POMOC center of Ridgewood threatened by funding shortage
by Andrew Shilling
Mar 12, 2014 | 688 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bozena Nowak and Karolina Zalewska.
Bozena Nowak and Karolina Zalewska.
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There are just three employees left at the POMOC (Polonians Organized to Minister to Our Community) center, but when Bozena Nowak started working there 17 years ago, it was a vibrant workspace with dozens of employees and multiple offices across the five boroughs.

Today, she is watching her workplace, co-located with Maspeth Federal Savings at 66-60 Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, slowly dismantle in what she thinks could be the end.

“We lost a lot of funds over the last five years,” Nowak said. “Right now we are struggling, we are really struggling.”

For years, the POMOC center has aided Polish immigrants with assistance in paperwork for public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, disability, retirement and social security, as well as providing translation assistance.

Nowak said without additional help from the city, which she feels is long overdue, the center could close in a matter of months. The nonprofit is operating solely on grant funding, which totals just $173,522 for the 2014 fiscal year.

“We are losing part of our medical coverage starting February 1,” she said. “Our bookkeeper told us that maybe we could stay open until the end of June.”

With tightening belts, the POMOC center lost a program with the Department of the Aging, transportation services for seniors, and an employee that worked to provide housing assistance for their clients.

Bogdan Myszko, 65, has been coming to the center since 1986 with his wife.

“I started to go and they supported me for my Social Security,” Myszko said. “I am here now to fill out paperwork for my pension for the union.”

Karolina Zalewska, 18, first started going to the old Maspeth POMOCwith her mother when she was just seven .

“My mom liked it because she didn’t speak English,” Zalewska said. “They helped her talk on the phone and translate, and when it was time for me to get the deferred action program and my papers, they helped me.”

According to Nowak, a large majority of the young clients that still come to the center are looking for assistance in filling out paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and also filing for citizenship.

Zalewska said if it wasn’t for the POMOC center she wouldn’t have gotten a job and wouldn’t have gotten into Hunter University.

“Every job you need a Social Security number,” she said. “Without the number, there’s very little you can do. I applied before I got it and I was turned down, but they helped me and I got it.”

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