“A Little Piece of Paradise in the Shadow of BQE”

On July 15, Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) Commissioner Jeanne B. Mullgrav and NYC Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford visited Center for Family Life’s 64th Street Community Garden project to mark the launch of the third annual Summer of Service Initiative. The project, led by the Center’s PS 503/PS 506 Neighborhood Center Director John KixMiller, engages youth and adults inSunsetPark to renovate and maintain the garden, including beautifying the area, fixing gardening beds, and planting, tending to and harvesting crops. The project also hosts a series of events, including the “Fresh Food Festival” in August, to raiseSunsetPark residents’ awareness of this green space and the importance of healthy nutrition.   Continue reading


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Celebrating Community 2011

Join Us at Center for Family Life’s  Celebrating Community 2011 Event on May 26!

At this year’s fundraiser, we’ll be honoring:

Adepero Oduye, Life Lines alumna and one of the breakout stars in this year’s Sundance Festival. She earned a standing ovation and rave reviews for her role as 17-year old Alike in the coming-of-age drama Pariah. A daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Adepero was born and raised in Sunset Park. She first fell in love with theater as a participant in the Life Lines program at Center for Family Life.


Martin & Gaudencia Rodriguez, owners of MimoMex Farms, part of the Sunset Park Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. MimoMex Farm cultivates over 80 different types and varieties of vegetables, including crops that are standard fare in Mexico but are uncommon in North American grocery stores. Their quality and selection of vegetables has earned the family  much acclaim at the Sunset Park CSA and New York City farmers’ markets.

Date: Thursday, May 26, 2011

Location: Why-Q – 75 Greene Street, 5th Floor, New York City

If you’d like to attend or to support the Center’s work, please print, fill out and return the following form to us: Reply Form.

For more information, please contact Bela Rex-Kiss at 718-788-3500 or brexkiss@cflsp.org

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Sundance Star at Home in Sunset Park

Photo: NY Daily News

One of the breakout stars in this year’s Sundance Festival, Adepero Oduye earned a standing ovation for her role as 17-year old Alike in the coming-of-age drama Pariah. Adepero is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who was born and raised in Sunset Park.

Adepero first fell in love with theater as a participant in the Life Lines program at Center for Family Life. She went on to pursue a medical career, but her passion for acting was rekindled in her senior year at Cornell. Her part in Pariah and the rave reviews she received suggest that she’s on the path to stardom.

From the NY Daily News:

“It’s like a role I was born to play,” said Oduye, an Edward R. Murrow High School graduate who got her start doing improvisational theater in schools and community centers through Sunset Park’s Center for Family Life.

“[Alike’s] an outsider and doesn’t belong. I immediately related to that. Part of that is being Nigerian. Part of that is being poor,” said Oduye, who said she remembers being teased for not having the right clothes. “If you don’t fit in, kids will let you know.”

Center for Family Life Director Julie Stein Brockway said she remembers Oduye, who worked as a youth counselor at the center, as someone who was emotionally reserved, but had real empathy for others.

“She had a smile that would light up a room – but it wasn’t easy to get that smile.”

After college, Oduye took a job at the Center for Family Life, but quit to pursue her acting fulltime. “I was telling the kids to pursue your dreams and not be afraid, and I had to listen to my own advice,” said Odyuye.

“[Doing the movie] solidified in my mind what my purpose is in life,” said Oduye, “and it’s to act.”

You can read an interview with Adepero with Indiewire here. The Center is extremely proud of Adepero and excited to honor her at our annual Center for Family Life fundraiser in May 2011.

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Symposium: “Changing the Frame – Rethinking Child Welfare in a Community Development Context”

Each year, Center for Family Life organizes a symposium, dedicated to one of our founders, Sister Mary Geraldine, that brings together experts and practitioners for a discussion of a topic relevant to the work of the Center. This year’s symposium, which took place on February 7, focused on child welfare in a community development context.

