Harlem – Whatever It Takes

August 7, 2009

By: Kate Loovis

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit Harlem with the head of U.S. Community Partnerships for GlaxoSmithKline, Bill Shore, and the Director of 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance,  Jennifer Burke Labriola.

Together, we met with the Executive Director of the Children’s Health Fund, Karen Redlener, and her talented staff, who provide free health care for thousands of children in disadvantaged communities across the country.  I was able to tour one of their fleet of top-of-the-line mobile health units that bring quality health care directly to the communities without access. 

It’s through partnerships with companies like GSK that make this critical and high-quality service available to our neighbors in need.  

The Children’s Health Fund has a dynamic partnership in the Harlem Children’s Zone (HSZ), whose founder Geoffrey Canada shared with us the history of Harlem and his “whatever it takes” attitude over the last 25 years to help the community turn around and children succeed.

“Plan and Do” is the advice Geoffrey gave us.  If you want to transform a community and help kids succeed, you need to have a big plan that addresses the issues, and you need to start doing right away.  Don’t get stuck in a never-ending planning phase. He said one of the keys to Harlem’s success was engaging community residents and businesses right from the start.

As a group, we discussed what expanded corporate partnerships in the short-term and long-term future could look like.  I left Harlem full of hope and moved by such authentic leadership.

Good news – word is out that we might see this innovative partnership model replicated in about more 20 communities throughout the country!