Newsletter December 2009 - Unity House

Newsletter December 2009 - Unity House

2009 fall / winter


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Pony rides were a big hit at the

Unity Sunshine SEFCU Carnival.

Fall / Winter Unity House Stories Inside:

• Holiday Season: Learn how you can help!

• Event Recap: Harvest Supper, SEFCU Carnival,

DV Awareness Softball Tournament

• Volunteer profile: Russell Sage College student

Karalin Weilacher

33 Second Street • Troy, NY 12180-3960 • 518.274.2607 •

{ }

Message from the CEO

Ihate to brag, but our CFO – well, all of our staff, for that

matter – could teach Wall Street a thing or two about money

management: Earlier this year we celebrated a whistle-clean

2008 audit with no comments on the management letter. For

those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of an audit recently,

"no comments" is a good thing. You know how your mother used

to say, “If you can’t say anything good, then don’t say anything at

all”? In the auditing world, the rule is “If you can’t say anything

bad, don’t say anything at all.”

Our accomplishment is all the more significant when you

consider the complexity of our income sources. Because we

provide such a wide range of services, our funding comes from more than 40 federal, state, county and city sources, and that’s

just our public funding! On the private side, approximately 700 businesses, 450 organizations, 40 foundations, and 5,000

individuals support our work. Each and every donation is received with gratitude and recognition of the responsibility of our


The extreme care we put into tracking and managing the money with which we are entrusted carries through to the care we put

into our programs and services. Here are just a few examples:

A federal Department of Agriculture representative visited the Street Ministry program to recognize the extraordinary work we are

doing in helping people sign up for food stamps. Street Ministry’s employment program also continues to grow, adding

participating employers and working clients.

The expertise of our domestic violence program is now recognized internationally, resulting in our COO, Karla DiGirolamo being

invited to speak at three European conferences this year. Our reputation as a state-of-the-art program, we believe, is why we

received a $3.2 million competitive grant from the NYS Homeless and Housing Assistance Program to build a new domestic

violence shelter.

Our flagship preschool program Unity Sunshine, and USP II, were both re-accredited by the National Association for the Education

of Young Children (NAEYC.) USP III has submitted all the required data for accreditation and is awaiting its site visit. Additionally,

USP opened a new collaboration with Tendercare Childcare Center in Guilderland, a partnership that expands our unique special

education services into Albany County.

Our housing program continues to raise the bar; this year seeing the new Peer Center bustling with more than double client

participation. We also completed the arduous task of moving one of the community residences to a safer and more hospitable


As the economy takes a bite out of everyone’s peace of mind, we hope to convey to you that your contributions to Unity House go

directly to the bottom line: job creation, safe and affordable housing, food, and the nurture and education of children. Most

importantly, we provide our clients dignity, and the belief that they can take the next step to self-determination and a brighter future.

Yours in service,

Chris Burke, CEO

Chris Burke

Chief Executive Officer


UNITY HOUSE Newsletter

{ There’s No Place Like Home }

Federal Stimulus Money Provides Critical Housing Assistance

in Troy and Rensselaer County

Six people sit in mismatched chairs around a formica table piled high with file folders, blue, white and

yellow forms, and an enormous three-ring binder. They are charged with spending nearly $1.6 million on

behalf of Rensselaer County residents who are either homeless or at risk of losing their housing. These

five women and one man are part of the Emergency Community Housing Options team (ECHO), a

partnership between Unity House and Joseph’s House & Shelter.

ECHO’s funding comes as part of the federal stimulus package, awarded by the New York State Office of

Temporary and Disability Assistance Bureau of Housing Services to prevent homelessness by helping those

at risk of losing housing to remain in their homes, and to move people living in shelters or on the streets into

safe and affordable housing.

Requests for help have been flooding in since

October, as word got out about the available

assistance. Stewart's Shops are providing

critical assistance in promoting the program,

especially in rural areas. They have agreed to

post information for their customers and are

allowing ECHO representatives to meet with

applicants at their stores.

fast facts on ECHO

Recently lost your job? Higher than expected expenses? Have

any kind of housing emergency? ECHO may be able to help with:

• Money to help pay back rent

• Money to help pay utility bills

• Moving expenses

• First month's rent & security

• Short-term rental subsidies

• Free Legal Assistance

Today, the committee is scrutinizing in detail a

batch of requests from people who have experienced job loss, domestic violence, illness and other factors

that have them on the verge of being evicted. All applicants have already had a one-on-one meeting with

an ECHO representative, and have provided documentation of housing costs, any income, and special

circumstances that put them at risk of losing their home. Their need must be temporary, because the

requested assistance must, by federal requirement, function as a bridge back to housing security, not a

long-term subsidy. Two questions are repeatedly voiced during the long afternoon’s deliberations: “Yes, but

is it a sustainable situation?” and “Have they exhausted all other sources of public help or family

assistance?” The program is designed to provide assistance of last resort.

