Elder hunger is a serious problem in the United States; nearly 9 million older adults are at risk of hunger. In New York City, close to one in six elderly residents – nearly 154,000 people – receives food from soup kitchens or soup pantries. Sixteen percent of New York City residents age 65 or older reported paying for medical care instead of food.

According to the AARP Foundation, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is one of the best options available to increase food purchasing power for low- income older adults. For many seniors, however, the application process is complex and daunting.

Richard Schneiderman, a retired human resources manager and Brooklyn resident, was having trouble receiving SNAP benefits to which he believed he was entitled. Numerous calls to the local SNAP office went unreturned.

ReServist Zina Zimmerman

ReServists Zina Zimmerman and Marjee Mosley from the SNAP Outreach Program helped Richard gather together the required documentation. They walked him through the application process, and when minimal benefits were provided, with the appeals process to have them increased. They reached out to the SNAP office on his behalf.

As a result of their efforts, his benefits were substantially increased.

“Marjee and Zina were extremely kind and caring throughout the whole process,” Richard said. “They were very patient and explained everything in great detail.”

Since 2011, the SNAP Outreach program – a partnership between ReServe, the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City, Inc. (CSCS), AARP and NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA) – has secured approximately $5 million in benefits for over 5,000 New York City seniors. The program strives to end elder hunger by raising awareness and increasing senior participation in SNAP and other food and benefits programs.

The program employs 24 ReServists who assist older adults with their applications for benefits. Working in outreach teams, the ReServists meet with seniors at approximately 60 sites throughout New York City, including senior centers and public libraries, and at up to 10 monthly outreach events. A follow-up team reviews applications to ensure that seniors are getting the benefits for which they are eligible.

CSCS, which oversees the program, is a membership organization comprised of more than 200 senior service agencies that serve over 300,000 senior citizens throughout New York City. It helps member agencies provide quality programming, advocacy and training to seniors.

Igal Jellinek, CSCS Executive Director, said that the peer-to-peer outreach provided by ReServists is a key to the success of the SNAP Outreach Program. ReServe is a fantastic organization that fills an important need. People want to have a purpose when they grow older, and there are too few opportunities for seniors to give back.

“Working in the SNAP outreach program requires a great deal of patience and empathy, and it is very inspiring to watch ReServists work with seniors,” he said. “They are having a huge impact, and because of them this program has become a model for community outreach.”

Jennifer Brown, Benefits Outreach Manager for CSCS, said that ReServists also provide eligibility assessments for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program, which covers the cost of rent increases for eligible seniors so they can continue to live at home, and the Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps subsidize energy costs.

The experience and independence of the ReServists, and the passion they bring to their work, has made a strong impression on Jennifer.

“They all have so much expertise and talent and contribute not only to the SNAP program but to everything that we are doing,” she said.

The ReServists are eager participants in ongoing training, said Karol Tapias, Director of Training and Innovation for CSCS. SNAP eligibility requirements change annually. There are also policy changes that occur on a regular basis. For example the Farm Bill of 2014, which oversees SNAP, made many changes to the program, and ReServists had to be trained on how these changes impact clients.

From a programmatic perspective, the SNAP Outreach Program is a singular and innovative model that is replicable and highly flexible, based on the individual needs of clients.

“The ReServists themselves are what make it work,” Karol said. “When clients walk into a room and see their peers they are very reassured.”

Melba Boyar became a ReServist in the fall of 2013. A retired foodservice manager who worked at hospitals, nursing homes and universities, Melba brings a wealth of managerial experience to ReServe, where she serves on the SNAP outreach team.

Melba described the team as a group of committed individuals who have become close friends. They have bonded over a love of service and in sharing an adventure as they travel to sites throughout the five boroughs, learning about the city and each other.

“The work is very rewarding,” Melba said. “It is wonderful to see the joy and relief of our clients when they learn that benefits have been restored or increased.”

To be effective, ReServists must gain the trust of seniors. Questions have to be asked in ways that respect client privacy. Many of the seniors are alone, and see these meetings as an opportunity to tell stories and make connections with caring and sympathetic peers. Patience and empathy are paramount when engaging clients.

At the sites, team members reach out to seniors who may not know about the outreach team. In one instance Melba met a gentleman in the lobby of a senior center and invited him to meet with the team but he declined, saying he was ineligible for SNAP benefits.

Melba persisted and the man attended, and found out that he was in fact eligible.

“No one had taken the time to encourage him,” she said.

Prior to becoming a ReServist, Marjee Mobley spent ten years as a developer of employment and training programs for the NYC Department of Employment. In 2008 she was hired by Easter Seals as an employment specialist, where she worked for five years. She retired and joined ReServe, where she was engaged by CSCS as a follow-up specialist for the SNAP Outreach Program.

“The process can be extremely stressful and overwhelming for seniors,” Marjee said. “I just try to help them understand the decisions that have been made and to get them through the maze of information.”

Zina Zimmerman, a member of the SNAP Outreach team, spent ten years as Design Director for Tavern on the Green. Born in Brooklyn, she has done volunteer work for her entire adult life, and was thrilled to find in ReServe an opportunity to continue to give back after she stopped working full-time.

Zina agrees with CSCS staff and fellow ReServists that patience and empathy are prerequisites for helping seniors navigate the SNAP application process.

“We treat each client with courtesy and grace,” she said. “We hold their hands and chat, and listen to stories about their grandchildren and broken elevators.”

In one instance an 85-year-old client was unable to return a questionnaire because the elevator in her building was in fact broken, and she could not get to her mailbox. Her benefits were terminated. In another, a client lost benefits because her Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card had been issued with a wrong number.

In both cases Zina was able to get SNAP benefits restored. She’ll always remember the satisfaction of helping these individuals and peers gain access to something as basic as food.

“No one should be hungry,” Zina said.

Featured, New York City

It is our great privilege on Veteran’s Day to honor ReServists who have served their country. We are proud that these individuals have chosen to lend their skills, smarts and know-how to ReServe, and honored to place them in the service of so many worthy organizations. We thank our ReServist Veterans for their service, and for their commitment to giving back.

U.S. Air Force Veteran Brings Multiple Talents to ReServe

Edward Lipinski

Edward Lipinski

Edward Lipinski grew up in Jersey City and attended college in Pennsylvania, where he studied psychology and was active in film and theater. After graduating in 1965 he planned to move to New York City to start a career in the arts. Instead he was drafted, at a time when the Vietnam War was expanding. He entered the U.S. Air Force and attended Officers Training School.

Initially stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas, Edward was sent to California for missiles operations and maintenance training. He was then deployed to Kansas, where he served as a missile launch officer with the U.S. Strategic Air Command.

