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The kick-off of an initiative to potentially pour millions of dollars into community groups in Long Island City and Astoria brought close to 1,000 residents and more than 35 area nonprofits to the Queens Library in Long Island City Saturday.
As local dancers brought a flurry of color to the stage set up outside the library and residents munched on free burgers and hot dogs, the Thomas & Jeanne Elmezzi Foundation officially launched Project 1-2-6, a community development effort that aims to support groups working with youth and families in the 11101, 11102 and 11106 ZIP codes in Long Island City and Astoria.
Established by the two former Long Island City and Astoria residents, the private foundation provides financial support to education, youth development and community development.
Thomas Elmezzi spent his career at Pepsi, where he started as a chemist who reformulated Pepsi and became the company’s president.
“We wanted to hold this event today so we could start building relationships with the people in the community,” said Angela Ongoco, who heads up Project 1-2-6. “We want to invest in these communities, and in order to find out how to make that investment we’re asking the community about issues that impact them, because they’re the ones who live here and they know best.”
Ongoco said Project 1-2-6 officials will discuss community priorities with volunteer networks, neighborhood associations and other residents and area leaders. Following these initial discussions, a steering committee made up of community leaders will be created to make funding recommendations to the foundation. Eventually, millions of dollars could be invested into Long Island City and Astoria.
Allen Freed, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, said he hopes their funding will not only create long-lasting change in western Queens, but he wants Project 1-2-6 to be a model for other nonprofits.
“We’re finding out what the community needs, and we hope others can do the same thing,” Freed said as he handed out hamburgers and hot dogs to a long line of people waiting under one of the summer’s first sunny skies.
A wide variety of nonprofits came out to support the initiative’s launch, including the Reconstruction of a Village Inc., a group founded two years ago by city police officers who hope to curb violence through youth programming for Queens residents.
“We’re trying to get a facility in the Astoria Houses, and we’re working with Angela [Ongoco] to get funding to start up a youth program there,” said Sonya Glover, the nonprofit’s executive director.
Long Island City residents Mika Robinson and Christine Middleton said they hope Project 1-2-6 will funnel money into efforts to help children, such as education or sports programs.
“Today is very nice,” Robinson said. “It gives a lot of information to the community.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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