Our six core programs offer vital health and social services to improve family health and well-being. In addition, services offered through our program partners, like financial literacy classes, nutrition workshops, summer camp programs, and legal services offered right in our community center give families opportunities to learn and build a strong foundation for the future.Below are some of our newest initiatives to improve the quality of life for New York families.
VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program – LSA partners with the Food Bank for New York City on VITA to connect low-income New Yorkers with free tax preparation services. VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) serves people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and others who need assistance in preparing their returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. In 2018, LSA was able to offer VITA to over 30 clients.
LIFE Project – Through the LIFE (Linking Immigrant Families to Early Childhood Education) Project, LSA promotes enrollment in PreK for four-year-olds and in the new “3K” program for three-year-olds. The goal is to make more families in the neighborhood of East Harlem aware of the availability of these programs offered by the NYC Department of Education. The PreK and 3K programs offer free, high-quality early childhood education. Studies show that early childhood education sets children up for success throughout their school years. During the enrollment period, LSA staff members have been holding information sessions in the community and offering hands-on assistance to parents interested in enrolling children in these programs. The LIFE project is available through a grant from the New York Immigration Coalition.
“Our partnerships really expand what we’re able to offer families,” said Ray Lopez, Director of Programs at LSA Family Health Service. “By collaborating with other organizations, we’re able to give families even more tools to build a stronger future and, ultimately, a stronger community.”
New Domestic Violence Protocol for Preventive Services – Earlier this year, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice announced a new protocol to help identify and intervene in domestic violence cases. Under this new protocol, families in high-risk cases who are receiving prevention services like those offered at LSA will be screened for risk factors and helped to develop safety plans. LSA’s A-rated Preventive Services program is funded by ACS and will be following this new protocol, working with investigative consultants to strengthen our program and ensure the safety and well-being of children.
Nutrition and Language – East Harlem is home to a vibrant immigrant community, including families from Latin America who speak indigenous languages and have rich cultural traditions dating back to pre-Columbian times. To respond to their specific language and health needs, LSA partners with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA) to offer health and nutrition classes to speakers of Mixtec (spoken in parts of Mexico), Mam (spoken by a Mayan group in Guatemala), and other indigenous languages. The classes offer community members ideas for nutritious and culturally relevant meals. Through this partnership, the DOHMH is reaching a segment of the population that it has not engaged with in the past.
Women Empowered to Lead (WE Lead) Community Navigator and Mentorship Program – Kudos to Melina Gonzalez (pictured above on the left), LSA’s Immigration Outreach Organizer, for being accepted into the WE Lead Program’s Immigration Navigator Cohort through the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). This opportunity will allow Melina to become a Department of Justice Certified Instructor.The WE Lead Community Navigator Program is a women’s empowerment training and workforce development initiative — launched by The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), Jones Day Law Firm and Cities for Citizenship (C4C) — to train Community Navigators, empower immigrant women and their communities, and expand immigration legal services.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 Open Door Newsletter. By Barbara Norcia-Broms.
Photo above: Tamara received her tax return check after filing through the VITA program