The Red Hook Initiative Celebrates 20 Years of Community Development


The Red Hook Initiative hosted an evening of food, fellowship and fundraising, marking 20 years of community service at their annual “Taste of Red Hook” event.

The event took place at the Liberty Warehouse on September 29 with a mission to raise $80,000 to support programs such as Red Hook Farms and the Young Adult Work Fellowship.

The annual benefit has grown from a backyard fundraiser to a highly anticipated event attracting a variety of award-winning Brooklyn restaurants, small businesses and the community at large.

“What I really like about RHI is that it’s not just an organization; it really feels like home and family,” said Cierra Craig, a young RHI fellow.

This “family” was formed in 2002 from a small local hospital program and now serves 6,500 residents of color through youth development, community development and work placement initiatives. RHI continues to rely on the long-term advocacy and support of its staff, volunteers and board members, many of whom are residents of the Red Hook community.

State Senator Andrew Gounardes of the New York State Senate’s 22nd District was also on hand to celebrate the organization’s vision for the future.

“It’s great to have a partner like Red Hook Initiative here on the ground working hand-in-hand with residents to do the work necessary to build this community,” Gournardes said.

“The future is incredibly bright for the people of Red Hook.”

This year marks the first-ever Ms. Deanna and Ms. Sheryl Inspiration Award, created to honor the lives and legacies of two early RHI staff members and longtime pillars of the community.

The women were described as passionate “godmothers” to many young people and devoted their lives tirelessly to the organization before passing away in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

RHI Community Relations Manager Michel’le Thomas became the first recipient and was honored for her efforts to connect residents to lifesaving benefits and emergency support.

The IRH offers the laureate Michel'le her flowers
Michel’le Thomas, recipient of the RHI award, receives her flowers. Photo: Provided by Mikayla Greene and RHI.

Thomas affectionately called the women aunts and said her victory was a “surreal moment”.

“I feel like I have to continue their legacy of serving the community and being resilient, just like they did,” Thomas said. “We really miss them and I know they are super proud.”

RHI ED Morgan Monaco looks to the future
Morgan Monaco Chief Executive Excited About RHI’s Future
Photo: Natasha Knows for the BK Reader.

Executive Director Morgan Monaco said Hurricane Sandy marked the turning point in RHI’s commitment to the Red Hook community a decade ago.

“RHI has been on the front line when there has been a backlog in resources,” Monaco said.

“Our building became a hub when we decided the community needed more support.”

During her speech, Monaco encouraged people to volunteer, donate and support the future of RHI’s much-needed work.

“There needs to be support for long-term access to affordable fresh food, health care, employment, education and other things that lead to a stable life.”

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