Newark PD arrest wanted Trenton man

No Comments » Written on August 18th, 2014 by
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TRENTON — A Trenton man was arrested in Newark Saturday on murder charges stemming from the July shooting death of a Ewing man, authorities said today.

Shaheed Brown, 30, was arrested and charged with murder and weapons charges Saturday night by Newark Police in Newark, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said.

No details on his arrest were immediately available. Brown is being held on $1 million bail, DeBlasio said.

The arrest is the result of a Mercer County Homicide Task Force investigation, DeBlasio said.

Brown is charged in the July 12 shooting death of Enrico Smalley, 20, DeBlasio said.

Police were called to the corner of Poplar Street and North Clinton Avenue around 1:21 a.m. and found Smalley laying on the ground in front of LaGuira Bar suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, DeBlasio said.

Smalley was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton where he was pronounced dead a short time later, DeBlasio said.

Essex County will get newly approved judges

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TRENTON — The state Senate today confirmed eight judges to serve in the overloaded courthouses of Essex County, a turning point in a long stalemate with Gov. Chris Christie over who gets to sit on the bench in New Jersey’s busiest county.

Christie and the senators last week reached a deal to fill eight of 21 vacant judgeships in the county, where the dearth of jurists has caused some civil trials to be frozen for months. Senators voted 34-0 today to confirm a mix of Democratic and Republican nominees.

There are 13 vacancies remaining in Essex and 44 statewide, but today’s vote was a sign of a thaw in the tense negotiations between Christie and lawmakers over judicial appointments.

“This is a wonderful package for Essex,” said Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex). “We have trial attorneys that reflect a breadth of experience.”

Approving the eight new judges marked a breakthrough in a years-long impasse that clogged the courthouses in Newark and surrounding cities. Courthouses across the state have been dealing with rising case backlogs, leading to more wait times — or months of legal limbo — for people seeking their day in court.

The new judges are: Marcella Matos Wilson of West Caldwell; Richard Sules of West Orange; Marysol Rosero of Livingston; Bahir Kamil of South Orange; Linda Lordi Cavanaugh of West Orange; Jeffrey Beacham of Short Hills; Stephanie Ann Mitterhoff of Scotch Plains; and Neil Jasey of South Orange, who is married to Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex).

Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) said he hoped today’s vote would provide the “momentum” to fill the remaining spots on the bench. “This has been a crisis. We worked through it,” O’Toole said.

Kenneth Rosenberg, president of the Essex County Bar Association, said the lack of judges in Essex has taken a toll on litigants and their lawyers.

“It’s very difficult to obtain a trial date,” said Rosenberg, a lawyer at Fox Rothschild. “It’s almost routine that you’re going to appear in court and you’re going to be told, ‘Come back another day because we don’t have a judge to hear your case.’”

Those delays have a domino effect on people going to court, Rosenberg said. Some witnesses may be difficult to reschedule. Attorney costs pile up whenever a case is postponed. And clients “have an emotional attachment to their case — they want to see justice served, they want their day in court.” The delays usually affect civil and family cases: business disputes, divorces, or custody battles over children, for example.

Christie and Essex County lawmakers fought for years over all kinds of nominations — not just for judges, but also over Christie’s pick for education commissioner and other posts. The free-for-all and the logjam that ensued at some points had nothing to do with judges.

Under the New Jersey constitution, the state Senate must confirm all of Christie’s picks for the bench, and individual senators also have the power to block appointments in their home counties — for any reason, and without disclosing why — under an unwritten custom called “senatorial courtesy.”

Christie’s aides have blamed the “courtesy” rule for grinding the process to a halt. Democrats say they needed to evaluate some picks carefully to ensure the governor’s nominees were qualified for the bench.

Tensions ran almost through the end, with Christie scrapping and then salvaging the Essex deal after some last-minute turbulence. The governor ended up dropping one of his picks.

“We’re just happy that the parties have been able to work out their differences and get to down to the business of appointing judges, which is important to the lawyers, the courts, and most importantly the public,” Rosenberg said.

As of June 2010, 12 percent of cases in state courts were backlogged, compared with 17 percent today. That means there are an extra 9,000 backlogged cases on the dockets now compared with four years ago, a 33 percent increase, according to the most recently published court statistics.

In Bergen County, some civil trials will be frozen next month due to vacancies, according to the top court administrator there.

