Category Archives: volunteer

PACC Gardening Event

Emily at PACC emailed me a little roundup of their Earth Day planting event with some photos:

Pratt Area Community Council celebrated Earth Day with its second annual gardening event on Saturday, April 17th. Last year tenants, PACC staff and volunteers spruced up Gibb Mansion’s gardens for Earth Day. This year, on a cloudy morning, more than 25 volunteers joined tenants and staff at 15 Quincy Street to get their hands dirty “greening” one of PACC’s affordable rental buildings. The team turned over garden beds in front and in back of the building, then planted flowers and trees including arborvitae, coreopsis, petunias, marigolds, flowering plum and cherry trees. Walk by the building on Quincy or Lexington to see what a difference a few hours of gardening makes!

Keeping the Neighborhood Green

Looking for a way to volunteer for Earth Day?  Join Green Fort Greene and Clinton Hill this wknd and help hang “No Ad” signs to keep unsolicited paper advertisements off of stoops. (Someone needs to get these in the hands of the company who is constantly slipping plastic slipcover ads under my door.)

On April 24, join our dozens of volunteers who will get 1,000 “No Ad” signs up throughout the neighborhood. 10 am – noon.  You will be able to cover two blocks  and together we will cover about 50 blocks. You will be greeted with gratitude.  The signs prevent advertisers (like supermarkets and Kohls) from leaving unsolicited ads on our gates and doorsteps.  They work.   Take your sweetheart or the kids, spend a couple of hours, make people happy and make a big difference.  Volunteer: contact

Coat Drive for Kids

This just in from Tish James’ office.  A great program, and major props to Bridge Cleaners & Tailors who cleans all donations free of charge!  That’s what I call holiday spirit.


Bridge Cleaners and Council Member Letitia James partner to collect coats for the needy – this holiday season and into the winter of 2010

(Brooklyn, Dec. 7, 2009) – This week, Bridge Cleaners & Tailors will kick off the National Cleaners Association’s annual “Coats for Kids” drive.  The mission of Coats for Kids is simple – anyone in need of a coat will have one.  Bridge Cleaners & Tailors, a premiere dry cleaner located in downtown Brooklyn is accepting gently used kid, adult and baby sized winter coats from December 7, 2009 – January 31, 2010.  This will start Coats for Kids 25th year of service.  Coats collected will be donated to the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Services.

“I collect coats for kids year-round and clean and repair them before they’re donated to agencies and schools for distribution.  I will also clean the garments of anyone who’s going on a job interview as part of a National Cleaners Association program,” said Victoria Aviles, owner of Bridge Cleaners & Tailors.

Donations will be accepted at Bridge Cleaners & Tailors located at 204 Livingston Street, along with other locations around Brooklyn, including the office of Council Member Letitia James – located at 67 Hanson Place at the corner of South Elliott Place.

Since the program began in 1984, Bridge Cleaners & Tailor’s has collected, cleaned free of charge, and distributed thousands of winter coats to men, women and children who would otherwise be without one.  This program receives invaluable support from collection, promotional, supporting and distribution partners, as well as individuals.

“The Coats for Kids drive is a program that I am honored to be involved with this winter.  I plan to clean out my own closet and donate coats, as well as to encourage the community to do the same as we start a brand new year.  Let’s keep one another warm during the cold weather season through our generosity,” said Council Member James.

For additional information, please call Richard Aviles at Bridge Cleaners & Tailors – (718) 625-1438, or visit

When:  December 7, 2009 through January 31, 2010
What:  “Coats for Kids” Drive with Bridge Cleaners
Where:  District Office of Council Member Letitia James, 67 Hanson Place, ground floor (corner of South Elliott Place)

Branch Update

Here’s an update from Branch, the temporary library at the corner of Myrtle and Clinton:

After a rainy week, Branch community library is back tomorrow from 1-5pm at the corner of Myrtle and Clinton, and every Sunday until October 25. We got a very generous donation of more than 150 children’s books yesterday, to add to our growing collection. Tomorrow for the first time we’ll be offering books to take out for free, one week at a time, one book per member. We are also lining up programming for the rest of the month, including readings from local authors and storytelling for kids.

We’re also looking for volunteers so we can make sure we’ve got enough people to help staff the space. If you can spare a few hours any Sunday this month, please send us an e-mail.

