Friends of New Utrecht Library wins grant to help LGBTQ+ youth

May 24, 2019 Paula Katinas
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LGBTQ+ teenagers in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach will be able to find a support system and receive encouragement for their artistic ambitions at the New Utrecht Library once a unique program being organized by a library support group gets off the ground.

The Friends of New Utrecht Library has been awarded a $1,690 grant by the Citizens Committee for New York City as part of the committee’s Neighborhood Grants program.

The Friends group was one of 298 organizations around the city to be awarded grants. The CCNYC handed out a total of $665,217 in grants this year. The grants, which go up to $3,000 each, are given to grass-roots groups working to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods.

More than 100 of the grants were given to Brooklyn-based organizations.

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Located at 1743 86th St. in Bensonhurst, the New Utrecht Library is one of the most popular and well-used facilities in the Brooklyn Public Library system, according to BPL officials.

Sonia Valentin, leader of the Friends of New Utrecht Library, said she applied for a CCNYC grant to help LGBTQ+ teens because she believes they are an underserved group. “I remember having a discussion one time with a supervisor in the library and she told me there are LGBTQ+ kids who use the library. They come in after school. We want to help them by giving them confidence,” she told this newspaper.

Valentin said she feels sympathy for LGBTQ+ youth, who are often targeted by bullies and shunned by their families.

Valentin and the Friends group plan to start an arts workshop to draw out the artistic side of the teens. “We’re going to buy cameras and paint supplies. We would like eventually to take field trips and ask the kids to take pictures or paint what they see. We could frame their work and put it on display,” she said.

The neighborhood grants were officially presented to the winners at the CCNYC’s Grantee Mixer, which recently took place at St. Ignatius Church on the Upper East Side and included a grant orientation session.

“These organizations are doing incredible work to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods across the five boroughs and we are proud to support their efforts. We’re very excited to see these projects take shape and to witness the positive impact they will have on countless New Yorkers,” CCNYC’s CEO Peter Kostmayer said in a statement.

The Brooklyn grant winners are using the funds for a variety of projects.

The Pakistani American Youth Society is revitalizing the Newkirk Community Garden. Flatbush Enterprise is organizing wellness workshops for senior citizens and LifeCycle Biking is promoting mental health through meditation and group bike rides.

“This Citizens Committee grant enables us to add raised beds for food growing, allowing the old and the young to experience and share the joy of growing their own vegetables, herbs and flowers. Newkirk Community Garden is a space for all of us to slow down and appreciate nature — and each other — in a community that has some of the least amount of green space in the entire city,” Mandy Strenz of the Pakistani American Youth Society stated. 

Here’s a sampling of other groups and their projects:

• Bay View Green Committee (Sunset Park): Organizing a community cleanup day, a native plant day, and a monthly Green Team volunteer day to support plant care and sidewalk garden maintenance.;

• Brooklyn Herb Club (Bedford-Stuyvesant): Expanding its capacity to create herbal products for its members while expanding its ability to respond to calls it receives from social justice organizations for basic herbal medicine.

• Carroll Gardens Nanny Association (Carroll Gardens): Organizing domestic workers to receive training on labor rights, CPR and first aid and child nutrition. Nanny members are also connected to legal resources and referrals.

• Holocaust Memorial Committee: (Manhattan Beach-Sheepshead Bay): Organizing programming for the Holocaust Memorial and the surrounding park area in response to a nationwide resurgence of bigotry and local reports of vandalism. The group is also planning inter-generational park clean-ups to connect Holocaust survivors with young people.

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