When Shawna Herbert, Tanya Gordon, Malika Henderson and Nikki Padgett bought too much food for a barbecue nine years ago, they never imagined it would change their lives forever.
The foursome was having an annual cookout near their homes on 145th Street in South Ozone Park, and they started giving away the excess food to area children. They enjoyed it so much that the following year they intentionally bought extra food to share with their neighbors.
With that, the four childhood friends started Project Give Back, a local non-profit organization designed to bring community members together. While all four founders have full-time jobs, they each work up to an additional six hours a day to keep the organization running. “We have no spare time for anything else,” Herbert joked.
The overall goal is for the community to become self-sufficient in the areas of education, health and crime prevention. They are also working to beautify the Hilton Holiday Gardens Park. “We don’t need to take money from the government when we can simply empower our communities,” Herbert said.
The annual Give Back To The Community Day will be held Saturday, July 10th, from noon to 8 p.m. at 145th Street between 130th and 133rd Avenues in South Ozone Park. It will feature amusement rides, giveaways, contests and an ice cream truck.
There will be prizes provided by local businesses, including Time Warner Cable, And 1 Sportswear, the New York Jets and Giants, the US Open, the Courtyard Marriott, Circuit City and JetBlue Airways.
There will also be a “Community Idol” competition with Rudy Rush, the host of Showtime in Harlem. All competitors must be between the ages of 16 and 25 and audition before the day of the fair. There will be guest celebrity judges and a prize will be awarded to the winner.
The event is held primarily to bring neighbors together so they can meet each other. “It’s a way to get people to start talking,” Herbert said. “Sometimes neighbors who live next door don’t even talk to each other.”
Project Give Back facilitates tutoring for the third-grade public school test and organizes field trips and outings for local schoolchildren. To get involved or for more information about the barbecue, call 718-506-7521. You can also visit the web site at www.projectgivebackonline.org. To audition for the Community Idol contest, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.