Each year in addition to the run/walk fundraiser for youth, the Dime McCarren 5K chooses to recognize local community heroes. These folks do what they do with pure hearts to benefit the community in the areas of community preservation, education, and employment.
The 2018 Dime McCarren 5K has four honorees in those respective three areas:
Pat and David Dobosz are retired teachers and longtime residents of Williamsburg who are on the frontlines of community activism to maintain fair housing in the community.
Ezequiela Nieves is a teacher at PS 250 who has striven to win grants that broaden the students’ artistic and academic potential — but this is just one of the many things she does for the students at her school,.
Evelyn Melendez, Community Coordinator, Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability (REES) was born and raised in this community and sees her work in assisting NYCHA residents into higher levels of career potential as a way of giving back.
David and Pat Dobosz
“David & Pat have been a voice for the underserved residents in the community for many years. Their passion and commitment to affect change and improve the neighborhood for the inclusion of all residents is a powerful example of civic leadership for all of us,” said Frank Lang, St. Nicks Alliance Director of Housing.
Pat and David Dobosz are a husband and wife team of retired educators and activists for education and housing rights, primarily. They have been part of the Williamsburg community for several decades. In Pat’s case she was born and raised here. In David’s case, he hailed from Grand Rapids, Michigan and was assigned to New York City to teach. He began teaching at the freedom school at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church (195 Maujer St.). Pat would also become a teacher; she was a substitute teacher at several District 14 schools until she became a teacher at PS 157. They met through church and were married in 1985.
About their entrance into activism David says, “It was a gradual involvement. With kids and teaching there was not enough time.” David retired in 2009, and then he could devote more time. They hadn’t been dormant during their parenting and teaching years for they regularly attended community and school board meetings. However, “Seeing the negative effects on our family and the families of others” inspired them to up the ante and get involved in the fight for housing and education rights in the neighborhood.
Pat remembers growing up in a very diverse neighborhood and witnessed how overtime that diversity was being diluted. They credit Jan Peterson and Alison Cordero for introducing them to St. Nicks Alliance, GREC, OUTRAGE, UNO, and other community organizations so they could better focus their activism. Once they were involved, they saw how integrated social activism is in this community. “It’s some tough sod, our community has had a sense of social justice that other communities haven’t shared.” said David.
Pat gives a nod to Mildred Tudy-Johnston as another inspiration. Ms. Tudy was a devoted teacher and activist for fairness, equality, child welfare and lived by the example of her motto, “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem!” For many years, Pat and David have aided in the annual Kwanza celebration named after Ms. Tudy at St John the Evangelist.
They know victory is in playing the long game and patience and persistence are necessary elements. As part of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition they protested the rezoning the Rabsky-Pfizer lots, a rezoning which raised concerns about planned segregated and discriminatory housing by the developer. After a steady fight, which had its beginnings in 2009, they finally received a win when a settlement was reached this past December. The settlement reconfigures the plan to accommodate more than double the amount of the original plan’s affordable units.
“Ms. Nieves is an incredible educator–creative, passionate, invested, hardworking — who contributes to the transformation of children, families, and schools. Her generosity of spirit and talent are vital to the success of our 21st Century Community Learning Center at PS 250,” stated Debra Sue Lorenzen, St. Nicks Alliance’s Director of Youth and Education, as some of the reasons Ms. Nieves was selected for this award.
Ezequiela Nieves has been an elementary school teacher at PS 250 since 1988, and currently teaches the 2nd grade. She taught adult ESOL classes also, and her focus with teaching any age is to give her students what they need, “The fun of learning and the gift to believe in themselves.” For most of her career Nieves has taught children and says you get the gift of grace when you see through their eyes.
Through most of her career as a teacher she was a single mother. Her own children, Anthony and Jessica, went to PS 250. Thanks to the encouragement of her administrators and peers she went on to earn her master’s degree and take on other challenges such as grant writing and other aspects of teaching.
Ms. Nieves says she isn’t comfortable with putting herself out there. However, her role as an educational advocate has pushed her to establish a rapport with politicians and donors in order to raise funds for arts and other programs for the students of PS 250. She is also a United Federation of Teachers delegate and goes to Albany each year to advocate.
As a grant writer, her diligence was recently rewarded with a grant for Building Bridges art residency, which has students literally building bridges. She is also the Common Threads coordinator for the school where students get the opportunity to learn nutrition and cooking, sometimes from famous chefs. “I see it as opening a world to all these children,” says Nieves, and she mentions her daughter is a Cordon Blue chef in Florida. Students from St. Nicks Alliance’s afterschool have directly benefited from both these initiatives.
She is a Leader in Me coordinator and a mentor to PS 250’s Chinese dual language program where she helps the students get acclimated and makes the environment conducive. She also helps with staging the school’s The Lunar New Year and The Night of the Arts shows, which showcase this program.
Nieves emphatically states, “I don’t do any of this alone. I am so proud to have so many mentors in the form of principals, assistant principals, chancellors, and councilmen. It’s endless.” PS 250 Principals: Mr. Quail and Ms. LaCioppa; Assistant Principals: Ms Cathy Alicea and Ms. Cindy Siegal; and Glenn Branch and St. Nicks Alliance’s afterschool staff, are just some of whom she named. Don’t blame her if you don’t see your name, blame this writer who was limited by space. The genuinely humble Ms. Nieves doesn’t do what she does to receive acknowledgements for her work; she does it for the children.
“Ms. Melendez is a dedicated partner and always willing to roll up her sleeves and assist wherever she can to connect NYCHA REES residents to opportunities leading to economic empowerment including: Adult Education, Skills Training and Employment. Her commitment was vital to the successful launch of our new Greenscaping Training where she helped to recruit local NYCHA REES residents!” said Larry Rothchild, St. Nicks Alliance’s Director of Workforce Development.
Evelyn Melendez says she has basically always been a community activist. She was born and raised in Los Sures, on South 4th Street.
She was a social worker when she began working for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in 1998. Coincidentally she was assigned to Williamsburg. She would do case management work, home visits, assessments, and even accompany clients to court or to the hospital, if they needed. She knows the community and the community knows her. Some of the elders in NYCHA housing remember her as a little girl. “It’s a chance to give back to the community. I want to make sure they get the best services. I go above and beyond. I’d be as dedicated to another neighborhood.”
In her current role as community coordinator, Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability (REES), she covers thirty developments in Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bed-Stuy. Melendez builds partnerships with community organizations to give residents better economic potential. She looks for partners who offer trainings in adult education, job training, and financial aptitude. Her goal is to offer opportunities that lead to a wonderful career and better well being, not just a job. St. Nicks Alliance and the other partners support those she serves from start to finish.
She often receives emails from the residents she has helped. Some thanking her for helping them get their GED so they could move on to the next step.