“Livin’ Large” and “I Can Read” Tutorial Programs
The “Livin’ Large” and “I Can Read” after-school tutorial programs are designed to increase the reading and comprehension skills of children and youth in grades K –12, as well as, improve scores on standardized tests. Classes are held Monday – Friday from 2:45 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building and Packard Court Community Center. Students are instructed by NYS certified teachers, Niagara University and Niagara County Community College students, Niagara Falls Housing Authority staff and community volunteers. In addition to tutoring, the program provides violence prevention and self-esteem building seminars, arts and crafts, math BINGO, college prep activities, educational movies, incentive awards and prizes.
Currently there are 140 children enrolled in the “Livin’ Large” and “I Can Read” programs.
“The Livin’ Large” and “I Can Read” tutorial programs address the need for improved literacy, which is the key to increased self-esteem, greater learning, higher income and economic self-sufficiency.
Held in conjunction with the Housing Authority’s “Livin’ Large” and “I Can Read” tutorial programs, the Kid’s Café program provides a nutritionally adequate meal to children (primarily under the age of 17) who are at risk of hunger.
As a result of the Kid’s Café program the Niagara Falls Housing Authority has provided a nutritionally adequate meal to children at risk, educated children and their parents about nutrition, educated the public about childhood hunger and offered solutions. The Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s ultimate goal is to take at risk children from youth to adulthood realizing their full potential. Since the program’s inception in 1999, the Kid’s Café program has provided a hot balanced meal to nearly 1,000 children. The program is staffed by community volunteers, parents of children enrolled in the program, Niagara Falls Housing Authority staff and chefs from local food service chains. Funding for the Kid’s Café program is provided by the New York State Department of Health’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Niagara Falls Housing Authority Youth Choir
Under the direction of local musician/artist, Diana M. Reeves, the Youth Choir has grown considerably over the years – consisting of 50+ talented children and youth ranging in age from 3 to 16. Instruction for the Youth Choir is held from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building.
The NFHA Youth Choir has become one of our areas most sought after performers. Recent performances include: Shea’s Performing Arts Center, First Night Buffalo, the Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s Annual Christmas Concert and Thanksgiving Feast, the Niagara Falls City School District’s Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration and Tops Friendly Markets Black History Month celebration.
The Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s Youth Choir provides an invaluable resource for many working parents by providing a safe haven for their children during the critical after-school hours when statistics show children are most at risk for negative behaviors.
Statistics also reveal that children who are enrolled in programs relating to the arts score higher on math and science tests. It is the goal of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority to provide a comprehensive well-rounded educational program.
Doris W. Jones Summer Enrichment Program
The Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s Doris W. Jones Summer Enrichment program is a comprehensive summer program that provides individualized educational, social, cultural and recreational components geared to each individual child’s level of learning. Activities include: storytelling, music, computer instruction, etiquette classes, arts and crafts, African-American dance and nature hikes/walks. Educational field trips are taken each Friday, enabling children from low-income families to have exposure to the arts, museums, nature, and a host of cultural enrichment activities, such as the Underground Railroad. The program operates July – August. An average of 200 children are enrolled in the Summer Enrichment program each year.
Self-Esteem Building Workshops / Career Counseling / College Prep
With assistance from Niagara County Employment and Training and the ATTAIN Lab, a series of workshops designed to build both self-esteem and prepare individuals for job readiness are held quarterly. Topics include: Interviewing Techniques, Resume Writing, Doing Your Homework, Dressing for Success and “You CAN do it.” These sessions prepare residents for the workforce and give them the skills and confidence needed to achieve greater self-sufficiency. Participants work with the Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s Case Manager to identify employment opportunities and eliminate any barriers that stand in the way of success.
To encourage residents to further their educational goals, college nights are held at the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building. Representatives from Niagara County Community College and Niagara University discuss financial aid, scholarship opportunities and educational initiatives. College tours are also provided.
