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Brooklyn Kindergarten Society honored as a Robin Hood Hero

November 13, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Kindergarten Society Executive Director Jim Matison. Photo by Rob Abruzzese

On Tuesday, Brooklyn Kindergarten Society (BKS) was named one of the 2014 Heroes by the Robin Hood Foundation at a breakfast ceremony in Manhattan.  Marian Wright Edelman presented BKS with $50,000 for their tireless work to improve the lives of many of Brooklyn’s most vulnerable children through its high-quality early education program.   

 “Robin Hood employs a rigorous system of metrics and third-party evaluation to ensure grantee accountability.  This award is a wonderful validation of our ongoing efforts to provide high-quality early childhood education in areas that have the most critical need in Brooklyn,” said Jim Matison, executive director of BKS.

The Robin Hood Heroes Award is given annually to those organizations and individuals who are doing heroic work and improving the lives of thousands of low-income New Yorkers.

“The Heroes Breakfast is our favorite event of the year,” said David Saltzman, executive director of Robin Hood. “It’s a chance for us to recognize the extraordinary organizations that make New York City great by quietly and relentlessly helping the children, individuals and families get the support they need to better their lives.  There are more than 1.8 million New Yorkers living in poverty, and the three Heroes we honor today are improving the lives of countless neighbors in very powerful and tangible ways.  All of us owe them a debt of thanks along with our gratitude.”

At the breakfast, Matison was thrilled to introduce Davida David, a former BKS student honored by the foundation for her achievements since her time as a student at BKS.  David, a 34-year-old college graduate with a master’s degree, credits her success to the early years she spent at the BKS Sumner Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant. David spoke emotionally to the 500 guests and in closing said:

“I just wanted to say that today when I look at myself in the mirror, I not only see an accomplished, curious, and committed woman, but I also see that 2-year-old little girl still trying to find herself.   And I also see the wonderful people at Brooklyn Kindergarten Society making that little girl blossom, and giving her a home, and showing her how to expand her mind so that she can do anything that she wants to do.”

Matison told the Brooklyn Eagle that when Ms. David arrived at BKS as a 2-year-old, one of her teachers decided to help alleviate her anxiety by giving her something she could keep – her own chair. “It stayed with her through the years,” Matison said. “She still has that chair.”

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For more than 120 years, Brooklyn Kindergarten Society has been targeting the children from the most impoverished areas of Brooklyn with strong educational programs and urgently needed social services. “Children enter our centers far behind, and yet, with BKS, more than 90 percent leave our centers either at or above age group,” Matison said. “These are families in desperate need of services – they live in poverty, have issues with housing, employment, residency status.”

To help achieve their success, BKS raises money through the storied Yuletide Ball. The grand tradition, started by Heights society matrons in 1920, lights up the neighborhood’s brownstones and fills the streets, briefly, with men in tuxedos and women in gowns.

On the second Saturday each December, guests of the ball attend dinner parties hosted in the Brownstone-Brooklyn homes of the nearly fifty volunteers. The dinner parties provide a unique and intimate opportunity for more than 800 guests of Yuletide to get to know one another, before heading to the Heights Casino for dessert and a night of dancing.  By hosting the dinner themselves, the hostesses help to significantly defray the costs of the ball, allowing for almost all of the proceeds of each ticket to be passed on directly to the operations of BKS.

Last year, more than 900 tickets to the ball were sold, raising an unprecedented $300,000.

“This has continued through two World Wars, the Great Depressions, numerous recessions and the tripling of the population of Brooklyn,” Matison said. This year’s ball takes place on Saturday, Dec. 13.

To view brief videos about each of the Robin Hood honorees visit: robinhood.org/heroes.

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