BCS Blog

A Long-Standing Reputation of Advocacy for HIV Prevention 


“For me, this isn’t really a job, it’s my passion,” Marcus Martir said when talking about his role as Program Director of Turning Point Brooklyn’s Gateway to Health and Wellness. Marcus, who was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has been advocating for HIV awareness and prevention for more than 22 years.

He started his work in 1995 as a member of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).  SYEP placed Marcus at the Henry Street Settlement’s Adolescents against HIV AIDS program. He stayed with Henry Street Settlement for 16 years before moving to Turning Point Brooklyn (TPBK).

TPBK’s Gateway to Health and Wellness combines outreach and action to provide Brooklyn with HIV, Hepatitis-C and drug and alcohol prevention services. Their Mobile Outreach van parks in different locations around the borough and is equipped with 4th generation rapid point-of-care Alere Testing Strips. They even have an iPad with access to dating apps like Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d and Tinder, taking a more creative approach to their outreach efforts!

In the early days, Marcus’ advocacy melded easily with his personal life. “I was so involved in the gay scene that I would link with club promoters.” Through this, he would give out condoms and business cards, encouraging people to get tested.

Today, he is taking Gateway to Health and Wellness in a new direction. “Our program shouldn’t focus on mass testing. We are shifting the culture to patient navigation.”

Marcus asks his staff to be present for every “baby step” of the way. Clients get tested (about 580 per year), and are then walked through the available resources. If clients test HIV positive or are negative and would like to take precautions, they have access to free treatment, therapy and PrEP or PEP, regardless of their legal status in the country.

TPBK Gateway to Health and Wellness will continue its long-standing reputation of safe and trustworthy service for Brooklyn.

Future Judge Gets His Start at BHSLCS


21-year-old, Yves Romain has never been a good test-taker. This resulted in transferring from one school to the next, none providing him the resources he needed to succeed. He went to three different high schools before finding himself at Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Services (BHSLCS).

Raised in Queens, Yves started high school at Holy Cross in Flushing. “This was my dream school,” he said. Attending the private Catholic school gave Yves a lot of pride.  But once his grades started slipping, Holy Cross suggested he transfer out, increase his grades and transfer back after a year. Yves ended up at Bethel Christian School. Still, his grades were suffering. Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, a public school in Bayside, was his next stop.

“I always went to class, did my work, participated, but I’m a bad test-taker,” Yves said. He was nearing aging out of high school and his grades were not improving. The administration at Cardozo suggested Yves get his GED. But with two younger siblings looking up to him, Yves was not ready to give up.

After hearing about BHSLCS, Yves decided to give it a chance. BHSLCS is a transfer high school providing a student-centered, personalized educational experience that empowers over-aged, under-credited high school students to obtain their high school diploma.

“At first I didn’t want to go, I had a bad image of a transfer school in my mind. But when I got there, a lot of the things they offered me were much better than my last three schools,” Yves said. “I had better guidance and people who believed in me. They don’t let you fail.”

With the support of BHSLCS teachers and counselors, Yves was able to graduate this year and is now in his first semester at Queensborough Community College. He plans to graduate and move on to a four-year college (he’s thinking St. Johns, Morgan State or NYU) for pre-law.

“My dream job is to be an entertainment lawyer and then eventually a judge.”

11th BCS x Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service Graduation


The Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service held their 11th Commencement Ceremony on June 25, 2019 at St. Joseph’s College. It was an emotional day for all parents, staff, and graduates present. The program began with staff and student processionals, welcoming remarks, and a singing performance. Georgia Serves, the founding principal, later addressed the audience with words of encouragement (and gave BCS a shoutout!). Janelle Farris, our very own Executive Director and President, introduced the keynote speaker, Rondo Moses. Moses had three take-away pieces of advice for the graduating class: 1. Harness technology, 2. Set goals, and 3. Be intentional about self-care. And then came the waterworks: Raven Gray and Edwonda Gritton were the Class of 2019’s Salutatorian and Valedictorian, and each gave tear-jerking speeches about their experiences. Four other graduates also spoke on their journeys, and the audience was in shambles throughout it all. The day ended with the conferring of diplomas and lots of pictures! Thank you Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service for having us on your special day.

Deloitte x BCS = Impact Day Success!


June 7th, 2019 marked the twentieth year of Impact Day, Deloitte’s annual day of service that celebrates its year-round commitment to social impact. Our partners at Deloitte celebrated their 20th Impact Day with us at the Farragut Community Center. Local employees volunteered their time to teach our clients how to navigate LinkedIn as a career resource, interview effectively, develop a stellar resume, and prepare a convincing elevator pitch. The day ended with lunch from Shake Shack, mingling between clients and Deloitte volunteers, and group photos! We are so grateful of the Deloitte volunteers for taking the time to share their knowledge and advice with us!