The committee’s first appeal for help was from Lisa*, a young woman who was facing

eviction and being taken to court for back rent. She’d fallen into arrears after losing her

position as a telemarketer, and not finding another job. Lisa wanted to become an LPN, but

saw no way to achieve her dream. She was just days from eviction when the committee’s

representative met with her at 8:15 a.m. They went together to her 9 a.m. court appointment,

and the ECHO representative was able to tell the lawyer that the committee would evaluate

her case later that day. The committee decided not only to pay Lisa’s back rent, but also to

subsidize her rent while she is in school. Every three months until Lisa graduates, the

committee will review her case. Given the nursing shortage, it is unlikely that Lisa will ever

again be out of a job, or unable to pay her own rent.

*Not her real name

Fall / Winter 2009 2

{ Winter Wonderland – at Unity House }

You know the song…the refrain is “Walking in a winter

wonderland.” Here at Unity House, it doesn’t matter if there is

fluffy snow or sloppy slush outside; we walk through our own

world of wonder during November and December. Every year we

are as excited as children, as fabulous donations of food, toys,

and children’s clothing roll in for our Adopt-A-Family program.

We want to throw a huge snowball of thanks to First Niagara,

our lead Year End Hunger Appeal sponsor. With First

Niagara's gift of $5,500, and the help of hundreds of other

supporters, we can make sure no family in our community will

go hungry this winter, and ensure they will have the pleasure of

sitting down to two special holiday meals.

Every year we are as excited as

children, as fabulous donations

of food, toys, and children’s

clothing roll in for our

Adopt-A-Family program.

{ Adella: A Positive Presence}

A trunk full of donated turkeys being dropped off

at Street Ministry

If you would like to donate food, new children’s clothing, or

new toys for this important cause please contact Mary

Harwood at 518-272-0150 ext. 243. To make a cash donation

to either Adopt-A-Family or the Year End Hunger Appeal,

please use the enclosed envelope.

Thank you and we hope YOUR winter contains a series of wonders!

Adella Yanus is a “lifer” at Unity House. Della and her family were among the first people founder Mary

Jane Smith met when she first moved onto 8th Street and started getting to know her neighbors. Della

was only a teenager at the time, already starting a family that eventually grew to five children. She says

Unity House has always been here for her, every step of the way.

“Mary Jane loves me,” Della said recently, and Mary Jane confirms that, also adding that “Della has

become part of the fabric of Unity House.” Over the years, Della has been a steady presence at the Street

Ministry program, sometimes as a volunteer, often as a grandmother seeking to find affordable clothing

and toys for her twelve grandchildren. It’s a way that she can help her adult children and their families

stay one step ahead of the tough economy.

But she rarely uses the food pantry, other than to pick up bread and fresh produce when it is available. “It’s

just me and my fiancé now, and I hate to take food that’s needed by large families,” says Della.

Della is one of Street Ministry’s biggest fans and takes personal offense when she sees people dumping

unusable “donations” in the parking lot on the weekends. More than once she has walked the short

distance from her home, bringing garbage bags and cleaning up the mess. She’s just one of the hundreds

of special people who has been part of Unity House’s positive presence in the community for nearly forty



UNITY HOUSE Newsletter

{ 2009 Harvest Supper}

On Sunday September 27, 2009, Unity House raised

nearly $57,000 from the Harvest Supper.

Proceeds from this years Harvest Supper support Unity

House’s current and future ability to serve those in need.

Ten of the Capital Region's finest chefs served up a

magnificent and delectable meal, donating their time and


2009 Harvest Supper Sponsors

Grand Harvester:

Pioneer Bank

Sun and Rainmakers:

Council Services Plus, Inc.


Senior Whole Health, LLC

Tri-City Rentals

Plow Patrons:

The Bonadio Group

Bond, Schoneck & King, PLLC

Bonded Concrete, Inc.


Legacy by Design, LLC

Seton Health

Stewart's Shops


Chefs gathered from all over the Capital Region to offer a memorable

and delicious feast.

Unity House Chief Executive Officer, Chris Burke, Unity House board

president Kate Koval, Unity House founder Mary Jane Smith, Unity

House board member Kimberly Sanger Jones, 2009 Spirit of Unity

Award honoree E. Stewart Jones Jr.

Seed Sponsors:

Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Marshall & Sterling Upstate, Inc.

Martin, Harding and Mazzotti, LLP

Martin, Shudt, Wallace, Dilorenzo & Johnson

Nigro Companies

Pitney Bowes Business Insight

Silpada, Amy van den Broek

Participating Restaurants:

74 State

Chef & Chanteuse

Chef Jackie Baldwin

Chianti IL Ristorante

Dale Miller Restaurant

Eats Gourmet

Flavour Café/Charlie’s Cupcakes

Mezza Notte

Panza’s Flying Turtle


Fall / Winter 2009 4


Domestic Violence Awareness}

Softball Tournament

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in recognition, Unity House hosted the 4th Annual

DV Awareness Softball Tournament on October 10, 2009 The event celebrates the strong community

partnerships between Unity House and many Rensselaer County organizations.