Twenty years later, Newark woman gives hope to Rwandan genocide survisors

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The Star Ledger

NEWARK — Eugenie Mukeshimana didn’t need reminders of the genocide that tore through her native Rwanda during the 1990s, but they came anyway.

There was the time she went to work while still living in Rwanda and found that a funny co-worker she often had coffee with had disappeared; the rumor mill at her job would later report that the co-worker had been arrested and accused of killing dozens of Rwandans like her during a three-month-long genocide there.

Other life events such as attending a funeral of a Tutsi she didn’t know or taking a picture at a wedding with other survivors could bring back the haunting memories she had of months spent in hiding with her infant daughter.

Mukeshimana, 42, knew in those moments that she needed to leave the “crime scene.”

“It feels weird calling a country a crime scene, but that’s what it is,” she said. “Every corner is connected to the experience.”

It’s been about 13 years since Mukeshimana left Rwanda, and she is past trying to ‘escape.’ Now, the Newark resident has a new mission: helping other Rwandans scared by the genocide’s horrors build a new life in the United States.


Mukeshimana was about eight months pregnant and living with her husband when Rwandan President and Hutu leader Juvnal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down near Kigali International Airport on April 6, 1994.

By that time Hutus and Tutsi, descriptors used to define the remnants of the colonial aristocratic and peasant classes respectively, had been feuding for decades.

Though Hutus controlled the government, The Rwandan Patriotic Front, a group of mostly rebel Tutsis, were looking to seize power. Meanwhile, the Rwandan government was facing international pressure to form a power-sharing agreement with the Tutsis, angering some extremist Hutus.

After Habyarimana’s plane crash, Hutu extremist leaders recruited other Hutus to execute Tutsis and moderate Hutu leaders.

As the killing sprees across Rwanda intensified, Mukeshimana and her husband decided it would be safer to split up and hide.

Mukeshimana was eventually taken in by a family who hid her under their children’s bed, she was found after three weeks and eventually taken captive to cook for a member of the Hutu militia. She was rescued by the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

When the genocide ended, Mukeshimana discovered that her husband, father, cousins and many friends had been killed.

“By the time the genocide was over I had an infant and I was homeless,” she said. “Everything was gone.”

Mukeshimana started to rebuild her life in Rwanda. She studied English from the radio, music and discarded newspapers, eventually learning enough to work as an accountant at a human rights organization, which oversaw a hospital.

But the effects of the genocide seemed to seep into every part of her life.

Mukeshimana decided to leave Rwanda in 1998, and obtained the necessary permissions in 2001.

An American friend arranged for her and her daughter to stay for free with a couple in Albany, N.Y., where she attended college. Friends of that family pitched in for her tuition, helping her to graduate with a degree in social work.

“It was a village,” Mukeshimana said. “People came together. That’s what Americans are good at. They help when they know how to help.”
“If the genocide never happened what would life be like?

Mukeshimana and her daughter are permanent U.S. residents and plan to apply for American citizenship, she said.


After working as a social worker at homeless shelters for a few years Mukeshimana decided to help other genocide survivors.

In 2010, she started the Genocide Survivors Support Network in South Orange to help genocide survivors with the issues immigrants often struggle with in the United States, such as obtaining a work permit or finding a place to live.

Since then, her network has helped dozens of mostly Rwandan genocide survivors get an education, start careers and receive emotional support.
consolee2-pic.jpgConsolee Nishimwe was inspired to write a book about her experience during the Rwandan genocide after joining the Genocide Survivors Support Network.Photo courtesy of Consolee Nishimwe

Mostly, survivors say, they just like talking to Mukeshimana, because she has had experiences similar to theirs.

Mukeshimana said genocide survivors often feel isolated and withdraw from relationships with other people because they don’t think others will understand their experiences.

Other times survivors suffer from nightmares, vivid flashbacks or extreme paranoia that they are in a dangerous situation. Some Rwandans who lived through the genocide have survivor’s guilt and wonder why they should seek happiness if so many they know have been killed, Mukeshimana said.

“They suffer in silence,” she said. “It’s hard for them to explain it someone.”

Mukeshimana’s network also works with a group of lawyers who provide services pro bono to help survivors obtain asylum status and a work permit.

“I wish I was a millionaire so I could give her half,” said Alain Kayiranga, a genocide survivor who recently connected with Mukeshimana. “She’s an angel.”

