Skip to main content

Charity Lauded by Obama Lays Off 10% of Its Staff

Resource type: News

The Chronicle of Philanthropy |

Original Source

Harlem Children’s Zone, the New York charity that President-elect Barack Obama has held up as a model for fighting poverty, laid off 10 percent of its staff this month because of the deepening economic crisis.

“We thought this was a fiscally prudent move given the economic conditions in the country,” says Marty Lipp, the group’s communications director.

While on the campaign trail, Mr. Obama announced a plan to fight poverty that included creating “promise neighborhoods” in 20 cities modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone Project — an effort that provides a comprehensive set of education, medical, and social services to residents in a 100-block area of Harlem.

Geoffrey Canada, the charity’s president, told The Chronicle in October that he was working with education experts to propose a way to take his program national should Mr. Obama win the election. Now, says Mr. Lipp, “We are essentially waiting for a call from either the transition team or the administration.”

The layoffs affected a staff of more than 1,200 part-time and full-time employees, Mr. Lipp says. The decision was not in response to any specific drop in revenues, he says, but rather in recognition that the group needed to prepare for hard times as the economic crisis spreads.

For example, he says, the organization won’t be able to rely on some past Wall Street donors. Among others, the Lehman Brothers Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the now-bankrupt financial-services firm, gave Harlem Children’s Zone $1-million a year for the past six years. (The group’s annual budget is more than $60-million a year.)

Mr. Canada told a conference last week that money woes had caused a social-service crisis in New York City of the magnitude faced by New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

— Suzanne Perry

Related Resources


Children & Youth

Global Impact:

United States


economy, Harlem Children’s Zone, recession