CHB Interviews: Jerome Chou of Branch


You may have noticed a curious table set up in front of CitiBank’s parking lot at Move About Myrtle the last two Sundays.  The volunteer group, Branch, is dedicated to setting up a temporary public library to counteract library budgetary cuts and reduced operating hours.  I was curious as to how the group got started and how it works.  Branch volunteer Jerome Chou explained.

1. How did Branch come about?  How many people are involved?
The project is a response to the recession and budget cuts that have affected all kinds of public spaces (parks, libraries, transit). Branch creates a low-cost temporary intervention to reclaim public space, in partnership with the people using it.

About a dozen volunteers are involved with the temporary Sunday library, but we really see this as a community-based project.  For instance, about 150 people signed up for library cards on opening day last week, and we asked them to recommend a book for our collection, and to write it down on a book cover (we have a lot of donated printer surplus covers). We installed over 100 of those covers on the fence along the parking lot. So visitors are basically curating the content and transforming the space collectively–that’s the goal of the project. This week, we’ll be asking people for their ideas about designing and programming the space.


2. Is the program directly affiliated with the Brooklyn Public Library?  If not, how have they responded to the project?
We’re not affiliated with the BPL, but we’re all big supporters. We’re thrilled that starting this weekend they’re able to resume Sunday services and late-night hours at a number of branches throughout Brooklyn. We hope that our project gets people talking about how important libraries are, especially in a recession.

3. How does Branch work?  Where do you get the books from?  Do people need to get a library card?
People sign up to get a library card, which is free to anyone, and Branch will be open 1-5pm every Sunday until the end of October. We’re getting donations from publishing houses and individuals, but we definitely need more help with books–especially with the “wishlist” that visitors are generating (it’s going up on our website, At the end of September we’ll begin loaning books, with a one-book-per-visit limit. In the meantime, we’re providing a “reading room” complete with lawn chairs, free sunday papers, and earplugs.

4. How did you end up at the bank parking lot?  How long will Branch be operating there?
Our original idea was to house the project in a vacant storefront, but we couldn’t find landlords who were willing to rent space one day a week. One of our volunteers contacted MARP through an urban planners network, and MARP suggested hosting the project on the Citibank lot as part of their Move About Myrtle events in September. Citibank agreed to allow us to use the lot until the end of October.


5. What is your background, and how did you get involved with this project?
I’d been going to the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library almost every Sunday until it closed. It seemed like terrible timing–there were a lot of news reports about how people were using libraries more than ever in the recession. I talked to a group of friends–designers, artists, planners, librarians–and we all felt like we could use this time to start a community organizing and design project: work with local residents, pool our resources, use low-cost or donated materials, and create a temporary public space.

I’ve worked as a community organizer for Brooklyn ACORN, a city planner for Baltimore City, a project manager with the firm Field Operations on Freshkills Park, and with the Design Trust for Public Space. Branch combines a little of all of those things–organizing, public space, design, and a lot of logistics.

6. What do you foresee the future of public libraries to be?
I’m not an expert, but it’s pretty obvious if you visit the BPL main branch on Sundays that the library is an amazing resource, and will be for a long time–as long as there’s adequate funding.

7. How can someone get involved with Branch?  Does Branch have several locations, or just in Clinton Hill?
Anyone can get involved: just e-mail or visit us every Sunday to volunteer, donate books, or just sit and read the Sunday New York Post. We’re just in Clinton Hill this fall, but definitely this model could be replicated. We got an e-mail from someone in the Bronx asking about it.

8. What neighborhood do you live in?  What’s your favorite thing about Clinton Hill?
I live in Crown Heights, but I’ve lived in 3 different apartments in Clinton Hill. One great thing is we’ve talked to people from every kind of background–racial, economic, you name it.

9. Any favorite Move About Myrtle activities?  (aside from Branch, of course!)
I’m dying to check out the Roller Rink.

10. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why?
Coffee Oreo–it’s my favorite, might as well be it.

Help Find Laika This Weekend

The owners of Laika the dog (who was stolen from outside the Greene Grape) are arranging search parties this weekend, and are providing food and drink to those who want to help out.

Here is the info:

Many people have asked us what they can do to help find Laika. We would like to invite you to help search with us on Saturday. We plan to search at three different times of the day, with lots of flyers and asking lots of people on Fulton, Myrtle and Atlantic Ave Mall.

