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Ideas Welcome for Local Family Enrichment Center

Rockaway and Broad Channel residents—if you had the opportunity to design a family center—what would it physically look like? What programs would it offer? Where would it be located? With Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) being recently selected to run the ACS-sponsored Family Enrichment Center (FEC) for residents across the peninsula and Broad Channel, not only are you invited to join the design and advisory process, but even to give the center its own unique name.

In March of this year, OBCDC was amongst nine city-wide awardees selected to run NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Family Enrichment Center (FEC) expansion sites. Launched in 2017, FECs are warm, home-like walk-in centers that are co-designed with local families and community members. These centers are purposed so families and children can connect with neighbors, volunteer their time, and access support and resources they feel are needed for their communities to thrive. By providing families and children the resources they need, ACS aims to ultimately reduce the risks of involvement with the child protection system. Last year, ACS announced that it would be expanding the FECs from three sites to 30 sites over the next three years. The new centers are located in the hard-hit neighborhoods identified by the city’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity (TRIE) based on their equity burdens and the impact of COVID-19. Since then, ACS has been seeking local community-based providers with deep ties to their communities, to run the new sites.

With a completely blank canvas for the community to fill, newly appointed Ocean Bay-FEC Director Curtis Turney-Rentas is excited to bring locals across the peninsula and Broad Channel on board to join the design and advisory process, and even to brainstorm the center’s name.

“Because the center is community led, the community’s input is needed. They will choose the name of the center, where they want it to be located, how it looks both inside and outside, what offerings and programs they feel the community needs, as well as other resources and events. We want the FEC to meet the community’s needs, so including the community in the planning and design process is a huge step in making a truly cohesive center,” Turney-Rentas said.

Turney-Rentas is no stranger to community organizing as through the nonprofit community organization he founded, Far Rock Greek Council, he and his members have organized several philanthropic community clean-up events, cancer and domestic violence awareness walks, back-to-school drives, Operation Feast Thanksgiving and more. Before joining OBCDC-FEC as director, Turney-Rentas was program associate at the Rockaway Development Revitalization Corporation.

“I‘m excited about the FEC coming to Rockaway because the community really needs somewhere that they can call, ‘home,’ a safe space. And what’s great about the FEC is that it’s for all ages—toddlers, youth, adults and seniors—everyone. Anyone can come through the center’s doors to attend different program offerings, receive resources, or even to just sit down, relax, have a cup of coffee or watch TV. It’s developed to be like a home-like center for the community to share,” he said.

According to OBCDC Executive Director Ebony Beaty, the FEC is an opportunity for residents to pinpoint what they need and the center in turn, will better tailor service offerings to meet those needs.

“Basically, with the FEC, this is basically an overflow of services that OBCDC was already implementing, but just didn’t have a contract for it. So, now we’re able to create a whole additional arm specifically geared to what residents’ request. For example, residents can come in and say they need housing, and now through the FEC we can provide financial workshops to educate about credit, banking, etc. The FEC tailors all its offerings to what the community states it needs.

Founded by local leaders in 1999, Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) functioned as an information and referral organization for NYCHA residents. In 2004, through partnerships with social service agencies, the organization broadened as a direct service provider organization, developing resources to revitalize and transform the community—including work with seniors and youth.

For ACS, the FEC serves as a preventive arm in that the FEC lowers the risk of families getting into situations that sometimes lead to the involvement of ACS. A recent evaluation of the FECs showed that the centers are having a positive impact on families. Members reported enhanced social supports (from family, friends and neighbors), family functioning, emotional connection with their children, and outlook on life. Additionally, they reported significant increases in access to advice and resources in addressing several life challenges, including parenting, financial issues, relationships, food and nutrition issues, and stress management. ACS ensures that the centers provide offerings within eight key areas to improve child and family well-being: health and well-being, economic stability and employment, child development and education, parenting skills, positive relationships, community engagement and supportive advocacy.

Examples of programs offered at other FECs include: movie nights (for families to meet in a safe space and allow children to make new friends); a therapist-led Healing Through the Arts offering for families recovering from community violence; cultural activities; and Café con Amiga (Coffee with Friends) facilitated by Spanish speaking parent leaders to provide support to parents and caregivers.

Beaty shared that her hope is that all of Rockaway and the Broad Channel community take advantage of the opportunity to create the peninsula’s first all-inclusive FEC.

“I’m glad to have Curtis as the director because he knows the community very well, all spectrums from the east to the west end of Rockaway. And that’s definitely something that we need in Rockaway, unification. A program like this certainly will meet that goal,” she said.

So, locals get on board! Whether for special-needs, youth, seniors, health and wellness, financial literacy—whatever you would like to see at the FEC, grab this opportunity. For more information or to share your ideas, contact FEC Director Curtis Turney-Rentas: cturneyrentas@oceanbaycdc.com, OBCDC Executive Director Ebony Beaty: ebeaty@oceanbaycdc.com or OBCDC Deputy Director Genevieve Appolon: genevieve@oceanbaycdc.com

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