Kayiranga, 24, is a Rwandan native who moved from Georgia to New Jersey about a year ago to be closer to Mukeshimana’s network of survivors.

Mukeshimana found a family in West Orange who has given Kayiranga a room to stay, for free. She also connected him with a lawyer who is working to win him asylum in the United States. He says he meets with Mukeshimana about once a week to talk about things he has trouble telling others.

Consolee Nishimwe knows the benefits of connecting with other survivors. The now 34-year-old said she lived through the trauma of being raped and infected with HIV. She also lost her father, younger brothers and grandparents during the Rwandan genocide.

When she arrived to New York about 13 years ago, Nishimwe said she often avoided sharing anything too personal about her experience, even as she suffered from nightmares, loneliness and vivid flashbacks.

But with the help of a therapist and meeting other survivors through Mukeshimana’s network, Nishimwe said she has learned to be more open. A couple of years ago she published a book detailing her experience during the genocide.

Mukeshimana’s work helping others continues to grow. In September, she has a weekend retreat planned for Rwandan genocide survivors after the owner of an inn Cooperstown, N.Y. donated the space.

And she hopes to secure enough resources to build a recovery center for others who are severely impacted by the effects of genocide.

“I got things to help me,” she said. “I’m paying forward what was given to me.”

To learn more about the Genocide Survivors Support Network visit the organization’s website.

Newark man attempted smuggling a knife into a NY prison, during a visit

No Comments » Written on August 15th, 2014 by
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The Star ledger

OSSINING, N.Y. — A 25-year-old Newark man visiting an inmate attempted to bring a knife into a Westchester County prison, authorities said.

Jaahan Y. Mitchell was arrested at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and charged with promoting prison contraband, New York State Police said Wednesday.

Mitchell is due in court Tuesday, State Police said.

Mitchell is the second Newark man to be arrested in connection with an incident at the maximum security prison in two months. In June, Jaston Coleman, 43, was accused of trying to sell marijuana by mail to inmates at the prison.

Mayor Baraka taps new leaders for the central planning and alcohol boards

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The Star Ledger

NEWARK — Mayor Ras Baraka has tapped new leaders to take over posts on the Newark’s Central Planning, Alcohol Beverage Control and the Brick City Development Corporation boards.

On the Central Planning Board, which has jurisdiction over certain developmental projects, Baraka named three people to the nine-member board. The board also features two additional alternate members.

Jacqueline Ceola and Otis Rolley both filled two vacancies on the board. While Paul Oliver was reappointed to the board.

Ceola and Oliver were approved by the city council. For Rolley’s appointment, no city council approval was needed.

The rest of the board representatives remain in their positions until new leaders are chosen, according to the clerk’s office.

Newark’s municipal council also approved Baraka’s two nominations for the Alcohol Beverage Control Board. Donald Bradley takes over for Bettye Dickerson, while Linda Jumah takes over for Orlando Menendez.

On the Brick City Development Corporation board of directors Baraka taped Calvin Moore to replace Christopher Harvell. Celeste Bateman takes over for Dr. dt ogilvie, while Dolores Henry Metz replaces Adam Zipkin.

West Ward councilman Joseph Allen McCallum, Jr replaces former Central Ward councilman Darrin Sharif.

The corporation is tasked with the responsibility of foster development and small business growth in the city. Each appointment was approved by the city council

No more Police layoffs in Newark

No Comments » Written on August 15th, 2014 by
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The Star Ledger

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka had barely sworn his oath of office when he was confronted with a financial crisis, a $31 million hole in this year’s budget of roughly $800 million. So he is asking the state for help, knowing that he’ll need to cede control over city finances as one of the strings.

That, no doubt, is painful for Baraka. He has long protested state control over the city’s school system, to no avail. He recently had to accept federal oversight of the police department, thanks to a pattern of civil rights violations. And now this.

But the new mayor is proving to be pragmatic. His most important goal is to protect public safety, and that means no more police layoffs. The force is down to about 1,000 now after the city tightened its belt with a series of layoffs and a fateful decision to leave vacancies unfilled. At its peak long ago, the force had nearly 1,700 officers. The sharpest drops came under Mayor Cory Booker’s administration, when the city was pounded by the Great Recession and dramatic cuts in state aid.

Not surprisingly, the murder rate has gone up as the police force has shrunk over the past few years. These savings, in effect, were paid for with blood. Those are the stakes in this budget fight.

No doubt, many people in New Jersey have Newark fatigue and would say no to this plea for help. The state pays the bulk of the city’s school expenses already, and provided $101 million in aid to the city budget this year. Remember, too, that the state is wrestling with its own ferocious budget crisis.

So why help Newark?

One reason is the city has already tightened its belt by several notches. During his years as mayor, Booker shrunk the city’s work force by about 25 percent, while raising taxes even more. Is there another city or town in New Jersey that can match that record?

Another is that New Jersey’s heavy dependence on property taxes leaves a city like Newark in an impossible jam. Similar to Camden and Paterson, the city simply doesn’t have enough property to tax. In Newark, Baraka notes that about three-quarters of the property is tax-exempt, including government buildings, religious institutions and nonprofits. The game is rigged against poor cities.

Still, given the state budget crisis, it’s not realistic to expect Trenton to write a check this big. And that brings us to a second solution: allowing the city to impose its own new taxes.

Again, New Jersey is unusual in this regard, and gives the state final say. Newark was allowed to impose a tax on rental cars at the airport, but it would need new permission to impose new taxes on shipping containers at the port, for example. If the state can’t afford to help, it can at least get out of the way.

As for the state supervision, that is welcome, even if it does irritate Newark. The city still wastes money. It would be a relief to see the state order reductions in the ridiculous salaries and benefits of city council members, along with their big staffs.

The imperative is to prevent police layoffs. And that means answering Newark request for help, one way or the other.

Convicted felons arrested in Newark, after being found with an assault rifle

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NJ Advanced Media

NEWARK — A pair of convicted felons were arrested today after police found them in possession of an assault rifle and other weapons during a raid on a city home, authorities said.

Jonathan Garcia, 30, of Newark, and James J. Hamilton, 23, of Kearny, were each charged with possession of an assault weapon, possession of a high capacity magazine and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Newark Police Director Eugene Venable said in a statement.

Their arrests came after officers with the Essex County Narcotics Task Force executed a warrant at a Taylor Street home.

Inside, they found a Bushmaster Carbon AR-15 rifle, a high-capacity magazine for the gun, a semi-automatic .40 caliber Hi-point JCP pistol and 28 live .223 caliber rounds, according to authorities.

Garcia has spent time behind bars for aggravated assault, weapons possession and making terroristic threats, according to judicial records, while Hamilton’s record includes convictions for drug distribution, conspiracy and hindering prosecution.

Essex County corrections records indicate that Garcia and Hamilton have also been charged with receiving stolen property. Both are being held on $100,000 bail.

Newark requests $31M in state aide

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The Star Ledger

NEWARK — Newark officials have submitted an application for $31 million in state aid, triggering state oversight of Newark’s finances while the state considers the request for help.

The application, submitted Friday to the Division of Local Government Services paints a grim picture of the city’s finances but offers broad measures the city plans to take to address its budget crisis.

City and state officials face an uphill battle to solve Newark’s budgetary problems. In April, Newark officials disclosed the city would need more than $90 million to balance its 2014 budget.

Part of that budget gap is a $30.1 million deficit from 2013, which is required to be rolled into the 2014 budget year. The city faced an additional $63.4 million gap in 2014 bringing the total funds needed to balance the 2014 budget to about $93.5 million.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said Tuesday during a Star-Ledger editorial board meeting that he plans to work with the state to get the city on sound financial footing.

“People look at oversight as control. It’s not really control, it’s more monitoring,” he said. “We are hoping for the opportunity to work together and not work under the state.”

If the city did not not submit an application for transitional aid, money the state gives municipalities in fiscal emergencies, the city would have to lay off more than 400 employees or 14 percent of its workforce, according to its aid application.

“The city would have to cut the salaries of personnel in the Departments of administration, child and family well-being, Economic and Housing Development, engineering, Finance and Law to zero,” the application read.

Newark said in its application that the city faced a deficit for a number of reasons including rising health care costs, declining payroll taxes and reduced one-time revenue sources.

The city also failed last year to hold an accelerated tax sale, in which the city sells the liens of delinquent taxes.

“It reflects an imminent failure to carry out the best management practices–a behavior that the city will correct in the coming year,” the city wrote.

