S. 139; and Rana Boodoo, a client in CAMBA’s Families for Kids Program and the Flagstone Family Center.


Team CAMBA Represents at AIDS Walk NY


More than 50 CAMBA clients and staff braved the rain on Sunday, May 19, for the AIDS Walk New York in Central Park.

The annual walk has seen an enthusiastic CAMBA showing in recent years, and this year was no different. "Many people were very excited to be there for the first time," says Carlos Guevara, CAMBA Program Manager for Housing and Support Services. "They liked coming out for the community."

Team CAMBA included clients from upper Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, including a group of students from one of CAMBA's Beacon Centers, who performed a step routine for fellow walkers. Another client, confined to a wheelchair, was determined to finish the miles-long walk. ''I don't care if it's raining out---I'm going to make it," he told Guevara.

Also among this year's many highlights was a CAMBA client---a former teacher---who addressed the crowd, recounting her HIV diagnosis, time in a CAMBA transitional housing facility and return to independent living in an apartment of her own.

The CAMBA clients and staff were among 30,000 people who took park in the 28th annual walk, taking steps toward a future without HIV/AIDS.


Through Voice and Verse, CAMBA Residents Show Power of the Arts


Move over, America’s Got Talent. There are some new kids on the block.

A recent Afternoon of Poetry and Arts showcased the impressive creativity of residents at 880 Willoughby, CAMBA’s afordable and supportive housing development in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Gospel singer Garland R., a formerly homeless man who is working now and moving toward independent housing, kicked off the program with a powerful rendition of Moving Forward, a song that sums up the experiences of 880 Willoughby clients.

Members of a seven-week poetry class read from their works, which were displayed alongside photographs taken by resident photographer Yvonne W.

“The snow is falling, whitewashing all my anxieties and sorrows,” wrote Nancy H., in a poem entitled “Capture of Peace.” She said, “The group mean so much to me and helped me express myself.”

Elizabeth E. wrote a sassy ode to poetry instructor (and case manager) Darlene Hayes: “I’m no writer, I’m no poet. Stop getting on my nerves, telling me what to write about.” Despite her lament, the novice poet said, “I learned that you can succeed if you try. You can find something to put on paper . . . and it stays with you.”

Ocita L., who says she came to the poetry group “without a clue, and learned a lot,” penned the lines “I suffered a lot of loss in my life – children, mother, father, as well as myself for a while – and I’m here to say I am a living testimony that anything can be done with faith, strength and self-love.”


Employee Profile: Jessica Pereira

Care Coordinator, Health Homes


What’s your role at CAMBA and how long have you worked here?
I have worked here for four years. My former positions were Case Manager Technician and Case Manager for the COBRA Program, which transitioned into Health Homes last year. We provide case management to individuals who have chronic illness... including mental illness.

Where did you grow up and how long have you lived in NYC?
I grew up in the Brighton Beach/Coney Island area. I have lived in NYC pretty much all my life, with the exception of 2003-2009 when I was in Philadelphia, PA.

Talk a little about your day-to-day at work. How do you spend your time?
My day-to-day varies. There are days when I am in the office meeting with clients, completing paperwork, coordinating case conferences with medical and mental health providers and linking clients with much-needed services. Other days are my field days, in which I conduct home visits with clients, accompany them to medical and mental health appointments and provide advocacy for clients to maintain their benefits and entitlements.

What part of your job do you find most rewarding?
The part of the job I find most rewarding is empowering my clients and helping them achieve independence.

Tell about a memorable work-related experience you’ve had.
I have multiple memorable experiences. One particular one was with a client who was literally at the end. She was not accepting treatment and was resistant to medication. Over the course of two years, I coordinated with her medical and mental health providers in providing education and support  to her. Through our team efforts, she agreed to start a new medication regimen, which in turn increased her independence and understanding of both her illness and the importance of her medication. To this day ,she has regained her strength, is hospitalized less and is now accepting both treatment and care.

How has your work changed the rest of your life? (Do you have a different perspective outside of work? Do you treat people differently)?
Working in this field has helped me to increase my understanding of human behaviors, understand the dynamics behind certain behaviors and increase my patience when faced with challenging situations. This has been an amazing and rewarding experience

What other professions have you always wanted to try?
 I was always interested in nonprofit management and the medical field. My career focus moving forward is to pursue my masters degree in Forensic Mental Health Counseling. I will continue working in the field and in the nonprofit sector. My ultimate goal is to open up my own nonprofit, focusing on mental health/wellness services for high-risk populations ( chronic and mental illness, LGBTQA, domestic violence, etc.).

What is your favorite spot or thing to do in New York City?
I can honestly say my favorite spot is Coney Island. I also love the Brooklyn Promenade, Botanic Garden and strolling along the streets, trying different ethnic foods. I love the diversity that Brooklyn offers.

If an actor/actress were to play you in a movie, who would it be and why?
I would say Loretta Devine, Angela Bassett or Whoopi Goldberg. I think they have strength, character and diversity in their acting ability. I have seen them portray caregiver roles with a level of compassion and understanding that I feel best describes my approach.

What would you like people to know about you that they probably don't already know?
I play percussion in an all-women Afro Brazilian samba reggae band called Batala NYC. The band opened up for the Rolling Stones last year at one of their shows in New Jersey. I also write poetry and perform at open mics in my free time.

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