Grand Street Settlement

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Grand Street Settlement is an historic social service institution on the Lower East Side in New York City and was founded in 1916 in response to the needs of waves of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe who were settling in the area. Today, over 10,000 children, youth, families and older adults residing on the Lower East Side and Brooklyn are served through Grand Street Settlement’s community-based programs.

History of Grand Street Settlement[edit]

Grand Street Settlement was founded in 1916 by a group of young adults who were part of the Stevenson Club at Madison House (the present Hamilton-Madison House). They noticed a need for smaller settlement houses in helping the under served communities of the Lower East Side achieve self-sufficiency. With the help of philanthropist Rose Gruening, they opened the Arnold Toynbee House (named after the British social reformer, Arnold Toynbee) in a brownstone at 257 Division Street. Eight years later, the settlement house was renamed Grand Street Settlement.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Settlement's main services were provided through clubs for girls and boys and young men and women. These clubs featured art, sewing, and dance. The Settlement also operated a kindergarten for the children of working parents and household management and child-rearing programs for parents.

In 1925, Camp Moodna in Orange County, New York was donated to Grand Street, offering a respite location for working girls who needed a break from the summer heat. Later years gave way to summer day camps for both boys and girls. One of the first tenant unions was also organized by the Grand Street Settlement.

By the 1930s, the agency had expanded its services, and professionals began replacing volunteers on staff. Core programs in the late 1930s and during the 1940s included childcare, daycare, and health and personal services.

Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, and continuing to the present, the Lower East Side has seen the arrival of new immigrants, mostly from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia. As a main provider of social services in the area, Grand Street Settlement has adapted its programs and services to accommodate their needs.

Programs[edit]

Today, Grand Street Settlement focuses on four primary program areas: early childhood, children and youth, adults, and senior citizens. More than 10,000 community members participate annually in the agency’s programs which are participant-driven and fueled by diversity of culture and need. Grand Street Settlement staff and volunteers reflect the cultures of those they serve.

Early childhood programs serve the emotional, social, cognitive and physical development needs of over 400 children though Early Head Start, Head Start, and Day Care programs for newborns to age six.

Youth and adolescents are served through programs such as Attendance Improvement and Dropout Prevention, Girls’ and Young Women’s Initiative, Boys’ and Young Men’s Initiative, the College and Career Discovery Center, and Project COOL (Creative Opportunities for Outstanding Learners). Grand Street also has an active Intel Computer Clubhouse, which allows youth to express themselves through cutting edge technology. The Summer Day Camp is also a long-standing tradition of Grand Street Settlement and provides youngsters with an array of educational and recreational activities for seven weeks each summer, in a safe and nurturing environment. In addition, Grand Street Settlement is a partner with the Americorps program and provides in-service training for 40 volunteers.

Programs for adults and families consist of counseling and support services for students and families, including a Single Stop Center which offers benefits screening and on-sites tax assistance and financial and legal help, and a Community Technology Center which is available to the entire community.

Programs for seniors assist low-income, frail and often isolated and homebound older residents of the Lower East Side. Services include nutritional, educational and recreational activities as well as a Senior Housing project which offers apartments and supportive services to older adults.

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