Tune In to BronxWorks SNAP-Ed Live on Facebook & YouTube Wednesday, March 15 from 12-12:30pm

#WellnessWednesday March is #NationalNutritionMonth! BronxWorks SNAP-Ed will host a Facebook and YouTube Live next Wednesday, March 15, at 12pm on the SNAP-Ed NY page. Join Carolina Espinosa and Jairy Padro for a live nutrition class next week on Saving Money while Eating Healthy!

Facebook live on @SNAPEdNY

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The BronxWorks February 2023 Newsletter

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BronxWorks Joined by Volunteers for the 2023 New York City HOPE Count

Every year, the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) takes place at the end of January to estimate the number of unsheltered individuals in New York City. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, HOPE 2023 invited volunteers to once again help canvass areas across the city for individuals who are experiencing street homelessness.

Prior to the pandemic, HOPE volunteers were essential to completing the surveying of area maps throughout each of boroughs during the night of the count. To protect volunteers and limit the spread of COVID-19, the past two previous HOPE Counts were coordinated exclusively by borough homeless outreach providers. In our case, BronxWorks Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) was solely responsible for surveying all the area maps for the Bronx during those HOPE Counts, conducting the counts over three nights in 2022 and two nights 2021 to accommodate for the reduced number of counters.

Planning for this year’s HOPE Count started in October 2022. BronxWorks and other homeless service providers across the city met with the New York City Department of Social Services Office of Research and Policy Innovation to coordinate the city-wide survey. For the first time, the 2023 HOPE Count utilized a hybrid model of both traditional volunteers and homeless outreach teams. In previous HOPE Counts before the pandemic, the Bronx had five sites hosting HOPE volunteers while BronxWorks Homeless Outreach Team helped support the volunteer operations. This year, the City re-opened two volunteer sites in the Bronx at Hostos Community College and Lehman College. Volunteers from these two sites covered surveys for many of the area maps in the South and Northwest Bronx, while BronxWorks Homeless Outreach Team and staff volunteers covered surveys for the remaining 130 area maps throughout the Bronx.

Juan Rivera, Assistant Department Director of Adult Homeless Services, helped oversee the operation in the Bronx. He was joined by Homeless Outreach Team members, including Issa Asiedo, Homeless Outreach Team Outreach Coordinator, and Allyce Morrissey, Homeless Outreach Team Assistant Program Director. As always, staff from different BronxWorks departments and programs volunteered to join members of the Homeless Outreach Team. A total of 46 BronxWorks staff formed 22 teams utilizing 15 agency vehicles to canvas the 130 Bronx area maps. With the hybrid model of volunteers and homeless outreach teams, this year’s HOPE Count was once again completed in one night, from 11pm until 3am, allowing our teams to capture a more accurate representation of the homeless population on the street at a given time.

Juan is a veteran of the HOPE Count since 2008. Issa has gone on over 15 HOPE Counts, and Allyce is already on her third. Many other BronxWorks volunteers have notched multiple HOPE Counts in their careers, but others, like Aaron Cipollina, our Digital and Content Manager, joined for the first time. We spoke with the four of them to explain why the HOPE Count is so important.

Juan: The goal is to hopefully capture the work we are doing. We plan for the HOPE Count to be on one of the coldest nights of the year so we can get a sense of who is out on the street and who is not. It’s also important from the public perspective for the community to get involved and volunteer. It gives people one night of understanding what people are going through on the street.

Issa: I always look at it as a reflection of the work we are doing and the resources that we have over the years. It’s important for us to go out and see for ourselves how the situation has changed compared to previous years and to personally reflect on this work.

Allyce: The results of the HOPE Count help the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to allocate funding to services, so it is important for us to be as thorough and accurate as possible. It’s also important for the conversations we have between volunteers and people on the street, conversations that help us see why some people don’t want to go into shelters.

Aaron: I wanted to capture images of the people who are working and volunteering on that night. It’s a part that a lot of people don’t get to see, that Homeless Outreach really is working at all hours. And for me, working in Development and not in direct services, it was a rewarding experience to join people like Issa who have been doing this for so long and getting their perspective.

