Neediest Cases Campaign - Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of ...

Neediest Cases Campaign - Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of ...

Catholic Charities Partners with

Neediest Cases Campaign: 2012-2013

Providing Help and Creating Hope

For New Yorkers in Need


Profiles of

New Yorkers in Need

Helped by

Catholic Charities

Table of Contents

A Message from Monsignor Kevin Sullivan 2

Lives Rebuilt: Thanks to Catholic Charities and

The New York Times Neediest Campaign

Fund Let Voices Be Heard, and for One Boy That Was Enough 3

Pressing On for the Children 4

On the Front Line 4

VIDEOS: Lives Rebuilt 4

Protecting and Nurturing Children and Youth

Bad Neighborhood, Good Children and a Creative Mother 7

EDITORIAL: Books for College 8

Told to Leave Her Home, a Teenage Mother Finds Help

and Seeks Reconciliation 9

Feeding the Hungry and Sheltering the Homeless

Ignoring Limitations and Aiming to Inspire 11

Working, Studying and Seeking a Home 12

An Eviction, Followed by a Parade of Homeless Shelters 13

Strengthening Families and Resolving Crises

Mother’s Newfound Financial Security Benefits Son 15

After a Partner’s Death, Still Focused on the Children 16

After Husband’s Sudden Death,

Widow Seeks New Home and Job 17

Supporting the Physically and Emotionally Challenged

Despite Hard Times, Veteran Still Lives Independently 19

After Stroke, Living in a Home Filled

With Bickering, and Love 20

Left Blind After a Mugging,

a Son Is Still Driven to Support His Family 21

Welcoming and Integrating Immigrants and Refugees

Borrowed Hearing Aid Opens New World to Teenager 23

Venezuelan Finds Asylum, and a Career, in New York 24

A Survivor of Torture Finds a Safe Haven in New York 25

Featured Agency Directory 26





Catholic Charities Vision

Catholic Charities helps solve the problems of New Yorkers in need—non-Catholics and

Catholics alike. The neglected child, the homeless family and the hungry senior are among

those for whom we provide help and create hope. We rebuild lives and touch almost every

human need promptly, locally, day in and day out, always with compassion and dignity.

We help our neighbors as you would like to be helped if your family were in need.

A Message from

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan

Too many New Yorkers — children, families and individuals —

have suffered for far too long. Families double up.

Grandparents raising grandchildren run out of food before

the end of the month. Shelters are packed. People call our

offices daily worried about next month’s rent. Jobs remain

scarce, particularly for older workers and young people

entering the workforce. Disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy

last year, tear lives apart.

Our opportunity to partner with The New York Times Foundation provides an occasion to

spotlight the strength and dignity of these struggling New Yorkers. It also provides a forum

for readers to join us in bringing vital help and hope to those in need.

Day in and day out our federation of 90 agencies provides crucial assistance for thousands

of New Yorkers, non-Catholics and Catholics alike.

I invite you to read the profiles of 18 individuals and families. They offer a glimpse of the intense

struggles faced by so many New Yorkers. And they demonstrate the support Catholic Charities

provides, always with compassion and always with dignity.


Monsignor Kevin Sullivan

Executive Director

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York


Lives Rebuilt:

Thanks to Catholic Charities and The

For nearly 100 years, Catholic Charities has partnered with The New York Times, sharing profiles of some of those whose

lives have been changed by help and hope that Catholic Charities provides.

Their stories have often spurred readers to assist in nearly miraculous ways. A once blind and homeless man — Carlos

Castro — can now see, supports himself and lives in his own apartment. A once deaf man — Vladimir Gongora — can now

hear. And a disabled mother, Marjorie Suarez, now volunteers to help others in need.

Here are a few of their stories along with an interview with Stephanie Harrill, one of Catholic Charities’social workers

who drew on Catholic Charities’ wealth of services to help transform lives.

New York Times METRO Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fund Let Voices Be Heard,

and for One Boy That Was Enough


Niko J. Kallianiotis for The New York Times

Vladimir Gongora, the subject of an

article that detailed his inability to afford

a hearing aid, getting the issue resolved

in Queens.

For more than 100 years, the stories of

struggle that make up The NewYork Times

Neediest Cases Fund’s annual campaign

have inspired readers to help New Yorkers

in dire financial need.

The experience of Carlos Castro

prompted a response. Blinded after a

stabbing a decade ago, Mr. Castro, 26, has

been trying to support himself and his

mother with work as a translator. Until

recently, they had been living in the city’s

shelter system.

A midtown Manhattan business owner

sent Mr. Castro $2,500 in December to help

him pay rent; he also received furniture,

bed linens and a coat.

“I didn’t expect to get helped like that,”

Mr. Castro said. “I didn’t think someone

would go into their pocket for me.”

And after The Times published an

article about Vladimir Gongora, a recent

immigrant from El Salvador who is deaf but

cannot afford hearing aids, the newspaper

and his school received dozens of calls and

e-mails from readers who wanted to

donate hearing devices to him.

“I am a deaf 16-year-old high school

student living in New Rochelle, N.Y.,”

wrote Gabriel Brainson, a reader with an

extra hearing aid. “I showed my parents

the article, and asked them if we could

give my hearing aid to Vladimir and his

family.” He continued, “How can we make

this happen?”

The onslaught of support led the

Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, a

sister agency of Vladimir’s school, to create

a fund for young people who need hearing

aids but cannot afford them. The Hearing

Aids of My Own Fund quickly collected

enough money to buy new devices for

Vladimir. On Thursday, Vladimir, now 18,

was fitted for his hearing aids. “It’s your

responsibility to take care of these,” said

Joanne Tzortzatos, the audiologist who

fitted him.

Without the machines, Vladimir hears

nothing. But with them, a test showed

he can perceive sounds at the level of a

typical conversation.

“Initially it will be a lump of loud

sounds all together,” said Adele Agin,

executive director of the center. But as

he wears them longer, “he’ll be able to

discriminate more” among car honks, door

knocks and voices. “No one knows what

his potential will be,” she said.

After Vladimir squeezed the rubbery,

transparent devices into his ears, his father,

Jose Gongora, called him from across the

small room: “Vladi!” Vladimir whipped

his head around.

“It’s a blessing from God,” Mr. Gongora


3 Copyright ©2013 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

New York Times Neediest Campaign

New York Times METRO Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pressing On for the Children


Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

As part of the 2012-13 Neediest Cases

campaign, The NewYork Times is catching

up on some of the people who were profiled

as part of recent campaigns.

After a minor injury turned into a

devastating disability, Marjorie Suarez has

been unable to work. Her spirit, however,

remains strong.

“Physically I’m not any better,” she says

in her video interview. “Emotionally and

mentally I am because I’ve changed inside.

