After 23 years supporting and counseling families at the Harlem Children’s Zone, Charles Trimble has a lot of memories. He keeps reminders of his favorites in large, leather-bound photo albums. But when he moved to the new HCZ Community Support Benefits office, one was misplaced.
“It kills me. I don’t even want to think about it,” said Trimble. “Those first few years were some of the best.” Trimble’s first years with HCZ were at the Countee Cullen Community Center (CCCC) as a family worker. After graduating from Delaware State University, Trimble thought HCZ would be “pit stop” while he established his literary career. An East Harlem native, he had to get acquainted with the residents of Central Harlem.
At CCCC, he supported families in shelters as they searched for permanent housing. The staff grew close to the families’ children – which made it bittersweet when they found homes and moved away.
One day, Trimble walked a little girl to her new home on her last day living in the shelter. He and the girl grew close at her time at CCCC. At her front door, he felt a lump growing in his throat when they had to say goodbye.
“We boohooed like it was a funeral,” said Trimble. “I realized this isn’t just ‘work.’ This is something more.”
Trimble has helped numerous families find help in emergencies such as a sudden eviction notice or a legal issue.
“The key is giving people what they need when they need it,” said Trimble. “You need to give them the same respect that you would want if you were in their shoes.”
Trimble is proud of his work at HCZ not just as a staff member, but as a Promise Academy® parent. In 2005, he entered his daughter into the first Promise kindergarten admission lotteries. Unfortunately, she didn’t get in, and was put on the waitlist.
“That was one of the few times as a parent where I felt defeated,” said Trimble. “I remember hearing all these names called and not [hers]. I just sat in my chair for 20 minutes afterward.”
Days after, Trimble was counseling children at an HCZ afterschool when he learned his daughter was off the waitlist and received a spot in Promise Academy.
“It’s been a beautiful ride at Promise,” he said. “I’ve been here [at HCZ] and heard about Promise before they even built the building.”
Trimble’s son is now a Promise High School senior and his daughter is a Promise graduate attending SUNY Albany.
His daughter is also the main character in Trimble’s first children’s book, “My Daddy is Always There,” which won the 2019 Purple Dragonfly award.
Today, Trimble receives thank-you cards and emails from families he has helped. But he never imagined that in 23 years, those children he met in his first days (now adults with their own children) would be reaching out on Facebook to thank him.