Kandake House holds benefit concert with Nona Hendryx

LINDA ARMSTRONG Special to the AmNews | 5/25/2011, 5:50 p.m.
Greenhope Services for Women is opening their Kandake House today at 435 E. 119th St....
Kandake House holds benefit concert with Nona Hendryx

We have a nutritionist on site as well. Some of our clients suffer from HIV, hepatitis C or diabetes; we teach women how to eat for the various diseases they have. We also offer acupuncture and pilates. We are just broadening their horizons so they know what's out there. The women go to plays and they journal about it. There's a sacred space on the rooftop where the women can have alone time. Kandake House is specially designed to inspire its residents.

Kandake is a "green" building, designed by Anthony K. Shitemi of Urban Architectural Initiatives of New York City and built by Galaxy Construction. The eight-story structure includes program and administrative offices, a medical center and pharmacy, rooms for group counseling sessions, a learning center, nursery and child development center, a classroom kitchen, a professional kitchen and cafeteria, a greenhouse, a playground and two roof decks for planting.

The facade of Kandake House is a rich weave of metal, brick and stucco based on the colors and patterns of the African textile Kente cloth. In contrast to most such facilities, its bright colors boldly announce the presence and pride of the residents to the neighborhood. Elements of form, texture, color, light, artwork and inspirational spaces, from skylights and terraces to a children's playground, all work together to foster a fresh space in which to consider, and claim, a new life.

AmNews: How can people from the community find out about and apply for help from Greenhope Services for Women?

AE: They can go to Greenhope.org, where there is an online application. Or a woman from the community can just come to the admission office.

AmNews: You will offer an amazingly diverse selection of classes-yoga, gardening, cooking, art, African dance, technology, pre-GED, GED, Degree for Me, tutoring, book clubs. Who will teach these?

AE: Dr. Peggy Robinson, doctor of Chinese medicine-she does massage therapy and acupuncture. She has licensed people come in for pilates and tai chi, licensed family therapists for substance abuse and family therapy.

AmNews: When people graduate from your facilities, are they mainstreamed back into the workforce?

AE: We get jobs and housing for them. We have a phenomenal alumni association. They come back two times a month to give back to the women who are in the program. When our current clients hear graduates talk, there's nothing to describe what it does for the other. They are getting their lives together.

The alumni association just got their first grant, for $20,000, from the Presbyterian Church. They pay a stipend to each alumnus who escorts a woman to a critical appointment, like going to criminal and family court. At court we try to make sure that they don't lose custody of their children.

Tonight at 6 p.m., join Greenhope Services for Women at Kandake House for a special fundraising benefit concert entitled "Women Who Fly," with a performance by Nona Hendryx. It promises to be an evening of music and festivities with some celebrities expected.

Greenhope Services for Women was established in 1975 in East Harlem as a comprehensive treatment program serving formerly incarcerated women and women from the community seeking substance abuse treatment. The mission of Greenhope is to empower women involved in substance abuse and the criminal justice system to reclaim their lives, reunite with their families and rebuild their communities.

Traditional services include residential and day treatment, outpatient services, drug and alcohol counseling, family and criminal court advocacy, case management/benefits assistance, permanent and transitional housing, vocational and educational programs, domestic violence education and prevention, family therapy and reunification, aftercare programs, on-site medical assistance, HIV prevention and education services, nutritional health and 12-step programs.

Greenhope sees outstanding results. It maintains a 75 percent completion rate among parolees and a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent, significantly lower than the 50 percent rate typical of this population without reentry services. This year, Greenhope achieved a 65 percent job placement rate for its clients.