By Sheridan Cyr
The North-Oak Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) will host a fundraising event at McDonald’s in New Brite Plaza on Friday. Fifteen percent of sales made from 4 to 7 p.m. will go toward the NRZ’s continuous efforts to keep the area safe, clean and strong.
The NRZ is a local, volunteer-based organization committed to social and economic progress for the North-Oak neighborhood. The organization formed in 2001 with the primary goal of reducing areas of high-density housing, eliminating blight, rehabilitating neglected properties, creating green space, preventing crime and fostering private development.
Keith Santacroce, owner of the New Brite Plaza McDonald’s located at 60 E. Main St. has been extremely helpful and excited in the organization of the upcoming fundraiser. Santacroce is constantly searching for opportunities to give back to the city, his home. He is donating 15 percent of the sales made at his restaurant during the event to the NRZ.
“The way I see it, if I can help, I do,” Santacroce said. “In this case, we [NRZ and McDonald’s] both want to see New Britain do well. This is my livelihood.”
He explained that he often hosts “McTeacher Nights” at his restaurant – a fundraising event in which he reaches out to New Britain schools, chooses a date and time, then invites teachers to serve as employees for a shift.
“The teachers become the students and the employees become the teachers,” Santacroce said. They get behind the counters and learn from the employees.
Individuals from the schools will advertise the event in advance around the community and to friends and family members. The business booms, and at the end of the shift, fifteen percent of all sales go to the school. The NRZ fundraiser on Friday will be the first non-school organization to participate in an event like this at the New Brite Plaza restaurant.
NRZ President Yvette Ghannam could not be more excited for the fundraiser.
“We are so pleased that we have such an advocate and generous business owner right here in our neighborhood,” Said Ghannam. “Keith has been so enthusiastic about this event, and very happy to support the very people who live in the North-Oak neighborhood.”
The NRZ is an important staple within the city of New Britain. “We are a community group that wants to make the neighborhood better,” said Ghannam. “We are trying to be sure our neighborhood is safe.”
One member of the group, Elena Trueworthy, believes wholeheartedly in the goals of the NRZ.
“Especially for the North-Oak neighborhood, it is important to reduce the negative reputation that this part of the city has had in the past,” said Trueworthy. “We hope to ensure that resources are allocated adequately to this part of the city. This neighborhood has a lot good going for it, and the residents and stakeholders are very committed to building upon that.”
The organization regularly hosts fundraisers and other fun programs around the city. Ghannam explained that the community has always been helpful in participating, particularly noting the assistance that Central Connecticut State University has offered.
“They [the University] have been very dedicated to helping the NRZ. They have been amazing,” Ghannam said. They helped with events like a community clean-up, a basketball competition and more.
Events in the past have included ice cream socials, connecting with the Police Department for community service acts, reading activities with CCSU, community block parties with many other partners including local churches, the Human Resources Agency, local schools and others.
The beneficial programs that the NRZ host are only the start of the group’s role in the city. According to Trueworthy, one strategy of the North-Oak NRZ is to engage the youth in positive experiences so they feel connected to their community and have a resource of role models and mentors that can help them navigate through hardships in life. Having those models in place helps lead youth to success later in life.
The board holds three chairpersons: one in charge of housing, one for development and one for public safety, Ghannam said. The organization is composed of volunteers, and they are always looking for more helping hands. The NRZ holds meetings with residents and city leaders on the last Monday of each month.
Contact Ghannam at email@example.com for more information about getting involved with the NRZ.