Maybe the hardest part about spending 18 months in a missile silo was being in constant readiness for something that everyone hoped would never happen. There was one memorable event; participating in a test launch of a Titan 2 missile, at the time the largest intercontinental ballistic missile in the U.S. arsenal. Edward activated the launching device that sent the missile – equipped with a dummy warhead filled with propellants – across the continent and into the Pacific Ocean.

“The SAC wanted to photograph the missile in flight, and there was a technical problem with the aircraft that delayed the launch for one day,” he said. “Because of the delay our crew launched it, making us one of the few crews ever to participate in a launch.”

Edward left the service in 1970 and returned to New York to study the visual arts under the G.I Bill. He worked as a professional writer, designer and illustrator, and the columns he wrote and illustrated for the New York Times - Home Clinic and Home Improvement – were widely syndicated and turned into a book.  He also taught art and art history at the Center for Media Arts and Mercy College in Manhattan.

The multi-talented Mr. Lipinski is also an accomplished ballroom dancer and part-time professional actor. The Actor’s Alliance, which helps members find work, got him several roles including a non-speaking part in a travelogue about Egypt.

“I was photographed dancing on a ship that sailed down the Nile,” he said.

Edward heard about ReServe through the Actor’s Alliance. His first placement as a ReServist was with the City of New York, where he wrote and edited manuals related to health and public safety. He was happy to be writing professionally again and loved working out of an office in the Woolworth Building with fantastic views of downtown Manhattan. He would have stayed on but funding for the project ended.

Edward continues to seek out opportunities with ReServe. “ReServe offers very creative jobs,” he said. “A lot of nonprofits can’t afford top talent, but through ReServe they can get that for an affordable price. It’s very rewarding for both sides.”

For Edward, the opportunity to give back is an extension of his commitment to service, which began in the U.S. Air Force. “I served to the best of my ability, and it will always give me a great feeling of accomplishment,” he said.

ReServe Honored to Help Preserve an Extraordinary Military Legacy

Nathaniel James

Nathaniel James

As founder and president of the 369th Historical Society, Major General Nathaniel James is custodian of the archives of the U.S. Army’s 369th Infantry Regiment, the legendary “Harlem Hellfighters” who served in both World Wars. His commitment to the mission is more than academic; in 1953, as a senior in high school, he enlisted and served as an infantryman in the all-Africa-American regiment, at a time when segregation was just starting to be phased out of the military.

The decision marked the beginning of a distinguished 33-year military career that culminated with General James’ appointment to serve as Commanding General of the New York Army National Guard. He was promoted to Major General in December, 1992.

The 369th Historical Society is an all-volunteer nonprofit agency that was established in 1960 to collect, preserve and maintain artifacts, books, papers, photographs, film and articles on the history of the 369th Regiment, and of African American soldiers who served in the U.S. Military It has always been housed at the historic 369th Infantry Regiment Armory at 2366 Fifth Avenue in Harlem, which was built for the regiment in 1933. But with the Armory currently undergoing a major renovation – and the Society unable to return when the renovation is complete – Gen. James was forced to archive, pack and store the entire collection.

Harlem Hellfighters

Harlem Hellfighters

It was a massive undertaking. For help, Gen. James turned to the Summer Seniors Employment Program (SSEP), a partnership between ReServe and the West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC). ReServe recruits West Harlem residents age 55+ to lend their skills to high-impact service projects at nonprofits throughout New York City. Participants work part-time throughout the summer, with stipends funded by WHDC, which promotes economic growth and quality of life in West Harlem.

“The Summer Seniors Employment Program is extremely helpful to organizations like mine,” Gen. James said. “It is a great opportunity to get valuable help.”

The U.S. Army’s 369th Regiment was formed from the National Guard’s 15th Regiment in New York in 1913, as the first and only National Guard unit in New York State composed solely of African-Americans, and the first African-American regiment to serve during World War 1. The regiment, nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters by the German Army, was known for its tenacity and toughness. During a triumphant return to the U.S. the unit paraded through the streets of New York on February 17, 1919, a day that was an unofficial holiday in Harlem.

The Hellfighters later became a coastal artillery unit, and then a logistics supply brigade. The 369th paved the way for future African American soldiers to serve the nation, and the unit’s bravery and dedication were cited frequently during the subsequent fight for civil rights.

Barney Pinkney was the first of two SSEP participants to help with archiving and packing the collection. A native New Yorker and military veteran, he entered the service in 1973 and served for 14 years in the infantry and as a tanker. He later joined the Army ReServe at Fort Totton in Queens.

Mr. Pinkney heard about ReServe at a meeting of the American Associations of Retired Persons (AARP), and began helping Mr. James with organizing and packing the 369th Historical Society archives. He was honored to offer his services to Mr. James and looks forward to the day when the collection finds a new home.

Barney regards his military service as a source of pride and accomplishment. He is grateful for the opportunity to give back through ReServe, and to have a hand in preserving an important historical record that might otherwise be lost to future generations.

“Serving my country was one of my most proud accomplishments,” he said. “Now, it feels very good to be giving back through ReServe.”

The Society recently opened a temporary office at the Harlem Prep Charter School on East 123rd Street. The collection will remain in storage until it finds a permanent home. When it does, Gen. James will turn to ReServe for help.

“I would love to have Barney and the other SSEP participants back,” he said.

Life Lessons Learned in the Military Brought to ReServe

William Werwaiss

William Werwaiss

New York City native William Werwaiss entered the U.S. Navy in 1961. He earned his officer’s commission and served at sea on a destroyer until 1966. Following his service he worked at the U.S. Mission to the United Nation, serving under Admiral John McCain, the future U.S. Senator.

The Navy in those days was a great place for young people to learn about life. William served with people for every kind of background and all walks of life, and learned about accountability and taking responsibility for oneself.

“It was a very positive experience for me,” he said. “I still get together with my shipmates.”

William moved to Connecticut, where he worked for 30 years in the telephone industry, as a technician and later as a division president with ATT. He retired at 55 and did consulting work for telecommunications clients.  He volunteered for various agencies but wanted his service to have more of an impact.

William first heard about ReServe through a friend at the New York Times Foundation. He attended an orientation session and was deeply impressed by the opportunities that were available to a very talented cohort of older professionals.

His first placement as a ReServist was with an organization that provides sanctuary and support for victims of domestic violence. “It was a great organization, extremely well managed with a great mission,” William said.

Through the placement William was introduced to members of the New York City Department of Health (DOH), who were impressed enough by what they saw that they decided to start their own ReServe program. He was invited to help run it – to match organizations with the appropriate ReServist – and gladly accepted the offer, eager to play a role in expanding ReServe’s impact.

William spent two years with the DOH.  At its peak the program employed 35 ReServists including doctors, engineers and law enforcement personnel.

