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Doe Fund Staff Work for Turtle Bay - And That Works for Them!
BY TERRI HEVERAN

You see them everywhere in Turtle Bay - the blue-uniformed men with their motto "Ready, Willing and Able" inscribed on their backs. They keep our streets, sidewalks, and parks neat and clean, repair buildings, even doing light construction. Some prepare meals for their co-workers, sometimes using donated produce from our Greenmarket. According to Anne Saxon-Hersh, president of Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, the Doe Fund workers have been indispensable in maintaining the plaza. "We are fortunate to have them, and we gladly make regular contributions to the Doe Fund," she says. The Turtle Bay Association also contributes to the organization.

The Doe Fund is headquartered at 232 East 84th Street and run by its founder, George McDonald. In the early 1980's McDonald was a volunteer for the City Coalition for the Homeless, and spent countless hours handing out food in Grand Central Terminal. Those contacts impressed upon him that what the homeless really wanted was a room and a job to pay the rent and buy the food.

Jane Doe
In 1985, when a homeless and nameless woman froze to death on a sidewalk in New York, McDonald started the Doe Fund, named for her. With 60 donors to count on, he opened homeless shelters in Harlem and Brooklyn, and at the same time he developed a year-long program requiring the men to work, pay a modest rent, and stay off drugs. There are now 22,000 donors. The Doe Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization, making contributions tax deductible.

An independent survey has shown that 62% of the men graduate from the program to permanent private-sector jobs and housing. Building on such success, the Doe Fund is now expanding its facility in Brooklyn to serve 750 homeless men and women each day. This doubles the number of trainees, and provides them with GED, literacy and computer skills, as well as life-skills training and employment counseling.

Housing Need
The biggest problem for graduates is finding housing. The Doe Fund, having helped 900 formerly homeless people obtain their own apartments, is now constructing "Number One SRO" in East Harlem. The 74-unit building will offer modern efficiency apartments, a lounge, a fully equipped exercise room, and a backyard garden, and will incorporate the support services the tenants need.

New Program
Another new initiative is the planned "Center for Opportunity" at 115th Street and Fifth Avenue in an old police station now being transformed to serve the needs of unemployed women and their children. It will operate on the same principle that has been so successful with men. Like the men, these women will be employed in a street-cleaning project that teaches the basic skills needed to succeed in the working world. Quality daycare and after-school programs will be provided, and next year The Center for Opportunity will open its own fully equipped child-care center at headquarters. In the future this will provide another employment opportunity for some of the women who will be trained to become licensed child-care providers.

All of this progress stems from the determination of George McDonald to prove his thesis that the human work ethic is stronger than poverty, drugs or bad luck. In other words, working works!

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The Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community organization.

224 East 47th Street, New York City 10017
(212) 751-5465
Fax (212) 751-4941

 

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