The UNH Blog

Social Worker Month Speech

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
On Wednesday, March 23, UNH Executive Director Susan Stamler spoke to a group of social work staff from Lower East Side settlement houses for Social Worker Month. Here is the text of her speech:

Thank you to Henry Street, Educational Alliance, Grand Street, Chinese American Planning Council and University Settlement/The Door for inviting me to celebrate social work month with you. I am fortunate to lead United Neighborhood Houses, the federation of 38 settlement houses in NYC, and I want to let you know that you are involved in a movement larger than your settlement house and bigger than the Lower East Side.

First, a little history. In 1919 a group of settlement houses joined together to create an organization that would truly address issues and change communities from case to cause. Those early settlement house leaders believed that they needed a table where they could talk about what they saw in their neighborhoods and begin to build support for change.

The backdrop for this settlement house movement was the unfolding of the twentieth century and the Progressive Movement. The movement grew into a political movement and they were people who believed that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare) could be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change. They concentrated on exposing the evils of corporate greed and political machines, combating fear of immigrants, and urging Americans to think hard about what democracy meant.

Many progressive leaders encouraged Americans to register to vote and to fight political corruption. They called for regulations of corporations through antitrust laws, promoted women’s suffrage and reformed local government. And in NYC settlement houses they were a growing force in the fight for public health laws, public housing, public education and lifting up over-crowded immigrant neighborhoods.     

And we saw what happened on the Lower East Side:

  • University Settlement, in 1886, was the first settlement house in the United States, and offered its neighbors the first public bath and the first kindergarten programs in New York.
  • Henry Street, beginning as Nurses’ Settlement in 1893, opened one of the first NYC playgrounds to get kids off dangerous city streets, and paid the first salary for a public school nurse. Members of Henry Street started a credit union to secure loans from the credit union instead of loan sharks.
  • Grand Street Settlement began in 1916 and focused on the needs of immigrant families. They ran clubs for young men and women to learn sewing and dance. They ran a kindergarten program for children of working parents and taught household management and child-rearing.
  • The Educational Alliance began in 1889 and focused on ways to help the immigrants on the Lower East Side by offering English and civics classes for children and adults. They also taught stenography and cooking.
  • And, with the huge influx of Chinese immigrants to lower Manhattan, after the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, the Chinese American Planning Council was established to provide case assistance to families, help recent immigrants navigate the school system and adjust to their new homes.

I admire NASW’s theme for this year, Forging Solutions out of Challenges – as it honors the work that settlement house staff do every day in their communities. But what makes settlement houses so special, however, are the dedicated staff members (front line workers, supervisors and administrators) who truly believe that solutions to our city’s biggest health and welfare problems can be found by building stronger and healthier communities.

And settlement houses continue to be the backbone of their communities today:

  • When one-fourth of Chinatown residents were out of work after 9/11, the Chinese American Planning Council started job training programs.
  • After the NYC blackout, settlement houses reached out to homebound elderly to make sure that they were safe in their homes.
  • When United Community Centers in East New York saw how difficult it was to find fresh produce in their area, they started East New York Farms.
  • When Hurricane Sandy hit, settlement house staff turned meals–on-wheels into meals-on-heels and Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach became a FEMA center.
  • The Center for Family Life worked to have a public high school built for their growing community in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
  • And the list continues…

Very few organizations are able to adapt to stay relevant. But settlement houses, for more than 100 years, believe in community engagement and listen to neighbors to find solutions. Settlement houses and social workers continue to focus on the causes of poverty rather than the flaws of the poor.

As Martin Luther King said about poverty- “We now know it is less the failure of the poor and more the failure of a system that perpetuates poverty.”

March is also Women’s History Month, and settlement houses provided some of the first opportunities for women to become influential leaders of society. Jane Addams and Frances Perkins moved into national affairs through their management of settlement houses. Settlement house workers were pioneers in the kindergarten movement, taught English, and were connected to public health like our very own Lower East Sider - Lillian Wald. And the noted city planner and social worker Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch was one of the founders of Greenwich House, the NYC Housing Authority and the Association of Neighborhood Workers, which later became UNH!

Mary Simkhovitch believed that the development of the neighborhood was the social unit of our urban life. In 1926 she wrote, “The aim of the settlement house or neighborhood house is to bring about a new kind of community life. It is the home of friendly neighbors, and a center of information, organization and service. It is in the community or neighborhood that people seek and fight for solutions to their concrete, daily, local and immediate problems.”

