Pastor Edwin Malave had invested his life savings into starting a Christian bookstore and cafe at the front of his church.  Sandy hit a month before he was supposed to open.  With flood waters reaching five feet, all the appliances and equipment he had purchased were destroyed.  Instead of abandoning the space altogether, Pastor Malave turned the would-be-cafe into a food pantry, and is now distributing donated foods to 200 families every day. 

A grant from Robin Hood covers Pastor Malave’s costs for three months.  He’s building new relationships with foundations, so the food pantry can become a permanent resource for families in Coney Island. 

Learn more about our Sandy Relief efforts.

Helping the Homeless Youth

Last Friday, 35 members of the Teen Council met at Robin Hood as they continue to discuss “the face of homeless”, focusing on homelessness among youth, particularly focusing on the challenges facing the LBGTQ population. During the meeting, our Teen Council watched a video featuring one of the clients from the Ali Forney Center, Derrick, and his struggles to find acceptance and support.

The sad truth is many L.G.T.B.Q. youth are severely disconnected, failed by the systems designed to support their educational and social development.

Ali Forney is the largest and most comprehensive program in the nation dedicated to meeting the needs of homeless LGBTQ youth. Through their Outreach Services, Drop In Center and Emergency and Transitional Housing they see over 1,000 homeless LGBTQ youth each year. 99% of youth in their Transitional Housing Program are employed and 77% are enrolled in higher education.

Robin Hood is proud to partner with such an incredible organization. To learn more about Robin Hood’s work in this space, please read more here.

For the past two decades Robin Hood has joined the fight against AIDS and HIV in New York City. As we raise awareness for the AIDS crisis on World AIDS Day, we also want to reflect on how this epidemic intersects with poverty in the city.

Robin Hood fights the spread of H.I.V. and improves the health of poor New Yorkers in four main ways:

  1. We fund programs that keep people connected to medical care and adherent to H.I.V. medication
  2. Through programs that perform H.I.V. testing in high-risk populations to find H.I.V. positive individuals in the earlier stages of the disease.
  3. With syringe exchange programs which provide access to clean needles and supportive services such as case management, substance abuse treatment and mental health.
  4. Programs that connect H.I.V. positive individuals to services such as housing, benefits, legal assistance, primary care, substance abuse treatment

Recently, Funders Concerned About AIDS put out their annual report on U.S. AIDS funding and Robin Hood ranked 18th overall in H.I.V./AIDS funding for 2011(including international aid) and is the 9th largest funder in the country of domestic AIDS programs.

In 2011, RH gave over $4.18 million to programs serving about 13,000 people with H.I.V. or at-risk of contracting H.I.V.

photo: Empire State Building


In 2001 Tanya Ridley was working as a receptionist in a dentist office. While she was thankful she had a job, she never felt like it was where she was supposed to be.

Then, after the tragedies of 9/11, Tanya saw the many opportunities to rebuild New York City. She wanted to take part in the rebuilding, but knew that wouldn’t happen sitting behind a desk. Without experience, she applied and was accepted into the pre-apprenticeship program at  Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW). She entered the program knowing how to type and answer phones, but upon graduating 6 weeks later she acquired skills in painting, trim work, reading a floor plan and she even learned how to lift a 65 pound bucket of concrete without breaking a sweat. Like many of her females peers, Tanya was fearful of math, but in just six short weeks she understood more than she had mastered in all her years of schooling. Tanya credits her instructors and NEW social worker Linda Young, who provided her with the resources she needed to succeed.

Tanya completed the training program and graduated in the fall of 2007. In 2008 she was hired as a Metal Lather (building and installing metal framework for internal and external walls) with Local 46 Metallic Lathers and Reinforncing Ironworks Union. She has since held steady employment. On her first job as a Lather, working for Roger & Sons Concrete, Tanya completed her goal as she found herself reinforcing the foundation of Tower 4 at the World Trade Center. She is especially proud of the fact that for the first year of her apprenticeship, she was the only female Lather on the project.

Robin Hood has been funding NEW since 1990 and it is because of success stories like Tanya’s that we’ve continued to support them with more than $7 million since that time.

Tanya continues her relationship with NEW as she now serves as a mentor to pre-apprentices in the program. Her motto is: “Good things come to those who work hard” and her hard work is definitely paying off.

On the Road with St. John’s bread and Life

St. John’s Bread and Life is Brooklyn’s largest soup kitchen and food pantry, serving more than one thousand meals to hungry New Yorkers every day. They have expanded their reach beyond the local Brooklyn neighborhood through their unique mobile soup kitchen.  This customized RV serves hot meals, and through the makeshift office in the back, they are able to provide outreach services to a number of New York City’s most impoverished communities located in East New York, Brownsville, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Coney Island, and Williamsburg.

A couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of going along for a ride with the RV’s dedicated staff, Danny and Henry. During our three hours together, we served more than 100 plates of stuffed shells and steamed veggies to individuals in Jackson Heights, Queens. Danny and Henry’s passion for their work was evident and their intimate knowledge of the clients was impressive. Robin Hood’s approach has always been to find and fund the most effective poverty-fighting organizations, which is largely based on program evaluation and outcomes. However, we cannot overlook the people doing the work and helping to achieve those outcomes. Danny and Henry are two of those people.