Now with the HOPE Count complete, the raw data from the night will be used to extrapolate official results that are expected later in April or May.

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Marina Weiss

In much the same way that the people who come to work for BronxWorks select for themselves the higher needs of purpose and mission, young people choose to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). Jesuit Volunteers commit a year to provide services and live in local communities, followed often by a lifetime dedicated to building a more just and equitable world. For many years, BronxWorks has shared a partnership with JVC that has brought some of the most dedicated, long-standing, and mission-driven staff members to the benefit of our programs and participants.

Like her predecessors, Marina Weiss started at BronxWorks as a JV, and like many of them, her year in the Corps was just the beginning. Marina grew up in California, moving to Washington DC to attend Georgetown University as an undergrad. She majored in Global Health and Urban Studies and graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in 2018. Right out of college, Marina joined JVC who sponsored her employment at BronxWorks as well as her move to New York City. During her first year, she lived in the JVC house in Harlem with eight other volunteers.

At BronxWorks, she got her start as a Program Specialist with the Community Health Programs, where she helped organize programming, like Teen Battle Chef, community gardens, food justice classes with our Cornerstone participants, and of course, the yearly farm stands. In 2019, after completing her year as a Jesuit Volunteer, Marina stayed at BronxWorks to join the newly-opened Cooper Gardens Supportive Housing Program as a Case Manager. At Cooper Gardens, Marina helped individuals and families move from the shelter system into permanent housing and provided them with the resources and support they may need to remain stably-housed. In 2021, Marina would take her experience from Cooper Gardens to another brand new supportive housing program as one of the first three staff members at Park Haven.

Apartment viewings are one of my favorite parts of the job – being there for people’s first viewing, seeing how they can envision a future for themselves and their families in their permanent home.”

Now, Marina is the Program Coordinator at Park Haven. While no longer a Case Manager, Marina continues to carry a caseload of 4 adults and 2 families. She focuses more on administrative and programmatic functions, like collecting data and reporting on impact to funders; organizing onsite activities and events, holidays and celebrations, knitting, group work, peer led meetings; running the medication monitoring program, training staff in medication monitoring; collaborating with a team of 7 staff to support over 50 adults and families with children. It goes on.

I love that the job is building a community with people. The people we work with have all experienced homelessness – that is the only thing they share in common – but in every other way, they come from different backgrounds. I learn a lot from my coworkers, but also from the clients. We all learn a lot from each other.”

For the second time in New York City, Marina has volunteered for the HOPE Count, on top of volunteering three times for the HOPE Count in Washington DC. She thinks it is important that the data from the HOPE Count help us best determine what resources are needed to support the people living on the street. Also this year, Marina will be riding for a second time in support of BronxWorks in the TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour in May. She is also in her fourth semester toward her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University. Outside of work, Marina is learning to knit. She spends a lot of time with friends and her cats, Zora and Neale. And she bikes everywhere, including to and from work, and on the weekends for exercise.

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Ailsha Sepulveda

BronxWorks Community Health Programs are leading some interesting new initiatives, and Ailsha Sepulveda, Program Coordinator for CHP, is at the heart of many of them. From infant mortality reduction, to Teen Battle Chef, to intergenerational programming, participatory budgeting, leading focus groups, and more, Ailsha supports many of the ways BronxWorks is working to
improve health outcomes in our communities.

The most important thing is to create a safe environment through our very first interactions and let our participants share their stories.”

Ailsha was born and raised in the Bronx. She attended the Bronx Dance Academy for middle school and the Bronx Theater High School. Ailsha earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology with a minor in Anthropology from John Jay College. She also earned her Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, with a dual specialization in crime and deviance and policing administration, from John Jay.