And, using her social worker lens, she said, ”Although the community remains the focus of the settlement’s attention, it is through the personalized and direct involvement with the individual in the context of the family – often throughout a lifetime – that the settlement fosters and supports the values of fellowship and mutual support.”

We are at a unique moment in time. Perhaps we even have a little déjà vu. We have seen frightening immigrant backlash, angry workers barely living from paycheck to paycheck, the unaffordability of higher education and rent, and corporate greed seems to be on steroids. Could we be on the dawn of another Progressive Era?

All I know is that elected officials come and go but we have demonstrated that settlement houses stand the test of time. And I know that safe and healthy individuals, strong families and resilient communities make our city and state a better place to live. We must work together to make that happen.

So I’m here today to celebrate you, to thank you for your work and to remind you that you are part of a larger settlement house movement in our City, in our country and throughout the world. In New York City there are 10,000 settlement house staff who work in more than 600 sites throughout our great City. And together, this settlement house movement has kept and will continue to keep our communities strong and healthy.

Happy Social Worker Month.

Happy Women’s History Month.


2016 Spring UNH Baruch Emerging Leaders Program

Friday, March 18, 2016

Congratulations to the 22 settlement house staff members accepted to the Spring session of the UNH Baruch Emerging Leaders Program! Through this program, associate executive directors, chief financial officers and other senior staff participate in 13 sessions on strategic planning, financial management, and team building, leading to a certificate in nonprofit agency leadership. You can read more about the program here.

Below are those participating in this session. Good luck all!

First Name

Last Name

Settlement House






Acting Program Director





Program Dir., Community Health Programs




Cypress Hills Local Development Corp.

YouthLEAD & HSE Program Director




East Side House Settlement

Director of Learning to Work Program




Educational Alliance

Director of Institutional Giving




Educational Alliance

Project ORE/Acting Director Sirovich Ctr for Balanced Living




Goddard Riverside Community Center

Assistant Program Director of The Senate Residence




Goddard Riverside Community Center

Program Dir., Community Ars Associate/Policy Associate




Hudson Guild

Assistant Director, Mental Health Clinic




Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settletment

Director of Immigrant Services




Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settletment

Director of Development and Communications




Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

Assistant Director of Administration




Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

Adult Education Coordinator




New Settlement Apartments

Center Coordinator




Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp.

Senior Career Advisor/Lead Instructor





Beacon Director




Southeast Bronx Neighborhood Centers

Program Director




Sunnyside Community Services

Educational Specialist




Sunnyside Community Services

Intake Supervisor




Sunnyside Community Services

Maintenance Service Supervisor




Union Settlement

Educational Site Director




University Settlement

Senior Site Director


Angela Perry-Spruill on her New Role

Monday, March 14, 2016

by Angela Perry-Spruill

My favorite story about being hired twice at UNH is that both times I was hired on the birthdays of my two sons. Makes it so easy to remember my work anniversary!

I started working here back in the spring of 2013 as the Interim Deputy Director for Member Services, which lasted about 3.5 months while my predecessor was on family leave. My time here as a temporary employee was terrific, so I’ll readily admit that I did a happy dance when I got a call from Ken Walters asking if I’d be interested in the position full time as my predecessor decided to relocate. I was hired about four months later, so all together I’ve been at UNH just over 2 years.

Recently, I got the exciting news of a promotion. I’m now the Director of Member Services! In this role, I will be working closely with and reporting to the incoming Deputy Executive Director, Lynn Appelbaum, as well as with UNH staff and Board members. The Member Services Department works on providing our members opportunities for professional development, peer sharing, and program enhancement. We work to develop ways to enhance and share best practices among member agencies, conduct membership reviews, recruit new members, and help our member agencies confront and resolve challenges by connecting them to resources, information and opportunities.

My hope is that the Member Services department will grow in the next few years. Currently I’m fortunate to have a great part-time team member, Latoya Leslie, who serves as the IBM Safety Net Project Coordinator and Arlen Sue Fox, a part-time volunteer through ReServe with a wealth of knowledge about the settlement houses. One initiative I’ll be working intently on this year is to strengthen our peer and issue groups – I’d like to see these go to a higher level of engagement, sharing of knowledge and experiences in the work, and meaningful training and educational opportunities for UNH members. 

