Red Hook Initiative (RHI) believes that social change to overcome systemic inequities begins with empowered youth. In partnership with community adults, we nurture young people in Red Hook to be inspired, resilient and healthy, and to envision themselves as co-creators of their lives, community and society. We envision a Red Hook where all young people can pursue their dreams and grow into independent adults who contribute to their families and community.
In 2002, RHI began as 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 to Red Hook’s public housing residents.
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, RHI became an independent 501(c)3 in order to expand in scope to better meet community needs. As RHI’s programming evolved, and our roots in Red Hook deepened, RHI’s vision and mission clearly emerged as youth development supported through community building efforts.
RHI moved into a brand new community center, on the corner of Hicks and West 9th Streets, in February of 2010. We designed a green, energy-efficient building, which represented our commitment to sustainable leadership in a vulnerable waterfront community. Tested when Hurricane Sandy hit Red Hook in October of 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 since 2002, and is currently celebrating its 20th year in the Red Hook community. RHI reaches over 6,500 Red Hook youth and residents annually through a powerful model of youth development, community building and local hiring.