“I see that there are places out there that

can help you. Everyone at some point in the

day or the week or the month or whatever,

there’s always something small that we

need. Something small like saying good

morning to someone in the elevator — you

can change their whole day.

“If I see someone that needs assistance

with something that I can do for them I

try to do that as much as I can. I can say

I’m more aware of people now than I was


New York Times METRO Saturday, February 9, 2013

On the Front Line


Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

In this end-of-season interview,

The New York Times spotlights Stephanie

Harrill, social worker at Catholic Charities

Guild for the Blind, whose extraordinary

work has helped transform lives.

“People hear the word charity and they

think of a hand out,” she says in her online

video interview with The NewYork Times.

“Our services are a hand up.

“With the downturn of the economy,

there are people turning to social services

that didn’t before. There is an increase in

clients who didn’t want to have to use

services but they’ve gotten to that point

and then we have to go into crisis mode.

“Sometimes people hear the title,

‘social worker,’ and expect that immediate

step because we should know how to do

everything. It’s awesome because we have

the ability to do so many different things

and at the same time challenging because

the expectation is there.”


Lives Rebuilt


Watch and listen to

Marjorie Suarez —





Listen to Stephanie Harrill —



Watch and listen to

Vladimir Gongora —

▲● 2013/01/10/nyregion/


Copyright ©2013 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.



Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

Protecting and Nurturing

Children and Youth

Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.


New York Times METRO Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bad Neighborhood,

Good Children and a Creative Mother


Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times

Yoshita Childress with her children,

Syrene Samuel, 15, and Syrus Samuel, 14,

at their apartment on the Lower East Side.

“I don’t need my son to be a statistic,”

Ms. Childress said.

Gunfire and police sirens punctuate the

soundtrack of the streets outside Yoshita

Childress’s home, an apartment that offers

frequent views of middle-of-the-night

brawls and arrests.

“You can hear the shots,” said Ms.

Childress, 47. “You can look outside the

window and see people running. You see

a flow of people coming in to buy drugs.

It’s unreal.”

Ms. Childress lives in a public-housing

project with her children, Syrene Samuel,

15, and her brother, Syrus,14, on the Lower

East Side, just off Avenue D. It is a part of

NewYork City that Ms. Childress said was

living up to its baleful reputation.

For the moment, moving away from the

block is unrealistic. Ms. Childress has been

out of work since 2009, when she was let go

from a delivery driver’s job at FreshDirect.

Despite her enrollment in the Education

Welfare to Careers Project, attempts to find

a new job have so far proved fruitless,

in part because of a severe injury in 2007.

She broke two leg bones after slipping on

a patch of black ice and was hospitalized

for a month. The resulting damage has

limited the kind of truck driving jobs she

has been able to accept, since she is unable

to perform the heavy lifting often required

in such jobs.

The Department of Social Services pays

the family’s entire $400 subsidized rent,

and they receive assistance for living

expenses and food. The children’s father

contributes about $100 a month in support.

In order to keep Syrene and Syrus safe,

Ms. Childress insists that they stay busy

with after-school activities, or remain largely

confined to the apartment. “I don’t like

them hanging out too much outside here,”

she said. “I don’t need my son to be a

statistic. I don’t need his legs spread up

against the wall. I don’t need these kids to

be involved with drugs. I pretty much want

them coming and going.”

One of the most effective means to that

end is her children’s participation in Catholic

Big Sisters and Big Brothers, an affiliate

of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New

York, one of the organizations supported by

The NewYork Times Neediest Cases Fund.

“It’s better to go with our Big Brother

and Big Sister than sitting inside and doing

nothing, or being out there with those crazy

people,” said Syrene, who has had the

chance to take part in activities like

exploring museums, ice skating and even

attending a cooking class.

Syrus has enjoyed having an older

“sibling” to play basketball and video

games with, and to have an outlet to

discuss any problems that he might be

having back home.

Syrus, who has attention-def icit

hyperactivity disorder, is also fostering a

creative mind. Since he was in fourth

grade, he has been drawing images and

characters inspired by Japanese animé

and manga comics.

“I have a lot of stories and characters in

my head,” he said. “I just have to put them

down” on paper.

His mother has a creative bent, too,

demonstrated through a hobby she picked

up during her hospital stay after she

broke her leg: she is an avid knitter.

Growing up poor on the Lower East Side,

Ms. Childress said, she found very few

opportunities to take part in any programs

that allowed her to be artistic and explore

her imagination. “I grew up playing in

mud,” she said.

Syrus recently applied to several

top-flight public high schools specializing

in the arts. Syrene is enrolled in collegereadiness

courses, and has ambitions to

become a nurse.

Catholic Charities recently provided the

family with $425 from the Neediest Cases

Fund to buy a computer for the family,

which was vital for completing school

projects and research papers. Success in

the classroom was at stake for all three

of them.

In the summer, Ms. Childress began

studying at Metropolitan College of

New York, aided by state and federal

grants as well as assistance from the

Education Welfare project. She said she

expected to complete her associate’s

degree in human services in the summer,

and a bachelor’s degree next year. Ms.

Childress knows that along with giving

her the chance to secure a better job,

her academic efforts will further inspire

her children.

“It’s great to show my kids that even

though I’m older, learning doesn’t stop,”

she said.

7 Copyright ©2013 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

New York Times METRO Friday, November 30, 2012


Books for College

Maria Lema, who this fall became the

first in her family to attend college, always

loved school. “It was my main focus in

life,” she said, “the only thing I’ve been

good at.” At age 6, Ms. Lema and her

younger sister were placed in foster care

with her uncle and his wife because her

mother was using drugs.

Five years later, the girls returned home

to live with their mother, who had stopped

using drugs. But she and Ms. Lema fought

a lot, and school was a refuge. “I would

wake up and look forward to go to school,”

Ms. Lema said. She joined school clubs

and became known as the smart girl.

Conflicts with her mother drove her to

move in with friends in her senior year.

She graduated with a grade-point average

of 90, and with help from her Bronx high

school and St. Raymond Community

Outreach, a Catholic Charities affiliate,

she applied to college.

Buffalo State College gave her the most

money; grants and a $5,000 annual student

loan covered all but $810 of the tuition.

She worked at Burger King last summer to

pay the balance, but she had no money for

books. Catholic Charities Archdiocese of

New York, an organization supported by

The NewYork Times Neediest Cases Fund,

gave her $470 to buy books. This fall,

she began her freshmen year in Buffalo.

“I always dreamed of attending college,”

she said. “It brings me joy that I have

gotten this far.”

