D.R.E.A.M. Foundation Celebrates ‘Community Builders’ At Annual Gala

Brooklyn, N.Y. One of New York’s longtime champions of the city’s underserved communities hosted a high-profile gala on May 2 to recognize several outstanding individuals. Each honoree has made significant contributions to improving the quality of life in economically distressed neighborhoods across all five boroughs.

“I have been a lifelong advocate of those who have been counted out. As a product of Brownsville, Brooklyn, I defied the odds and have been blessed to cross paths with people, such as our honorees, who are also committed to making this DREAM a hope-filled mission and initiative,” said DeCosta Headley Sr., founder and chairman of the nonprofit organization Developing Restoring Enriching Advancing Many Foundation, Inc. (D.R.E.A.M.).

DeCosta Headley addressing gala attendees

DeCosta Headley addressing gala attendees.

Mr. Headley’s gathering was the D.R.E.A.M. Foundation’s second annual gala. For many years, the organization was known as The Friends of DeCosta Headley. The D.R.E.A.M. Foundation continues his more than 40 years of philanthropic community service through several programs.

D.R.E.A.M. Foundation 2019 Gala

More than 300 guests attended the D.R.E.A.M. Foundation’s 2019 Gala at the elegant El Caribe Country Club.

As in previous years, the gala brought together hundreds of business, political and philanthropic leaders. It was a night of elegance, catered at El Caribe, to honor seven people whose contributions span various fields, including health care and education.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and DeCosta Headley

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and DeCosta Headley.

Dr. Jonathan Chang received the Distinguished Healthcare Service Award; Angela L. Davis received the Hon. Dr. DeCosta Headley Community Service Award; Alex Elegudin received the Hon. Barbara Jordon Memorial Award; Dr. Himanshu Pandya received the Dr. Alexander T. Augusta Memorial Award; Lucia Pons received the Adah Belle Samuel Thoms Healthcare Executive Memorial Award; Benjamin R. Sher received the Dr. Dorothy Irene Height Memorial Award, and Ronald Tabano received the Fanny Jackson Coppin Memorial Award.

Dr. Jonathan Chang received the Distinguished Healthcare Service Award.

Dr. Jonathan Chang received the Distinguished Healthcare Service Award.

“Each honoree is a professional who has dedicated their lives and expertise to helping others,” Mr. Headley stated. “There’s much work to be done, and their contributions have gone a long way toward achieving our mutual goal of uplifting those in need.”

Honoree Alex Elegudin is a longtime advocate in the disability community.

Honoree Alex Elegudin is a longtime advocate in the disability community.

For more than four decades, Mr. Headley has partnered with community organizations and corporate donors to feed numerous people who struggled to make ends meet. The D.R.E.A.M. Foundation continues that work. In its second year, the foundation has given almost 2,000 turkeys to families and churches, provided nutritious meals at schools, and hosted community luncheons.

DeCosta Headley mingling with guests.

DeCosta Headley mingling with guests.

The foundation also offers a range of free health services, including mental health, through its partnerships with various health care providers.

Education has been a centerpiece of the D.R.E.A.M. Foundation’s services. The organization provides scholarships and organizes college tours to campuses across the country. Its bookbag and school supply distribution program has provided children from poor families with much needed materials to start the school year. Each summer, the foundation sends girls aged 8-12 and boys 8-15 to Camp Mariah for its Career Awareness Program. For adults, the foundation offers financial literacy workshops and job training programs among its growing list of services.

DeCosta Headley with several guests.

DeCosta Headley with several guests.

A Brooklyn native, Mr. Headley, 73, grew up in the gang-ridden neighborhood of Brownsville. He was reared in a family of modest means, but successfully navigated his way to college, graduating with a degree in behavioral science from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. He spent several years as a social service worker. In the late 1970s, he became the executive director of numerous group homes for troubled adolescents and established the Federation of Addiction Agencies in East New York and Brownsville.

Many of the judges serving in New York’s court system, state legislators and City Council members owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Headley’s grassroots organizing. He served as a district leader for the 40th Assembly District in East New York for 16 years and played an active role in Brooklyn’s political landscape. He successfully operated several political campaigns for candidates seeking seats in the city, state, or federal government. At the same time, he has trained hundreds of community residents interested in serving on campaigns.

Guests at the 2019 D.R.E.A.M. Foundation Gala.

Guests at the 2019 D.R.E.A.M. Foundation Gala.

As an entrepreneur, Mr. Headley owned and operated a successful contracting firm, Diversified Inch-By-Inch. He rehabilitated poor communities within the five boroughs, built medical and dental facilities, and constructed new housing, including a multilevel senior citizens apartment complex for Berean Missionary Baptist Church.

I asked Mr. Headley what message was the most important to deliver to my readers. He told me, “I would like to thank the Gala Committee and the Executive Board of the D.R.E.A.M. Foundation. It is their support and dedication to seeing this vision come to fruition that makes this evening possible.”

The 10-member Board of Directors includes: attorney Charles Simpson; George Briggs, a military veteran; Beverly Slater, RN, MSN; Patricia Fraser, LCSW; Dr. Sandlin Lowe; Oleg Krayets, an IT professional; Dr. Mindy Lee; Dr. Edmund Ritter; businessman Eddie Di Benedetto; and Mr. Headley.

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Nigel Roberts
Nigel Roberts is the Development Director of the J. Luce Foundation. He served formerly as Communications Director and Managing Editor of The Stewardship Report. He's also a grant writer and freelance writer who contributes articles to publications. Nigel was a United Nations correspondent and communications consultant to retired U.S. Congressman Ed Towns.

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