On Thursday, December 11, 2008, the Jackie Robinson Park Conservancy, Inc. (JRPC) in partnership with Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc. (HCCI), New York City Parks and Recreation, and a new sponsor, the Bradhurst Merchant Association (BMA), celebrated the 11th Annual Lights of Hope Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Jackie Robinson Park and Recreation Center located at 146th Street and Bradhurst Avenue in Harlem, New York.
In spite of the rain, guests filled the gym at the Jackie Robinson Park & Recreation Center to participate in an evening of song, food, and Christmas lights. Sylvia Rivera, 35, of Washington Heights, attended with her two children, Paula Isabel Rivera, 4 and son Jason Rivera, 1. She also brought along her sister Maria Rivera of the Bronx, 29, and niece Joelley Rivera, 19 months. “I read about the event in El Especialito (a Spanish language newspaper) and wanted to bring my daughter,” said Rivera. “She gets so excited. She loves Christmas tree lights.” Lights of Hope participants were treated to songs performed by the Joy Wonders of Harlem as well as Sister Charmaine Yates of Christ Community United Church. Manhattan Borough Commissioner Honorable Bill Castro greeted the audience and Ms. Beverly Alston, Chair of the JRPC emceed the holiday affair. Local residents and Melba’s Restaurant contributed food and gift bags were donated by the BMA.
Barbara Nelson, 50, attended for fellowship. President of the 301 W. 150th Street Tenants Association, Nelson, is a recently retired as a social worker who commits time to building her community. She said, “I’ve been working closely with HCCI in the past year, to improve my building and the surrounding neighborhood. So, I decided to come and be social. I liked it. Next year, I’ll definitely make sure that more of my building residents come out.”
The celebration also included a holiday party for neighborhood youth. Twenty-five children received Christmas gifts, played games, ate snacks, had their faces painted and spent time with Santa Clause. This year, Leslie Wyche, community liaison for Council Member Inez Dickens, donned the Santa suit and listened to gift requests from local children.
Lights of Hope was created to bring the Harlem community together in celebration of our common goals – lighting the way to brighter futures. It is also a community fundraiser. Through this event, neighborhood residents support JRPC, HCCI, the precious children of Harlem by purchasing a light of hope for $10 each from JRPC. JRPC is a not for profit organization, and contributions are deductible as provided by law. For more information contact Mr. David Weaver at 212-281-4887.