Brooklyn Boro

BPL hosts, develops new generation of leader donors

October 1, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Peter Goldwasser, chair and founder of the Brooklyn Eagles; and Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library at the second annual Brooklyn Classic.
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For the last two years, there has been a new kind of Brooklyn Eagle in town. The Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) Brooklyn Eagles – a group that has no affiliation with the newspaper – are young philanthropists determined to raise money for BPL’s youth programming.

“About a year and a half ago I decided that I wanted to do something to help the local community,” recalled Peter Goldwasser, the Eagles’ chair and founder. “I thought I could join the [Park Slope Food Coop], but the boxes are heavy and I can’t tell the difference between the produce.

“Eventually, I thought of this way to help the public library because it’s such an amazing institution that does so much for so many people.”

Nearly two years later, Goldwasser’s group has grown from its initial 15 members to 150 members, and has raised more than $80,000 for children’s programming. On Tuesday night, the group hosted its second annual Brooklyn Classic, a night at the library’s Central Branch, with food, drinks and dancing – with the proceeds going directly to the library.

“The money we raised tonight is wonderful, but the real purpose of this event is to bring together a community to support the library in a lot of different ways,” Goldwasser said. “Brooklyn has a lot of young parents who want their kids to have a rich institution like the library and want a way to give back to their community. So events like this really do a lot to help us grow.”

The library’s president, Linda E. Johnson, said that it has never had a group exactly like this. “The idea was to develop a group of young supporters that would start modestly, but hopefully stay with us for a long time and be there throughout the course of their lives,” Johnson said. “Especially as they start to have young children and those kids start using the library, it’ll be a good fit.”

Johnson added that the library needs to constantly be raising private funds because there are 60 branches in the borough and the average age of those branches is 60 years. She explained that years of underfunding has left the library with unmet capital needs of nearly $300 million and that the public funds it receives from the city are just not enough.

“We’re really trying to raise money privately because we want to be better than just good; we want to be great,” Johnson said. “I think the difference in being good and great is private funds. We just announced that we have expanded our Saturday hours more than 200 hours a week and we would like to be open on Sundays as well.

“I think this is a terrific start,” Johnson continued. “The library looks great, it’s a lot of fun and there is great food. Hopefully next year even more people will show up.”

In addition to the Brooklyn Classic, the Eagles organize other fundraising events throughout the year, including rooftop parties and large scale service days. The group plans to partner with The Friends of the Clinton Hill Library on Oct. 18 for its next service day, during which participants will go to a library branch to help to spruce it up by gardening, cleaning and painting.

The Brooklyn Eagles, encouraged by the turnout at last and this year’s Brooklyn Classic events, expects that as the group continues to grow, the events will, too. Next year, the Eagles plan on giving out a new literary prize awarded to exemplary authors in fiction and nonfiction. Candidates will be judged by a panel of librarians and established Brooklyn authors.

“As someone who has gotten the opportunity to participate in programs at the library, I am so happy to see a group like the Eagles supporting it like this,” said Annie Xiao, a freshman at Hunter College. “It’s important to introduce kids to cultural institutions at a young age. It’s important to build their curiosity and awareness.”

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