Board President Hope Harley Awarded
2021 AARP Purpose Prize
Bronx Children's Museum congratulates Board President Hope Harley for being awarded the 2020-2021 AARP Purpose Prize — the only national award that celebrates people 50-plus who are using their life experience to create social change.
We are inspired by her commitment to bring equity and educational opportunities to the 250,000 young children of the Bronx.
(Advance to 52:35 minutes to jump to Hope's segment.)
Please consider making a donation in her honor of Hope to help the Museum not only open our building, but grow and thrive.
"I’ve always said that if every person from the Bronx, and every person who knows about us just gives a dollar, or whatever they can, we will open our doors with financial stability!" — Hope Harley
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October 20, 2020
Bronx Children’s Museum Board President Hope Harley Awarded Prestigious AARP Purpose Prize
AARP announced today that Hope Harley, co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of Bronx Children's Museum, has been named a winner of the coveted AARP Purpose Prize — the only national award that celebrates people 50-plus who are using their life experience to create social change.
Selected from a pool of more than 1200 applicants, Ms. Harley is one of only five winners being honored for the mission-focused work of the organizations they lead. Each winner’s nonprofit receives $50,000. Having served as the Board President since 2006, Ms. Harley won the 2021 AARP Purpose Prize for her dedicated work with Bronx Children’s Museum.
“Fifteen years ago, I was stunned to learn there had never been a children’s museum in the Bronx, and furthermore, that the Bronx was the only borough in New York City that did not have one,” says Ms. Harley. She continues, “I visited my local children’s museum in Brooklyn regularly as a child and it was life changing for me. I was fortunate to have what Bronx children lack—a children’s museum to fuel my imagination and engage my mind. Spending Saturdays there was a godsend. My neighborhood was rife with the same issues that still plague low-income urban areas. Every child deserves a place where they can be inspired, have fun and feel safe.”
“We started in the community, offering school and outreach programs and a mobile exhibit in a big purple bus,” recounts Ms. Harley. Today, Bronx Children’s Museum is a new kind of multicultural, community-based museum reaching 16,000 children annually from infancy through third grade wherever they are—in parks and shelters, at fairs and festivals, emotionally and developmentally. Through play and learning, the Museum nurtures children to find their voice, fulfill their potential and connect to their communities, the Bronx and the world beyond. “Next year, we will open our building,” she says proudly, “and finally achieve our dream of being a museum ‘with and without walls.’”
“The AARP Purpose Prize could not have come at a better time,” Ms. Harley says. “In order to open our doors with financial stability and weather the impact of the pandemic, the Museum has launched a campaign to raise nearly $3 million in the next three years so it can not only open our building, but keep growing and thrive. The need for a children’s museum is greater than ever, especially since the South Bronx has been hit disproportionately hard by this pandemic.”
Ms. Harley continues, “I’ve always said that if every person from the Bronx, and every person who knows about us, just gives a dollar or whatever they can, we will open our doors with financial stability! The AARP Purpose Prize will help bring national awareness to our mission as well as to the needs of the children of the Bronx.”
Ms. Harley graduated from the State University of New York College at Old Westbury. She received an MBA in Organizational Development from Pace University and a Certificate in Corporate Community Relations from Boston College. She was serving as NYC Director of External Affairs for Verizon, where she spent 28 years and was on the verge of retirement, when invited to be part of a dedicated team to create a children’s museum for the Bronx.
Ms. Harley emphasizes: “The Museum is a labor of love for so many. I joined a group of Bronx community leaders, including Lee Llambelis and Paul Lipson (both still actively involved), to bring equity and educational opportunities to the 250,000 young children who live here. In 2010 we were joined by our executive director and my greatest partner in this project, Carla Precht, who I would like to acknowledge is also ‘disrupting aging,’ as AARP puts it!”
“Hope Harley has been a beacon of inspiration to the Bronx and to me from the minute I met her more than ten years ago,” exclaims Ms. Precht. “The Museum is a reality because of her gracious and spirited leadership.”
Bronx resident Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, Commissioner of NYC’s Department for the Aging, wrote, “[Hope] has invested her heart and energy and time in the Museum, in creating a safe space where children can play, imagine, and grow and where generations can come together in learning.”
“Hope has been leading the effort to right a wrong for fifteen years now,” wrote beloved Bronx-raised actor and writer Sonia Manzano, best known as “Maria” of Sesame Street, in support of Ms. Harley’s application. “Every time I hear her speak about the Museum I am inspired anew. Her vision has helped create a museum that provides just what I wanted as a little girl.”
Ms. Harley concluded, “We also could not have gotten this far without our committed Board of Directors, talented and dedicated staff, community partners and of course the amazing children and families of the Bronx. And we certainly cannot forget the many very generous funders who have supported us along the way.”
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