JPC offers Community Development, Special Needs Housing, Nutrition, Recreation, Mentoring and Advocacy

Positive change continues at Johnson Park!

News & Media

OCTOBER NEWSLETTER: Positive News from
Johnson Park Center!

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Welcome to the JPC Newsletter! Designed to share the people, events, and good news from the heart of Utica, NY - Cornhill.
Positive change IS happening here!

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Food for Thought

Many Cornhill children receive free or reduced-price lunches each day. Many of those same children struggle each day to pay attention in class.

Maybe they didn't eat anything for breakfast, and maybe they won't have much for dinner. The "maybes" are endless, but what you don't know - if you've never been hungry before - is how distracting the thought of food is when you don't have any.

The reality is that too many families have access to too little food, and children too often go to school hungry.

JPC's Food Pantry rests in the middle of Utica's poorest neighborhood and is accessible to the entire community for just that reason - so that people do not have to go without food.

JPC has a long history of feeding people - the first program to open in May of 1996 was the Food Pantry. The program has grown substantially, and now operates under a choice-based point system. Families are able to choose which foods they would like within certain categories and based on points received per family member within the household. Recently, JPC implemented technology into the Pantry process - new software allows us to keep records and statistics electronically, and access the information much more quickly.

Margaret Wright, a long-time community resident, witnessed the transformation of Johnson Park-Cornhill over the past twenty years, after Reverend Dr. Scates and JPC entered the scene. "I've seen the whole growth," she said. "First the trash got cleaned up, then the drugs, and then it became a place where people could come to be safe. They stopped running away." Wright is also a long-time beneficiary of the Food Pantry, and stated that while the price of food steadily increases, the Food Pantry is a helpful way to supplement the limited income in her three-person household.

Adults are not the only community members to recognize the impact food makes in the lives of Utica's poorest residents. Wright's grandson, Vyshaun Watkins, 11, has paid attention to his surroundings throughout his short life. "This used to be a scary place, but it's not anymore," he stated. "And, you know, a lot of kids are hungry. But the thing is that we all know there's food at Johnson Park. The kids whose parents are out on the streets...they know they can come here to eat."

The JPC Food Pantry, located at 1404 West Street, is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 5:30pm-7:30pm. Sponsors include The Food Bank of Central New York and the United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area.

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August Recap: Say Goodbye to Summer!

JPC's annual "Back to School Party" brought the community together for a final summer event in Johnson Park-Cornhill on August 19.

Food, games, contests, and prizes filled up the day with excitement and fun as adults and children gathered at the Park. Two food stations were busy all evening, and workers walked through the ever-growing crowd with drinks and snacks.

Reverend Dr. Maria Scates, D.D. took to the microphone to welcome the community and to share her positive energy throughout the day. Various JPC Staff, clients, and community members also had turns on the microphone, to share their experiences at JPC.

The Youth Voice Initiative served as hosts of the event, and were celebrated at a Special Recognition Ceremony. As usual, the young leaders took turns speaking out against drugs and violence by sharing their 5 Reasons and encouraging the community to partake in positive change.

At the close of the Back to School Party, two very important events took place - the free school supply giveaway and the Ricky Powell and Brian West Memorial Celebration!

The school year definitely started off right for many families - JPC gave away notebooks, crayons, markers, rulers, pencils, folders, and glue sticks! Students from pre-school through college were eligible to receive the supplies.

The Memorial Celebration is an annual public remembrance of the young lives taken by violence. Ricky Powell and Brian West were two such young lives, and their passing is marked by a memorial at the corner of Arthur Street and West Street. JPC Board of Directors member, Ms. Wolfe, and JPC Staff, Mrs. Hemphill, led the procession to the memorial site. The JPC Youth Voice Initiative accompanied the group, and passed glow sticks to the crowd as the sky dimmed.

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Special Thanks

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As mentioned above, the success and impact of JPC's Food Pantry is largely due to the support and generosity of The United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area and the Food Bank of Central New York.

To learn more about these amazing agencies, please visit their websites: