Those close to Tina and Netta Hadari have known for a while that their home-grown nonprofit, Music Haven, is a champion in the community, crusading for music education in some of the most underserved of New Haven’s neighborhoods. With a tiny staff and modest budget, the two have made it their mission to, in their words, “empower low-income and first-generation college-bound students to pursue higher education” through a sustained commitment to music.
Now, in the months before they leave the organization in new hands, the two can add “Champion in Action” to the nonprofit’s official title. Friday evening, the organization was honored by Citizens Bank and WTNH News 8 as a Champion in Action in the Youth Empowerment category in an intimate ceremony at their Whalley Avenue offices.
“When we created this program, we intended to help local nonprofit organizations go to that next level of their own journey ... and our committee was so impressed with the work that all of you do. Really Music Haven is providing local change ... I think that’s one of the most remarkable things about this organization,” said Barbara Cottam, executive vice-president and head of corporate affairs at Citizens Bank.
“I hope that each one of you takes what you have learned and remember to pay it forward,” she added, addressing Music Haven students who had gathered for the event.
“This is especially an honor for us to give this Champion in Action award to Music Haven. We really hope this is the beginning of a long and close partnership ... I think what you provide is so valuable to young people and to the families in our community. There’s no doubt that music plays such a powerful role in the human experience ... it can literally develop and transform the human mind,” added Kierstin Pupkowski, community affairs director at WTNH News 8.
As a Champion in Action, Music Haven will receive not only $35,000 in unrestricted funds — money that will allow more students to join the program –– but also media coverage, television profiles, and volunteer support from WTNH, the chance for Hadari to participate in a “President to President” mentorship with Citizens Bank, and promotional support highlighting Music Haven on all Citizens Bank branch DCN screens and on its ATM machines.
“I want to recognize all of the champions that are in this room: our board members, my very talented and tremendously dedicated colleagues, whose expertise and compassion knows no bounds, and then of course our beautiful students. Here at Music Haven ... we believe that the arts can catalyze social change, and that investing in our youth is a vital component to that equation ... that no matter where you come from, all young people deserve opportunities to dream about their future ... Music Haven is also a haven. The name is not just a coincidence ... for me it is my second family, it is my extended family, and it’s also a place where I think anything is possible. To be a Champion in Action affirms the hard work we’ve put in thus far and gives us hope for what lies ahead,” said Tina Hadari at the event.
To celebrate the award, Music Haven did what it does best. Students launched into a feisty rendition of “La Bamba” and heart-melting version of “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” that I suspect will win an NPR Tiny Desk Concert spot.
Cottom had one more bit of good news to end the evening. She smiled as she addressed the crowd:
“Once a champion, always a champion.”
To find out more about the Champion in Action program, click here.