Donations to The Neediest Cases

Fund go to seven charities: Brooklyn

Community Services; Catholic Charities

of the Archdiocese of New York; Catholic

Charities, Diocese of Brooklyn and

Queens; the Children’s Aid Society;

the Community Service Society of New

York; the Federation of Protestant Welfare

Agencies; and the UJA-Federation of

Brendan Bannon for The New York Times

Maria Lema is the first member of her

family to attend college.

NewYork. To help, please send a check to:

The NewYork Times Neediest Cases Fund,

4 Chase Metrotech Center, 7th Floor East,

Lockbox 5193, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11245.

You may also call (800) 381-0075 and

use a credit card, or you may donate

Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.


New York Times METRO Monday, November 12, 2012

Told to Leave Her Home,

a Teenage Mother Finds Help

and Seeks Reconciliation


Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Lataja James with her son, Dillyn Martin,

at the Elinor Martin Residence for Mother

and Child, a shelter that took her in.

Lataja James had never expected the

doctor delivering her blood-test results to

tell her she was nine weeks pregnant.

Her mother’s response to the news was

much less shocking, but packed just as

potent a wallop.

“My mom just walked out of the room,”

Ms. James,18, recalled. “And when we got

home, she told me to find somewhere to

live because I wasn’t going to be living in

her house. She wasn’t going to put up with

the nonsense anymore.”

Ms. James acknowledged that her

mother — who feared that her daughter’s

streak of destructive behavior would result

in pregnancy — had repeatedly warned her

that the consequence would be banishment

from their Bronx apartment.

“I was rebelling a lot, smoking and

drinking, and not going to school,”

Ms. James said, explaining that she began

acting out at 13, shortly after the death of

her father, who was serving life in prison

for murder.

“Despite your dad being bad, you still

have hopes and dreams,” she said of the

man whom she met only once. “You still

want to know your dad.”

Eventually, other dreams and personal

goals won out, inspiring Ms. James to get

her life together. She became involved

with volunteer activities and was selected

for an all-expenses-paid trip to Nicaragua

to help construct a school as part of the

buildOn program. Preparation for that

journey had been the very reason for the

blood test in August 2011.

Denial struck hard, but after the doctor

explained that blood did not lie, Ms. James

learned her mother did not, either; her

threats had not been empty. Ms. James had

to find somewhere else to live within a

matter of weeks.

Angry and dismayed, she took to the

Internet, searching for women’s shelters,

which yielded a result that would change

the course of her life: the Elinor Martin

Residence for Mother and Child in New

Rochelle, N.Y., an affiliate of Catholic

Charities Archdiocese of New York. She

moved there within weeks of the blood

test. The shelter, which opened in 1994,

serves about 24 women and children

a year, providing residents with meals,

day care for their children and counseling.

In February, Ms. James gave birth to a

son, Dillyn Martin, and he has helped

refocus her ambitions even more than

her acceptance to the shelter, where the

stays are not so much time-frame based

as they are goal based. Ms. James said

her goal was to finish high school and go

to college.

“Because I wasn’t taking my education

seriously when I was younger, I have a lot

more catching up to do,” she said.The Elinor

Martin Residence helped her enroll at New

Rochelle High School, and she is on track

to graduate in June. “I want to go to UConn

and study criminal psychology, and Dillyn

is my motivation,” she said.

Ms. James works 10 hours a week at

Robeks, a smoothie bar, where she was

recently promoted to shift leader, and

earns about $260 a month. Because she

has chosen to work, she does not receive a

$315 monthly housing allowance given to

many other shelter residents by the State

Department of Social Services. As a result,

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New

York, one of the agencies supported by

The NewYork Times Neediest Cases Fund,

drew $440 from the fund, putting $315

toward her July rent at the shelter and

the remainder toward her August rent.

Ms. James said she recently broke off her

relationship with Dillyn’s father, but still has

a wealth of support. “I really am grateful”

for the Elinor Martin Residence, she said.

“I’m surrounded by so many moms, and

it’s like a family.”

As for her own family, Ms. James

said she was working on mending her

relationship with her mother, with the

help of counseling offered at the residence.

She said her mother was at the hospital

when Dillyn was born and loves her

grandson dearly.

Ms. James also believes that her

experiences in the past year have proved to

be more didactic than destructive to her

future, and that they have imparted lessons

that can improve the lives of not only her

son, but also her siblings, who are younger.

“My brother and sister are part of my

inspiration, too,” Ms. James said. “No one

in my family graduated college or even

graduated high school. Even though my

choices weren’t wise, I feel like they can

do so much better than me. I want them to

be better than me.”

9 Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

Feeding the Hungry and

Sheltering the Homeless


New York Times METRO Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ignoring Limitations

and Aiming to Inspire


Librado Romero/The New York Times

Otis Hampton, who was born with cerebral

palsy, currently lives in a homeless

shelter in Harlem.

Otis Hampton once walked 40 blocks

in Manhattan, and swelled with pride when

he reached his destination.

His journey had been difficult — for

him, walking is laborious and painful —

and he was unable to match the brisk pace

of the people alongside him, most of

whom could take for granted their ease of

mobility. Mr. Hampton, who was born with

cerebral palsy, has never had that luxury.

When he exerts himself to that degree,

it is always with a purpose. Not only does

Mr. Hampton, 22, refuse to accept limitations,

but he also strives to inspire others.

“I feel like when I take walks, or when

I’m walking in general, there may be a kid

I know with cerebral palsy who’s been

wanting to take a step without falling that

finally gets up out of his or her wheelchair

and takes those steps for the first time,”

he said.

Growing up, Mr. Hampton was often

teased by classmates and was stigmatized

both for his disability and for the time he

spent in the foster care system. He was

adopted at age 8, but his adoptive father

died after a stroke two years later.

Last February, Mr. Hampton was forced

to confront a new challenge: homelessness.

“I came home and saw suitcases out in

front of the house,” he said. “I originally

thought it was someone going on vacation.”

Instead, it was Mr. Hampton who was

leaving. His adoptive mother had decided

to ask him to leave after the most recent of

what Mr. Hampton said were increasingly

frequent disputes. He ended up in the shelter

system and dropped out of Kingsborough

Community College, where he had been

enrolled. Since April, he has been living at

Create, a shelter in Harlem.

His income consists of less than $300 a

month in public assistance and food stamps.

He also receives Medicaid and earns a $50

stipend whenever he writes an essay for

Represent magazine, a publication aimed

at children in foster care.

Create is in the process of helping

Mr. Hampton find work as well as return

to college. To help him with bills, Catholic

Charities Archdiocese of NewYork, one of

the agencies supported by The New York

Times Neediest Cases Fund, drew $286

from the fund so that he could cover

months of cellphone charges and buy


For as long as he can remember,

Mr. Hampton said, he has simply wanted

to become self-reliant.

“Throughout my life, I’ve wanted to do

things that other people could do,” he said.