New York City is a better place because of them and St. John’s Bread and Life.

In an old schoolhouse, classes of preschoolers spend the morning dancing, singing, playing dress up, reading and building with Legos. The classroom walls are covered with bright paintings, calendars showing changing seasons and schedules to illustrate circle time.  If you didn’t know better, you’d view it as a prestigious NYC preschool for the privileged few. You’d be wrong, as this setting is one of four Head Start pre-kindergarten programs run by the Staten Island Mental Health Society (S.I.M.H.S.).

S.I.M.H.S. serves more than 280 children and their families each year by providing support services to ‘at risk’ children enrolled in their preschools.

Sadly, there is a growing population of children with serious developmental disabilities, delays, and mental health issues whose needs go unmet because they are not deemed severe enough to receive publicly funded treatment.  The disabilities and issues are, however, severe enough to cause children to enter kindergarten well behind their peers. 

Imagine being just five years old and already behind your peers.

“It is heartbreaking to see a child who needs help but doesn’t have access to the services they need,” says Fern Zagor, President and CEO of Staten Island Mental Health Society. “These children will experience lasting negative impacts on their quality of life and academic success, imperiling their futures as productive, mentally healthy teenagers and adults.”

Have eligibility requirements always been this tough? Actually, the situation has worsened as budget cuts to government programs force reductions in the number of children enrolled in critical programs, including Early Intervention, pre-school special education and Medicaid.

Our’s grant to S.I.M.H.S. addresses the gap between the children who need services and those deemed eligible.  It works like this. At the start of the school year, the S.I.M.H.S. staff assesses each child to identify specific needs, such as speech and occupational therapy, and social and emotional counseling, as early as possible. The end goal is to maximize the children’s developmental gains prior to kindergarten to help ensure future success.

Zagor adds, “Robin Hood grants have helped us demonstrate our resilience and determination not to let our children and families down.  This beneficial partnership has enabled us to continue to provide comprehensive mental health services to our youngest children in our Head Start programs, and to children in schools most impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”

Of the students receiving services, nearly 50% avoid a special education placement in Kindergarten. Additionally, these students have shown significant reductions in behavioral problem, such as hyperactivity, conduct problems, asocial behavior, and anxiety, after receiving services for a year or more.

As we watch these students skip around the classroom, we feel a slight sense of relief knowing S.I.M.H.S. is helping transform their odds to succeed.

New York City on Cutting-Edge of Public Health

Since 2004, Robin Hood has partnered with the N.Y.C. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene through its Fund for Public Health in New York on innovative programs that help New Yorkers lead healthier lives. Through the city’s research, we know that the life span for New Yorkers in poverty is 4 years shorter than for individuals in wealthier neighborhoods. And chronic illnesses among poor children are a major cause of absenteeism and lost wages for care-taking parents.

Robin Hood funds new initiatives like the N.Y.C. Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES), which will allow the Department of Health to gain a better understanding of pressing health issues and allocate resources more effectively. Robin Hood also helped fund innovative programs like the Primary Care Information Project, which has enabled doctors to practice better preventative care and improve the lives’ of their patients.

The success of these cutting-edge programs is reflected in the increased rates of life expectancy in N.Y.C., which are outpacing national averages. Additionally, some of the lessons learned from New York City are being applied on a national level.  Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former Commissioner of Health for N.Y.C.  is now using some of the same strategies and programs in his current role as the Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch this video to learn more about how New York City has become a leader in public health.

Written by:

Sarah Oltmans, Senior Program Officer

In serving the hungry, there often is a lot more than can be done improve their lives beyond handing out food. This story from the West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH), a Robin Hood funded program, is a great example of how many issues can be addressed once a person is connected to the right services.

Esmeralda Perez is a Single Stop caseworker who meets with visitors onsite at WSCAH. Here is her account of a recent meeting with Maribel:

Maribel is a 38-year-old single mother of two small sons. In August 2009, as a legal resident, she came to the United States from the Dominican Republic without her children. In May 2012 she was able to bring her boys to live here with her. She works as a child care provider but her income isn’t big enough to meet the food needs of her family. A friend told her about WSCAH’s food pantry and food stamp enrollment program. On her first visit, WSCAH screened her and found her eligible for food stamps. Maribel had never applied for benefits before because she had been misinformed that her children needed social security numbers first—which she thought she couldn’t apply for until their residency papers were complete. WSCAH let her know her that her children could apply for the benefit with passports stamped as permanent residents. 

She came back to WSCAH in late July with all necessary documentation for her food stamp application. Not only that, she received the papers she needed to apply successfully for social security numbers for her children.  

A week later Maribel received notice from the New York City Human Resources Administration that she will receive a monthly food stamp benefit of $367.

She was ecstatic about having this help feeding her children. WSCAH’s next step is applying for health insurance for her sons.

Thanks to WSCAH, Single Stop and Esmeralda, one less family goes hungry in New York City.