William’s next placement was with a health care chaplaincy, where he served for over three years as assistant to the vice president for Human Resources. His tasks included managing key accounts, conducting background investigations and acting as registrar for symposiums.

All told, William spent over six years as a ReServist. He is thrilled to have found an agency that lets him extend his commitment to service, which began when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. The genius of the organization, he said, is that it allows retired seniors to work, with flexible schedules and real responsibilities, and to have an impact on individuals and communities.

“I have a service ethic,” he said. “ReServe allows me to continue that commitment as a member of highly skilled teams that help so many nonprofit organizations.”

Featured, News

ReServe, an innovative nonprofit that places professionals age 55+ with nonprofits and government agencies that need their expertise, and West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC), which promotes growth and quality of life in West Harlem, today announced their second “Summer Seniors Employment Program (SSEP).” ReServe is part of the Fedcap Rehabilitative Services family of programs (www.fedcap.org).

Through this collaborative effort, ReServe will recruit 100 West Harlem residents age 55+ who will lend their skills and expertise to high-impact service projects at nonprofits throughout New York City. Participants will work approximately 12 hours per week for up to 10 weeks during the summer, earning a stipend of $10 per hour. Stipends are funded through a $216,000 grant provided to ReServe by The West Harlem Development Corporation.

 “Through ReServe’s innovating matching strategy and expertise in engaging older professionals for part-time service work, ReServe is poised to help WHDC expand its impact in West Harlem and throughout New York City,” said Christine McMahon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fedcap.

“ReServe is delighted to partner again with West Harlem Development Corporation for a second Summer of Senior Service,” said ReServe Director Laura Traynor. “This year, we’re doubling the size – and impact – of the program by including up to 100 West Harlem seniors who will be placed in non-profit and public service organizations throughout the city.   We’re grateful to the West Harlem Development Corporation for organizing this grassroots initiative that demonstrates the value older adults bring to their community.  We look forward to another successful summer!”

“The Summer Seniors Employment Program helps a demographic that has a hard time finding a job to afford food, medicine and spending money,” said WHDC Executive Director Kofi A. Boateng, PhD. “Many seniors also end up learning a new skill, and their employers are happy to have extra staff at no cost to them.”

The 2013 SSEP was a great success, with participants contributing their services to numerous nonprofits, community groups and church-based programs including PALANTE Harlem, Mid-Bronx Council Services, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, MAMA Foundation, Bronx AARP, Harlem Arts Alliance, New Song Church, Fedcap and more.

ReServist Jewel Johnson worked as a Community Liaison at West Harlem Development Corp. in 2013, talking to Harlem residents about ReServe and helping them prepare resumes.  Active in community groups and church councils, Jewel, a lifelong Harlem resident, is looking forward to participating in SSEP 2014, which she expects will be even more successful than last year, given the level of community outreach and enthusiasm.   

“ReServe helps Harlem residents stay active and informed, and lets them know what is happening in their community,” she said. “Some seniors feel left out, and ReServe helps them stay connected. “

ReServists helped Pastor Adrienne Croskey of New Song Community Church clean and repair her building. They fixed doors and windows, answered phones, greeted visitors and provided a range of other services.

“It was great for us, and great for the participants to be able to be so helpful,” she said. “I am looking forward to participating again in 2014.”

After a highly successful engagement with ReServists in 2013 Elsia Vasquez, founder of PALANTE Harlem, a housing rights group, is looking forward to working with more ReServists through SSEP 2014.

PALANTE employed two ReServists last year, as well as youth from DYCD’s Summer Youth Employment Program. The youth/senior teams worked with tenants – many of them seniors – of a six-floor Harlem apartment building in which there were numerous safety violations, including a broken elevator.  They teams provided tenants with literature, taught them how to identify housing code violations and helped them form a tenants association. 

As a result of the team efforts the elevator was restored, and all of the violations in the building’s public areas and eight private apartments were fixed. In addition, the landlord reimbursed $319, 923 in overcharges to the eight families living in the building.

None of it would have happened without ReServe. “Because the ReServists were from our community the tenants were much more comfortable working with them,” Elsia said. “They empowered the residents to take action.”

Information sessions for SSEP 2014 will be held at the Jackie Robinson Center at 1301 Amsterdam Avenue (Entrance through 123rd street housing development) on Tuesday, April 15th, 2:00 PM- 3:30 PM; Morningside Retirement and Health Services 100 LaSalle St. #MC (Between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.) on Thursday, April 17th, 10:00 AM- 11:30 AM and Tuesday, April 22nd, 10:00 AM- 11:30 AM; and Our Lady of Lourdes Church 463 W. 142nd Street (Between Amsterdam and Convent Ave.) on Wednesday, April 23rd, 4:00 PM- 5:30 PM.(this session translated to Spanish).

For more information about the Summer Seniors Employment Program or to register for an information session, please contact summerseniors@reserveinc.org or call 646-476-3394 ext 201.

ReServist Leo Johnson teaching computers to children

ReServist Leo Johnson teaching computers to children

Featured, New York City, News, Press

Let’s say you’re an overworked, resource-strapped nonprofit leader, struggling to keep your organization afloat and your financial house in order. Why wouldn’t you want Howard Zuckerman on your team?

Ed Rutkowski asked himself the same question and came to the obvious conclusion. As executive director of Patterson Park Public Charter School (PPPCS), a pre-K-8th grade charter school that is part of the Baltimore Public School System, Ed has found in Howard an asset beyond what he believed was possible.

There are many great ReServist stories, numerous instances of placements that perfectly align talent with need. Sometimes it goes further than that, and ReServists play major roles in capacity building that amounts to transformational change. Such was the case with PPPCS and Howard Zuckerman.

Over the course of a long and successful career as a senior finance executive, Howard accomplished most of the professional goals he set out for himself. The culmination of Zuckerman’s career was a 16-year stint in financial leadership positions with Bell Atlantic, now Verizon. The work included 3 years in Mexico City as executive vice president and CFO of a Mexican wireless carrier that is part of Bell Atlantic.

“That cultural experience was really something,” Howard said. “I wish I had done it sooner.”

Howard retired in 2003, and in 2012 moved from Montgomery County, Maryland to Baltimore to be closer to two of his sons, both of whom work in public schools. He has another son living near Philadelphia, and 6 grandchildren.

By the time he moved to Montgomery County Howard had already had an active post-retirement career, to say the least. He served on a number of nonprofit boards, including a 5-year stint as a member of Board of Trustees/ Chairman of Audit Committee of Pan American Development Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that operates programs throughout Latin America. He also served with the Montgomery County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Perfection Painting, a residential painting company that Zuckerman founded in 2003, had 40 customers in 2008, its peak year. The company’s sole employee was Howard Zuckerman. Working 80 hours per week, in between his nonprofit board responsibilities, Howard did all of the scraping, priming and painting, and taught himself how to do plumbing and electrical work.

