In 2002, Red Hook Initiative (RHI) began as the Red Hook Health Initiative, a community health project of a local hospital. It was formed in response to the severity of health and social issues in Red Hook, as well as a belief in the community’s strengths. RHI’s Founder and Executive Director, Jill Eisenhard, trained ten community residents in reproductive health. The program provided health education. Young people were immediately drawn to RHI. Their desire to get involved and call RHI ‘home’ spurred the development of additional programming to meet their needs and fuel their resiliency.
In 2006, Red Hook Initiative (RHI) became a independent 501(c)3 in order to expand in scope to better meet community needs. As RHI’s programming bloomed, and our roots in the community deepened, RHI’s vision and mission clearly emerged as youth development supported through community building efforts. RHI moved into a brand new community center in February 2010. We built a “green” energy-efficient building, which represented our commitment to social justice and sustainability. Tested when Hurricane Sandy hit Red Hook in October 2012, RHI’s strong ties in the community, a result of our model of community hiring, made it possible for RHI to become a hub for relief and rebuilding work in Red Hook.
RHI has grown exponentially over the years. As of 2017, we have 140 staff members (22 full time and over 70% under the age of 24). RHI serves 350 youth per year in ongoing programs and reaches over 5,000 residents through community building programs.