Non-profit celebrates local do-gooders in Bensonhurst

Do-gooders: Senator Gonardes and the Citizens Committee honored southern Brooklyn charities for their service.
Photo by Rose Adams

A local non-profit organization joined a Bensonhurst lawmaker to celebrate four Brooklyn-based grant recipients at the New Utrecht Library on Tuesday.

“It’s really exciting to see so many grant-winners in my area,” said State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, who co-hosted the celebration. “This is how we build and strengthen community. It’s about ordinary people stepping up to make a difference and organizations like this giving them the tools to make it happen.”

The Citizens Committee for New York City honored the four groups that it awarded grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 to benefit charity work in the area, including Bay Ridge Cares a nonprofit formed by a group of Bay Ridge neighbors in the aftermath of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy to deliver meals to affected residents.

These days, however, the group provides a range of services, such as meal delivery and local building renovations, and a rep for the group said the cash injection from Citizens Committee allows them to provide immediate services to local seniors.

“What’s great about Citizens Committee is they aren’t bureaucratic,” said Johanna Dahler, the corresponding secretary for Bay Ridge Cares, “The government can take a long time to get things done, but Citizens Committee saw our needs with the senior center and jumped in quickly.”

Other recipients include My Friends Place NY, which is using its grant to help residents address mental health challenges through dance and aerobics, Friends of New Utrecht Public Library, which hosts art workshops for LGBTQ teens, and 400 Bay Ridge Parkway Block Association, which is leading renovation projects.

“These groups are a great representation of what’s going on in our community,” said Conor Greene, Director of Communications and Public Affairs for Citizens Committee, “It’s the residents, primarily, who are bringing the community together and addressing the problems in their neighborhoods, we just provide a small grant and ongoing project support to help them out.”

On top of awarding 529 grants just in the past year, Citizens Committee offers workshops teaching grass-roots organizations how to fundraise, start block associations, work with elected officials, and achieve a nonprofit tax status. Senator Gounardes, who previously worked for Citizens Committee, recently put $500,000 into the state budget to support their work.

“They’re doing a whole host of things to help support community groups who have nothing,” said Gounardes. “The leaders of these groups are ordinary folks with full-time jobs and busy lives who just need a little guidance and expertise to make a difference. That’s where Citizens Committee steps in.”

Citizens Committee is accepting applications for their 2020 grants on a rolling basis now through January. They hope to award 600 grants next year.

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