Terry Heard has lived in the Butler Houses for over 30 years, and she has spent just as long improving and advocating for the Butler community. For the last five-plus years, she has worked closely with the Butler Community Center staff and center director Clyde Thompson in her efforts. Terry is an integral part of making the center a success. She is a connector in the community who is passionate about creating opportunity for fellow Butler residents. Terry’s activism and leadership is personal because her daughter and grandson are also members of the Butler community.

“If we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will!” That mantra has driven Terry to work with DFOY and local leaders, securing various donations. She has also been instrumental in making Butler Community Center’s evening programming a success, promoted local GED classes, and spearheaded the community’s involvement in the center’s back-to-school and winter coat drives. When the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP) selected the Butler Houses as one of 15 NYCHA developments for its new safety and crime reduction initiative, Terry saw another opportunity to step up for her community. The MAP Stakeholders/Working Committee received $50,000 to beautify the area.

Terry Heard is the epitome of hard work, community activism, and family. Since I joined DFOY, she has demonstrated the support, friendship, and assistance that I readily needed to effectively communicate and work with the entire community. As a member of the Butler Houses Tenant Association, I learned immediately that she sincerely cared about the conditions in her community and creating an environment for all of its residents to thrive. There is no question that her impact on the community as a whole is a living example of what one person can do to make a difference and be an “Agent of Change.” — Clyde Thompson, Butler Community Center Director

Terry is proud to see the fruits of her labor making a difference. The investments from MAP, DFOY, and others have transformed the outdoor communal spaces into a garden and playground, with lighting to keep the area safe at night. There is less crime in the community, and people feel safe to use the back of the building. To sustain the positive change, Terry knows the community’s youth needs to get involved, a priority for DFOY and the Butler Community Center. Terry shared: “Since DFOY got involved at Butler, there is greater opportunity. From resume help, to guidance and other resources, DFOY and the Butler Community Center staff have really made a change.”

When Terry is not volunteering in the community, she can be found spending time with her grandson, cooking her famous fried chicken with mac & cheese and rice and beans, or watching Law & Order and Grey’s Anatomy. Most importantly, Terry’s grandson is very proud of her! She has instilled her same strong value system in him, the future generation. Her grandson is always helping her with her projects for the Butler community. Terry is delighted to know that her grandson and Butler Houses youth have a space to play and do not need to leave to have fun. Thanks to Terry, young people can enjoy the community and continue her work to help the Butler Houses and its residents.

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Directions For Our Youth, Inc. donations go towards programs and services that prioritize the education, health, and overall wellness of children and youth.