Zuckerman wasn’t necessarily looking to work in a nonprofit when he read about ReServe in a local newspaper. He called the ReServe Maryland office, completed the paperwork, and saw a listing for the PPPCS financial advisor position. He was intrigued.

PPPCS is one of 33 charter schools funded by Baltimore City Public Schools. It is a tuition-free public school that is open to all Baltimore City students by application, and currently serves 673 students pre-K through 8th grade.

Zuckerman and Rutkowski met for the first time a week before Thanksgiving 2012. They hit it off, and after a second meeting agreed it was a good fit.

The school had previously hired a ReServist, a senior investment executive. The arrangement was successful, resulting in a new investment strategy for PPPCS, and help in selecting a new investment manager. After the arrangement ended, Rutkowski turned to ReServe Maryland again for more help.

At the time of the posting PPPCS was in a period of transition. A business manager had recently resigned, and the school was struggling to find personnel who could manage its bookkeeping and accounting requirements. The school’s financial infrastructure needed an overhaul.

In Zuckerman, Rutkowski found someone who was a very quick study.

“We were amazingly lucky,” said Rutkowski. “Howard was the perfect person for us at exactly the right time.”

Zuckerman proved to be even more valuable than Rutkowski had imagined, bringing to bear his academic expertise – a B.S. in economics from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Chicago – and focus that he learned as a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army between 1968 and 1970.

Howard was instrumental in hiring and training an internal employee to serve as staff accountant/bookkeeper, He found and vetted a qualified part-time controller. He worked with the school’s auditor to prepare financial statements and helped Ed in selecting members of the Board of Director’s Finance and Investment Committee.

He implemented reporting and compliance processes for various bond covenants; identified cost-saving opportunities in the school’s banking and investment relationships; negotiated terms of an investment advisory agreement, and streamlined the process for issuing quarterly and annual cash projection reports.

Howard acts as liaison to the Board President and Executive Director, and is deeply involved in the day to day transactional and financial operations of the PPPCS.

“We had a long list of things we needed to accomplish to be a top notch organization,” Rutkowski said.  “Howard works with us to keep at them.”

It was only logical, after all that, that Rutkowski would invite Howard to serve as the school’s CFO. It was a mutual arrangement that brings with it a higher level of responsibility, but one that Zuckerman embraces as a full member of the staff.

Zuckerman currently works about 10-15 hours per week at PPPCS for a stipend of $10 per hour. A former employee of consulting giant Arthur Andersen, he knows he could command a figure in the $500/hour range on the open market.

Like many ReServe stories, this one has positive outcomes that extend beyond business and financial impacts. The two men have a good relationship built on mutual respect and trust.  Howard appreciates Ed as someone who “knows what he doesn’t know,” and has the wisdom to reach out for help in the interest of serving the school’s students.

For his part, Ed trusts Howard’s judgment implicitly and knows that he will go the extra mile for PPPCS.

Howards sees ReServe Maryland as providing a formal process to help people like himself identify opportunities for serving a public need.  It’s provided a perfect complement to what has turned out to be a post-retirement career as successful as the career that preceded it.

“My motivation is to work with nonprofits, meet people in new walks of life and continue to learn,” he said.

New York City

What is ReServe? 
A pioneering program that connects experienced adults age 55+ with non-profits, public agencies and social enterprises that need their talent.

Laura Traynor, ReServe Director

Laura Traynor, ReServe Director

Who is ReServe for and what is the market for ReServists? 
ReServe is a resource for public service organizations like libraries, schools, universities, government and not for profit agencies.  It provides them with affordable access to a talent pool of highly educated, experienced adults age 55+.  With shrinking budgets across many non-profit and government agencies, the market for ReServe is growing.  And with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, the talent pool is rapidly expanding.

Who are the ReServists?
ReServists are former schoolteachers, lawyers, business executives, social workers, bankers, nonprofit leaders and much more.  They speak many languages – like Russian, Korean and Chinese.  Close to 75 percent have an undergraduate degree, a masters degree or doctorate. These are highly accomplished people with a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and professional experience.

Why do people become ReServists? 
Research shows that as people grow older, they become more “generative” – meaning there’s a desire to nurture things that will outlast them – often by creating a positive change that will benefit other people.  ReServe provides a structure where this goodwill can flourish – a pathway for giving back.

With the “great recession” of 2007, we’ve also had more people joining ReServe as a means to paying work.  When ReServe launched in 2005, it was a very different economy.  A recent survey showed that 30% of ReServists are looking for permanent part-time or full-time work at market wages.  The 55+ workforce faces serious barriers to employment.  This was the topic of a recent Fedcap Solutions Series.   Some look to ReServe to re-enter the workforce in a non-threatening environment that builds networks and career paths, maintain their skills.

How do ReServists differ from volunteers?
First, ReServists are paid for their service; currently $10 an hour.  Second, a contract exists between ReServe and program partners (agencies and non-profits) and ReServists, thereby creating a formal agreement around expectations on both sides.  Importantly, ReServe staff facilitate matches between program partners and ReServists and provide considerable support and coaching to both parties.

Who benefits from ReServe?
The direct beneficiaries are ReServists and the organizations they work within.   Through ReServe, adults 55+ find a ready-made pathway to meaningful work that improves the capacity of non-profit and government agencies.  So in the end, we all benefit.  ReServists are working on projects that have significant social impact – like improving high school attendance and graduation, connecting frail elderly to benefits and assistance, and helping immigrants acclimate to a new way of life.

ReServe has been described as a groundbreaking model. How? 
People are living longer and working longer than ever before.  What was once a 10 year retirement can now be 20 or 30 years.  Providing opportunities for older workers to remain engaged and productive is paramount to the well-being of these older adults and our society.

In surveys, most people age 55+ say they want to find flexible, part-time opportunities that enable them to use professional skills honed over a lifetime.  ReServe does just this – it meets a current and growing need for new options for older adults.  I field calls from people across the country about ReServe and to my knowledge, it’s a one-of-a-kind model.

Where are some opportunities for ReServe going forward? 
So many opportunities!  Right now, we are looking very closely at the changing health care system and seeking to create multiple roles for ReServists.  A few years ago, ReServe piloted a health navigators program with a major NYC health system and plans are underway to relaunch this program.  We’re also looking at how to ReServists could fill a quality assurance role within the evolving long term care system and also how they could help deploy new health technologies – like telehealth devices.  Importantly, ReServe will continue to build on its impressive track record in mentoring young students and their families.  Last year alone, ReServists helped 2,100  at risk youth advance a grade in middle school, 2600 youth complete high school, and 2,500 youth complete their college applications!