The Good for the Neighborhood Program
In order to provide residents and the community with access to health information and experts, the Niagara Falls Housing Authority partnered with the Independent Health Foundation’s Good for the Neighborhood Program. The program is designed to assist individuals and families in making better healthcare choices. A comprehensive quarterly fair is held with specialized workshops and seminars taking place weekly. The initiative provides:
- Healthcare Screenings – including blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes
- Ask the Medical Expert – find a doctor or ask questions
- Ask the Pharmacy Expert – ask about prescriptions/drug interactions
- Fitness for Kids – to help children stay fit and active
- Healthy Options – every day tips on eating better
- Senior Wellness – health classes especially designed for seniors
- Weight Watchers – learn how to slim down and eat right
- Farmer’s Market – attendees receive free vouchers for fresh produce
- Healthy Cooking Demonstrations – attendees learn how to prepare healthy meals, obtain recipes and sample homemade meals
Since the “Good for the Neighborhood” Program’s implementation in May 2006, 472 individuals have enrolled in the program, of which 135 are residents of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority. Additionally, while the Independent Health Foundation currently has two similar programs operating in Buffalo, New York, (with a much larger population area) our program continues to have the highest number of attendees.
Weed and Seed
The Niagara Falls Housing Authority was the lead agency in obtaining Official “Weed and Seed” Recognition from the U.S. Department of Justice for the City of Niagara Falls.
The Weed and Seed program is a strategy within the U.S. Department of Justice that incorporates community-based initiatives. It is a comprehensive and multi-agency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention and community revitalization. The strategy involves a two-pronged approach: law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in “weeding out” criminals who participate in violent crime and drug abuse and “seeding” brings human services to the area, encompassing prevention, intervention, treatment and neighborhood revitalization.
This approach enables the Niagara Falls Housing Authority and other community service agencies to implement programs and initiatives that enhance the quality of life for affordable housing residents and the community as a whole.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
The Niagara Falls Housing Authority has brought Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to residents of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority and surrounding communities. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a program designed to improve literacy by providing families with access to books. The program inspires parents to read to their children as much as possible. Each registered child age 0 – 5 years old, receives an age appropriate book each month at their home at no cost to their parents. The program also includes parent/child group activities and monthly and quarterly assessments conducted by certified teachers. The assessments address recognition, phonic awareness, vocabulary development and reading comprehension. The goal of the program is to prepare children for educational success.
Currently, 310 children (including NFHA residents, Universal Pre-Kindergarten students, and at-risk children from targeted communities) are enrolled in the program.
Annual Thanksgiving Feast
Currently in its 20th year, the Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s Annual Thanksgiving Feast provides a traditional Thanksgiving meal (complete with turkey and all the trimmings) to those in need. The event serves 300 children, youth and adults annually and is open to all Niagara Falls Housing Authority residents and deserving individuals and families in the Niagara Falls community.
“Niagara Carrier” Newsletter
The challenge was to find an outlet for standard communication between the Housing Authority, residents and the community-at-large that appealed to people all of ages. The solution was the creation of the “Niagara Carrier” Newsletter.
Created in 1993, the “Niagara Carrier” Newsletter is an award winning publication. This comprehensive quarterly newsletter is designed to keep residents informed on Housing Authority news such as new regulations, upcoming events and employment opportunities. Our goal is to educate residents and provide the community-at-large with knowledge on current events, health and safety issues, drug and violence prevention strategies, parenting skills and financial literacy information. The “Niagara Carrier” also profiles success stories and related achievements in an effort to build self-esteem, motivate, inspire and build self-confidence while promoting the many positive attributes of affordable housing.
Participation from local community agencies and businesses has been overwhelming. They take an active role in the development process by placing their articles, photographs, upcoming events and opportunities in each new edition. With everyone playing an active role, our residents are able to reap the many benefits of being well informed. Through resident volunteers, the “Niagara Carrier” is also available on audiotape for our visually impaired residents.
Miss Rainbow Niagara Pageant
The Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s “Miss Rainbow Niagara Pageant” is a cultural experience aimed at building self-awareness, confidence, moral character and public speaking attributes and engendering a competitive spirit among participants. It is very important that our young people become empowered to be more than spectators in life. This pageant motives and inspires participants to take an active role in shaping their lives and meeting their destiny in a positive fulfilling manner. Additionally, contestants participate in a variety of community service projects and empowerment workshops. The pageant is held bi-annually.
