Tina Santiago knows a thing or two about the culture of drug abuse on the Lower East Side. As program director for La Familia de la Bodega, she saw first-hand how families are torn apart – and then put back together again. It was a big blow for the neighborhood, when the innovative drug treatment program shut down two years ago. But Santiago is convinced the need has only grown since then – so she recently announced the creation of “Nuestra Bodega,” which she calls the La Bodega de la Familia’s “birth child.” And this weekend, she’s holding her first fundraiser.
The brainchild of social worker Carol Shapiro, La Bodega was set up to help drug abusers returning from prison and to offer support to their families. A study by the Vera Institute of Justice found drug use was cut in half among participants in La Bodega’s treatment programs. But in 2008, Shapiro, closed the center’s doors, saying the LES project was a “demonstration program” and she wanted to focus on getting other people to set up treatment centers around the country.
Santiago has talked over her plans with City Councilmember Rosie Mendez (La Bodega was in her district). And she told me Anthony Feliciano, a district leader with close ties to Mendez, has been helping her search for funding. She has partners in the project: Carmen Roman Medina and Ana Nazario. They’ve set up a Facebook Page, explaining what Nuestra Bodega will be all about:
I decided to return to the Lower East Side and uplift a community still confronted and struggling with drug addictions, unemployment, lack of education, HIV/AIDS, incarceration/ReEntry and gentrification. Therefore, Nuestra Bodega will help fill the voids by providing diverse services such as case management, computers, groups & resources for families on the Lower East Side. Nuestra Bodega will be staffed by genuinely heartfelt group of professional individuals that aim for a better and brighter tomorrow. Nuestra Bodega’s mission will improve quality of life and contribute to the well being and vitality of a community by educating, empowering and strengthening families within the Lower East Side.
The fundraiser will be held Friday, February 12th at the NY Oxygen Lounge, 24 Avenue C, from 6-midnight. If you would like more information, visit Nuestra Bodega’s Facebook Page.