National expansion of ReServe is also on the horizon – with plans to significantly expand our affiliate network over the next three years and our first national conference is scheduled for spring 2014.

Laura Traynor, ReServe Director

Laura Traynor, ReServe Director

Featured, News

Carol Bonnar first heard about ReServe from an article in the Boston Globe. The story resonated with her, and when she went to a First Impressions meeting at Brandeis University and saw the incredible talent in the room she was hooked.

Carol avoids the word “retirement” when describing her post-career activities. She describes the three years between her leaving a full-time job and becoming a ReServist as a shifting of energies, from a regimented life to one less structured, taken up by activities such as tai chi and classes at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

In April, 2013 Carol joined WalkBoston as a development consultant. WalkBoston is a policy and advocacy group that works to improve walking conditions in cities and towns across Massachusetts. Among its initiatives are the Safe Routes to Schools program. Since 2006 when WalkBoston developed a pedestrian safety handbook and on-street training program, the agency has worked with more than 7,000 students at 67 schools in 40 communities across Massachusetts.

WalkBoston Executive Director Wendy Landman was amazed when she started to review the resumes she received from ReServe Boston.

“It’s an amazing way for people to give something back, and a great opportunity for nonprofits,” she said.

Walk Boston operates out of three tiny rooms in the basement of Boston’s Old City Hall, with a small staff and rotating cast of college interns. Despite the space constraints, Carol has never been happier.

“Every time I come out of there I am humming,” she said. “It’s a stress free place thanks to Wendy’s management style.”

Carols was primarily brought on board to transform WalkBoston’s donor mix, from 90 percent corporate, foundation and government funding to 80 percent individual donor funding. The rationale is that corporate and foundation funding can dry up, whereas individual donors provide a stable and growing base of support.

Prior to Carol’s arrival WalkBoston had never had a development specialist on staff. Carol brought 30 years of experience as a nonprofit administrator to the agency, specializing in fundraising, capital campaigns, feasibility studies, strategic planning and board training. She has worked with Young Audiences of Massachusetts, the Boston-based Philanthropic Collective and other nonprofits.

After reviewing WalkBoston’s previous fundraising efforts and interviewing staff and board members, Carol advised the agency to focus its efforts on recruiting existing donors to increase their giving.

“We had not been very sophisticated about developing a plan to move small donors up the ladder,” Landman said.

The existing donor base is comprised of about 450 WalkBoston members who pay an annual $50 membership fee, with some giving more. WalkBoston has struggled in the past to clearly articulate its mission to donors. Advocacy, policy work and the provision of technical assistance to communities are complex, difficult to quantify and decidedly non-glitzy.

“Our work is hard to describe to donors,” said Landman. “It has been a long process to get out a statement about what we do.”

Based on 30 years of experience with nonprofits Carol understood that donor development programs are all about relationship building, one person at a time. To reach people in way that’s meaningful to them without going into the complexities of WalkBoston’s work, Carol asked Landman to summarize the group’s work in three clearly defined “buckets.”

The buckets turned out to be healthy families, individuals and communities. Carol began developing a three-year strategic and funding plan for each.

Another critical task undertaken by Carol was reorganizing WalkBoston’s unwieldy structure of 11 standing committees into three primary committees, advocacy, communications and development. Sub-committees and working groups were established under the mantle of each committee, a structure more closely aligned with staff and board members’ areas of expertise.

By reducing the number of standing committees and honing their functions, Carol reduced work redundancy and increased transparency. She encouraged Landman to think about committee structures within the framework of WalkBoston’s main activities, fundraising and garnering public support for its legislative agenda.

“What Carol is doing is providing a service that we could not afford at market rates,” Landman said.

WalkBoston’s goal is to raise over half a million dollars from individual donors within three years, well beyond what’s been attempted before. Fundraising under the new plan will kick off in February 2014 with a series of events at the homes of board members, where Carol’s case statement and other materials will be rolled out.

The reorganization, new fundraising campaign and approaching 25th anniversary of Walk Boston have recharged the organization.

“It’s a goal that if we don’t try it, we will never know,” Carol said.

ReServe Boston calls occasionally to see if Carol is interested in other ReServe placements. For now she’s sticking with WalkBoston, with its dynamic, changing work environment.

“I am bored with organizational maintenance,” she said. “”I’m really excited with the evolving mindset and new opportunities here.”

New York City

ReServe is a key partner in an innovative pilot program to expand learning opportunities and boost reading skills for disadvantaged middle school students.

The three-year, $20 million Middle School ExTRA program extends the school day by 2.5 hours for about 2,000 sixth grade students at 20 low-performing New York City schools. The students are given an extra hour of academic instruction in the form of small-group literacy training, and also participate in an hour of hands-on activities such as filmmaking, yoga, dancing, gardening robotics, videos and martial arts.

Middle School ExTRA, which began on September 19th,  is being run by the New York City Department of Education and the City Council; organizational partner The After-School Corporation (TASC); research partner Harvard EdLabs, and a host of community and private partners.

ReServe New York has place 104 “ReServists” in the schools to serve as reading tutors.  Each tutor leads two classes per day, with 4 students per class. The ReServists work 5 days per week, from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm, said John Pham Director of ReServe New York.

ReServist Patricia Haynes is a tutor in the Middle School ExTRA program at Junior High School 143 Eleanor Roosevelt in Manhattan. The 6th graders who comprise her reading group have a lot to deal with, both in transitioning to middle school and adjusting to extended school hours. There are bumps, but in general they’re doing great.

“They’re a wonderful bunch, so full of energy,” Haynes said.

Patricia is a resident of the Washington Heights community where the school is located. She loves the intimacy of the small group format and the burgeoning camaraderie that allows her to share her knowledge and experience of the world. Ideally, she’d like to stay with her group through the duration of the three-year pilot.

“I feel buoyed by this program,” she said “It’s a great joy to share with young people the context of my life and learning, and to see them develop as people as they understand not just texts but their own lives.”

Rapport and trust between Haynes and her students is growing as she learns about their lives and families. For example, one of her students has an older brother who is incarcerated in juvenile detention. A ReServist of long-standing, Haynes formerly served in Midtown Community Court in Manhattan as a family engagement specialist, supporting the readjustment process for families with youth who had recently returned from confinement.

A self-described “gentle taskmaster” with a deep reservoir of experience and empathy – and a Masters Degree in negotiation and conflict resolution from Columbia University – Haynes provided the student with guidance and insight.

“It’s really wonderful in that way,” she said. “It’s not just the physical energy but the mental and emotional energy that keep everyone rallied.”

