Unlike many fundraising events that feature high profile celebrities, last week’s FEGS Awards Ceremony recognized the true heroes in our society: real people with real issues (mental, physical, emotional, financial) who have overcome tremendous obstacles to live meaningful and productive lives.
FEGS (the health and human services division of UJA Federation) was founded in 1934 and since then has been bringing together the best resources and people to help New York residents in need achieve greater personal and economic independence. Their exceptional programs (health care, disabilities, housing, homecare, employment, education, youth and family services) provide care and assistance to more than 10,000 people each day, 100,000 people each year.
A few of their stories: Marcel conquered his own substance abuse issues to counsel others with addictions; Derek is an immigrant from Ghana with dreams to become a pharmacist; Kristin helps at the pantry program and treats all who come there with dignity and respect; Joshua got a great job in maintenance and looks forward to getting an apartment with the lady in his life; Esau joined FEGS Back-to-Work program and landed a job as a door attendant; Jacqueline joined a smoking cessation group and a peer recovery group where she now has a paid position; George volunteered in a Goodwill store where he was ultimately hired and now trains new hires; Lily attended a back-to-work program in the Bronx and got offers from both Macys and Toys R Us; Johnny attended Bronx Possibilities and got a job in customer service at The Bronx Zoo; Jose joined an intensive job club and is now a waiter at Fordham University; Liandra boasts many years of sobriety and is now taking computer courses; Georgina just underwent a hip replacement and is a shining light at Graystone Residence; Walter attended the Hudson Square Center for Art and Rehabilitation and has improved his coping skills; Jenette (a former school teacher) suffered a brain injury in a car accident but is now able to tutor and mentor others in the program; Shenton, an openly gay man from Jamaica who witnessed gays being stoned, spoke eloquently about his new life in America thanks to FEGS; Payel, a young man from Bangladesh who lost both parents, was able to excel in high school and soon college… Their incredible stories were emotional and inspiring and the gratitude they expressed to their caregivers at FEGS brought tears to all.
Among FEGS’ many partners, Dignity U Wear (one of our own terrific industry organizations that provides new clothes to those in need) received this year’s partnership award for the great work they do, most recently providing new clothes to victims of Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma tornadoes. Executive Director Barbara Truncellito accepted for the organization and told the powerful story of its founding 13 years ago by Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran Henri Landwirth. “I know what it is to be without food and clothing. I want to help people so they never know that pain,” he has said.
How nice to be reminded of why we’re in this industry! Thank you Dignity U Wear and FEGS!