Ailsha joined BronxWorks in 2018 as a Case Manager in an eviction prevention program, and in 2019 she joined the Community Health Programs. As the Program Coordinator for CHP, Ailsha has her hand in almost everything the team is doing. As a part of the Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative, Ailsha helps to create and facilitate the curriculum of infant and maternal health workshops. She also leads our Intergenerational Programming that brings together our youth participants and seniors from our older adult centers for shared learning and activities. She helps organize Teen Battle Chef for students in our afterschool and summer programs to learn culinary skills, how to utilize the food in their pantry, explore different cuisines, create healthier recipes, and compete in cooking competitions against their peers.

This year, as BronxWorks opened new programming on Saturdays at our Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center, Ailsha was integral in facilitating early focus groups to determine the most needed resources and curriculum. Additionally, this year BronxWorks became a borough partner in the first ever city-wide Participatory Budgeting process. Ailsha has been our community lead and point of contact through the first two phases of the process, responsible for community outreach and engagement, facilitating conversations and idea generation, and working with other partners to vet and develop ideas, and eventually place them onto a public ballot for New York City residents to decide on how to utilize public funding.

Whenever I am speaking with members of our community, I always keep in mind that we are all unique in our own way, and that comes through in how people present themselves and in how we communicate.”

In her work with the community, Ailsha draws heavily on her psychology coursework from her undergraduate and Master’s degrees. She uses techniques that help her better engage with members of the community and effectively convey valuable information to participants of all ages.

Outside of work, Ailsha enjoys going to the gym and hanging out with family. She is a life-long dancer. She hopes to do more traveling and creating new memories.

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Saturday Programming at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center

In our first year of the program, we are offering four twelve-week cycles, one cycle per season. The first cycle kicked-off in the Fall of 2022. The second cycle will run through the Winter, ending in February 2023, followed by a Spring cycle and a Summer cycle this year. Participants can enroll at the start of each cycle and continue through as many cycles as they wish or need.

Focus Groups

As a part of our preparation to open the Saturday Programming, BronxWorks engaged members of our communities in a series of focus groups to help determine the most requested needs from prospective participants. Throughout the Fall, BronxWorks Community Health Staff implemented five focus groups engaging adults with children. Questions were asked in both English and Spanish and focused on the groups’ immediate needs as well as their self-care habits and their goals. Based on the results from these focus groups, we confirmed the key areas for the Saturday curriculum to be Adult Education, GED preparation and support, ESOL, employment assistance, maternal self-care and infant health, and childcare services.

Adult Education

Adult Education classes are provided by our Workforce Development Department, which has a long history of helping adult learners achieve the necessary literacy skills to attain their GED. Adult Education Instructors teach reading and writing, mathematics, social studies, and science to each cohort. Students engage with the coursework and in discussions with one another during classes. The program also teaches effective strategies for mastering an academic curriculum that will prepare participants to earn their GED. Classes are offered between 9:30am until 1:00pm during each Saturday session, with additional tutoring and professional development workshops offered from 1:30pm to 2:30pm. During these optional workshops, participants can learn skills such as preparing a resume or cover letter to help them seek employment or apply for additional education opportunities.

Maternal Self-care and Infant Health

Expanding on the BronxWorks Maternal and Infant Health Program, Saturday Maternal Self-Care and Infant Health curriculum includes Nutrition 101, MyPlate: Basic Dietary Guidelines, diabetes education, cooking classes, recreational activities, as well as positive body image, stress management, safe sleep, and breastfeeding workshops. The goal of the overall program is to increase health equity and education for women and mothers to improve birth outcomes in the Bronx, and the expansion to Saturday encourages working mothers to participate with these important topics and resources.

“Our hope is that through a combination of nutrition education, wellness, relaxation, and self-care activities, mothers will be empowered to prioritize their own health, increase their confidence, decrease their stress, and model healthy behaviors for their families.” – Rachel Gill, Program Director, Community Health Programs.

Childcare Services

The final key component of the Saturday Programming is the availability of on-site childcare services. BronxWorks Childcare Associates are available to work with children from 6 months of age up to 12 years. Our childcare services go beyond simply entertaining the children, incorporating age-appropriate activities and mirroring some lessons offered to mothers through the Maternal Self-Care services. The children are split into three groups according to their age. Activities such as yoga, nutrition education, and stress management education will be offered in an accessible manner for the targeted age groups, allowing parents and children to bond over similar activities and increases the likelihood that self-care activities become a part of these families’ daily routines.

