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For these groups, it’s hip to be ‘Square’ - Grassroots non-profit organizations benefit from handsome awards

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Their dedication to improving their communities has left three non-profit organizations $50,000 richer. The cash prize came along with the Union Square Award that each group received in recognition of their service to the public. “Despite minimal resources, these organizations improve peoples’ lives and make extraordinary contributions to local neighborhoods and to the educational, economic and cultural life of New York City,” said Iris Morales, executive director of the Union Square Awards, which are given out annually. The winners said the honor is validation of their hard work and time spent striving to enrich the quality of life of Brooklynites. “It’s a really wonderful reward and it’s really a great statement about Brooklyn that so many of us received this award this year,” said Ian Marvy, co-founder and executive director of Added Value. His organization works to create responsible youth leaders by employing them to run a farm in Red Hook and a farmer’s market selling the garden’s bounty. The program is run in partnership with the city Parks Department, which owns the land the farm occupies. Marvy has explained that when Added Value was created in 2000, “We were really cognizant of the fact that there were no employment opportunities [in Red Hook]. We thought we would take a look at a program that could support young people and their families, meet a critical need for healthy, safe, and affordable food, and put money in their pockets.” Teens also participate in an after-school program aimed at teaching them about business. Topics studied include entrepreneurial training, globalization, and health and nutrition. To volunteer with or donate to Added Value, contact 718-855-5531 or visit www.added-value.org. Offering their own after-school and summer programs is the Brooklyn Heights-based Sadie Nash Leadership Project. The organization serves teenage girls throughout the city but focuses most of its efforts in its home borough’s low-income neighborhoods. With many participants coming from Fort Greene and central Brooklyn, the organization’s programs work to foster a sense of leadership and community activism in girls. “During the summer, it’s an intensive six-week, five-day-a-week program…[with] academic classes, workshops, role modeling,” explained Cecilia Clarke, Sadie Nash’s founder and executive director. “During the year, we offer more practical leadership classes, such as SAT prep, college counseling, skill building, public speaking – things that are not covered in their schools.” The Union Square grant will allow the organization to implement its intensive summer program in a Brooklyn classroom in the fall. “We’re giving them the skills to see how their own leadership skills can emerge,” Clarke said. “The young women are able to gain analytical skills and critical thinking skills about themselves and the world they live in. It encourages them to make changes in their community. “Young women – particularly low-income young women – have a lot to bring in changing the world,” she continued. “They look at their communities, they see what’s wrong with their communities, they see what needs to be changed.” An extra bonus is that girls – the program is open to ages 14-19 – receive a stipend of about $50 a week for lunch and a free MetroCard if they enroll in the summer program. “For a parent who might say you can’t afford to do this program, she can simply say it’s not costing me anything,” Clarke explained. To donate to the Sadie Nash Leadership Project or download an application for its summer program, visit www.sadienash.org or contact 718-422-8664. Headquartered in Park Slope, the Yemeni American Association was recognized for its educational, social, and cultural programs promoting tolerance. “Through its English-as-a-second-language classes, youth activities, social service referrals, and cultural workshops, YAA provides Yemeni residents with tools necessary for personal, professional, and social advancement,” say Union Square Award reps. The English classes have been very popular with women, especially stay-at-home mothers. The association was created after 9-11 with the goal of uniting Brooklynites of all religions and ethnicities – and preserving Yemeni culture. Children enrolled in the organization’s after-school programs receive homework help as well as the chance to learn Arabic. The organization also sponsored the first official Arab-American Heritage Week last year. Learn about the association’s programs by visiting www.yemeniamericanassociation.org.

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