In its application, the city pledged to implement a hiring freeze, reassess its contracts and curb employee use of cars and cell phones. Baraka has also pledged not to reduce the city’s police or fire forces.

But he said Tuesday the state will likely have some say in the city’s hiring.

“The state is going to review some of the hiring,” Baraka said. “If it makes sense they will allow us to hire, if it doesn’t make sense to them then we’ll have to prove to them that it does make sense.”

Newark’s municipal council introduced a budget on July 1 of almost $800 million. The proposed spending plan would increase taxes for the average homeowner to $5,333 from $5,082.

The city council last week approved Baraka’s application to ask for state aid.

Soon after, State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) asked Senate President Steve Sweeney to convene a special meeting of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee to discuss Newark’s finances.

Sweeney said he is considering the request.

Other cities have submitted applications or transitional aid including Atlantic City, Harrison and Asbury Park.

Baraka has said his goal is to generate more revenue for the city and wean the city off state aid in the future.

“We got to find that revenue,” he said Tuesday.

Newark Police oversight is strewn with legal hurdles

No Comments » Written on August 13th, 2014 by
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NJ Advanced Media

NEWARK — The path toward creating a civilian review board with the authority to subpoena Newark police officers accused of misconduct could be hampered by provisions in state law and union contracts, Mayor Ras Baraka said yesterday.

The New Jersey chapters of the ACLU and NAACP have been joined by other rights organizations in calling for the establishment of a board with subpoena power as well as the ability to discipline officers found to have violated police department rules.

The groups say the board would establish permanent civilian oversight of the force, something they insist is sorely needed.

Last month he U.S. Justice Department announced that as the result of a three-year study it had reached an agreement with the city to allow a federal monitor to watch over a force that it found had repeatedly violated the rights of its citizens, especially blacks.

In an interview with The Star-Ledger editorial board, Baraka said he supported the push for a board, but that the city would need ensure the right to appeal and other aspects of due process granted to officers through civil service laws and that the terms of their existing contract would be upheld.

One option, according to the mayor, would be to incorporate members of the City Council, who hold the power to subpoena officers, onto the board, with other slots filled by residents and other community stakeholders.

“We have to find some kind of hybrid that would allow the organization to be able to live in the state statute and have subpoena power at the same time,” he said.

City officials may also look to negotiate with union officials to allow the board a clear role in the disciplinary process, which under current contract rules is entrusted only to the police department’s Internal Affairs unit.

“It’s going to have to be a discussion,” Baraka said. “I’m talking about us getting to the table and thinking of a way that we all can be amenable to, and we all go away a little unhappy about how we think the review board should participate in this process.”

While calls for formal civilian review of police conduct in Newark dates as far back as the 1960s, it has only emerged as a legitimate possibility in the wake of the damning Justice Department report.

Among its findings, the federal report indicated that as many as 75 percent of stops made under the force’s pedestrian “stop and frisk” program were unconstitutional, and that stops and arrests were disproportionately aimed at African-Americans.

The Justice Department also uncovered widespread unreasonable use of force, deficiencies in the department’s internal affairs process, supervision and training procedures, and a pattern of property theft by officers, especially at the city’s prisoner cell block.

The agency identified a series remedial measures it will require of the department, including the establishment of new “civilian review and community engagement,” though it has offered no specifics on how that might take shape.

The president of the police union, James Stewart Jr., said he was opposed to the formation of a civilian review board, adding that he had been assured that the federal government was open to other measures that would provide residents with a voice in the department’s operations.

“There are a lot of other options,” Stewart said.

He emphasized that the union was united with Baraka and police administration officials in its commitment to improving the department’s relationship with the community, but that existing laws barring civilians from having access to and reviewing internal police documents should remain in place.

“I don’t believe a civilian complaint review board is something that’s a possibility at this time. I wouldn’t be for that,” Stewart said.

Baraka has made his support for the complaint review board known, though it is unclear if it will ultimately have the power to directly hand down discipline to officers, or simply provide an advisory opinion on whether action should be taken.

The city has already begun reforming internal affairs in the hopes of correcting what the Justice Department deemed an inequitable and often arbitrary disciplinary process in the department.

“At the least, (the board) should be able to have a strong recommendation,” Baraka said.

Udi Ofer, executive director at the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU, said a board equipped with anything short of full subpoena and disciplinary power would be a waste of an opportunity “50 years in the making.”