Though I carry Member Services in my title, I think that all of us at UNH are here to serve our members. I believe my real responsibility rests not just in overseeing and coordinating various projects but in publicizing what we do more broadly. I will be talking with our members often to make sure they are connected with UNH in a way that adds value to them in strengthening their capacity as providers of quality services and creative, innovative, successful programs. My questions for members have been and will likely always be the same: Of the programs and services UNH offers, what’s working for you? What’s not? What can UNH do to would make a real difference in helping your organization, your staff, your board, and the communities and clients you serve? Call me, email me. Let me hear you.

It’s a real year of change for UNH, and I’m so pleased to be part of it. When I log off to head home for the day, even the times when it’s been really busy and I feel like I’ve either walked a tightrope or jumped through a ring of fire, I have true satisfaction that I’ve fulfilled my life purpose to be of service to others by helping someone each day.

Behind the Scenes at Lobby Day

Monday, February 22, 2016

by Kevin Douglas, UNH Co-Director of Policy and Advocacy

It was too early to be awake, too cold to be outside, and definitely too early and too cold to be heading to Albany. And yet, all across the City, dozens of settlement house executive directors and their staff rolled out of bed to join UNH on our annual pilgrimage to the state capital. A rite of passage of sorts for nonprofit providers and advocates, the nearly three-hour trip to Albany is a necessary journey for those hoping to bend the arc of the state budget toward greater investment in human services.

Just a few weeks ago the Governor released his Executive Budget—his first sketch of how he thinks the state should spend some $145 billion—and as usual, it’s a mixed bag for settlement houses. Progressive policy proposals that would benefit our communities? Absolutely: plans to boost the minimum wage, reform the juvenile justice system, implement paid family leave, pass the DREAM Act and improve voter access to the ballot all fall into the "win" column. A budget that prioritizes key services for children, youth, immigrants, older adults and the stability of the nonprofit sector? Not so much. And so there we found ourselves, on the crowded 7:15 a.m. Amtrak train to Albany, reviewing logistics and troubleshooting the last-minute scheduling issues that invariably arise when matching 40 people to nearly 70 meetings over the course of two days.

Bleary eyes aside, the trip to Albany can be quite beautiful if you aren’t a newbie and know to sit on the left-hand side of the train on the way up to soak in the views of the Hudson. The fact that one of our team baked New York State-shaped cookies for everyone to munch on as they review talking points almost makes the whole thing pleasant.

Albany. Sadly, the seat of our state government is often thought to be a place that generally ought to be avoided. Still, for all of the theater, we know that the vast majority of people in state government are there to do the work of the people, and so we and the communities we serve being the people, go.  

So there we were at the Capitol building, each of us eleven dollars and some change poorer since the Albany taxi industry has not yet adopted the concept of a collective fare. We have an important message that needs to be spread, and it’s really a simple one: if New York State is to honor its responsibility to meet the needs of the people, if it is to tap the potential of under-resourced populations, if it is to build strong and prosperous neighborhoods and communities, then it needs to invest in the development of children and youth by providing early learning opportunities and after-school programs, it needs to promote the integration and success of immigrants by providing English language classes, and it needs support the dignified aging of older adults by providing health and wellness services. And if it is to deliver all these programs with any degree of quality and efficiency, it needs to invest in the overall stability of the contracted nonprofit human services sector. In short, our message is that people matter. Budgets need to be balanced, for sure. Proverbial “hard choices” must be made, no doubt. But let them not be at the expense of those with the least power, the greatest need and biggest potential.

And so we got to work. We met with state agency commissioners, legislative conference leaders, committee chairs, and with “the second floor”—shorthand for the Governor’s most senior representatives. We engaged in the poker-like ritual of dealing business cards around the table and then launched into our presentations. We talked about our experiences on the ground serving communities and made earnest arguments for investment in the programs we’ve identified as particularly effective. We handed off our one-pagers that sometimes bled to two, our charts and graphs and maps, our glossy folders, reports and business cards. All in the hopes that after we’re gone, after the corridors of the LOB clear out and the elevators are again a viable mode of transport, the people we’ve met with won’t forget that we were there. That in those moments of candid connection, they discovered or reaffirmed the necessity of their leadership on behalf of New Yorkers who don’t get to sit at the table when the budget is being carved up.

It was a hectic day as we trekked back and forth between the Capitol, Legislative Office Building and off-site agency offices. Some of us had a chance to break for a quick bite in the cafeteria, and others lamented that they overlooked my gentle suggestion they pack a snack.  Still, as the hours wear on our messaging becomes more refined and more efficient.  Our teams were gelling and in a groove, but we were also tired, and so eventually we retreated back to the hotel. Over dinner we listened to remarks from a member of the Governor’s administration. We discussed poverty and data, programs and contracts, and generally conclude that all is not lost: the administration hears our message, understands it, and may even act on it. As the evening wore on, the reality of nonprofit leadership took over as phones came out and urgent voicemails were returned, board meetings were prepared for and the deluge of unread emails slowly shrank. Soon enough it was off to bed, and it’s a good thing, because the next day we did it all over again.