The Middle School ExTRA program builds on successful Harvard EdLabs pilot programs in Houston and Denver that focused on improving math skills.

“Evidence suggests that intensive daily tutoring can dramatically improve the academic performance of at-risk students,” Roland Fryer, Robert F. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University and Faculty Director of Harvard EdLabs, said in April at the Urban Institute of Mathematics in the Bronx, where the expanded Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI) program was announced. “In these programs, 6th and 9th graders who received an hour of math tutoring every day made gains equivalent to four to six additional months of schooling in a single school year.”

A full study will be published after the completion of the three-year pilot. The current cohort of sixth graders will be followed through to the completion of 8th grade. Progress will be measured through standardized testing and through assessments performed by tutors during the course of the year, said Susan Brenna, Chief Communications Officer for TASC.

The academic curriculum and tutor training were designed by Harvard EdLabs. The guided reading groups are structured to create shared meaning from a text. They are designed to pique interest among the students and get them in the right frame of mind by activating prior knowledge, and helping them read with purpose.

Students are grouped by reading ability and texts are chosen accordingly. Reading is done apace, with students completing the book at the same time. ReServists then lead the groups in creating capstone projects, in which texts are turned into plays, art projects, or vocabulary games.

Capstone projects enable students to share their experience of the book in different mediums, and to demonstrate a more comprehensive understanding of the text. Projects have included a newspaper based on the book, with articles relating to specific characters; alternative book endings, comic books; paintings, and smart phone apps.

“The capstone projects serve as great assessment tools and are also really fun for the students,” Brenna said.

The EdLabs curriculum is adaptable to the needs of students and provides tutors with opportunities for creativity in designing capstone projects. In one project, after reading a non-fiction book about the life of Phineas Gage – the American railroad foreman who changed the way scientists understand brain function after he survived an explosion that drove a spike completely through his skull – students built clay models of the injury, which deepened their discussions about how it affected him and his brain functionality.

The book is one of about 200 that were deemed by teachers and adolescent literary experts to be of compelling interest to 6th graders. Other topics include immigrant experiences, growing up in Harlem, mythical worlds and nonfiction topics including Negro League Baseball, the Salem Witch Trials and numerous topics in science.

Haynes’ group read a graphic novel about middle school students who are producing a play. The text allowed for parallel discussions about the actions in the text and in real life, offering opportunities for creative, analytical interaction.

“There is a lot of stimulation in our interactions, and it helps to keep our bond close,” Haynes said.

To provide enough tutors to the Middle School ExTRA program, Pham enlisted ReServists who had not previously worked with youth. Qualifications included a commitment to helping young people and a love of reading. All tutors were required to take a reading assessment and competency test, and all were interviewed in person.

Tutor training began in August, 2013 and took place over a four-day period for 5 hours per day. It was organized into 2 major components, reading instruction and classroom management, said Blake Heller, Project Manager for Harvard EdLabs.

The first weeks of the program were given to team-building activities between students and tutors to build trust and overcome student resistance. Tutors reported that students warmed up to them during this process, and began looking forward to extended school hours.

The reading instruction component, led by a former teacher who is now a professor of adolescent literacy, was designed to help tutors understand the guided reading model. Classroom management training, provided by the former dean of a high performing charter school, focused on how to effectively redirect student misbehavior, and how to reengage students who become disengaged in ways that don’t embarrass or shame them.

Tutor training is rigorous and ongoing. A team of seven regional tutoring coordinators (RTCs) provide individualized support for tutors. Each RTC manages a team of between 14-20 tutors, visiting them at their schools at least once per week to observe them in the classroom. If a tutor is struggling with something they provide additional training or model best practices by leading the group.

“The idea is that the RTCs are our eyes on the ground,” said Heller.

The RTCs are TASC employees. They work closely with Harvard EdLabs to ensure the fidelity of implementation of EdLabs research in best practices and student performance.

Haynes described the training as fantastic.  She is among the ReServists with no prior teaching experience, and knew that her success in the classroom depended on the quality of training.

The RTCs in particular have proven to be great sounding boards for issues that arise. In one instance a student was upset about something and refused to be part of the reading group. An RTC intervened and was able to reengage the student through modeling, by changing the seating arrangement and arranging for him to attend an art class that he liked.

“Their approach to training is masterful, and we’re all very grateful for that,” Haynes said.

About 55% of the ReServist tutors have experience as teachers, mentors or social workers.   They provide informal support for ReServists who lack similar experience.

Heller admits that at first, he and school leaders were a little nervous about working with a cohort that was overwhelmingly made up of older adults. As the program has progressed the ReServists have emerged as a real asset, connecting with the students and bringing a wealth of experience and life skills to the classroom.

“It’s really great to see the inter-generational exchanges that are unique to ReServe,” said Heller. “They bring a wealth of experience and life skills.”

ReServists also provide real-life role models for the students, who often talk about wanting to grow up to be doctors or lawyers. In many cases ReServist doctors and lawyers are sitting right there with them in the classroom.

In Heller’s view, ReServe represents one of the most important and underleveraged sources of talent in the nation.

”ReServists are making a real impact on students’ lives,” he said. “The middle school literacy program is a shining example of how to leverage the skills of older Americans.”

Featured, New York City

The Nigeria Higher Education Foundation was in chaos when Ngozi Okaro was hired as Executive Director December 2011.

Active and inactive files were comingled. QuickBooks were half-finished. Electronic and paper invoices were a mess, with charges and expenses unaccounted for. Closets were stuffed with boxes of unopened letters. Donor lists were a shambles. Taxes and fees went unpaid.

With a mandate to move the agency forward, Ngozi quickly realized that she was going to need a lot of help.

The NHEF was created as a vehicle for United States-based Nigerian professionals to assist in enhancing the capacity of higher education institutions in Nigeria. The group focused on five universities; Ahmadu Bello University, Bayero University, University of Ibadan, University of Port Harcourt and the University of Nigeria Nsukka.

NHEF grew out of efforts by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to support the schools. Between 2003 and 2014 the MacArthur Foundation awarded $960,000 in funding to NHEF, with a mission to help in the development of Nigeria’s next generation of leaders, sustain a growing economy, facilitate a just and vibrant social structure, and help build a stable society.

As a relatively new organization, NHEF had no institutional memory into how things should be done. At the least, Ngozi needed to organize the agency.

“If you are going to do fundraising you have to have a clean database,” she said.

Two executive assistants were brought on; neither worked out. Ngozi remembered hearing of ReServe back in 2007 when she was working for a community development organization. A sister agency had hired a ReServist to assist with fundraising. She contacted ReServe, which forwarded profiles of ReServists who fit the skills profile. 

