Community Aid Through Gift Cards
Few organizations have impacted their community as positively and powerfully as Harlem Children’s Zone. Famous for its ground-up, placed-based solutions, HCZ has built a culturally-responsive model that addresses the holistic needs of the people of Central Harlem, NYC. The team at eGifter Rewards is humbled and proud to be a part of the extended Harlem Children’s Zone family. Without further ado, here’s our Client Spotlight: Harlem Children’s Zone.
Harlem Children’s Zone: A Model for Community Excellence
Here is our inspiring conversation with Wesner Pierre, Senior Managing Director of Programs for Harlem Children’s Zone.
Q: Tell us about the Harlem Children’s Zone — what is your north star?
The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) launched twenty years ago with one of the most ambitious goals in U.S. history: to end generational poverty—for the people of Central Harlem and, in time, countless communities across the world. In Harlem, we have approached this through on-the- ground, all-around programming that builds up opportunities for children and families to thrive in school, work and life. Today, we are humbled and honored to work with leaders all over the world who seek to replicate our model for their vulnerable citizens.
Q: Help us understand what led you to realize gift cards can help.
The pressure from COVID-19 was sudden and intense.
First, there is the reality that COVID-19 took a disproportionate toll on low-income communities of color, including our own.
Second, our elder and/or immuno-compromised community members still needed healthcare but had challenges with access.
Third, there was the economic pressure from lost jobs and wages.
Fourth, many of our community members reported food shortages. Finally, the learning loss from school closures were exacerbated by lack of access to computers and/or internet.
The sum total effect was a community in dire need of relief and solutions—and fast. For us at HCZ, this demanded that we find an innovative and rapid way to help families face the fallout of a sweeping challenge none of us had ever confronted before.
Providing economic relief was an essential component of our solution. When we learned about eGifter Rewards, the choice was obvious. Its secure, self-service platform allowed HCZ administrators to distribute funds to families instantly, remotely, and safely. We began sending gift cards by email and text and haven’t stopped since.
Q: Which is the most popular gift card brand?
We use the eGifter Rewards Choice gift card because it allows families to apply it to their most urgent needs.
Q: What has been the impact on the Central Harlem community?
Most importantly, our families are not having to go without food. This year has presented numerous challenges to our world, our country, and our communities of color. The value of being able to unburden the most vulnerable families in Central Harlem of the crushing stress of food insecurity cannot be overstated. Having helped our community meet such an essential and human need through eGifter Rewards, our families can focus on their work and their children are free to focus on their learning.
In no small part, we have found value in the simple, instant, and user-friendly tools through eGifter Rewards. We can now support families in crisis while maintaining safe social distancing—a vitally important capacity as we continue to engage with our community through the pandemic.
Q: Tell us about The Audacious Project. We understand it is an equitable recovery model for vulnerable communities.
HCZ pioneered a comprehensive COVID-19 emergency response and recovery plan. It is now being deployed nationally with support from The Audacious Project. It offers best practices and place-based approaches to underserved and impoverished communities—which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
The model focuses on five critical areas, each with in-depth programs designed to honor, heal and help.
- Protecting the most vulnerable
- Bridging the digital divide
- Preventing learning loss
- Mitigating the mental health crisis
- Providing economic relief and recovery
Q: The success story is told in your unprecedented outcomes. Tell us more.
Harlem Children’s Zone was established in 2000. Twenty years later, we have a generation of evidence that our pioneering place-based solutions and cradle-to-career wraparound supports can break the cycle of poverty. Today, we are on the precipice of fulfilling our vision in Harlem and are setting out to help low income communities across the world replicate our success and root our poverty in their own neighborhoods, block by block and need for need.
Over 28,000 children and families are served annually within our 97-block Zone. More than 946 HCZ students are now enrolled college and over 800 have graduated college since 2011. Each year, they are joined by a cohort of well over 100 newly minted graduates who follow in their footsteps as self-sufficient young adults with budding careers.
This is the cycle of success that is central to our model. We see today’s newborns as tomorrow’s community leaders. Every year, new children and families enter The Baby College™—the program that introduces community members to our cradle-to-career support system. Every year, the latest college graduates return to the community, establish careers, and serve as role models to the children behind them. The cycle of success is thus firmly established and gaining more momentum every year.
Today, we are at the nucleus of a growing network of practitioners and policymakers. We inform policy and advocate for change at the local, state, and national levels. We have been humbled by the global recognition we have received for our work. Yet it reminds us that our work is never done; while we continue to meet the always-changing needs of Central Harlem, we consider it a responsibility to share our hard-earned wisdom with others who, like us, are passionate about bringing equity and opportunity to underserved populations. We are excited about our programs, such as Practitioners Institute and the William Julius Wilson Institute, that exist to partner with the likeminded in this most critical cause.
Breaking it Down, Here’s What We Learned
- #1: Community organizations abound with leaders who deliver human aid compassionately, like Harlem Children’s Zone.
- #2: Once basic human needs are met, social initiatives can drive personal and community excellence.
- #3: Together, we can make it.
Learn how gift cards can help your employees, customers and communities in response to COVID-19. Visit eGifterRewards.com.
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