“We wanted to reach participants who would benefit from a highly-curated weekend curriculum. We wanted to reach adult learners, parents, and mothers with young children,” says Eileen Torres, Executive Director of BronxWorks. “The provision of childcare during our Saturday sessions is essential to remove a common barrier to self-improvement for many parents, and allows our participants to thrive within this learning environment.”

Participants and staff alike have been enjoying the new Saturday Programming. As we approach the end of the second cycle, we continue to receive feedback from participants on how we can expand the weekend services to include even more recreational activities, guest speakers, and more.

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The BronxWorks January 2023 Newsletter

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A Look Back on 50 Years of BronxWorks

On December 7, we kicked-off our celebration of our 50th year of providing services to the Bronx. Friends, staff (current and former), board members, partners, and colleagues gathered at the Hard Rock Cafe at Yankee Stadium to commemorate the half-century of our work.

Board Chair, Roger Begelman (left); Deputy Bronx Borough President, Janet Peguero (center); Executive Director, Eileen Torres (right)

We were joined by New York State Senator Luis Sepulveda, New York City Council Member Althea Stevens, and Deputy Bronx Borough President Janet Peguero who, on behalf of the Office of the Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, herself a long-time champion and partner of BronxWorks, proclaimed the day of December 7, 2022 memorialized as BronxWorks Day.

It was actually December 10, 1972 that would mark the beginning of BronxWorks, as taken from a picture of our grand opening. Founded under the name the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), our first office opened to help senior citizens resolve housing matters and access benefits and resources.

Additional offices opened in the 1980s, as CAB became one of the first Bronx based organizations to provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS. An immigration program was created to provide assistance with legal residence and citizenship applications to the borough’s growing immigrant population.

Former Executive Director, Carolyn McLaughlin (left) speaking to Director of Development, Ken Small (right).

The 1990s saw crucial expansion as CAB responded to the growing needs of the borough, opening two family shelters at Nelson Avenue and Jackson Avenue, a borough-wide Homeless Outreach Team and a homeless drop-in center. We also established workforce programs, three senior centers, and importantly, merged with the Girls Club of New York and acquired the community center at 1130 Grand Concourse.

The lobby of the Community Center at 1130 Grand Concourse acquired by CAB in 1995.

A young BronxWorks participant in the 1990s.

In the 2000s, you can start to see the modern BronxWorks take shape. The organization evolved as the needs of the Bronx grew. We expanded homeless services, including safe havens and shelters. We expanded education and youth development programs, including early learning centers, school-based after-school programs, and college readiness. In 2009, we changed our name to officially become BronxWorks.

From 2010 and onward, you see the exact same pattern of growth where the need is strongest. We added Cornerstone Community Centers #2, #3, and #4, attended by a combined 3,500 participants a year. We launched iconic programs, like Jobs Plus, Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP); Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP); Homebase; community health programs; SNAP Nutrition Education; the Community Food Pantry; CMCC and Mott Haven Farm Stands; the Brook Supportive Housing Residence; Cooper Gardens Supportive Housing Program;
Jerome Avenue Men’s Shelter; Pyramid Safe Haven; and so much more. We added dozens more offices, hundreds more staff, and grew to completely embody our name.

As we complete the third year of the 2020s, what we have seen is thatduring difficult times in the Bronx, BronxWorks always takes action. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, through economic hardship, through unimaginable tragedies, BronxWorks has stepped up to provide the assistance that is needed. Looking ahead to the next 50 years, it’s hard to believe we won’t be right here doing the exact same thing. To commemorate our 50th anniversary, we have a year of celebration planned.

“What makes BronxWorks so special is how aligned we have alwaysbeen to the very heartbeat of the Bronx.”
– Eileen Torres, Executive Director

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The BronxWorks November/December 2022 Newsletter

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The BronxWorks October 2022 Newsletter

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