Ngozi was overwhelmed by the depth of experience of the applicants, and especially by Joan Boyle. Joan had a Masters Degree in information technology, and over 35 years experience as a manager and consultant, with expertise in creating information systems in resource-constrained environments. She had directed operations for an executive search firm, including marketing, research, administration, database and systems, and designed and developed information and records management programs for various companies. 

Beyond her resume, Joan haed an intuitive grasp of what Ngozi needed. Within 10 minutes of meeting her, Ngozi knew she was right for the job.

“She was miraculous,” Ngozi said. “She helped us with things we didn’t even know we needed help with.”

Joan not only understood the organization’s needs, she could articulate them. With a great attitude and work ethic, and with no hand-holding required, she hit the ground running.

QuickBooks were organized and updated. All of the mail was opened and sorted. Databases were reconciled and a single, cross-referenced donor list was created. Joan identified problems and solved them. For example, vendors were difficult to track; the NHEF didn’t know its own website vendor on phone/internet carriers. 

Joan wrote newsletters and press releases, and secured the nonprofit mailing rate from the U.S. Post Office. Tax returns were incomplete and related fees unpaid.  Donors weren’t getting thank-you letters, and donations made through PayPal went unprocessed because no one knew how to look for them.   

Joan handled all of it. She interviewed board members and put together new board packets with contact lists, and in general set a high standard for work ethic and professionalism.

“They were not organized but once you set it up it is easy to manage going forward,” Joan said. “For a small nonprofit, you have to have someone who knows what to look for.” 

That part was easy for Joan, who has been volunteering full-time for almost 10 years, sometimes for 70-80 hours per week, including working with the NGO International School Association at the United Nations and chair of the registration committee for the annual international conference for NGOs at the UN.

Joan sees her volunteer and ReServe work not as retirement activities but as a continuation of the work she has always done.  For older people who want to continue to serve causes that matter to them, ReServe provides the perfect opportunity to give back.

“When you are in the thick of hiring and managing, people know who you are,” she said. “When you’re older, your network will disappear unless you actively maintain it.”

Joan worked for the NHEF for about 10 months, beginning in May 2012. The agency did not ultimately get continued funding and is now restructuring. Ngozi currently provides consulting services. Wherever she ends up she won’t hesitate to call on ReServe. The whole process was seamless, from due diligence in only sending over qualified candidates to truly understanding the organization’s needs.

The clincher, of course, was Joan Boyle. “For a small agency, $15 per hour is a fantastic rate, we would have to pay an office manager $90,000 for the work that Joan did,” Ngozi said.

New York City

When you’re a Registered Nurse with 36 years of clinical and administrative experience, people want you. You have a lot of options for serving after you retire. Through ReServe, Mary Shea was able to continue doing what she loves the most; working directly with patients.

“That’s something that has always been in my heart,” she said. 

Mary was born in Queens and spent most of her life living in Manhattan, except for a few years in Colorado in the early 1970s.

“I loved the skiing but missed the ocean,” she explained.  

From 1979 to 1989 she worked in New York University Medical Center’s Cooperative Care Unit as a senior nurse clinician. The unit took an innovative approach to acute in-patient hospital care, encouraging a high level of engagement with patients and their families, including a live-in family member or friend acting as a designated care partner.

It was a perfect environment for Mary. Working directly with patients and families, she was able to help them proactively manage their own care as a means to healthy, independent living. Over time, and with the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, the unit was forced to operate more like a traditional ACU, with less emphasis on individual counseling.

“There was a real need to educate families and help patients be accountable for their own health, but the situation didn’t allow time for that,” Mary said.

In 1989 Mary joined the Mount Sinai Medical Center Certified Home Health Agency as a home care coordinator/clinical supervisor. A few years later she moved to the Long Term Care Insurance Division of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Agency (TIAA) of New York, where she spent 12 years as a senior underwriter, assessing applications for benefits eligibility, and helping to hire, train and evaluate nurses.

Mary’s next job was with Senior Health Partners, a Managed Long Term Care organization, where she spent several years coordinating a multidiscipline team in developing home care plans for about 40 seniors who needed care but wanted to live at home.

Mary retired in 2005 in the sense that she no longer worked full-time. She had no intention of being idle or not giving back.

‘Being a nurse you have so much knowledge that stays with you, and you want to promote and share that,” she said.

Mary first heard about ReServe while attending a class about e-books at a local public library. The woman running the class was a ReServist. After attending a First Impressions meeting in Manhattan, Mary applied for placement as information specialist with the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Early Intervention Program (KEEP).

The placement offered a flexible, part-time schedule and allowed Mary to continue to work with patients, screening them for early indications of kidney disease. The screenings took place in churches, schools and community halls. If symptoms were present Mary helped patients and their families navigate the health care system and find the right caregivers.

“ReServe builds on an individual’s skills and matches them directly with nonprofits,” she said. “I wanted to continue to be an advocate for people.”

Following the KEEP placement, Mary served as a ReServist in a senior center in the Bernard M. Baruch Houses, the largest NYC Housing Authority development in Manhattan. The complex has 2,193 apartments and close to 5,400 residents. The senior center is housed in a building that has been designated as a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC), part of the NORC Aging in Place Initiative organized by The Jewish Federations of North America. 

NORC communities are for older adults who live in market-rate apartment buildings in New York City where the majority of residents are elderly.  They are designed to promote healthy aging, independence, and community building through a multifaceted approach that includes case management and social work services; health care management and prevention programs; and education, socialization, and recreational activities. Tens of thousands of older New York residents are now “aging in place” in City- and State-supported NORC-SSP programming.

Mary served as on-site nurse at the senior center, which hosts activities and games. When residents visited the activity room Mary was there to take vital signs, review medications, schedule appointments and evaluate overall health and quality of life.  She organized workshops on topics like home safety, hypertension and medication protocols. 

One of the job’s challenges was gaining the trust of residents. All are elderly, and many are Spanish and Chinese language speakers with limited knowledge of English. Some had trouble understanding who Mary was and why she was interested in their lives.

“Getting people to come to see me takes a little doing,” she said. “The language part is hard but that’s just the way it is.”

The team that included Mary, a social worker and case assistants helped residents with various health insurance issues, and with documentation related to city housing. On one occasion Mary identified a resident who was having trouble with oxygen equipment, and was able to arrange for the equipment to be tested and repaired.    

Newer residents required the most extensive interventions, including full evaluations of their health and lifestyle needs. One of the residents refused to leave the apartment he shared with his wife, essentially withdrawing from society. Mary and a social worker worked with the couple to determine if he was depressed, and to design a plan for care and support services.  

“It’s just getting to know people and getting them checked on a regular basis,” she said.