Jennifer March-Joly, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children, gave the keynote address, and Belinda Conway, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, provided commentary. Three workshops followed the opening presentations, discussing promising practices in:

  • Child welfare and community development, led by Paul Di Lorenzo, Senior Director of Casey Family Programs.
  • Child welfare and public education, led by Julie Stein Brockway, Co-Director of Center for Family Life, and Carrie Stewart, Family Counseling Supervisor at Center for Family Life.
  • Child welfare and workforce development, moderated by Gary Carter, Executive Director of Little Sisters of the Assumption, with Vanessa Bransburg, Cooperative Coordinator at Center for Family Life, and Priti P. Kataria, ACT Director at Lawyers for Children.

Thank you to everyone who came to the Symposium, and especially those who provided the informative and inspiring presentations.  Ms. March-Joly’s presentation was the highlight of the event: she offered a cogent and thoughtful analysis of the relationship between childhood wellness, broadly defined, in communities and community-level participation in child welfare services. You can view an outline, including lots of interesting and eye-opening data, by clicking here (pdf).

For an interesting discussion of economic, social and racial factors in child welfare, we recommend this excellent article about a recent conference of leading child welfare professionals at Harvard University.

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Our Presentation in Connecticut

by Vanessa Bransburg, Cooperative Coordinator at Center for Family Life

A few months ago we were invited to visit Wililmantic, Connecticut to discuss the story of our cooperative development project. This is a short video from that day:

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Another great lesson from one hot tamale!

by Julia Jean-Francois


Margarita, Mexican super chef


In my last cooking adventure with Margarita, she drew me into her web of Mexican delicacies with her savory, tart and green tasting Pipian Verde and spicy, red Caldo de Camaron . As she was packing up her kitchen tools and dusting off her apron she casually threw out a line that was aimed to reel me in for another culinary quest. “Have you ever made tamales?” she asked me, knowing full well that I had never done any such thing but would surely like to. “No, never!” I responded, “let’s try them!” And so we were off to the proverbial cooking races setting a date for our Tamal de Frijole fiesta.

Tamales are simple to make and look cute as a pack of buttons sitting upright in their steaming pot transforming in their stovetop sauna into hearty, stick to your ribs mouthfuls that happily take the place of simple tortillas or an uninspiring hunk of bread as a fortifying anchor for a plate of saucy pork or chicken. The tricky part, though it’s a pretty low level of trickiness, is to roll up the dough like a jelly roll without having the whole business fall apart. Luckily, my childhood experiences of wrestling with that dough that pops out of a can when you smack it on the edge of a counter, spreading it with cinnamon sugar and making my own version of cinnamon rolls, served me well as I successfully coaxed the springy dough off of the countertop and into a tidy log.

The second trick in the recipe is how to tell when the tamales are done. When fully cooked, the dough, which starts off a lot like a moist glob of play-doh that has just been taken out of its plastic bottle, should be almost crumbly and should have no springy, plastic quality to it. Margarita sent the tamales into cutie-cute orbit when she twisted one end of the corn husk wraps and poked them into the base of the tamal forming a little pig tail. It was all I could do not to pinch their little corn husk cheeks! Tamales are very versatile and can be filled with beans- as in this recipe- or with pork, cheese and green sauce, or any combination of ingredients that complement their corny base-flavors.

Thanks Margarita for another job well done! You have proven once again that you are one hot tamale in the kitchen!

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Vote for Sunset Park’s Do-Gooder!

Julie Brockway, Co-Director of Center for Family Life, has been nominated for the Brooklyn Community Foundation‘s Do Gooder Awards. The awards celebrate the altruism, philanthropy and commitment of individuals who are helping to make Brooklyn communities stronger.

Please help Julie win! You can vote for her online here. Voting ends on Friday, October 15, 2010.

Five of the nominees will be selected to receive the Brooklyn Do Gooder Award. The Brooklyn Community Foundation will donate $5,000 on behalf of each winner to a recognized charitable organization in Brooklyn of his or her choice. Winners will be honored at the 2010 Brooklyn Does Good celebration on November 3, 2010.

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