“Regular things like being able to take

public transportation, getting a girlfriend,

and being able to maintain a job.”

He said the negativity of being told that

he could not do some things “drove me to

try and do whatever I felt like I could do.”

His aspiration to one day become

a professional wrestler dominated his

childhood thoughts. So did constant

discouragement. Mr. Hampton said he was

often told that because of his cerebral

palsy, his ambitions were mere pipe dreams.

That changed when he saw the

professional wrestler Zach Gowen —

whose left leg was amputated when he was

a child — hold his own in the ring.

Mr. Hampton learned then that words

mean nothing when measured against heart.

“I saw him wrestle and was like, ‘If he can

do this, I can too,’ ” said Mr. Hampton,

adding that he uses that idea to encourage

others with cerebral palsy.

“If I meet somebody with the same

condition who says they’re not able to do

this, they’re not able to do that, I tell them

that they can if they just give it a try.”

That positive advocacy extends to other

parts of his life. Mr. Hampton is active in

several programs run by a foster care

agency, including one called the Alumni

Group, whose participants mostly discuss

ways to improve the foster care system. He

is also part of a drama therapy group and

serves as a mentor in a program called


Mr. Hampton said his relationship with

his mother had improved since he left her

home. He said he was waiting to learn if

he could re-enroll in college, and he has

recently begun applying for jobs at some

large retail stores.

“I don’t want to tell people, ‘Oh, that’s

just the way it goes, that you can’t do this or

you can’t do that,’ ” he said. “I want to give

people the idea that they can do this.”

11 Copyright ©2013 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

New York Times METRO Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Working, Studying

and Seeking a Home


If you called Latoya Ford, 23, an old

soul, she would take it as a compliment,

even if the variety of toys that she owns

might suggest a younger spirit.

When she was 7, Ms. Ford and her

younger brother, Brian, were adopted after

years in foster care. Their adoptive mother,

Dorothy Ford, was in her late 60s, and with

her years came much wisdom.

“I learned a lot of common sense from

her,” Ms. Ford said. “With my peers and

people my age, I’ll tell them they aren’t

thinking with common sense, and they’d

say I was speaking like their grandmother

would speak. But that’s how I was brought

up. You got to think about certain things,

think about how you approach people.”

Ms. Ford understands responsibility as

well as she understands how to approach

others. She has spent the last four years in

homeless shelters, but works 33 to 44 hours

a week as a certified nursing assistant at

Beth Israel Medical Center, and earlier this

year held down a second job at T. J. Maxx

as a sales associate.

Yet Ms. Ford still manages to inject

some fun into her life at the shelter. Boxes

of K’nex roller coasters, Lego sets and

Nerf guns accent her shared bedroom,

all cures for boredom. Ms. Ford also said

she tried to make it to a roller-skating rink

in New Jersey at least once a week.

That fusion of sensibilities — selfdiscipline

balanced with playfulness —

has helped Ms. Ford navigate a life that has

dealt her a fair share of setbacks.

In 2002, Ms. Ford’s adoptive mother

died. She and Brian were then placed in

the care of their adult adoptive sister,

Marzella Riley.

“Nobody else stepped up, so she stepped

up,” Ms. Ford said. “I guess she felt like

she had an obligation to take us.”

The Ford siblings moved from Florence,

S.C., where they had been living since

their adoption, back to their hometown,

New York City, to be with Ms. Riley in the

Bronx. Ms. Ford was just 13.

“Growing up, I always wanted her to

come visit,” Ms. Ford said of her sister.

“I always thought my mom was so boring.

She would come bake cookies with me,

show me how to do certain stuff. But when

we came to live with her, it was another

story. It was arguing all the time. It was

‘You’re not my mother.’ ”Around this time,

doctors told Ms. Ford, who had already

been coping with attention deficit hyperactivity

disorder, that she had anxiety and


At 16, Ms. Ford was enrolled in classes

at the South Bronx Job Corps, while her

brother was sent to Buxton School,

a preparatory school in Williamstown,

Mass. She earned her high school diploma

at Job Corps along with a certif ied

accounting certificate.

After she graduated in 2008, Ms. Ford

said, Ms. Riley told her that she had to

find her own place to live. With nowhere

to go, she turned to Green Chimneys,

a residential program for children in

Putnam County, N.Y. A year and a half later,

Green Chimneys placed her in a room at

Covenant House in Manhattan, a shelter

for teenagers and young adults and an

affiliate of Catholic Charities Archdiocese

of New York, one of the organizations

supported by The NewYork Times Neediest

Cases Fund.

Brian was accepted to Syracuse

University after graduating from high

school, and is pursuing a business degree

there. The two are in frequent contact.

Once Ms. Ford entered Covenant House,

she conducted a serious evaluation of her

ambitions and decided she wanted to

become an emergency medical technician.

She soon received the credentials to

become a certified nursing assistant.

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Latoya Ford, who is studying phlebotomy

and hopes to become an emergency

medical technician, will lose her room at

Covenant House, a shelter for homeless

young people, early next year.

To support Ms. Ford’s future financial

independence, Covenant House is paying

for her to take phlebotomy classes at

the Manhattan Institute. Catholic Charities

secured a grant of $385 from the Neediest

Cases Fund for a laptop to help with

her studies.

Covenant House is also helping Ms. Ford

find permanent housing — with a two-year

time limit, she can stay there only until

the end of January. She is searching for

housing, and to that end, Covenant House

puts $80 of her earnings each week into a

savings account; the money will be

returned to her to put toward an apartment.

Ms. Ford’s empathy for older people,

and those in need, it seems, will quite likely

hold her in good stead in a nursing career.

“How would you feel if you were sitting

up in a hospital bed and you didn’t have

anybody to come see you or visit you or

talk to you or have a conversation?” she

said. “That’s why old people don’t talk to

anybody, because nobody talks to them.

I’m really good with old people. It was

always so much easier to talk to the older


Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.


New York Times METRO Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Eviction, Followed by

a Parade of Homeless Shelters


Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Renee Jackson and her daughter, Aquiya,

bounced from one homeless shelter to

another after losing their apartment in

a lease dispute. Aquiya, a high school

senior, hopes to go to college.

If only he knew.

That is what Renee Jackson was thinking

one day this past April as she rode to work

on the F train. A man and his young son

boarded the subway car asking for money.

He was homeless, he said, and his child

was diabetic.

Unknown to the stranger, Ms. Jackson

and her daughter shared a nearly identical

plight, so she was not in a position to give

him any change.

“I’m always used to helping people out,”

Ms. Jackson, 36, said. “To go from helping

my sister or my friends or whoever, to go

to this, it’s hard.”

