Haken serves as president of the Hilltop Village Co-op Number 4 board and Friends of Cunningham Park, and also serves on the Board of Managers of the Flushing YMCA and on Queens Community Board 8. He is also involved in aiding several local cultural institutions. And that is the very short list.
He said that he was inspired to live a life of service by his father when he was growing up in Jamaica.
“My father believed that you need to give back to the community because the community gives so much to you,” Haken said. “I guess I sort of fell into it.”
While there are many divisions among the people living in New York City, Haken has at many times aided in establishing cultural bridges.
For example, shortly after 9/11 leaders of the city’s Sikh community approached Haken and asked him to help them establish their American identity in a time when intolerance toward their practices was at an all-time high.
“They asked me, ‘What can we do to show Americans were American?’” he recalled. “So I came up with a program to give books and materials to every branch of the Queens library that help people to understand more about Sikh culture.”
Haken spends much of his time at the library, and has been a tireless advocate for improvements to his local branch in Hollis, where he has personally donated more than $10,000 and helped to secure more than $20,000 from community organizations.
He said that to him, the most important thing we can do is be involved in things we care about, rather than simply saying we care about them.
“You can't just lend your name to a cause,” he said. “You have to physically be involved in it.”