Queens Immigrant Resource Center Fights to Stay Open

The Bayanihan Filipino Community Center in Woodside. Volunteer Jonna Baldres is second from left; photo: Cristina Pastor

Originally published on The FilAm.

In the last six years, the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center in Queens has been a birthing place for breakout movements, a laboratory for progressive ideas.

Today, this community stomping ground in Woodside, adjacent to Krystal’s Bakeshop, is approaching extinction. A fundraiser is being organized to keep it alive.

“We face another challenge yet again,” the grassroots organization Philippine Forum said in an email to its network of supporters and members of the media. “Help save the Bayanihan Community Center. Donate now.”

The Philippine Forum runs the BCC in collaboration with other organizations. The people who take turns running it are all volunteers, said Jonna Baldres, Community Action Coordinator of Philippine Forum, in an email interview with The FilAm.

Since it opened in 2007, the BCC has become a location for health screenings, acting workshops, language classes, immigration clinics, film showings, prayer vigils, and thousands of meetings of various Filipino American organizations in New York. To others, it is simply a place to hang out, this little corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 69th Street. The modest office is strategically located and easily accessible to Filipinos in Queens. Coming from Manhattan, one takes the 7 Train to 69th Street to get to BCC.

“The Bayanihan Filipino Community Center has become a home for many immigrants, not just Filipinos,” said Jonna. She disclosed how Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and immigrants from the Dominican Republic, among others, have sought refuge in this Filipino-run center in moments of distress.

“It has become a refuge and haven for trafficked workers,” she said. “We are the only community center serving immigrants in the area.” The BCC is located in a neighborhood with high concentrations of Filipino, Latino, and South Asian populations.

With grants and other forms of contributions becoming scarce, the BCC is running low on resources, said Jonna. “The grants that we have received have also dwindled within the last few years because a lot of foundations have closed down as well.”

For this reason, the BCC has begun a campaign to raise at least $50,000 a year, she said. The amount should cover rent, including utilities, like electricity, phone, Internet, insurance. She said the cost is “pretty low-priced” compared to other spaces around the area. The BCC, to those who have not yet visited, includes a basement and a backyard, among other amenities.

This is not the first time that the BCC is running back to the community for aid. In 2012, the center was facing eviction, and the community rushed to the rescue.

“It was the community members who did not want to let go of the space and who have continued to find ways to raise money and struggled to keep the center open,” Jonna said.

She is confident the community will come through again this time.

“For the most part within the past years, it has always been the domestic workers, the youth, the trafficked survivors and other community organizations, who are the ones that have largely kept the Bayanihan Community Center going with whatever amount of small donations, pledges and pass-the-hats they can give,” she said. “We believe in the power of collective action.”

While raising a call for funds, Philippine Forum is also urging the city government to assist in providing services to fast-growing immigrant communities.

Said Jonna, “It is their responsibility. We are the constituents that they are supposed to serve.”

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation and the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation.

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AboutCristina DC Pastor
Cristina DC Pastor, a former Fi2W Business and Economics Reporting fellow, is the publisher and editor of The FilAm (TheFilAm.net). Her book, “Scratch the News: Filipino Americans in Our Midst” (Inkwater, 2005), is a celebration of ordinary citizens at the center of extraordinary stories. She is a graduate of The New School.