As part of our Special Two Night Holiday Social this year, $1 from each ticket sold will be going directly to APEX Youth Center. Our good friend and long time supporter Alec Barber Grossi was nice enough to contribute some words about the hard work these people do and the powerful difference they are making. Enjoy.
Just what our community needs
I remember speaking with a prominent local reverend almost a year ago about what it was like for me growing up. What did I do with my buddies on a typical day? he asked. Well, I would play outside in the park or explore the woods or go swimming in the ocean. And if it were raining? I would go to the movies, to the Rec for some pinball, or to any number of my friends basements and watch big TVs for hours, I said. All of my adventures were fairly safe, AND most of them were free. The reverend waited patiently for me to finish, and described the same scene for a poor black kid from Broadmoor, and many of the other low-income neighborhoods of New Orleans, growing up. No theaters, no parks or playgrounds, no pinball or bowling or street hockey or fishing off the pier down the street. Instead, you have the cracked up asphalt by your house and that’s about it. Just the lot outside your house, and hanging out on the corner.
So when Lisa Fitzpatrick arrived in Broadmoor from Los Angeles, with young children of her own and a history of working with high-risk youth, she decided to make a change. Lisa started in her living room, then moved to a church, and is now established in a building on Washington Ave. The APEX (Always Pursuing Excellence) Youth Center was founded in 2010 as a place for kids to come hang out: a safe zone defined by mutual respect and where youths 11 to 25 years old can blow off steam after school. The kids are given a hot meal everyday, a court to play streetball (yes, streetball- no blood, no foul), access to computers with Internet, TVs with cable, and pool tables. From 4:30 til 7:30, kids that would normally have to hang on the corner get to come to APEX and do what we all do best—have a good time.
Lisa is the real deal. She sold her house to fund APEX. She puts herself between kids when fights break out and has taken a mean right on more than one occasion. She genuinely loves each of the kids that walk through the door no matter what; it is truly inspiring to have the opportunity to work with her. She’s got the most street cred of any 50 year old white woman on the planet (she’s been shot in the face..!) and it is amazing to watch her walk through one of those “bad” neighborhoods and be truly embraced as a force for Good.
But y’all, money is tight. The funding once provided for social programs like APEX just doesn’t exist anymore with the current economy. The Center is constantly on the verge of closing and the Fitzpatrick clan is hurting, they need our help. Two years ago, there were nine homicides in the neighborhood around APEX. This year, there have been two. Is this decrease completely attributable to Lisa and the Center? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s working, ask anyone in the neighborhood. And APEX let’s kids in Broadmoor have experiences closer to what myself, and many of my friends, had. The Center, and the people who run it, are truly gems of New Orleans. I’m proud to say that my friends are supporting them.
-Alec Barber Grossi