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  Free To Grow
  Mailman School
  of Public Health
  Columbia University
  722 West 168th Street,
  8th Floor
  New York, NY 10032

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NOTE: as of April 17, 2007, the Free to Grow program has closed.
Grantee Profiles

Human Resources Agency of New Britain

Organization Name New Britain Free To Grow
State Connecticut
Program Profile

The Human Resources Agency of New Britain Head Start Program has history of more than 35 years of reaching out to economically disadvantaged families and neighborhoods in the greater New Britain, Connecticut area.  The agency believes that active participation of children and families in their programs and services is key to promoting true and lasting social change.

The target community for New Britain Free To Grow is the North-Oak neighborhood, an area that is about one-square mile in size.  Approximately 25% of New Britain's Head Start children come from this neighborhood.  The nearly 8,500 North-Oak residents are ethnically and racially diverse, but the majority are Hispanic.  About 35% of families have household incomes below the poverty line.  In contrast to the city of New Britain, the North-Oak neighborhood has household incomes that are 30% lower.  Approximately half of North-Oak's residents have a high school diploma and only a handful have a college degree.

The city of New Britain has designated the North-Oak neighborhood a Neighborhood Revitalization Zone and will solicit federal dollars to rebuild the business community surrounding the neighborhood and assist in the continued development of a five-acre urban organic farm and greenhouses within its bounds.  In addition, a park and recreation area as well as a police substation are under development in the North-Oak neighborhood. The North-Oak neighborhood also has an active Weed and Seed program that works with local law enforcement to implement community policing and fund community activities and initiatives.  The most profound impact on the community, however, will be the opening of the new Head Start center – and in the same building – a computer center funded by the city.  These efforts, together with the work of Free To Grow, will help strengthen and revitalize a struggling neighborhood.

New Britains' governance team includes the principal of the local elementary school, a member of the New Britain Board of Education, the Coordinator of the Family Resource Center, Congresswoman Nancy Johnson of Connecticut's Fifth Congressional District, and many others.  The elementary school already provides vital after-school and weekend programs for children and families.  And, Congresswoman Nancy Johnson has embraced Free To Grow, commenting that "this…will help New Britain Head Start work with parents, teachers, kids and local groups to develop and carry out a plan of action that will combat the root causes of substance abuse and prevent the family abuse that often flows from it. Our goal is to enable our children to grow up in healthy and supportive environments."

Other local organizations that are helping to fund Free To Grow include the American Savings Foundation, New Britain Foundation for Public Giving, and Connecticut Light and Power.   

For more information, contact Elizabeth Donnellan at (860) 225-4688 or via email at

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copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.