Education is a critical weapon in our fight against poverty. We’re launching the $5 million Robin Hood College Success Prize for the development of innovative tech tools to help community college students stay on track & earn degrees.  Learn more:

For the last two weeks, thousands of tennis fans have flocked to Flushing Meadows in Queens to witness the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, a beloved annual New York City sporting event. Robin Hood hopes that fans, not only experienced great tennis, but also enjoyed their unique surroundings.

Robin Hood funds multiple programs in Queens including, but not limited to:

  • The River Fund is the largest emergency food provider in Queens serving nearly four million meals this past year.

  • Fortune Society supports successful reentry from prison and promotes alternatives to incarceration by providing job training, housing, education and other supportive services.

  • St. John’s Bread and Life serves hot meals and provides outreach services to neighborhoods in Queens through their mobile soup kitchen.

  • Global DIRT responds to short term emergencies and the long term ramifications of disasters. The coastal areas of Queens were hit hard during queens, particularly in the Rockaways and Breezy Point and Global DIRT was one of the first groups to get boots on the ground in Queens.

Here are a few fun facts about Queens:

  • Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world with a population of over 2.2 million, 48% of whom are foreign-born, representing over 100 different nations and speaking over 138 different languages.

  • The “E” and “F” subway line is one of the fastest routes in the NYC Subway System. The average speed between Forest Hills and Queens Plaza is about 60 mph (96 km/h).

  • The Queensbridge Houses is the largest public housing development in North America. The complex has 3,142-units housing some 6,907 residents.

Robin Hood is proud to support Queens, a borough full of vibrant neighborhoods and resilient people.


We recently spent the morning with the folks at The River Fund, the largest emergency food provider in Queens. As one of our newest grantees, the group is not only meeting, but exceeding, our expectations. After receiving their first Robin Hood grant last summer, the River Fund has been able to help more individuals and distribute more meals. They went from serving 3,943 unique households in a nine month period to now serving more than 28,000 households. That translates into 525,000 meals to more than 3,750,000 meals provided after Robin Hood’s funding.  

While emergency food may be the primary reason families come to food pantries, like The River Fund, we know that other needs are paramount.  Housing, benefits assistance, immigration and employment are some of the top issues low-income New Yorkers struggle with. As a result Robin Hood’s support for food groups is concentrated more heavily on connecting people to benefits and services.  Access to healthy, nutritious meals is important, but the focus is to help families with other basic needs as well.

With support from Single Stop staff, the River Fund has increased their benefit screenings from 612 in a 12 month period to 958 in the first nine months of our grant. And new enrollments in one or more benefits went from a peak of 502 in a 12 month period to 624 in nine months.

In a very short amount of time, Robin Hood’s support has helped the River Fund go from a grassroots, volunteer organization to a multi-service agency. We are proud to partner with incredible people doing incredible things.

Last week some of our staff attended an event in Union Beach, NJ to celebrate the opening of two new homes built for families who lost their residence during Hurricane Sandy

Out of the 2,400 houses that make up the 1.8 square mile borough of Union Beach over 85% of the homes were flooded with at least two feet of water. 

The rebuilding of these homes was funded as part of the Union Beach Project, which aimed to return families to durable, storm-resilient modular homes via a cost-effective, demolition-to-reconstruction model.

Our grant of $770,000 helped outfit newly built homes with key appliances including washers, dryers and refrigerators. In partnership with the NJ Relief Fund the Union Beach Project will provide modular homes for 15 Union Beach families.

700,000 New Yorkers have Diabetes—almost a third don’t know they have it. 

New data from the city Department Of Health indicates that diabetes rates have risen over the past 20 years. Specifically, since 1993 diabetes has increased among adult New Yorkers by 150 percent, from 4.2 percent of adults in 1993 to 10.5 percent in 2011.

The report also finds that diabetes disproportionately affects the city’s high-poverty communities, with the highest rates among Hispanic, black and South Asian New Yorkers.

Just last week, Robin Hood’s Board of Directors approved a grant to City Health Works! a start-up organization that is working to tackle the growing presence of diabetes and obesity in New York’s low-income communities. Incubated at Columbia Business School and the Earth Institute at Columbia University during 2012, City Health Works! is an innovative program that trains community health workers to implement an intensive lifestyle intervention for at risk individuals.

Their specific program has been shown to be effective in lowering weight and reducing the incidence of diabetes in adults through numerous studies. Robin Hood is particularly excited about this grant because we believe City Health Works! has the potential to address the current lack of scalable models that effectively address these health issues. Because of this, we are confident that our recent investment will have a large impact over time on our city’s health. Learn more about this exciting program here.

Children are society’s most valuable members and they’re also the most vulnerable. Lawyers for Children, a Robin Hood grantee focused on providing free legal and social work advocacy to abused and neglected children, children in foster care and children in high conflict custody cases, recently developed an incredible online resource for children.

What used to be a scattered and buried web resource has been transformed into an easily accessible and mobile friendly information hub. Designed for youth, the reformed site provides information on immigration, education, LGBTQ issues, pregnancy, mental health, sexual abuse and foster care among other topics.

View the handbook & resource list here.

Please share this with any organizations or individuals that could benefit from it!