BCS and Unilever Believe in the Right to Shower


Unilever launched The Right To Shower products and 100% of the profits go to supporting organizations like BCS, who are providing free and safe showers to Brooklyn’s homeless community. BCS is teaming up with Turning Point Brooklyn to launch New York’s first mobile shower bus. The service, which is modeled after a successful program in San Francisco, will travel different routes around the borough to offer the simple dignity of a shower to Brooklyn’s homeless and under-housed residents. The products, available at Whole Foods and on Amazon.com, are cruelty-free and made with organic ingredients and recycled packaging. Need a great gift idea?! Check out the products here!

BCS Rallies for Increased Funding 


BCS joined other community based organizations and the Human Services Council at City Hall to rally for $106 million dollars in funding from next year’s city budget. Members of our BCS family showed up to make sure New York City Council is aware of the vital need for investment in the human services sector. We are on the front lines of poverty, homelessness, and mental illness in Brooklyn. We partner with our community to ensure everyone has access to excellent education, jobs, safe and affordable housing, quality health care and wellness programs. BCS has fought for a more equitable NYC since 1866, and we will continue to advocate for our clients and employees.

BCS Volunteers Spring Into Action


During March and April, we asked our community to “Spring into Action” and volunteer. Spring into Action, the signature volunteer initiative of BCS, has galvanized over 1,000 volunteers in the past seven years. From East New York to Red Hook, volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got to work in under-served neighborhoods through involvement in interactive and educational projects. Here’s a snapshot of this year’s impact:

  • More than 350 people participated in Spring into Action events
  • 30 elementary school students learned about creative careers like – graphic design, coding, and art therapy.
  • 30 volunteers helped clean-up 2 community gardens.
  • 10 homeless women learned about ways to manage menstrual health.
  • 15 young people learned about self-advocacy and using their voices to fuel change.
  • 20 tree-beds in Fort Greene received care and fresh mulch.
  • 45 adults with intellectual disabilities participated in volunteer-led recreational activities.
  • 13 potential mentors visited our youth programs.

2019 Human Spirit Awards Gala


On June 3rd, we held our annual Human Spirit Awards Gala in celebration of our Brooklyn community. We honored 4 inspiring innovators who are empowering Brooklynites through philanthropy and advocacy. The Civic Leadership Award was presented to Brooklyn Borough President, Eric L. Adams, who has continued to serve NYC residents for 3 decades. The renowned multidisciplinary Brooklyn-based artist, Derrick Adams, received the Arts & Culture Leadership Award. His work can be found in the permanent collections of prominent museums across the country. This year’s Corporate Leader Honoree is Unilever. They’re partnering with BCS on the Mobile Shower Bus Initiative, a shower service that will travel across Brooklyn to serve vulnerable populations. The World Champion Jazzy Jumpers, a Brooklyn-based Double Dutch team, received the Program Excellence Award. This award-winning team is a part of Seth Low Cornerstone, a BCS community center in Brownsville, and gala attendees got to see this young talent in action!

Thank you to everyone who made this year’s Gala a success, and for your commitment to supporting Brooklyn Community Services. Your efforts allow us to continue to serve Brooklyn everyday, and we can’t thank you enough! A special thank you to our wonderful honorees – Eric Adams, Derrick Adams, Unilever, and the World Champion Jazzy Jumpers.

Check out pictures from the Gala here!

Farragut Joins Food Access and Affordability Pilot


BCS’ Farragut Cornerstone program joins the Farragut Housing residents, Enterprise Community Partners, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the Fund for Public Housing to introduce the innovative Food Access and Affordability Pilot! Our “Resident Designers” are leveraging technology to create collective purchasing options and online shopping and delivery. Should the pilot be successful, this could make groceries more affordable, available and convenient for the entire Farragut community. The first program of its kind, our culminating project will work to empower residents to develop new avenues to address food disparity in public housing communities.

Groundbreaking for 1921 Cortelyou


The groundbreaking for 1921 Cortelyou was a huge success! This project will house families, seniors, and young adult females transitioning out of homelessness. BCS and Turning Point will be on-site to provide career development and other support services to help the formerly homeless female residents get on track to their own autonomy.

The project is a partnership between the Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY) and The Baptist Church of the Redeemer. It will include of 76 units for families, seniors, and young adult females. The church has a long history in the Flatbush community and will be getting a new church facility as part of the development. The project is being financed by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development and the Bank of America Merill Lynch. The contractor for this project is Mega Contracting Group, LLC and the architect is Edelman Sultan Knox Wood/Architects LLP.

Join BCS’ Community Initiatives this Holiday Season!


Holiday Gift Drives:
Join BCS in making this holiday season truly the happiest season of all for
all. Donate or volunteer at one our upcoming events happening during
the month of December.

Ways to bring Holiday cheer to BCS this year:

  • BCS Holiday Parties: Hosting a holiday party at one of our after-school
  • Host a Holiday Gift drive at your organization and/business and collect gifts
    for the youth at BCS.
  • Gift Wrapping Parties at BCS: Come help BCS wrap gifts for our clients
    during the holiday season.