After the last notes were scribbled and the last handshakes made, we were on our way back to the train station. Our colleagues from Syracuse, Rochester and Albany piled into their cars and we waved them off. At that point, my first order of business was, of course, scoring a bowl of mac and cheese; aside from the Governor and legislature not fulfilling our agenda, my biggest fear was that I would be rushed onto the train without lunch. That taken care of, and remembering to sit on the right side of the train for the return trip, I gazed out over the river briefly before cracking open my laptop. After all, we had just completed 66 meetings and it would be impolite not to say thank you.

Interested in what we are lobbying for? Check out all our one-pagers here.
Tweet to Kevin Douglas at @douglaskev
Tweet to UNH at @UNHNY

Youth Power Goes to Albany for Summer Jobs

Monday, January 25, 2016
by Andy Bowen

It’s a tradition unlike any other.

Since 2000, the Campaign for Summer Jobs—a coalition of nearly 100 organizations, headed by United Neighborhood Houses and the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition (NFSC)—has brought hundreds of youth, year-after-year, to Albany. The goal? Urging legislators to increase funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), a statewide program that gives many teenagers their first chance at a summer job. Many UNH member agencies are SYEP contractors, which means that the member agencies connect youth to employment, and, in some cases, the member agencies directly employ participants in summer camps, day care, and other vital services.

This year, Youth Action Day will take place on February 1, and hundreds of teens will make their mark on the legislative process.

The planning is extensive. Organizing for the event begins in the fall, as Settlement Houses, community centers, and other Community Based Organizations recruit attendees of their youth programs to sign up for the day. This January, staff from UNH, NFSC, and Good Shepherd Services have been providing training to youth in NYC and upstate about SYEP and how to be an effective legislative advocate for the program.

What will the youth be asking legislators to provide? $48.2 million for SYEP—an increase of $18.2 million above what the New York State government provided last year ($30 million). With an extra $18.2 million, the program can increase by 10,000 jobs while also covering the costs of the minimum wage increase from $8.75 to $9 an hour.  

Demand for the program is enormous. In 2015, a record 54,263 youth from New York City alone took part in the program, but 77,634 youth who applied to SYEP in NYC didn’t get the opportunity to participate. There wasn’t enough funding to fill demand.

SYEP allows youth to earn money, learn about potential careers, and contribute to their local economies. But research has shown that SYEP also reduces a participant’s chances of being a victim of violence. SYEP participants in another study showed higher rates of school attendance, and were more likely than their non-SYEP-participating peers to pass the NYS Regents examinations.

You can bet that the young people taking part in Youth Action Day will tell these things to legislators, and with hundreds of teens already geared up to take part in Youth Action Day, those legislators will get the message.

For more information about Youth Action Day, contact UNH Policy Analyst Andy Bowen at





UNH Policy Analyst Andy Bowen Relates Past to Present

Monday, January 04, 2016

by Andy Bowen

I joined United Neighborhood Houses in October 2015 as a Policy Analyst, and the last few months have been an education in the complexities—and amazing opportunities—in creating a more just New York.

Before coming to UNH, I spent a few years as a researcher for the Organizing Department of the Ironworkers Union, and then a few years as an activist in the LGBT movement. At the Ironworkers, I helped workers prove that they had been ripped off by their bosses—and, of course, the workers and I would bring that evidence to government agencies, who would force the companies to pay their workers correctly.

In the LGBT movement, I advocated for policy changes that allowed transgender people to get health insurance coverage for trans-specific health care needs. I worked with schools to provide more welcoming environments for LGBT students. I urged housing programs to stop discriminating against transgender people.

At UNH, these different strands of my past advocacy have come together. UNH member agencies provide services for people from all walks of life, providing educational services, job training and placement, health care services, food, housing—the list goes on.

As to my own portfolio, I’m focusing on youth employment programs, including the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), which provides summer jobs for people from 14 to 24, and also programs that provide education and employment services to youth who are out of work and out of school. UNH member agencies provide extensive youth employment services, and I’m trying to make sure those services are well-funded by the City and State of New York.