Sweet Ladies of the Community
The Sweet Ladies of the Community is a group of seniors (made up of NFHA residents and members of the Niagara Falls community) that complete a variety of quilting and crocheting projects. Each year, the “sweet ladies” donate over 100 lap blankets and quilts to area hospitals and nursing homes.
The talented work of our “sweet ladies” has been displayed at Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum as part of the “Pattern and Improvisation: Local African-American Quilts” Exhibit. This distinguished display, represents the work of our area’s best quilters and celebrates four interrelated themes in African-American quilting: tradition, improvisation, community history and personal expression.
As a unique intergenerational component to the “Sweet Ladies” program, children enrolled in our after-school tutorial programs teach our “sweet ladies” how to navigate the internet and in turn, our “sweet ladies” teach the children how to quilt and crochet. This special component has spanned the generational gap and forged numerous lifelong friendships.
The Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s Annual Male Summit is a powerful event designed to address trends affecting the male population with respect to education, employment and empowerment. Designed for males ages 12 and older, the primary goal of the event is to empower manhood, encourage self-respect and educate and prepare participants for challenges that may face them. Through a variety of workshops and hands-on presentations conducted by male role models from the Niagara Falls community, the summit helps shape the young men in our community and provides a forum for open discussion. An average of 220 individuals attend the event each year.
Let’s Talk Conference
Similar to the Male Summit, our Let’s Talk Conference addresses trends affecting the female population. Topics are developed through surveys completed by the participants themselves. Female role models from the Niagara Falls community volunteer their time to address such things as career planning, cultural awareness, health and wellness, peer-pressure, safe dating and internet safety. Workshops and hands-on presentations enable participants to speak in an open forum with their peers.
“Ambassador Over the Months” Program
What is an Ambassador? Ambassadors are Niagara Falls Housing Authority residents who speak highly of fellow residents, treat fellow residents with the utmost respect, have wonderful things to say about the community in which they live, and, if had the chance, would tell the world about the place they call home.
Ambassadors are selected on a quarterly basis. Residents nominate their fellow residents by writing 150 words or less why they think their nominee deserves to be “Ambassador Over the Months.” Nominations are then submitted to the Ambassador Selection Committee (made up of Housing Authority staff) who make the final determination.
The selected resident receives a community celebration at their respective development, certificate of achievement, gift card, cake, and their name is placed on the distinguished “Ambassador Over the Months” plaque that is located at each community.
North Star Cultural Project
The Niagara Falls Housing Authority is a partner on the North Star Cultural Project. The North Star Cultural Project is a collaborative effort between the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, the State Parks and the City of Niagara Falls among others. The project involves the development of a pocket park. The Wrobel Towers housing community (specifically, the Wrobel Towers Park) will serve as the main focus of this project. The plans call for interpretive signage, the erection of a Harriet Tubman statue and amphitheatre with access to the Whirlpool Bridge custom house from the Wrobel Towers patio area.
The initiative is part of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, which encompasses a world-class corridor of places, parks and landscapes that celebrate and interpret the area’s unique natural, cultural, recreational, scenic and heritage resources and provides access to and connections between these important resources while giving rise to economic opportunities for the region.
Operation SNUG (guns spelled backwards) is a community, government and corporate partnership aimed at improving public safety for youth and young adults through the elimination of gun and gang violence. The program employees streetwise, specially trained individuals to canvass area hotspots to mediate violent and potentially violent situations. The program targets at-risk youth ages 14 to 25 and provides outreach, prevention and intervention services to direct troubled youth away from illegal activity.
The goal of the program is to inhibit the proliferation of gangs and illegal guns.
Operation SNUG is based on the nationally acclaimed (Chicago-based) CeaseFire model, which aims to stop violence at its source. Operated under the direction of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, the program consists of four core components: street level outreach, public education, community mobilization and faith leader involvement.
Funding for Operation SNUG was received through a grant from the State of New York Division of Criminal Justice Services.