Last year, hundreds of us from across Graham Windham — Staff, the Bengals (our inspiring youth leaders), Foster Parents and our Board — met at Richman (Echo) Park in the Mt. Hope neighborhood in the Bronx, a couple of blocks from our neighborhood office. Others fanned out in Brooklyn and Harlem to recruit strong foster parents.
At Echo Park — an architecturally beautiful but rundown and unkempt park — we weeded, picked up garbage, glass, and needles, and then planted and painted. We gave out beautiful new books (donated by Macmillan and Random House), made bookmarks with children, and shared our story with prospective foster parents. Our young people — on their day off from school, decked out in their well-earned Bengals gear and giving of themselves through service — attracted other teens who wanted to be part of their positive group. Some of our neighbors joined in, adding to the positive force and to our joy.
Our job in child welfare is to make things better in families’ homes, one might say. What is the point of taking precious time out of our extremely busy jobs to spruce up a park? Simply, the communities we serve in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem are too often neglected. We also know that they are full of strength and possibility. Echo Park is a micro-example. It is gorgeous underneath, built stunningly around a large rock mass, but it is covered with years of neglect.
To be true to our mission of helping build the foundation of success in life with our children, we can not ignore where our children play and learn about the world. We can’t just let that part be, and we certainly can never leave them with the sense that they don’t have the power to do something about it. They do and they showed it in full color today.
We left that afternoon with a sense of a job well done…and with lots left to do. The shiny new paint showed the dullness of what we didn’t get to yet. The beautiful new plants and well-weeded and mulched areas left the uncut lawn sticking out like a sore thumb. We at Graham Windham know this feeling well. It is the way we see the world. Every day, we come together to make Graham Windham better and better in our work with children and families…and know we’ll still wake up to a full plate the next day.
We know we can only do this work well together, challenging each other to make our ideas, plans and work better and supporting each other as a team. We also know we can’t do it alone. We need new partners, like our neighbor — a teacher — who came down with her children to pick up a paint brush. And, we must go out together to find them. After our Day of Service, we returned to our usual job routines and the important work we do each day. As we did, we committed to keep coming out together, knowing that contributing to the improvement of the communities we serve and teaching our young people about the power they have to change their world is at the core of any serious effort to ensure children in our City are well.
Thanks to all who organized, all who came, and all who held down the fort.
President & CEO