On Saturday, parents, alumni and current members of Harlem’s Our Children’s Foundation (OCF) rallied to save their after-school program, which is under treat of being defunded. More that 150 supporters attended the rally at the foundation’s, 125th street Harlem location.
“I don’t know what I would do because I am use to being here, it’s a part me, it’s a second home to me,” said Malcolm Hines, a 16-year-old dance student of the foundation.
The rally began with performances by the current students but quickly took a more serious turn as member after member expressed their sadness at the potential loss of the local institution.
“We have to make sure this place is here for the next generation,” said Jose Medina, an NYPD officer whose six siblings and two sons all attended the foundation throughout the years.
Earlier this year, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), pulled funding from the 47-year-old foundation after giving it a bad ‘Effectiveness’ report for on their annual audit.
Samuel Brown, the founder of OCF, believes this is an error and would like OASAS to reconsider their decision given the consistent work the foundation has done for the community’s children over the years.
Alumni and supporters of the foundation, such as Senator Bill Perkins, stand by the work of the after-school program, which hosts language, computer and personal finance classes for children as young as 6 years old.
“They are in crisis in terms of losing their opportunity to continue serving the young people in this community. They’ve had an extraordinary track record over the years and they are a foundation, not just a children’s foundation but a community foundation that has been present and effective,” Senator Perkins said in an interview after the rally. “They need support and we are going to see what we can do to turn this around.”
Perkins noted that he has nieces and nephews who attended the institution. In 2007, the senator and his wife also invited Michelle Obama to visit the foundation. A picture of her with the group still hangs in the lobby.
Despite a laundry list of local politicians being invited, Senator Perkins was the only one to attend.
As the rally continued, it became more emotional as people shared their thoughts and opinions about the issue.
“We are not going to close. We are here for love,” alumni Joanna Gonzalez said before going on to speak to the audience in Spanish.
The founder, Samuel Brown’s eyes remained swollen with tears throughout the evening as supporters vowed to continue fighting for what they call their second home.