By Laura Schofer
Bishop Frank White, pastor of Zion Cathedral Church of God in Christ in Freeport, believes that if he can help children develop their talents, they will be “empowered to fulfill their destiny,” he said. “If you see a need, you provide an answer.
It’s this very philosophythat guidedWhite, Zi on’s pastor for 44 years, to create the Cedarmore Corporation, a 501(c)3 community-based orga nization in 1996, to provide services to under servedcommunitieson Long Island, in particular programs that improve educational, social and emotional development of children from diverse populations of families from Nassau and Suffolk counties.
White, who grew up in Freeport, said he learned that the “church is more than four walls. We must go beyond those walls and into the community to help our children.” When White was approached to help clean up Stephens Street Park that had been overrun by local gangs,he responded by starting a basketball program.
“This was the beginning,” Cynthia Roberts, marketing director for the Cedarmore Corporation, said. “The program also sought to bring in experts and community members who can mentor youth on and off the basketball court.” Now the program is called Big Brothers Basketball Association, held at Northeast Park in Freeport from June through August. In addition to playing basketball,the 4 to 18-year-olds learn to build trust, develop relationships and decision makings kills as well as socialize with their peers. The program has a literacy component called “Readers Become Leaders,” that reinforces ,it is importance of literacy as an element to learning and leadership, explained Roberts. “We bring all relevant experts to the table that can impact the children in important ways,” she said.
Other programs followed, including After School Enrichment, Ready-Set-kNOw: Abstinence Education,YoungEntrepreneur’s Training and the Freeport Farmers’ Market. Each program builds upon the other, and serves to “educate, engage and empower others to help them achieve healthy productive lives,”White explained. “I tell the children that what I do is to empower you; I give you the power to control your life.”
Each program is under the direction of a “leader in their field. We also work with other agencies and groups,” Roberts said. “Our children have the potential but not the tools.”
Some of their sponsors include AT&T, Bank of America, Bethpage Federal Credit Union and the United Way.”Some communities have support systems,” Roberts said. “We recognize that many of our communities don’t have those support systems, so we try to narrow the information gap.” Board Chairwoman Roberta Coward agrees. “Our children are smart, they have great potential, but they need help,” she said. “What we’re doing here is giving them tools to succeed.”
“And, we don’t portray our children as delinquents,” Roberts said.
The After School Enrichment program focuses on tutoring for primary school children in language arts. Ready-Set-kr-Ow is a three-week summerprogram that explores and instructs young teens about making good choices. The Young Entrepreneur’s Training Program teaches basic financial management and entrepreneurial skills to teens. The Freeport Farmers’ Market (FMM) is a youth-staffed farmers’ market created in 2012 to serve the community and support local agriculture by providing resi dents with easy access to fresh, nutritious, fruits and vegetables. FFM is an extension of the Cedarmore Corporation’s Young Entrepreneurs Training Program.
“These programs don’t talk down to our children, they talk up,” Jackie Harris a member of Cedarmore’s planning com mittee. “Kids need to hear these things from other adults, someone who is not their parent.”
“Sometimes that voice needs to be young and hipper,” Roberts added.
That’s why three years ago the Cedarmore Corporation founded its Youth Empowerment Series, one for girls ages II and up, called GIRLZ Talk, and one for boys, ages 9 and up, called BOYZN2 Men.
“This is like a sampler of our programs,” Roberts said. “It covers many of the topics in our other programs – bullying and safety, financial literacy, college preparedness, de cision-making, but also is a way to talk to kids”.
GIRLZ Talk will be held this year on Saturday, May 9, at Hofstra University and is “a day of critical conversations and interactive workshops designed to educate and empow er young ladies,” reads Cedarmore’s litera ture. Some of the special features include a mentoring match-up where girls may inter act with professional women; a health/well ness and beauty pavilion and a fashion show to learn how to dress well without spending a lot of money. There is also a workshop for moms.
On Saturday, June 20, Cedarmore will sponsors its BOYZ N2 Men program, also at Hofstra University. Here boys can have “candid conversations on the real issues and challenges young men face with sound strategies from national experts, male role models, athletes and mentors,” reads the brochure. The program includes a mentor ing match-up with men and an interactive session called “attire to aspire.”
‘This year we are trying to get all the boys suits,” said Roberts. “We have some strong partners, including Hofstra University and he Nassau County District Attorney’s office.”
Cedarmore is working with “many school districts across Long Island to let them know about this program,” Harris said.
“These programs offer an opportunity to be loved and to grow. It’s also about giving back. Cedarmore is the perfect match.”
“There is nothing of this magnitude out there for our kids in a culturally appropriate way,” Roberts said.
But it was White who summed it up best. “We are here to enhance the whole community regardless of your station in life,” he said. “My job is to find out your gift and help you get it.”
‘Our children are smart, they have great potential, but they need help. What we’re doing here is giving them tools to succeed’
ROBERTA COWARD, Board Chairperson