Since January, Ms. Jackson and her

daughter, Aquiya, 18, have been living in

homeless shelters, a total of four of them

to date. For someone who had lived at

one address her entire life, the last year

of transience has proved extremely


“I’m a very strong person, and I try not

to break down in front of my daughter,”

she said. “There are days when I’m off

work and I’m at the shelter and I just sit

and cry, because I don’t see it coming to

an end anytime soon.”

Ms. Jackson grew up in a NewYork City

Housing Authority apartment in Harlem.

She and her older sister were raised, and

later adopted by, their grandmother after,

she said, her mother and aunt were

murdered by her mother’s boyfriend.

Ms. Jackson was just a year old.

In 2001, Ms. Jackson took steps to

move, and her name was taken off the

apartment’s lease. Her plans to secure a

new home fell through, she said, and she

stayed in the building.

After Ms. Jackson’s grandmother died

in late 2009, the Housing Authority

determined that she did not have a right to

remain in the apartment at a subsidized

monthly rent of $219. She, her husband of

just one year, Jamel Goodridge, and Aquiya

were evicted in January, after a three-year

court battle.

“It’s terrible,” Ms. Jackson said. “I want

to do whatever I can do to get out of this

situation. I want to say this was just a

memory, that we have our own place now.”

Ms. Jackson works 30 hours a week,

taking additional shifts whenever they are

available, as a clothing sales adviser at an

H&M store, earning $1,200 to $1,300 a

month. She also receives $49 a month in

food stamps, but takes no other form of

public assistance. From those earnings,

she must cover essential expenses: food,

a monthly MetroCard, cellphone charges

and rent for the storage unit that holds her

family’s belongings.

Since April, Ms. Jackson has managed

to save just $800, a meager amount that

illustrates the futility of her efforts.

“I’m at a point where I don’t even walk

around with cash because what little

money I have is in my account for when I

have to pay bills,” she said.

When Ms. Jackson and Aquiya entered

the shelter system, Ms. Jackson and

Mr. Goodridge had an argument that

ended, she said, with him pouring water

onto their television set. Staff members at

the shelter labeled the argument an episode

of domestic violence, and Mr. Goodridge

was forced to move into a shelter for

single men.

They remain separated but are in contact,

as Mr. Goodridge copes with his own

problems: he was injured at his part-time

job in June and now receives workers’

compensation, but has not been able to help

his wife and stepdaughter financially.

In October, Ms. Jackson and her daughter

moved to a new shelter in Manhattan that

does not permit residents to cook, making

it difficult for Aquiya, who learned she has

Type 2 diabetes in 2009, to stick to a healthy

diet. Ms. Jackson said that they sometimes

stayed with relatives on weekends and

prepared more nutritious meals, but that

most of the time they ate out, which ran

counter to both wellness and budget.

Despite all the family has been through,

Aquiya, who is a senior at Bread and Roses

Integrated Arts High School in Harlem,

has ambitions of attending college and

wants to major in culinary arts. To fulfill

that plan, she has been working with a

program called Opportunity NYC, an effort

run by Catholic Charities Archdiocese of

NewYork that assists low-income students

in preparing for college. Catholic Charities,

one of the organizations supported by

The New York Times Neediest Cases

Fund, drew $499 from the fund so that

she could buy a computer, allowing her

to keep up with schoolwork and submit

college applications.

Ms. Jackson is trying to f ind an

apartment of her own, where she and

Aquiya can be secure, and to that end has

applied for another Housing Authority

apartment. But she has so far not even

been able to get on a waiting list.

“There’s no way I would ever, ever,

if I can help it, be in this situation,”

Ms. Jackson said.


Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

Strengthening Families and

Resolving Crises

Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.


New York Times METRO Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mother’s Newfound

Financial Security Benefits Son


Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Wilmarie Dominguez with her son,

Nicholas Beltran, who has cerebral palsy,

epilepsy and hypertonia, in their Bronx

apartment. Ms. Dominguez received help

after falling behind in her rent.

The only way that Nicholas Beltran has

ever been able to communicate verbally

with his mother, Wilmarie Dominguez,

is with two words. One sound he emits —

an “uh uh” — very clearly means “no,”

while the other, more commonly vocalized

noise expressed as “mahh” — often

requires investigation.

Ms. Dominguez, 32, a single mother,

said that long ago she interpreted that

sound as a cry for attention, but determining

exactly what Nicholas needed from her

was often difficult.

Nicholas,12, was born severely disabled.

Cerebral palsy has restricted him to a

wheelchair. Epilepsy has at times triggered

up to 17 grand mal seizures a day, and

Ms. Dominguez said it had impaired

his vision, leaving him legally blind.

Hypertonia, a condition that limits joint

movement, and developmental delays also

exacerbate his problems.

While he often casts his eyes in the

direction of voices and turns his head to

the kitchen once he smells his dinner,

Ms. Dominguez said that the exact degree

of her son’s cognitive faculties is often


“I didn’t know how to prepare myself,”

she said, recalling the moment when

doctors told her that her son would be born

with problems.

“I spent two whole years crying myself

to sleep,” she recalled, “and then I told

myself: ‘Why am I crying? There’s nothing

I can do about it. All I can do about it is

deal with it. I just did the best I can, giving

him loving, tender care.”

That care has been more or less around

the clock. Nicholas has to be bathed, his

food has to be puréed and his clothing has

to be changed along with his diapers.

When Nicholas is not at the Westchester

School for Special Children, where he has

been enrolled for the past few years,

mother and son are usually in their Bronx

apartment, with soap operas and cartoons

blaring on the television.

Ms. Dominguez, who once received

frequent help from home attendants, is now

trying to hire a home health aide, someone

who, officials say, would be more appropriate

in her situation.

She admits that relatives are too leery

of Nicholas’s condition for her to rely on

them for assistance.

His father has almost no involvement

with him, Ms. Dominguez said.

“Sometimes I overwork myself,” she

said. “I wish I was three people. I’m so

busy being supermom that I forget myself


Taking her son to myriad doctors’

appointments made it hard for Ms.

Dominguez to hold down a job. She

recently completed training to become

a day care worker and said that she was

waiting to hear about a job at a nearby day

care center. “I care for little kids like they

were my own,” she said.

The family’s income consists of just

over $1,000 a month from a combination

of Social Security disability payments,

public assistance and food stamps.

Mother and son had been a part of the

Children’s Advantage and Fixed Income

Advantage program, which paid their rent

of $1,070, until the city cut financing

for the program; the subsidy stopped in

August 2011.

After that, Ms. Dominguez wound up

$7,485 in arrears on her rent. She sought the

services of Catholic Charities Archdiocese

of New York, one of the organizations

supported by The NewYork Times Neediest

Cases Fund, to help clear the debt. Grants

from the Catholic Charities HomeBase

program and the city’s Family Eviction

Prevention Supplement program cleared

up the arrears. A grant of $313 from

the Neediest Cases Fund helped pay

Ms. Dominguez’s portion of her November

rent and overdue Consolidated Edison bills.

