WHDC Updates

WHDC Funds Second Summer Senior Employment Program for CD9 Residents Ages 55+

April 8, 2014

West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) will fund jobs for 100 seniors this summer, giving adults age 55 and older a chance to earn money, use their skills, develop new talents and do meaningful work at nonprofits.

WHDC partnered with ReServe Elders, Inc., an innovative nonprofit that places professionals age 55+ with nonprofits and government agencies. WHDC will fund the 2014 program for $219,000, providing 10 weeks of work during the summer for seniors living in West Harlem’s Community District 9. The seniors will work at local nonprofits at no cost to the organization, giving them quality employees to do meaningful work in the community.

“The Summer Seniors Employment Program helps a demographic that has a hard time finding jobs to afford food, medicine and spending money,” said WHDC Executive Director Kofi A. Boateng, PhD. “Many seniors also learn new skills, and their employers are happy to have extra staff at no-cost to them.”

This year’s Summer Senior Employment Program (SSEP) is the second time WHDC is creating jobs for seniors in Community District 9. In the summer of 2013, WHDC launched the successful pilot SSEP, funding 50 positions for $140,000.

“ReServe is delighted to partner again with West Harlem Development Corporation for a second Summer Seniors Employment Program,” said ReServe Director Laura Traynor. “This year, we are doubling the size – and impact – of the program for 100 West Harlem seniors who will be placed in non-profit and public service organizations throughout the city.”

Paralee Brooks, an SSEP participant in 2013, said her work at a culinary school downtown allowed her to do interesting and rewarding work. She started the program with a basic computer skill and ended up increasing her computer literacy. ReServe also placed her husband in maintenance work at the same school.

“I updated their recipes,” said Ms. Brooks. “I interacted with other program heads. I did attendance. I did spreadsheets of their inventory and I interacted with their students. I did so much. It’s amazing. The ten weeks went so fast.”

The number of workers in the labor force who are 55 years of age and older increased from 29.9 percent in 1993 to 40.4 percent in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The rate continues to rise steadily, the New York Council on Aging reports.

“There are very few jobs out there for senior citizens,” Mayra Mejia, who worked at a summer program at a high school. “It was the best job for senior citizen.”

Many of the SSEP participants work alongside youth, giving teenagers and seniors the opportunity to learn from one another. One SSEP worker, Ricardo Acevedo, worked with Summer Youth Employment Program participants funded by WHDC. That team worked at P.A.L.A.N.T.E., a tenant advocacy group, and helped Community Board 9 residents fight a landlord, getting him to make much-needed repairs and to refund more than $319,000 in overcharged rent.

Mr. Acevedo was successful in gaining tenants trust to help them because he is from the same neighborhood.

“Interacting with tenants in my community was a very rewarding experience because I learned so much about their struggles which are similar to mine,” Mr. Acevedo said. “Also being here I learned the proper steps I should take when dealing with my own issues.”

For more information about the program, go to www.westharlemdc.org. Seniors must register to attend one of the informational sessions: Tuesday, April 15, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Jackie Robinson Center, 1301 Amsterdam Ave.; Thursday, April 17 and Tuesday, April 22, both at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Morningside Retirement & Health Services, 100 LaSalle St. #MC; Wednesday, April 23, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 463 W. 142nd St.*Translated into Spanish