Beers, food and AC available all day at our house. We meet there first then go out in co-ordinated gangs.

Please let us know which search party you would like to join us on. Our aim is to have a little fun while we do this:


Bring bikes, scooters and roller-blades, we will have 100s of posters to distribute.

Thank you

Natalie Clark Barratt
t – 917 853 7830

For more info, visit the website that has been set up to document leads and information.

Volunteering at Gibb Mansion

On Saturday, I joined a crowd of volunteers to help landscape the Gibb Mansion.  The event, held in celebration of Earth Day, was coordinated by a new volunteer group called Young Friends of PACC.  Comprised of neighbors in their 20s and 30s, the group is dedicated to engaging younger community members around issues such as affordable housing and economic development.

I’ve written about the mansion before, but PACC Executive Director Deb Howard provided some in-depth background before we started (and while we enjoyed pastries from Michael Allen Desserts – thanks, guys!).


The mansion was built in 1852 as a mansion for John Gibb, a lace manufacturer.  Over the years, it served as a fancy hotel, an orphanage and later as a short stay hotel before falling into serious blight.  In 1998, the building was sold at a bankruptcy auction and purchased by a welfare hotel.  The block association was unhappy with the thought of a welfare hotel on their street, and PACC negotiated a purchase.  Soon after, the building’s facade collapsed.

The renovation was completed in 2003.

gibb mansion, bed-stuy

Today, the mansion houses low-income individuals, people with chronic diseases, and the formerly homeless.  Each resident lives in a small studio apartment, and the building is equipped with a library and a gym.  The mansion staff includes social workers, an art therapist and even an acupuncturist.


Our task was landscaping the front and side of the building, as well as building a raised bed to be used a vegetable garden for the mansion’s residents.



News Channel 12 came out to cover the event. Here’s PACC’s Michelle Etwaroo giving an interview:

Gorgeous weather and great people. Not to mention a chance to get my hands dirty.

Earth Day with PACC


Another celebration of Earth Day this coming weekend:

Pratt Area Community Council is planning a great Earth Day event, scheduled for April 18!  Get your hands dirty and help plant a garden.  Plus, if it means a chance to take a peek inside the amazing Gibb Mansion, it’ll be worth it!

PACC will also be offering coffee and breakfast from the popular Desserts by Michael Allen (which seems to be bumping every time I walk past).


Volunteering around Clinton Hill

This is the first in a series on ways families can make a positive contribution to our community through volunteerism.  Our fair borough offers so much to its residents, and here’s a chance to give something back to Brooklyn while teaching our kids to be responsible world citizens.

In celebration of the crocuses, tulip shoots and forsythia blooms I’ve seen emerging in the last week or so, this set of volunteer opportunities has a hooray-for-spring theme:

First off, the Fort Greene Association is sponsoring an initiative called “Green Fort Greene & Clinton Hill.” Part of this effort includes putting up signs that say “Do not place unsolicited advertising materials on this property” at neighborhood residences. Children and/or their parents can become block chiefs, going door to door on a block to get signs put up. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact, call Marcus Attorneys at (718) 643-6555 or stop by 13 Greene Avenue. You can read more about Green Fort Greene & Clinton Hill at


Also in keeping with our spring theme, a group called 21st Century Plowshare aims to “sow wildflower seeds on every single patch of abandoned soil in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bed Stuy this April. By early summer, there should be so many wildflowers growing in the untended treepits, vacant lots, half-built developments and other tiny scraps of neglected soil in Bed Stuy that the whole neighborhood effectively turns into a meadow.”  This mission caught the attention of Bed Stuy Blog a while back ( I like the concept of a flower-blanketed Bed Stuy so much that I thought it bore repeating here.  If you’re interested in getting involved, check out  And, come to think of it, there are some empty lots in Clinton Hill/ Fort Greene that could use beautifying too…

Or, you could combine community service, recycling and spring cleaning by making a donation to the Salvation Army.  Drop off is at 22 Quincy Street, right near the Broken Angel site.  Don’t forget to get a receipt—there’s nothing wrong with getting a little tax deduction while performing a good deed!  It’s open most days, but you may want to call 1-800-SA-TRUCK before heading over.

And lastly, now that warmer weather is headed our way, the days of stoop sales and lemonade stands will soon be upon us.  Why not help your kids run one of these and donate the proceeds to a good cause?