On Memorial Day, May 25, the name George Floyd became etched into the minds of the American psyche when he died beneath the knee of a police officer calling for his mother and unable to breath. On that same day, Christian Cooper’s name became known in New York City, when his peaceful bird-watching activities in Central Park’s Ramble collided with a White woman and her unleashed dog. Within minutes, she wielded her phone as a weapon, calling the police to say, “There’s an African American man, I’m in Central Park, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog…Please send the cops immediately!” These actions again demonstrated acts of racism towards Black males in this country and, in the case of Floyd, resulted in the death of another Black male at the hands of the police. Greatly disturbed by these acts, LSSNY CEO Dr. Damyn Kelly reached out to all staff members to have a conversation.
Meet Kevin. After years of experiencing homelessness, he found his forever home at our Bergen Street Residence. This supportive housing unit is part of LSSNY’s Home LIFE program. Kevin’s presence and attitude have been nothing short of inspirational. His compassion, empathy, and hospitality have transcended his dwelling with us. For the past three years, he has volunteered at several shelters, where he remains actively involved in helping shape the lives of the homeless community in New York City.
Meet Sandra Bisono, case planner in our foster care program, at LSSNY.
For the past two years, Sandra has juggled working with us part-time while going to school full-time, “an incredibly difficult task given the highly demanding work required of this position,” according to Lisa Marie Vargas, MSW, Director of Social Services at LSSNY. Sandra recently graduated from Fordham University with a masters in social work. Effective June 1, she is being promoted to a foster care supervisor position, “one she has truly earned,” says Vargas.
Meet Rachel Bleecker LMSW, Director for Residential Services at LSSNY.
During the coronavirus pandemic, she works in the office two to three days a week. Though she could complete the majority of her work from home, she chooses instead to set an example for her team.
“What kind of a leader would I be if I said, ‘Hey, you guys go in and I’ll be safe in my home?’ she asks. “I want to show them we’re in this together.”
Meet Yannick Daley, Head Teacher at Early LIFE Watson, at LSSNY.
Frontline workers such as nurses and police officers keep all of us safe, but who’s watching their children? Centers like the Rose Hill Pre-K Center are open for children of essential workers, and our employee Yannick Daley, Head Teacher at Early LIFE Watson, has decided to volunteer.
“I knew that there was a need,” says Yannick. “I was available so I said I might as well help out.”
Meet Estephanie Betances, LSSNY’s Director of HR. During this crisis, she is navigating these waters, educating staff members on their rights concerning health care, sick leave, and personal leave during this pandemic. She also works with leadership to notify staff and program participants if a staff person tests positive. She holds video calls with her team once a day, knowing it’s important to check in and maintain some level of normalcy. Her approach is to be fair and flexible and to keep workers engaged with professional development webinars.
Meet Angela Wright-Holder, a high-risk and geriatric case manager for LSSNY’s supportive housing program. All of the residents she works with have mental health issues. Most of them battle substance abuse. Some have preexisting medical conditions. Though Angela understands how vulnerable this population is, it still came as a shock when a senior in her care recently passed away. An employee assistance program helped her cope with her grief.
Meet Herbert Thompson, LSSNY’s Director of Facilities. Herbert and his team have been responsible for cleaning and sanitizing our Early LIFE centers, The New LIFE School, and Safe Haven program.
Meet Ashraf Ibrahim, LSSNY’s Director of Procurement. Typically, he purchases almost everything for our agency, including supplies, equipment, and clothing for the children in our care. These days, he is also in charge of locating personal protective equipment, cleaning materials, and other items necessary to address the coronavirus pandemic. We need these highly sought-after products for our maintenance, custodial, and janitorial staff and for our clients, such as the children in the Early LIFE program, unaccompanied minors, and residents of our supportive housing.
Lutheran Social Services of New York has been strengthening lives, families and communities for more than 125 years. This has been made possible through the work of dedicated staff, committed volunteers, and supportive congregations and communities.
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