iHeartRadio and New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization Robin Hood came together to host “Heroes of New York” in celebration of the impact of the incredible selflessness and resilience of New Yorkers. One of the heroes featured was United for Brownsville’s very own Athenia Rodney.
Rodney is a wife, mother of three, entrepreneur, change-maker, and a member of the United for Brownsville’s Family Advisory Board (FAB). The FAB is a group of resident leaders who lead the work of United for Brownsville, a collaboration between SCO Family of Services and Community Solutions to create a more equitable early childhood system in their community of Brownsville in Brooklyn, NY.
Rodney joined UB as a Community Engagement Specialist right after the COVID-19 pandemic began, stepping into the role to create resource guides, virtual learning sessions for families with children, family support groups, and more. The incredible community-led solutions she created for her fellow neighbors are empowered by her own experience as a mother in Brownsville.
“I first got involved with advocating in Brownsville through my children,” Rodney said.
“Brownsville has risen to the occasion by working in unison.”Athenia Rodney, UNITED FOR BROWNSVILLE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT SPECIALIST
The Power of Community in Brownsville
When the pandemic hit, the historic neighborhood of Brownsville lacked an adequate social safety net, with families facing food insecurity, a gap in educational services, and a lack of access to critical resources like PPE.
Growing up in Brownsville, Rodney’s mother faced barriers to participation in the educational system. Rodney learned how critical it was to be able to access an equitable education, and recognized that the pandemic meant a gap in educational services and early childhood development — placing the health and wellbeing of the community at stake.
“During COVID, we’re not having that same kind of interaction. Then, what happens to our children? Their social-emotional skills are starting to wane,” Rodney said.
So she built a comprehensive database of local resources for families to access and contribute to, and it’s now widely used by her neighbors every day. In-person programs for children and families went virtual, and United for Brownsville brought the community together to deliver critical goods like fresh produce, diapers, face masks, and cleaning supplies to Brownsville families every week.
“Brownsville has risen to the occasion by working in unison,” Rodney said. “I see a bunch of Black people coming together to fight for the good of the people.”