I’m working on advocacy related to community schools, which are schools that work with a community based organization (such as many UNH members) to provide both extensive educational programming and other services (legal, housing, and health services, mentorship, direct benefits enrollment, et cetera) children and their families need to learn and live comfortably.

How does this tie into my past? From the workers to the LGBT community members I learned from and advocated for, so many people needed deep connection to services. When I learned that one person needed, say, advocacy for their workplace rights, they also tended to need immigration and adult education services. Transgender people I worked with on housing and health care advocacy were also out of work, and in need of job preparation and placement. With organizations like UNH’s member agencies, community members can access a wide breadth of services to improve their lives in multiple ways, and can access services not just for themselves, but their children and grandparents, too. I wish those I knew in my former positions could access the incredible resource that is settlement houses.

At UNH I work with an amazing staff to ensure that our member agencies have the funding they need to deepen their connections to people in their communities and provide a panoply of services to people that need them. I have a responsibility to see that government funding is available and programs are constructed so people who need jobs can get connected to them and make living wages. Doing it right means that people in similar situations to LGBT people and immigrant workers, as well as so many others of all ages and backgrounds, have a settlement house where they can get what they need and improve their lives.  

Policy Analyst Nora Moran Settles In

Thursday, October 15, 2015

by Nora Moran, Policy Analyst, UNH

During my first few months at UNH, I have learned that settlement houses do incredible work to support New Yorkers of all ages, but especially older adults. I’ve been able to visit their senior centers and other programs and learn about the issues first hand from the best source—staff working on the front lines, and older adults themselves! At one senior center, I learned about the ways that staff incorporate mental health and wellness into its programs, since many members do not have access to mental health services. At another, I was able to see the great diversity among their members, including a woman in her 60s who was a regular participant in programs along with her father, who is in his 90s. Above all, I came away impressed by the dedication of settlement houses to support older adults as they age and remain a part of their neighborhoods.

Adults age 60 and over are the fastest growing age-group in New York City; it is estimated that New York will have just as many older adults as we do school-aged children by 2030. We have to resist the temptation to simply label this group “old,” since the diversity that our city is known for does not disappear when New Yorkers age. For example, nearly half of the older adult population in New York are immigrants. Some wish to continue working past retirement age; others are acting as parents again by raising grandchildren. In addition to this, more people living past age 85 than ever before. This all has implications for how we age and the types of supports needed to age well. Settlement houses are thinking about new ways to shape programs that recognize this diversity among older adults.

UNH is committed to advocating for programs that have supported older adults for many years as they age in place in their communities—including senior centers, case management programs, home delivered meals, and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs). We must ensure that these tried and true programs continue to be funded to support those who currently need them—and to protect that opportunity for those who will in the future. In addition to this, we need to think about new ways to reach older adults in New York City and involve them in community life.  Meaningful employment and volunteer opportunities, comprehensive health and mental health services, and safe, affordable housing are all important ways to connect older adults to their communities.  We want to ensure that older adults have the ability not only to age in place and remain living in their homes, but that they have opportunities to contribute their skills and perspectives to improve their communities and neighborhoods.  

At UNH, I’ll be working on spreading this message to government officials and others to raise the profile of older adults in New York City. Through partnering with UNH’s member agencies and other advocacy partners, I hope to create a strong voice for older adults and the organizations that work with them. We must highlight both the strengths and needs of older adults, and also advocate for increased funding and policies to enable providers to meet the growing needs in their communities. I also will be working with UNH members to explore best practices and ways to support older adults through the settlement house model.  I look forward to partnering with UNH member agencies and other advocates on the work ahead!

Welcoming Susan Stamler as ED

Thursday, September 17, 2015

As you have most likely already heard, today we at UNH announced Susan Stamler will take over the role of Executive Director. I am thrilled by her selection and, as I move on to pursue another role in the human services field, it gives me great comfort to know UNH will be in excellent hands.

Susan’s long history of important work in the nonprofit sector makes her a great choice. She has worked for more than 35 years in non-profit advocacy with M+R Strategic Services, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Director of City Policy at UJA-Federation, Director of Planned Parenthood's Action Fund, Director of Outreach at the Alliance for Consumer Rights and was a founder of the New York AIDS Coalition.

Equally as important, Susan is a born and bred New Yorker, like me! Born in Queens, a graduate of CUNY’s Queens College, and a current Brooklyn resident, Susan knows our city and understands the needs of the residents and organizations who live within our five boroughs. Her two daughters attended NYC public schools, as did she, and she has a deep commitment to making life better for all New Yorkers.

