The Red Hook Initiative (RHI) has been a source of hope and renewal to local youth and their families, offering a stable of job training programs and other educational and health programs for all ages. Now, thanks to the $77,000 raised at its annual fundraiser, A Taste Of Red Hook, RHI can continue its legacy.
Area restaurants, wineries, cupcakeries, seafood spots, and artists donated food, time and energy for the annual event, held on October 23 at new gallery/event space The Intercourse. They included the likes of Fort Defiance, Seersucker, Court Street Grocers, Greenhook Ginsmiths, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Potlikker, and Brewklyn Grind.
The hundreds of attendees included business and civic leaders, foodies, and, most importantly, RHI youth, who helped staff the event as part of pre-professional training.
“RHI gives a lot of opportunity to kids who think everything’s over; it lets us come and get dreams again,” said Kenneth Frazier, 16, who already has several college offers for when he graduates from Grady High School. “Stuff like this teaches you how to be professional, build resumes so you can show other jobs what you have done.”
That success is why so many businesses donated food, drink and amazing auction items such as artwork and designer handbags and jewelry to the event. And that vision is what motivated RHI founder Jill Eisenhard to launch the organization a decade ago.
“I was a health educator and I was doing health education in different communities around Brooklyn and I really wanted people and women in this community to have the skills to do their own education for neighbors and friends,” explained Eisenhard of RHI’s origins.
From the initial 10 women from the Red Hook Houses who were hired and trained in basic women’s health to the youth development, employment and other programs that now run from sixth grade on, RHI grew and expanded to become a trusted community resource.
“It’s been really amazing watching what’s happened over the last 10 years, watching community members really come in with their own passions and talents and design their own programs,” she said. “Before it was me with an idea. Now it’s 81 people with 81 ideas and passions and interests and investment in the community who come to work every day, whether it’s a 15-year-old educating peers with HIV prevention, an 18-year-old who’s helping their peers with college access and college education and scholarships, or an adult who’s doing work around employment or technology.”