Giving Back in the Bronx

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On September 5, the day before school started, Ronald Goodwin stood on the corner of Washington and East Tremont Avenues handing out free, brightly colored backpacks and food   donated by the Bronx Health Center to children and their parents. 

“Yeah, it’s for the kids,” smiled Goodwin, 40, advocacy worker with Community Health and Human Services, an organization with 40 volunteers dedicated to providing basic health, job training and counseling for teenagers, as well as parenting classes and child support services.

“I’m trying to help the kids and teenagers in our neighborhood who may have the same issues as me,” said Goodwin, sitting in his small basement office in a shared space with another veteran services group of  Bronx Health Center at 471 E. Tremont Ave. “I don’t want to see them go through what I had been through. And I know how it hurts.”

Goodwin’s dream had always been giving back to the neighborhood where he was first arrested on grand larceny charges at age 15 for stealing a car. He spent six months on Rikers Island. Soon after he was sent upstate for first-degree manslaughter for 22 years. He regrets having spent half his life in prison, away from his family. His grandmother died while he was locked up.

The Bronx was his home beginning at age 13 when he moved there from Manhattan with his mother. Memories of his childhood fill him with anger and sadness. His father, he said, was a drug addict, a hustler, and alcoholic who used to abuse his mother. The drugs, alcohol and violence all around him eventually affected his behavior.

“I was diagnosed as hyperactive when I was in high school and I used to be a drug dealer in our neighborhood when I was around 15,” Goodwin said with a trembling voice. “I remembered I saw one of my dad’s friends shoot himself in the head in my bedroom when I was 9-years-old. I can still remember the smell, you know, the smell when someone fires a shot.”

His new venture, Community Health and Human Services, is primarily funded by the Bronx Health Center that Goodwin and his wife, Tracy, manage together. Other funds come from donations made by individual business owners in the neighborhood, such as Krispy Kurz.

“Ronald works really hard to make it happen,” said Goodwin’s wife Tracy, watching her husband preparing backpacks and food for the community during the event. All his time is spent devoted to the program now, she added.

Goodwin’s future plans are low-key. “For now,” he said, “I just want to raise some money to develop a computer center for students to get useful information and do their homework after school.”