The 2009 Unity House Coordinated Community Response Award recipient was Assistant Chief John

Tedesco of the Troy Police Department. Emergency Service Director Milinda Reed presented the award to

Tedesco as part of Troy Night Out on Friday, October 30th.

2009 Tournament Teams:

Child Protective Services-The tournament winner!

Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society

Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office

Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office

Troy Police Department

Unity House Domestic Violence Services

Troy Fire Department & Rensselaer County Department of

Probation were unable to attend the tournament due to the

rain date schedule change, but we thank you for your support!

Thank you to our sponsor:

Hilton Garden Inn

And our supporters:

Outback Steakhouse, Albany Broadcasting, Clear Channel

Albany, Hannaford Supermarkets, Classie Lassie Fields,

Price Chopper, and DJ Dave Douglas

Additional Domestic Violence Awareness month news:

For the month of October, Unity House teamed up with Troy Night Out to promote Domestic Violence

awareness. The new Troy Night Out sandwich boards were decorated with bunches of purple balloons and

displayed throughout downtown Troy. The classic Troy Night Out pumpkin poster, a staple for the month,

was updated with a purple background, as well as purple flyers associated with the nights events.

The Hedley Park Place building on River Street in downtown Troy also helped spread the news about Unity

House’s fight to end Domestic Violence, by shining purple lights all month long.

{ 2009 SEFCU Carnival }

The children of Unity House's Unity Sunshine

program enjoyed pony rides, face painting, a bouncy

bounce castle, a petting zoo and snow cones on

October 1, courtesy of SEFCU, our exclusive carnival

sponsor. SEFCU has sponsored and staffed the event

for eight years, and the children want to shout out a

big "Thank you!"


UNITY HOUSE Newsletter


Unity House New Members to}

Board of Directors

Unity House Board of Directors is proud to welcome three new

members. The newest members of the Unity House Board are:

• Kimberly Sanger Jones of Loudonville is the office manager

for the E. Stewart Jones Law Firm, PLLC. Kimberley is a graduate

of Mohawk Valley Community College and of the State University

at Albany.

• Dr. James A. Slavin of Albany is a board certified orthopedic

surgeon specializing in children's orthopedics and partner at

Burdett Orthopedics in Troy. Dr. Slavin attended Rensselaer

Polytechnic Institute/Albany Medical Center six year program and

completed his Orthopedic Residency at Albany Medical Center.

• Jennifer C. Zegarelli of Albany is an associate attorney at the

DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian Law Firm where she

specializes in criminal defense, white-collar crime, election law,

personal injury, medical malpractice, products liability, estates,

and estate litigation. Jennifer is a graduate of Hobart and

Williams Smith Colleges and Vermont Law School.

Kimberly Sanger Jones

Dr. James A. Slavin

In addition, the Board of Directors elected officers for 2009-2010:

Kate Koval, President

Gary Johnson, First Vice President

Jerilee Beaudoin, Second Vice President

Frank Sarratori, Treasurer

Michael Lipschultz, Secretary

James Nickens, Jr., Member at Large

We are honored to have such a dedicated and generous board for

another amazing year!

{ Russell Sage College Recycling program }

Jennifer C. Zegarelli

When Karalin Weilacher, a senior at Russell Sage College noticed that Sage did not have a proper

recycling program, and that students and staff were throwing away recyclables, she knew something had

to be done. Karalin and a classmate implemented a basic recycling program, by placing boxes around

campus, a simple solution for a huge problem. This year the freshman class decided that all funds

collected from bottle and can returns would be donated to a charity of their choice. They chose Unity


Unity House is thrilled to have been selected, and is proud of Karalin Weilacher and her determination

to make a change. Thank you Karalin, and all the Russell Sage College students and staff who recycle

in the name of Unity House!

Fall / Winter 2009 6

33 Second Street

Troy, NY 12180-3960

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Fall / Winter 2009 Newsletter


Introducing the Unity House


Facebook page! ...Friend Us!

Facebook gives Unity House the power to share

not only our mission, but our event calendar, press

releases, and latest news. Millions of people use

Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload

photos, share links and videos, and learn more

about the people they meet. Now Unity House is

joining the millions of businesses and

organizations that have already benefited from all

that Facebook has to offer. Now we're able to send

our message to people all over the world!

“Facebook, by some measurements the most

popular social network with more than 200 million

active users worldwide, is one of the fastestgrowing

and best-known sites on the Internet

today.” The New York Times.

Welcome to

Unity House

Through wise

stewardship and

a caring staff, we

are a community


committed to

serving and


people in need.

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