Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) said Friday he directed $25,000 from his member items funds for the Ready, Willing and Able program to provide street sanitation services on 37th Avenue and 37th Road from 73rd to 77th streets and on 73rd and 74th streets from Roosevelt Avenue to 37th Avenue.The Doe Fund, through its Ready, Willing and Able program, trains and employs formerly homeless and formerly incarcerated men and some women to clean sidewalks in New York City, Jersey City and Philadelphia, Pa. in preparation for a transition into another job.Peralta stood with community leaders and the founder of the program on 77th Street near 37th Avenue and said cutbacks to the city Department of Sanitation in recent years made the program a necessity."There was a need," he said. But he added that he extended the program with the hope local businesses would financially support the service."There was one condition," he said. "Maybe, just maybe merchants will pony up and get involved in the Doe Fund."Peralta said that Council members Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) and Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona) were also supporting the Doe Fund programs in the area.George McDonald, the founder and president of the organization, said the lasting power of the program was not cleaner streets but reformed lives."The byproduct of what we do is clean the streets," he said. "What we really do is help people get jobs."He said the program pays people who are struggling in their lives, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, for nine to 12 months. The workers are paid about $7 per hour, he said, and forced to save a minimum of $1,000, which at the end of the program is matched dollar for dollar."So much of what we are about happens at the end of the program," he said.The Jackson Heights Merchants Association supported the Doe Fund extension, but a representative was not familiar with Peralta's suggestion that merchants support the program financially.Syed Rehman, the president of the Jackson Heights Bangladeshi Business Association, did not attend Peralta's announcement but supported the extension. "I saw them cleaning today," he said Monday. "They are very good for this area." He added that his group was open to the idea of paying for part of the service. "We can do that," he said.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@times
©2006 Community News Group
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