Thanksgiving Drives/Dinners/Potlucks:
We need your help in making our annual Thanksgiving Feasts extra special!
Our Cornerstone community centers and after-school programs host
potlucks and community dinners for their members during the Thanksgiving
holidays. During this time, we call on community members to donate
resources such as imperishable goods, turkeys, or your time by helping to
serve and prepare food during the dinners. We also welcome partners who
would like to host Thanksgiving potlucks as well.

Beauty Basket Drive:
BCS hosts an annual beauty basket drive where we collect beauty and
wellness related toiletries and products to create festive gift baskets for the
women of the BCS Transitional Living Community (TLC) and Turning Point
Transitional Shelter. The gift baskets are gifted to the women around
Valentine’s Day to foster self-care and self-worth. TLC helps women with
mental illness or who have experienced trauma transition from
homelessness to permanent housing. Turning Point Transitional Shelter
offers housing and services for women 18 – 25 years of age.

For more information, please contact:

Asea Thompson
Outreach and Engagement Coordinator at
AThompson@WeAreBCS.org or 718-310-5678.

Axis Capital Builds Greenhouse for Global Day of Giving


This week, employees from Axis Capital came out to Turning Point’s Henry Street Houses in Red Hook for their Global Day of Giving. We want to thank their dedicated team for their hard work helping build a brand new greenhouse from start to finish, and for funding the project.

ONE BK Unite 2018


ONE BK Unite 2018 was a great success! We are so proud of our BCS family, and grateful to our supporters for their passionate fundraising. Clients, staff, and supporters alike had such a wonderful time coming together for ONE Brooklyn Community. All of your hard work has helped us raise over $24,000 to support our programs. Your efforts enable BCS to continue to serve Brooklyn, and we can’t thank you enough! Check out photos from the event below!

Executive Director Janelle Farris Speaks on Better Business Bureau Panel


BCS’ Executive Director, Janelle Farris participated in the New York Better Business Bureau’s Charity Effectiveness Series panel, “Before, During, and After: Planning and Navigating Successful Executive Transitions.” The panel was moderated by Jennifer Jones Austin, Executive Director of The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. The panelists included: Miguel Bonilla, Senior Director of NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, Rehana Farrell, Executive Director of Youth Inc NYC, and Jim Matison, the former Executive Director of the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society. The panelists shared personal stories and wisdom garnered from their experiences, to provide the audience with insight to better enable succession planning for leadership transitions.

African Day Parade at Seth Low


Our Seth Low Cornerstone had an African day parade, and it was a joyous celebration for all. Our Cornerstone programs provide high-quality, year-round programming that engages the entire community, but with a real youth-led focus. Programming includes theme-based and project-based youth activities, community events and community building. Both the children and the community had a fun-filled day celebrating culture.

Community Habilitation’s Annual Bowling Tournament


BCS works to provide supportive spaces where persons with intellectual disabilities can achieve their full potential. This weekend, BCS programs for adults with intellectual disabilities competed in their annual bowling tournament at Melody Lanes in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The winning team was the BCS Recreation Team, who remain undefeated after winning this year. Win or lose, everyone had a blast!

2018 Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest


The competing sculptors did not disappoint with their imaginative creations at this year’s Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest! Presented by BCS, in partnership with Astella Development Corp., and the Alliance for Coney Island, this year’s sponsors included Coney Island’s own Luna Park NYC. We thank the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation for their support. Check out some of the amazing sculptures that were created by the winners! We were also mentioned in a Brooklyn Daily article about the contest, read it here.

Duffield Meets LIU Basketball’s Incoming Freshman Players


Duffield Children’s Center got a special treat! Our young ones were some of the first in the community to meet the incoming Freshman players for LIU Brooklyn’s Women’s Basketball Team! As always, thank you to LIU Brooklyn Women’s Basketball for spreading joy and playing with the Duffield kids.

East New York Street Clean Up


The teachers from Achievement First Endeavor Charter School did a street clean up in East New York. They helped beautify the streets near our East New York Clubhouse and Transitional Living Community sites. We are so grateful to them for helping us take care of Brooklyn. Want to make a difference in your community? Volunteer with us! Email us at volunteer@wearebcs.org, or come to one of our info sessions every 2nd Wednesday of the month!

LIU BK Women’s Basketball Team Returns to Duffield


The lovely ladies from LIU Brooklyn’s basketball team returned to Duffield Children’s Center! We are so appreciative of them taking the time out to brighten the days of our young ones. The kids are always smiling from ear to ear when these women are around to play with.

BCS Celebrates Disability Pride!


In partnership with our programs, BCS clients with disabilities are reaching new heights every day. We are proud that our programs are a welcoming space for our clients to harness their potential, as they discover their talents and passions.

On Sunday, our staff, volunteers and clients came out to the Disability Pride NYC Parade to celebrate our clients with disabilities! Our bright handmade signs, made with the help of AFROPUNK Army volunteers, definitely aligned with this year’s theme of Creativity. We are proud to celebrate the human spirit and stand for the equal rights of all people.

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