New-look Bed-Stuy school cafeteria thanks to Habitat

Guyana-born Principal Lorna Khan of PS 54 in Bedford Stuyvesant painted the wall with gusto; the color was a peachy orange, which with the lime green doors, molding and other trim, makes for a very colorful cafeteria. She was in the unusual company of Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Pentecostals during “Building on Faith Day” when volunteers of many faiths come together with Habitat for Humanity-New York City projects.

“The kids enjoy the fact that the school’s cafeteria is being painted over,” Kahn radiated. “They come in and get really excited. They do recognize when things are new around here,” this grateful principal said.

Principal Kahn explained that this was Habitat for Humanity’s “Brush with Kindness”, a program that gives back to the community and that it was the second year that Habitat-NYC has worked at the over 100-year-old school building on Sanford St.

Over the course of the weekend, volunteers from nine faith groups put their “faith into action” while celebrating religious diversity.

Rabbi Michael Friedman from Central Synagogue in Manhattan working with a crew of cross generation volunteers-at least one father and son team-said, “We’ve had a long and fruitful relationship with Habitat for Humanity over the years and many times a year we send a group of volunteers to work on one of their important projects.”

The youth were particularly energetic as they applied the cheery colors with rollers and brushes as the space transformed before their eyes.

While all the volunteers broke for a tasty lunch of Middle Eastern vegetarian salads and kosher pizza, one volunteer from Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation, perched on a ladder, continued for a while to paint; he was enjoying it so much. He described his technique, “You have to use your wrist to control the flow, the color. It’s like doing artwork. I believe it’s helping me to concentrate on one thing.”

The lunch break allowed time for the volunteers to speak with each other and share views both among small groups and all those who were volunteering.

On this mid-October weekend, in addition to the cafeteria project, volunteers worked at one of the Habitat-NYC’s affordable housing sites nearby on Lafayette Street. Hagar Yossef grouted tiles alongside two others from the Muslim Consultative Network.

She admitted that she was very new to construction work. “I checked out the Habitat for Humanity website to see what they were doing in social justice and housing for low income families. It feels nice to be part of it. It’s fun, it’s learning, it’s something new, and I enjoy it,” she said.

Participating congregations also included, Pentecostal House of Prayer, Hope for New York Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Plymouth Church, Park Avenue United Methodist Church, Congregation Ansche Chesed, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, the Kabala Center, Abyssinian Baptist Church, St. Bart’s Episcopal Church and the Islamic Center of New York.

Brush with Kindness is Habitat-NYC’s neighborhood revitalization program, aimed at helping to improve and strengthen the low-income New York City neighborhoods where they build homes. With crews of volunteers, the program provides painting and minor renovations and repairs to community organizations, schools and other facilities serving our homeowner families and their neighborhoods.

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