BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — In a discreet yet festive ceremony in a Brooklyn Heights apartment last week, the final charitable act of the former Orphan Asylum Society in the City of Brooklyn, founded 1833, was performed.
Cash gifts of nearly $2 million were disbursed to three Brooklyn organizations that evening, Oct. 27. The festivities were joyous for representatives of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the PTA of Public School 8 and the SCO Family of Services — each of whom provides powerful and transformative services to children in their own programs.
But the evening also served as a reminder of the changing nature of services to children over many decades. Indeed, going back more than a century and a half, the rich spirit of charity and civic pride in the City of Brooklyn in 1833 was the impetus for the Orphan Asylum Society, founded in a house on Love Lane in response to a cholera epidemic that had left many Brooklyn children without parents. The purpose was to educate and secure employment for “destitute and needy children.”
Through the years preceding the incorporation of Brooklyn into the City of New York in 1898, an unprecedented growth of children’s needs, as well as the awareness and generosity of the board, created a healthy and privately funded entity that acquired buildings, built a hospital wing and served hundreds of children.
By 1941 the organization’s Board of Managers decided to find a home out of the city, in Long Island. They moved to Brookwood Hall, a 52-acre estate with a private lake, 50 miles from New York. The name was changed to Brookwood Child Care in 1952, and the agency operated in Brooklyn as well as the other boroughs with foster care programs, group homes for adolescents, a family daycare program, prevention programs and adoption services. Medical care was also provided, with a doctor attending the children once a week.
Due to reduction in city assignments of children to foster care, revisions in other practices by the city and its desire to reduce the number of child care agencies, Brookwood Child Care was forced to dissolve. This process was completed in 2006.
But in 2000, anticipating the many problems facing child care agencies, members of the board had created the Brookwood Foundation as a supporting entity for Brookwood’s mission. Under the astute management of Richard Arkwright, a board member and contributor for many years, the foundation stabilized at least one facet of Brookwood’s funding efforts.
After Brookwood Child Care was dissolved in 2006, the foundation, a separate entity, continued to fund related charitable work. Finally, as of this year, it created a voluntary dissolution plan that required New York State Supreme Court approval.
The foundation’s assets had been well managed by Jill Arkwright Harvey of the firm her father founded, Analytic Asset Management. So the final disbursement last week provided almost $2 million of support for Brooklyn organizations, each of which will maintain a “Brookwood Fund” to keep alive the history — some 175 years — of the original Orphan Asylum Society in the City of Brooklyn.
The first beneficiary is SCO Family of Services for its ongoing programs in Brooklyn that benefit children and families. This grant comprises 80 percent of the foundation’s assets, to be known as the Brookwood Fund. SCO operates in all five boroughs as well as in Nassau and Suffolk counties and provides a broad range of services. The agency serves more than 20,000 of Brooklyn’s most vulnerable children and families and provides more than 47 innovative and supportive programs in the borough. Among its varied programs in Brooklyn are the Nurse Family Partnership, providing prenatal care, parenting skills and support for young mothers; Family Foster Care and Adoption; Residential Services for homeless and at-risk adolescents; and Family Counseling. Gail Nayowith, executive director, accepted the gift for SCO.
The second grant of 10 percent went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) for its Children’s Education Department. This endowment, which will also be known as the Brookwood Fund, will provide support for the garden’s wonderful Children’s Garden, the Discovery Garden and Project Green Reach (supplementing science education for K-8 students in Title 1 schools). The grant will also help support the Garden Apprentice Program, another children’s program, and the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment, a public high school directly across the street from the garden that offers outstanding learning opportunities to students, including a year-long sustainable agriculture class. Scot Medbury, president of the BBG, accepted for the garden.
The final grant, also 10 percent, went to the P.S. 8 PTA for a Brookwood Fund to support its enrichment programs at the North Heights school. The PTA, which actively raises funds through various events during the year, provides ongoing enrichment programs for the students that are not otherwise available. These programs, varying from year to year, have included playwriting and production, learning music with musicians from Bargemusic, an after-school film club, and programs with various museums, artists, musicians, writers and poets. Accepting for the PTA was Liz Pitofsky, its co-president.
The Brookwood Foundation’s Board of Directors includes Brooklyn residents Janna Collins, President Lee Scott, Tom Synnott, Mary Pat Thornton, Frank Wohl and Tony Zinsser, as well as former Brooklynite Lee Richards.
* * *