In addition, Susan worked for ten years at UNH as Director of Policy & Advocacy, eight of those years with me. She is so smart and savvy and great to work with. Plus, her inside knowledge of the workings and strengths of our organization, as well as her deeply rooted connections to our member agencies, will serve her well in her new role.

I don’t plan to disappear, as UNH will always be deep in my heart. I look forward to offering Susan my support and continued friendship as she moves into her new role.

As Susan recently said, “For nearly 100 years, UNH has been appreciated and trusted by its members; valued by its partners; and respected by government, foundations and the media.” With her appointment to Executive Director I am confident that long history will continue far into the future.

-Nancy Wackstein

In Memoriam: Fred Scaglione

Monday, August 10, 2015

In Memoriam:  Fred Scaglione
by Gregory Brender, Co-Director of Policy & Advocacy

New York City’s non-profit human service providers, including the settlement houses and community centers that are United Neighborhood Houses member agencies, lost an ally and friend with the passing of Fred Scaglione last week. Fred founded, edited and wrote much of the New York Non-Profit Press – a  publication that was both a valued source of practical information on contracts and funding opportunities as well as our own National Enquirer telling the comings and goings of folks in the field. I never missed an issue.

Fred cared deeply about the people working in the field. He approached issues going beyond press releases and headlines by asking what it really took to implement high quality programs and what the on-ground experience was of the folks doing the work in communities throughout the City. On some issues such as the hurried expansion of summer programs in NYCHA facilities last summer, Fred was the first or only reporter to cover the challenges of implementation. 

Like many in the field, I loved being a source for Fred because he cared about how a policy change or budget action really impacted providers and the participants they served.  He got both how important the work of non-profits is and also the frustrations and difficulty of working in the field.

The work of non-profit human services providers is always important but it is very rarely glamorous. The hard work of human services staff doesn’t always make headlines. Fred reported every day on the work non-profit staff was doing and created a publication that acknowledges and serves the people serving New York City’s communities. We are grateful for all Fred has done to give voice to the non-profit field. 

Courtney gross, Ed litvak, and Fred Scaglione speak at UNH's 2011 Advocacy Panel

Spring Training with the Mets: A Dream Trip Come True

Tuesday, June 23, 2015
by Abby Addis, Development Associate

When Citi offered an all-expenses-paid trip for a UNH youth member to see the Mets at Spring Training, I was thrilled. They were kicking off the Citi Home Runs Program with a very special opportunity! The call came just two weeks before the game date and my job was to find a lucky participant. Who would be up for the adventure? Was there a life-long Mets fan out there who had always dreamed of such a trip?

I diligently emailed and called program directors at UNH’s member agencies. Soon, I heard through a contact at Cypress Hills that 14-year old Anthony Rodriguez would love to go and his father could attend with him. Anthony has been a Mets fan since he went to his first game at 3-years-old. Now he’s an honor roll freshman at Hillside Arts and Letters Academy in Jamaica, Queens. He also gives back to his community by volunteering with a counselor-in-training program and helping senior citizens through the Beacon Community Center.

The next step was submitting a brief bio about Anthony to Citi. In this blurb, Anthony talked about his volunteer work and how he helps kindergarteners by assisting them with homework, physical fitness activities, art projects, computer time and celebrating their birthdays. He also spoke about his passion for baseball. As a little league player, he’s held the positions of shortstop and center field. He explained that his dream is to be a Major League Baseball player and hopes to someday play for his favorite team. And when Citi read what an outstanding young man he was and that his little brother Nicholas was also a Mets enthusiast, they extended their offer to include him and their mother, Felicita.

For a baseball fan, what could be sweeter than going to your team’s Spring Training and bringing your family to share the experience? The Rodriguez family flew down to sunny Port St. Lucie, Florida and spent a fun-filled afternoon at Tradition Field. They watched the Mets play the St. Louis Cardinals and participated in a meet-and-greet with the players. The highlight of the trip, according to Anthony, was spending time with Mets outfielder and brand ambassador Curtis Granderson. “I found out what a humble human being he is,” said Anthony. “I have a different admiration for him as a player now.”

When I saw the pictures and heard about the trip, I knew everything went according to plan and that Anthony and his family had a fantastic vacation. For me, this was a great chance to facilitate an enriching experience for a UNH youth member. For Citi, it was a great way to solidify a fan for life and extend their generosity into our community. And for Anthony, this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip he won’t soon forget.