Brooklyn Community Foundation Honors Top Five Nonprofits with $100,000 Spark Prize at Annual Breakfast

Spark Breakfast Emceed by Comedienne and Actress Ana Gasteyer


February 28, 2019 (Brooklyn, NY) – Brooklyn Community Foundation honored the top five social justice organizations of 2019 with its $100,000 Spark Prize, the only honor celebrating the most pioneering nonprofits advancing equity in the borough, at its annual Spark Breakfast at the The Lepercq Space at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) this morning. More than 325 guests attended the event, which was emceed again this year by comedienne and actress Ana Gasteyer. This year’s winning organizations were the first prize cohort to be entirely woman-led.

Photos from the breakfast are available here. Video will be available upon request next week.

“Every year we see an array of excellence from the nonprofits serving Brooklyn, and the Foundation has the privilege of connecting these leaders with the resources and support of the borough,” said Cecilia Clarke, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

“In giving support to the organizations of the highest good in our community, the Brooklyn Community Foundation believes the people of Brooklyn deserve a say in the future of our borough. The Foundation empowers the people, who through their lives and their wisdom, know how to do the best good for themselves and their communities,” said Heather McGee, Brooklyn Community Foundation Fair and Just Fellow.

“We invite people who are giving of their substance, and not just their excess, to join us in the fight to create a more just Brooklyn,” said Reverend Emma Jordan Simpson, Brooklyn Community Foundation board member and honoree.

The 2019 Brooklyn Community Foundation Spark Prize Winners:

  • The Campaign Against Hunger

  • Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation

  • Girls for Gender Equity

  • Red Hook Community Justice Center


The event also paid tribute to the Reverend Emma Jordan Simpson, an esteemed community leader and advocate and member of Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Board of Directors. Currently, she is the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA), the oldest interfaith peace and justice organization in North America, and during her distinguished career she has served tenures as executive director of Girls Incorporated of New York, the Children’s Defense Fund of New York, and Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families, all while maintaining a chief pastoral position at the historic Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Jennifer Jones Austin, Chief Executive Officer of FPWA, presented the honor.

Brooklyn Community Foundation convened 35 leaders from Brooklyn’s civic, business, and philanthropic communities to select the five winners from a competitive pool of more than 120 applicants, awarding a total of $600,000, including $100,000 in general operating support to each of the winners, as well as $5,000 to the top 20 finalists as part of its #BrooklynGives campaign on Giving Tuesday in November 2018. While Brooklyn is home to over 2,000 nonprofits, less than 5 percent of New York City’s philanthropic giving goes to organizations based in the borough. Brooklyn Community Foundation created the Spark Prize to showcase local racial and social justice leaders and increase support to Brooklyn’s nonprofit sector, as it seeks to create a more fair and just Brooklyn.

The Spark Prize is sponsored by National Grid, Santander Bank, Sugar in the Raw, Cleary Gottlieb, Kirkland Ellis, Sitex, and Industry City, with support from BKLYNER.


Quotes from the 2018-2019 Spark Prize Recipients:

Dr. Melony Samuels, Executive Director and Founder of The Campaign Against Hunger:

“While the Campaign Against Hunger is providing food to over 300,000 annually to meet our mission of increasing access to healthy food, it is our urban farming programs, cooking demonstrations, fun and engaging nutrition classes for seniors and SNAP enrollment support services that really make a difference in the lives of our clients. This funding means so much to us and will enable us to furnish a brand new community meeting space, hire a part-time nutritionist to work in our food pantry, fully build out Aquaponics in our farm so that our Teens have a new learning opportunity and enable important conversations about climate and food justice. The Spark Prize makes it possible for us to invest in these long-term solutions that address systemic inequities and take us out of our comfort zone. With the new growing systems, we will spark important conversations about climate and food justice in the Brownsville-Bed-Stuy communities as we give our clients a hands-on way to shop locally grown foods.”

Maria Contreras Collier, Executive Director of Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation:

“It's hard to find adequate words to describe what we felt when we learned that we were selected from a group of Brooklyn’s outstanding nonprofit organizations as one of the Spark Prize winners. This prize not only demonstrates that our efforts have been recognized but that we will now be in a position to enhance and expand our much needed programs and services. I can only say that we at CHCCC, and the Cypress Hills community, are exceedingly grateful, excited beyond belief and energized to face future challenges.”

Joanne N. Smith, President and CEO of Girls for Gender Equity:

“Girls for Gender Equity's work began in 2001, in response to an incident of sexual violence experienced by an eight-year-old girl in Bed Stuy and has centered Black women and girls in the movement to end sexual and gender based violence ever since. Spark Prize support from the Brooklyn Community Foundation means that GGE will increase our local impact by supporting, centering and training youth to be active participants in changing the policies that cause them harm. The same young people that GGE invests in will work to transform their own communities. We can't thank the Brooklyn Community Foundation enough for their continued belief in the leadership power of girls and women.”

Amanda Berman, Project Director of the Red Hook Community Justice Center:

This support comes at a critical time when we are presented with unique challenges as well as opportunities in the justice field. The Spark Prize will fund more home visits for our seniors and homebound neighbors; more outreach workshops to educate residents on health hazards in their homes; and more resources to guide tenants through the process of accessing those much needed repairs. Leveraging support from the Spark Prize, we can commit to at least three more years of our work in local schools, where we have implemented restorative responses in lieu of suspension and expulsion, keeping students engaged in their education instead of funneled into the justice system. Thanks to Brooklyn Community Foundation and the Spark Prize, we are one step closer to achieving our vision of safer, stronger communities with equal access to justice for all.”

Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director of VOCAL-NY:

“Winning the Spark Prize as VOCAL-NY celebrates its 20th anniversary is a very special show of support for our work uplifting, supporting, and building power among low-income New Yorkers here in Brooklyn. As we look forward to the future and the next 20 years, it is amazing to think about how much progress we will make in the fight to end AIDS, homelessness, mass incarceration, and the war on drugs. The Spark Prize will cement our presence in Brooklyn for years to come, and jumpstarts us on the way to a New York that tears down injustice and builds a city and state that is equitable and healthy.”


Additional Information about the 2018-19 Spark Prize Recipients:


The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH): Founded in 1998 in Bedford Stuyvesant, today TCAH aims to empower its neighbors across Brooklyn to lead healthier, more productive and self-sufficient lives by increasing their access to nutritious food and related resources. The organization’s food pantry provides 3 million meals annually while acting as a hub for benefits access and food justice programmingincluding a wellness club for seniors, an intergenerational healthy dining initiative for families, and a free summer kids program. Its youth-led urban farms serve as outdoor community classrooms and infuse the community with nutrient-rich, sustainably grown produce and fresh eggs.

Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation (CHCCC): Serving families in the Cypress Hills neighborhood of northeast Brooklyn since 1990, CHCCC aims to increase the availability of high-quality, affordable child care for low-income families while creating entrepreneurship opportunities for low-income women to capitalize on their child rearing skills. CHCCC serves over 500 families through year-round programming, and is in the process of opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art child care facility that will serve 88 low-income families in Cypress Hills, which is projected to experience significant population growth over the next few years.

Girls for Gender Equity (GGE): Based in Brooklyn since its founding in 2002, GGE is an intergenerational organization committed to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women. GGE develops the advocacy skills of over 200 young people annually to eradicate structural, state, racial, and sexual violence and criminalization. GGE encourages youth to become agents of change through civic engagement and leadership opportunities, and campaigns focused on improving the systemic and interpersonal rights of trans and cis girls and young women of color, and gender non-conforming youth of color.

Red Hook Community Justice Center: Launched in 2000, the Red Hook Community Justice Center works to strengthen Red Hook and surrounding areas by reducing crime and the use of incarceration, improving public trust in justice, and collaborating with the community to solve local problems. At the Justice Center, a single judge hears cases that ordinarily would go to three different courts: civil, family, and criminal. Whenever possible, cases are resolved through a restorative, problem-solving approach that seeks to repair harm and address the underlying issues that bring individuals into the justice system.  The Justice Center also serves as a hub for an array of unconventional programs that are available to litigants as a means of resolving their cases, as well as to the community at large.

Voices of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY):  VOCAL-NY is a Brooklyn-based, statewide network building a movement led by low-income people of color to end the AIDS epidemic, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and homelessness. Founded in 1999 as a progressive AIDS housing network at a time when the epidemic was increasingly concentrated in low-income communities of color, VOCAL-NY was formed to shift attention toward root causes, like homelessness and incarceration. Today, VOCAL-NY operates a syringe exchange that distributes over 50,000 clean syringes annually, provides overdose prevention training and other services to hundreds of New Yorkers, and has worked to pass 15 pieces of legislation since 2013.



About the Spark Prize

The Spark Prize is named for Brooklyn Community Foundation’s mission to spark lasting social change in Brooklyn. The 2018-19 Spark Prize cycle launched in April 2018 with an open call to Brooklyn nonprofits to submit a 1,000-word essay demonstrating their deep history in Brooklyn and continued service to the borough; commitment to equity and racial justice for all Brooklynites; strong organizational values; and vision for the future of their work in Brooklyn and beyond. To be eligible, organizations had to have annual operating budgets over $350,000 and be in operation for at least five years. Applications were reviewed by the Spark Prize Committee, who narrowed submissions to 20 finalists, and then chose the five winners following in-person interviews.

The Spark Prize is a signature program of the Foundation’s Brooklyn Accelerator, a hub for building capacity and resources in Brooklyn’s nonprofit community. Through the Brooklyn Accelerator, the Foundation also offers free workshops for nonprofits, racial justice training, Board matching and governance training, and an Incubator that hosts start-up nonprofit enterprises. Reaching a diverse cross-section of Brooklyn nonprofits, the Prize will also strengthen the Foundation’s services to its donors who depend on the Foundation’s expertise and knowledge of the borough’s nonprofits to help guide their local giving and philanthropy.


About Brooklyn Community Foundation

Brooklyn Community Foundation is on a mission to spark lasting social change, mobilizing people, capital, and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn. It is the first and only public foundation solely dedicated to Brooklyn’s charitable community, working in partnership with generous donors and community leaders to bolster vital nonprofits, strengthen neighborhoods, and increase opportunities for youth. Since its founding in 2009, the Foundation and its donors have provided over $40 million in grants to more than 300 nonprofits in Brooklyn and beyond. Learn more at

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Liane Stegmaier, Director of Communications,