With Catholic Charities assisting her,

Ms. Dominguez’s landlord agreed to

reduce the rent to $900 a month, with the

Family Eviction Prevention Supplement

program paying $650 of that and Ms.

Dominguez contributing $250.

Righting her f inances has given

Ms. Dominguez a great deal of peace,

which she said was imperative to her son’s


“If he senses that I’m scared, he’ll get

worried too,” she said. “If he gets too

excited, it gives him a seizure. So I try to

keep him nice and calm and tell him,

‘Nicholas, calm down, because you know

what you’re going to do to yourself.’ ”

And in his way, Nicholas has the ability

to keep Ms. Dominguez grounded.

“He has given me a lot of strength,” she

said. “Before he was born, I was totally

clueless. I really didn’t care about

anything. When it came to thinking, I didn’t

want to break my head on anything. I now

think about everything he needs, all the

places I need to take him, the doctors he

needs to see,” she said.

“There’s something about having him

that has woken me up.”

Even with her newfound clarity, Ms.

Dominguez continually struggles to

understand her son’s needs. But she has

never once struggled to love him.

In her world, “There’s no me,” she said.

“There’s just him.”

15 Copyright ©2013 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

New York Times METRO Wednesday, December 12, 2012

After a Partner’s Death,

Still Focused on the Children


Hours after learning of the death of

her children’s father, Simone McCray said,

she called his cellphone, thinking he might


The news that the father, Ronmacrae

Williams, had been killed by a gunshot to

the back of the head came in December

2009, in a frantic late-night phone call

from his mother, a woman whose tendency

to overreact allowed Ms. McCray to cling to

the belief that it somehow would not be true.

Ms. McCray’s denial faltered when her

own calls connected her to Mr. Williams’s

voice mail.

Once reality sank in, the hard part came.

Mr. Williams had left behind a son, Micah,

then just 3 months old, and a daughter,

Leyoura, who was 4 and who would need

to be told of her father’s death.

“Word had gotten back to our pastor,”

Ms. McCray recalled. “He asked if I wanted

him to be there when I told her. I said yes.

So he came when she got out of school and

he more or less told her. I could not. ...”

Father and daughter shared a strong bond,

reflected by their tradition of spending

Father’s Day together by themselves. Their

last such outing together took them to

Playland, the amusement park in Rye, N.Y.,

which was where Mr. Williams and

Ms. McCray first met, as high school

students working summer jobs.

“She was his heart,” Ms. McCray said.

“That was his pride and joy. He thought,

‘My child’s going to have the best.’ If he

bought something new, she got something

new. They were like twins.”

Mr. Williams’s killing remains unsolved,

but Ms. McCray said she had made her

peace with what happened.

“It’s not something I wanted to think

about, because I didn’t want to find myself

in that place of falling apart over this,” she

said. “I just wanted to be able to stay sane

for my children.”

Although Mr. Williams and Ms. McCray

had not married, she said that they had a

relationship in which their children were

the priority, and that he had been very

present as a father.

Even with Mr. Williams gone, Ms.

McCray, 27, does not raise her children

alone. Mr. Williams’s parents provide

support, as do the children’s godparents.

The most significant help comes from

Ms. McCray’s mother, who a few years ago

invited her daughter and grandchildren to

share the Bronx apartment that she had

lived in for more than three decades.

Ms. McCray and her children have laid

claim to the apartment’s lone bedroom,

while her mother sleeps in the entryway,

on a futon. Ms. McCray supports the

family with her Social Security survivor

benefits, of about $1,760 a month, and

contributes $400 a month to rent at her

mother’s apartment.

She was doing her best, she said, to

fulf ill Mr. Williams’s hopes for the

children, his “wishes to raise them well,

and give them what they need.”

Both children are thriving. Micah, now

3, is driven by curiosity, often enraptured

by electronics. Leyoura, 7, is listed on her

school’s honor roll.

In September, Ms. McCray found her

way to the Grace Institute, an agency

aff iliated with Catholic Charities

Archdiocese of New York, one of the

agencies supported by The New York

Angel Franco/The New York Times

Times Neediest Cases Fund. The institute

provides free classes in business skills to

women in need. Ms. McCray’s six-month

program runs until March 2013, but she

has already taken a job she was offered,

with Montefiore Medical Center in the

Bronx. After graduating from Grace,

Ms. McCray plans to take one more

class at Westchester Community College,

where she has been a student, to obtain a

certificate in medical billing.

To attend the classes at Grace, Ms.

McCray had to pay $600 a month for a

baby sitter, but she was unable to pay for a

two-week period after buying clothes and

school supplies for Leyoura. Catholic

Charities drew $300 from the Neediest Cases

Fund to cover the cost of the child care.

In addition to all the emotional support

she receives, Ms. McCray said, her spirits

are lifted by a favorite saying: “God gives his

hardest battles to his toughest soldiers.” It

offers her perspective and helps to keep

anxiety at bay, which is even more important

to her now than it was three years ago.

“I have learned it’s not worth it to panic,”

she said. “If I’m stressing myself, it’s going

to kill my health, and I want to be on this

earth as long as I can for my kids.”

Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.


New York Times METRO Saturday, November 24, 2012

After Husband’s Sudden Death,

Widow Seeks New Home and Job


Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Beaulah Smith, who cared for her

dying husband while battling ovarian

cancer, depleted her savings trying

to pay expenses.

On Jan. 13, Beaulah Smith was seated

beside her husband, Isaac, as he lay in a

hospital bed listening to a team of doctors

explain the grim state of his health. Ms.

Smith, 63, knew that her husband was

weak after having several strokes, and she

suspected that the pain he was experiencing

might be the result of an ulcer. But as she

sat beside her husband of 40 years, she

was totally unprepared for the words she

would hear.

Terminal colon cancer. Inoperable.

Six months.

The family was thunderstruck. This

could not be right. The couple’s daughter

Marisella Wilson, 41, who was in the room,

ran out of the hospital in tears.

As it turned out, the doctors were wrong

about the six-month life expectancy.

Isaac Smith would die three weeks later,

on Feb. 2.

“Do you see how that blows a person

away?” Ms. Smith said in an interview,

while speaking about the short time she had

to say goodbye. She could not understand

how doctors had missed such a substantial

health problem, particularly since her

husband was either in a hospital or under

nursing care for much of the previous year.

She was left wondering how the situation

might have turned out differently if they

had found his cancer earlier, while it was

still treatable. Perhaps that is why the

biggest source of pain that Ms. Smith has

had to face in recent months has been the

discovery of a single piece of paper she

found in her home while preparing to move.

