Flames was founded 39 years for mostly low-income boys, ages 9-19. So far some 19,000 have traveled weekly to Brooklyn to take part in rigorous basketball training and tournaments and to benefit from mentoring, which is the true heart of the program. This all-volunteer program has been funded by one of its founders, Gerald Papa, who no longer has adequate funds to underwrite Flames. Our grant was for general operating funds.
Founder and dynamo one-man-band Gerald Papa said that 2013-2014 was “our best year ever.” On their annual Trophy night, there were more than 1,000 participants - and for a kid to be able to attend, he must have finished the entire basketball season. He said that our $20,000 grant “allowed us to keep going and not have to make all sorts of cuts, like cheaper uniforms and fewer printed announcements and instructions.”
The strength and weakness of this organization is that it IS Mr. Papa, who has been funding it pretty much alone since its beginning in the 1980s. He is back to doing this, which puts him in a vulnerable situation. I asked if he had tried to find other sources and he basically indicated that it was a pain( true) and that he would rather continue funding himself as long as he could. The school in which his many teams practice (Brooklyn’s John Dewey High School) has cut off gym access for Saturday mornings from 9:00-noon - prim practice time especially for the pre-teens. His summer project is to get the principal (who is new) to change her mind about this. This is a great org but it would be even better if it had a firmer and broader foundation.