New York City, News

Given ReServe’s wealth of human capital – bankers, marketers, social workers, lawyers, designers, CIOs, CEOs, CFOs, fundraisers, nurses, doctors and more – it isn’t surprising that one of the world’s leading crossword puzzle experts became a ReServist and did great things for nonprofits in New York City.

Master puzzle solver and designer Michelle Arnot’s path to ReServe began after a successful career as a publishing executive. It wound through London and Tokyo – with some brushes with Royalty along the way – and ultimately to a new relationship with New York City, where she was born.  

Michelle doesn’t know why she loves puzzles, only that she always has, and has always been really good at solving them. Her father thought she must have inherited the puzzle gene from her grandfather, who discovered them while living in London in the 1920s.

In 1977 Michelle sold her first crossword puzzle, for $20, to the New York Times. While a graduate student at Columbia University she met Eugene Sheffer, a retired Columbia professor and puzzle buff who founded the nationally syndicated King Features crosswords. Professor Sheffer had been involved with the University’s French program since he arrived there as a freshman in 1922 until his retirement in 1966.

Michelle worked with Dr. Sheffer – who was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Legion of Honor by the French Government for his work on behalf of French-American culture – from 1977 until his death in 1981. She earned a Master of Arts in French language and literature, cultivated her love of puzzles and wrote her first book, What’s Gnu?: A History of the Crossword Puzzle (Random House, 1981).    

From 1983 to 1986 Michelle served as Editor and Publisher of Whitney Communications in New York City. Whitney at that time was a part owner of the International Herald Tribune, which had a popular crossword division. Michelle initiated quality and design improvements to the publications and implemented other changes, driving costs savings of 35 percent.

In 1987 Michelle moved to Kappa Publishing Group, where as Publisher she developed a strong subscriber base, negotiated contracts with magazine agencies, produced forecasts and budgets and supervised production staff. When Whitney Publishing closed its doors Kappa bought the Herald Tribune puzzle division, which it maintains to this day as the world’s leading publisher of crossword puzzles.  

In 1998 Michelle wrote and published Crossword Puzzles for Dummies. Shortly thereafter her husband, a banker was offered a position overseas and the couple spent the next 10 years abroad, six in London and four in Tokyo. Michelle worked remotely for Kappa as a consultant and editor, and while in London joined the Kensington Chelsea Women’s Club, the largest women’s club in Europe. Before long she was elected club president, with duties that included chairing board meetings, directing charitable giving and developing speaker programs. 

After Michelle and her husband returned to New York she wrote and published another book, Four-Letter Words, And Other Secrets of a Crosswords Insider. The couple soon left for Tokyo, and with their daughter in high school Michelle had more free time. In 2008 she was named vice president and chairperson of the library committee of the Japan American Women’s Club. Founded in 1928, the Club serves 3,500 members from 50 nations with a mission to improve international relations and promote cultural exchange.

As library committee chair, Michelle oversaw the largest private English language library in Tokyo. She contributed feature stories to the Club magazine, created a program for visiting authors and also studied the Japanese language, eventually passing a proficiency test.

At the Japan American Women’s Club Michelle met Empress Michiko of Japan, who joined club members for a luncheon to celebrate the 60-year anniversary of the organization.

“I had the privilege of meeting her and she personally congratulated me on my position as vice president,” she said. “It was a highlight of my time in Tokyo.”

Michelle first heard about ReServe shortly after she and her husband returned to New York. Her first placement as a ReServist was as Special Events Manager for the Jacob A. Riis Settlement House, a community-based, non-profit organization that provides services and programs to youth, families, immigrants and seniors in western Queens.

As a self-described provincial from Manhattan, Michelle knew little about what lay beyond the East River. When she heard about the posting in Long Island City she had no idea where that was. In fact, it is only a few subway stops away from her apartment, and on clear days is visible from her window.

“As far as I knew Long Island City could have been across the ocean,” Michelle said.

As Special Events Manager, Michelle organized the inaugural Riis Legacy gala, a major fundraising event. It was there that she had her second encounter with royalty. The guest patron of the gala was Royal Highness Princess Benedikte, the sister of the Queen of Denmark (Jacob A. Riis, an influential journalist and social reformer, immigrated to New York City from Denmark in 1870). With the Princess on hand the event, a black tie affair at the Museum of the City of New York, was a success, easily raising the target amount of $50,000.

At the time Michelle was also working as a ReServist for Face2Face, a fundraising event for Arts in Education Roundtable, a community of arts educators who promote the arts in schools.

The Riis and Face2Face placements ended in mid-2012. Michelle’s next ReServist placement was as a Project Manager for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The 15-hour per week placement proved to be a rich and rewarding experience for Michelle, allowing her to draw on her skills as an editor and author. She wrote a number of texts for the agency including the HIV Care Coordination Workbook, the Eat Well Play Hard newsletter for childhood fitness programs and the DOHMH Triennial Report 2009-2011, which provided an overview of health-related challenges in each of the city’s five boroughs.

“The work was very stimulating and interesting,” Michelle said. “I felt very connected to the health issues of New York.” 

The DOHMH placement took Michelle back to Long Island City, and she began to explore new corners of the community. Weather permitting she walked to work along the pedestrian walkway of the Queensboro Bridge, enjoying spectacular views of the city and the river. While exploring the neighborhood near her office she discovered a lovely little Japanese gallery. She loved to browse there, and on warm days ate lunch nearby, outdoors.       

When the DOHMH placement ended Michelle moved to I Challenge Myself, a program for designing physical fitness challenges – including a one-day 100-mile bike tour – that allows high school students in high-poverty districts to experience personal and group success through increased confidence in their fitness skills and ability to persevere.

The assignment, based in an office overlooking Times Square, was primarily for the planning of a fundraising reception slated for October 1, 2013. Michelle loved working for the organization’s Founder and Executive Director Ana Reyes, who ran the nonprofit with great skill on a shoestring budget. Michelle hopes to return to I Challenge Myself as a ReServist in March 2014 to help with the group’s second fundraiser.

Ana Reyes couldn’t be more pleased. “Michelle is incredibly creative, a self starter and a team player,” she said. “She came in and with very little direct support and helped secure the perfect venue and auction items for our first event.”

In January 2014 Michelle accepted a placement at the college office of the Columbia Secondary School. The public school, which opened in 2007, serves grades 6-12 and has close to 700 students. A partnership between the community, New York City Department of Education and Columbia University, it offers a rigorous curriculum focusing on math, science, and engineering.

Michelle helps out with administrative work and edited the school’s college handbook. She enjoys being back at Columbia, her alma mater. With a return to I Challenge Myself also in the works, her plan is to continue to serve as a ReServist for the foreseeable future. 

“As an expat returning to New York City, ReServe provides the perfect opportunity to contribute to the city’s nonprofit sector and the causes that matter to me,” she said.

New York City, News