“To create the CCRB that Newark needs will require both city legislation and state legislation,” Ofer said.

“This is not something that’s going to happen overnight, but we have to get this right. A toothless civilian review board is worse than no civilian review board because it creates the impression of oversight, but actually includes no meaningful oversight.”

Newark Youth Agency strives to stay open

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The Star Ledger

NEWARK — In five years, Carolyn Wallace expects to get a letter from the young men and women she tried to help find their way.

She’ll want to know how they’re doing and if they accomplished their goals after leaving the Newark social service agency she kept from closing last month.

“Send it to me whether I’m here or in heaven,” Wallace said.

In her motherly fashion, Wallace was talking to the latest class of young adults that the International Youth Organization helps with life skills, job placement, earning a general equivalency diploma and counseling.

A letter is the least they can do for the 79-year-old Wallace, who came out of retirement to save the organization she helped found 44 years ago.

IYO, a grass-roots staple in Newark, was ready to shut its doors July 1. The phones didn’t work and the lights were off in Wallace’s office. She was behind on paying the water, gas and electric bills. Insurance payments for the building and vehicles were way overdue.

There was no way she could take on a new class of young adults ages 16 through 25 in need of direction when she owed $46,000.

It didn’t matter that she had $600,000 in grant money from the state, since those funds can only be used for program services, not operational costs — which has plagued the agency for years. IYO focused on serving city youth and their families, and never bothered to come up with a plan for self-sufficiency.

Facing a July 1 decision on whether to close, Wallace waded through a mountain of paperwork. Her annual operating costs came to $150,000, but she needed $46,000 or so to stay afloat. Underneath the piles on her desk was an unexpected gift — two grants from Newark that her agency had not spent after she retired at the end of 2010.

One grant was for $13,000, the other for $41,000.
“She’s non-profit royalty. You do what you can to help.”

The money was already allocated, so Wallace said Newark officials let her use the $13,000 to pay for insurance on the building and the vehicles. That move, Wallace said, allowed her to keep the doors open and accept the newest class for its New Jersey Youth Corp program.

“If I don’t have anything, I’ve got to have insurance,’’ she said. “I can’t run a program without that.”

James Blaney, chief of staff for City Council President Mildred Crump, set up the meeting in which city officials and Wallace began to make things happen.

“She’s non-profit royalty,’’ Blaney said. “You do what you can to help.’’

After reading a column about IYO’s plight, some called Wallace to see what they could do. New Eden Baptist Church, which is across the street from the organization, has been taking up a special offering each Sunday.

“We have to do this,’’ said Fonda Dortch-Taylor, associate minister at New Eden. “Failure is not an option for IYO. Closing is not an option.”

In September, a coalition of Newark churches, including New Eden, plan to sponsor a luncheon to raise funds.

“This is a community problem,” said Larry D. Tyson Sr., associate minister at Trinity Baptist Church. “We believe IYO needs to be here for the future.”

Wallace has a little wiggle room, but she is still struggling and hopes the city will let her to use some of the $41,000 to pay bills.

At the same time, she is trying to anchor the future of the organization with people who have business acumen.

What she’s doing at this stage in her life was never part of the plan. Wallace was working in a doctor’s office and working toward becoming a registered nurse. Her late husband Jim, a Newark police officer, was hired to provide security for Brick Towers and Hill Manor apartment buildings.

The couple, which would later marry, worked together to give a small group of youths something to do at at Brick Towers. The next thing they knew, there were 300 members of the Brick Towers Youth Association, which they started after school programs closed.

The name was changed to International Youth Organization when they outgrew Brick Towers and moved into a seven-building complex on South 12th that could easily house 600 to 800 children. They’re down to 30 members now and many programs that served the community are gone, except the one for the young adults who promised to send Wallace that letter in five years.

Demetrius Best, 21, says Wallace will be proud when she reads that he’s hauling goods and services as a trucker. He’ll always remember how IYO took a chance on him after getting expelled from four Newark high schools.

“This place feels like family,” he said. “I feel loved.”

Jasmine Cooper, 25, has two letters for Wallace. The second one will say she’s styling hair in her own salon. And she’ll explain how her confidence is through the roof, because IYO encouraged her to do better and not be afraid to ask questions.

The first letter is much shorter: Thank you, Mrs. Wallace, for keeping the program open.