It was a biopsy result that said her husband

had a diagnosis of invasive adenocarcinoma,

a type of cancer. The report was dated

Oct. 27, 2006. Although the report indicated

that Mr. Smith had been informed of the

diagnosis, Ms. Smith said she had no idea.

The emotional fallout from that

discovery has been a significant setback

for Ms. Smith. “I’m going forward and

trying to make the best, but I feel spiritually

broken,” she said.

In June 2010, her husband had a series

of strokes. The episodes transformed the

once-independent man, who used to work

as a chauffeur, into a frail person who was

plagued by confusion and was in need of

constant help.

Mr. Smith was transferred to a nursing

home for recovery and therapy, and

eventually he returned home to the brick

split-level house on Staten Island where he

and Ms. Smith had lived since 1999.

Speaking in her tidy living room

decorated with framed family pictures,

Ms. Smith recounted the challenge of

dealing with the sudden changes in her

husband’s personality, especially the mood

swings that became violent at times. “He

became unglued,” she said. “I had to spend

a lot of time rendering care to him.”

Then in December 2010, Ms. Smith

began experiencing health problems of

her own: she was struck with stomach

pains so severe that she was hospitalized for

what doctors diagnosed as diverticulitis.

She had surgery later that month and

received alarming news.

The surgeon discovered that Ms. Smith

had ovarian cancer, which had advanced to

Stage 3. “All of a sudden, in a few days,

your life gets flipped around,” she said.

She began chemotherapy in April 2011,

balancing the difficult treatment with her

demanding caretaking responsibilities

at home. She was still undergoing

chemotherapy at the time of her husband’s


Throughout this ordeal, Ms. Smith’s

finances tightened.

Although she used to work as an HIV

counselor at the Special Funds Conservation

Committee in New York, she had lost that

job and relied on a pension of $312 a month

and monthly Social Security disability

payments of $1,771.

Faced with her husband’s home-care

expenses and funeral costs, Ms. Smith fell

two and a half months behind on her rent

and was given an eviction notice. Not

knowing what else to do, she turned to

Catholic Charities Archdiocese NewYork,

one of the agencies supported by The New

York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

In July, Catholic Charities provided Ms.

Smith with $705 from the fund to help her

avoid eviction and to pay off what she

owed on her rent, which is $1,805 a month.

Her caseworkers also sought an interestfree

loan for her from the Bridge Fund,

a nonprof it organization aimed at

preventing homelessness, which provided

her with money while she settled her affairs

and prepared to move to more affordable

housing. She intends to move at the

beginning of next year, and is looking for

a new job to help get her life back on track.

Ms. Smith’s health has improved, and

she makes regular visits to her doctor at

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

But she is still troubled, wondering what

would have happened if her husband had

acted on his sickness when his illness was

first discovered.

“It is a miserable feeling,” she said.

“I’m wrestling with it. And I can’t do a

thing about it.”


Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

Supporting the Physically and

Emotionally Challenged

Copyright ©2012 ©2011 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.


New York Times METRO Monday, January 21, 2013

Despite Hard Times,

Veteran Still Lives Independently


Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

Charles Daubek Jr., 94, in a nursing

home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., where he was

sent for short-term rehabilitation after

a hospital stay.

He was on a 10-day furlough when he

first saw the house: a boxy two-story home

on Heath Place in woodsy Hastings-on-

Hudson, Westchester County. He had been

stationed in England when his parents,

Charles and Elizabeth Daubek, wrote to say

they had saved, scrimped and borrowed to

buy it — for $5,000. Now, Pvt. Charles

Daubek Jr. stood on the front porch, about

to surprise his mother.

Nearly seven decades later, Mr. Daubek,

94, remembers the “wonderful feeling” of

that day in1944. Charlie had been Elizabeth’s

only child; when he had left for basic

training, his distraught mother could not

even bear to take him to the train station.

And then there he was, at the front door of

her new home. Their new home.

Life was gentler then. “People were more

courteous,” Mr. Daubek said. Niceness is

of the utmost importance to him; he laments

the time when people did not curse over

parking spaces.

Mr. Daubek has lived in that house

since returning from the war in 1946. The

fraying roof and rusting mailbox tell one

story: at his age, he has neither the money

nor the physical stamina to make repairs.

But within the walls live a lifetime of

memories — his memories — and so he

hopes to spend the rest of his life there

independently. He is helped by a small

army of support coordinated by Dominican

Sisters Family Health Service. An aide,

Linnette Miller (“You couldn’t ask for a

nicer lady,” Mr. Daubek said), helps with

everyday tasks, a nurse comes weekly to

monitor his health and Meals on Wheels

delivers daily lunches.And after Mr. Daubek

lost power during Hurricane Sandy, brothers

from his denomination, the Jehovah’s

Witnesses, came over to assist.

John McCarron, a retired police officer

who is now a social worker with Dominican

Sisters, started working with Mr. Daubek

about eight years ago. “Having been 20 to

25 years his junior, I found he was quicker

on the draw than I was,” Mr. McCarron

said, “so I was hoping that maybe I could

learn something from him that would

teach me how to get to his age with the

capacity he has.”

Mr. Daubek credits his graceful aging

with “good living”: no heavy drinking or

smoking. “I tried smoking once, and I

coughed my head off,” he said. “What’s the

sense of coughing your head off when you

could have a nice steak dinner?”

He is deeply appreciative of his

support network. He never married or had

children — any extended family “dwindled

away.” He came close once, during the war.

A very nice gal named Simone. She lived

in one of the small houses across from the

Belgian school where he had been billeted.

“When you’re a young guy, nah, you

want to fool around, you want to have fun,

but then you regret that,” Mr. Daubek said.

“I’d love to have a family; that was my

main goal, to have a family, a nice wife.”

He still has the letters he and Simone

wrote to each other after his return to the

States. But it was not to be.

Instead he returned to the house on Heath

Place and worked making hearing aids for

a local manufacturer, then took care of his

parents after his retirement at 62. When

undetected diabetes caused his father’s leg

to turn black, Mr. Daubek would struggle to

help him up the12 or so steps to the bedroom

and bathroom. Charles Sr. eventually

died, as did Elizabeth, at age 95 while in

midconversation with her son.

He continued to live there alone,

spending two or three hours a day taping

big-band shows on the radio (“you don’t

hear that on the radio anymore — now it’s

all bebop”), reading and taking walks in

the neighborhood. He had thought that his

savings and Social Security would be

enough to carry him, but the last decade

has been tough going.

The reverse mortgage he took out in

2000 augments the $860 in Social Security

and $130 in food stamps he receives

monthly. Still, with his annual income less

than $18,000 and with his savings gone, his

expenses began to eclipse his resources.

“When you have money, you can buy oil

and pay your taxes,” Mr. Daubek said. “It’s

a terrible thing when you got to skimp and

you don’t know if you can make it or not.”

Last fall, he fell behind on his heating

oil bill. So Dominican Sisters, an affiliate

of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New

York, called upon the organization for help.

Catholic Charities, one of the agencies

supported by The NewYork Times Neediest

Cases Fund, drew $680 from the fund to

help pay the bill. Afterward, his fellow

Jehovah’s Witnesses helped Mr. Daubek to

successfully petition the bank for an

increase in the mortgage payout, as well as

to secure money from a pension fund for

aging veterans.

But last month Mr. Daubek grew dizzy

from low blood sugar and had difficulty

climbing the stairs. He was admitted to a

hospital, and then to Cabrini Eldercare in

Dobbs Ferry for short-term rehabilitation.

“This is something else; even Donald

Trump doesn’t have this,” Mr. McCarron

said as he wheeled Mr. Daubek to Cabrini’s

large corner window. Yes, Mr. Daubek

appreciates the unobstructed views of the

Hudson. And all of the staff members are

nice. He can’t complain. But it’s not home.

Soon, he hopes to be back at Heath Place,

in his chair, the sound of the traffic on the

adjacent Saw Mill River Road an undertone

to Benny Goodman’s swinging clarinet.

19 Copyright ©2013 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

New York Times METRO Friday, December 7, 2012

After Stroke, Living in a Home Filled

With Bickering, and Love


A conversation between two roommates,

Marianela Toro and Ana Ventura, on a

recent afternoon consisted of disparaging

comments soaked in sarcasm and exasperated

sighs that were soon chased with

laughter. There was even a weapon

brandished: Ms. Ventura, 43, threatened

Ms. Toro, 46, with a pillow.

“Her hobby is screaming,” Ms. Toro said.

“She screams all the time.”

“She’s like a child,” Ms. Ventura shot

back, and Ms. Toro, an admitted instigator,

simply smiled.

Ms. Toro and Ms. Ventura are sisters,

sharing an apartment in the Unionport

neighborhood of the Bronx. Ms. Ventura’s

12-year-old son, Yadriel Bracero, who had

always been close to his aunt, lives with

them. Bickering and pranks are commonplace

in their home.

The sisters, who moved from Puerto

Rico to the Bronx in the 1980s, started

living together in the apartment shortly

after Ms. Toro had a stroke, in June 2010.

Because she had a blood clot in her brain,

doctors had to drill a hole into her skull

and insert three metal plates into her head.

Now most of the left side of Ms. Toro’s

body is permanently paralyzed. She is able

to wiggle her left foot and move her leg

slightly, but she cannot move her left arm.

At the time of her stroke, Ms. Toro had

been living in Woodbridge, Va., working

as a school bus attendant. After her release

from the hospital, Ms. Toro returned, in a

wheelchair, to live in an apartment in the


At first, she and a male friend shared

the apartment. They agreed that he would

pay the rent, and she would pay the

electricity bill; an aide covered by Medicaid

would help with her daily needs. But her

roommate stopped paying rent and moved

out, leaving $5,070 in arrears.

That is when her sister and Yadriel

moved in.

“I had a problem with my rent, and she

had one with her rent,” Ms. Ventura said,

“so I came here.” She had hoped, she said,

that their combined forces would provide a

solution to their money problems.

Ms. Toro receives $576 a month in

Social Security disability payments and

$200 a month in food stamps. Ms. Ventura

earns $836 a month from her job at

Roosevelt Hospital. The family’s rent is

$801, and their Consolidated Edison monthly

bills average $225. Food costs about $300

a month, with other expenses including

health insurance premiums, clothes and

school supplies.

Ms. Ventura, who delivers food to

patients at Roosevelt, used $1,800 — all of

her savings — to chip away at her sister’s

apartment debt, before turning to Catholic

Charities Archdiocese of NewYork, one of

the agencies supported by The New York

Times Neediest Cases Fund.

A Catholic Charities caseworker, Keisha

Edwards, combined $1,945 from Catholic

Charities’ HomeBase with $300 from the

Neediest Cases Fund to cover the bulk of

the deficit, and worked with the Bridge

Fund of New York, an agency devoted

to preventing homelessness, to get the

remaining $1,025.

Ms. Toro claimed the living room as her

sanctuary; she rarely strays from her bed

there, getting up only to use the bathroom.

It is frustrating. “I wasn’t able to move

around, and I used to go outside every

day,” she said.

Fortunately, she is easily amused. Large

parts of her day are spent watching Spanish

soap operas and the plethora of campy

movies broadcast by the Syfy channel.

Pranks are also part of Ms. Toro’s

entertainment. On occasion, she has called

Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Marianela Toro suffered a stroke that

caused most of her left side to be paralyzed.

A sister and nephew live with her.

for Yadriel to bring her a glass of water.

Once he hands it to her, Ms. Toro pretends

to be startled and douses her nephew with

the glass’s contents. Yadriel says he has

repaid her by hiding behind the bathroom

shower curtain and scaring her.

“I would do it all over again,” Yadriel

said of the constant help he had given to

his aunt for the past two years. “She always

took care of me growing up.”

Yadriel even tries to lends a financial

hand to the household, buying bags of

candy bars at BJ’s Wholesale Club and

selling them to his classmates. Ms. Toro

has two adult children who live on their

own and cannot help financially.

Despite the family’s tight budget and

Ms. Toro’s limited mobility, she remains

upbeat, relying on her family’s support.

On Thursday, a motorized wheelchair

arrived. She had one specific mission in

mind:“I’ll be in the streets, window shopping

with wheels.”

Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.


New York Times METRO Thursday, November 15, 2012

Left Blind After a Mugging, a Son Is

Still Driven to Support His Family


Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Carlos Castro, 26, in the basement

apartment in Queens that he shares

with his mother.

Carlos Castro does not remember the last

thing he saw before losing consciousness

on March 7, 2003. He collapsed onto a

sidewalk in Flushing, Queens, after one of

the five attackers he had been fleeing

stabbed him in his chest, shoulder and


But the memory of what Mr. Castro,

then 16, first glimpsed when his eyes

opened next is indelible. “It was black,” he

said. “I had no sight.”

The attack, prompted by Mr. Castro’s

refusal to hand over money to a group of

masked muggers who had approached him

and two friends, put him in a coma for two

weeks. He had suffered severe blood loss,

cardiac arrest and three strokes. The lack of

oxygen to his brain resulted in damage to

his occipital lobe, leaving him blind. His

attacker served time in prison for the crime.

Once out of the coma, Mr. Castro

remained in the hospital for a month of

recovery. Acceptance of his condition took

much longer. He recalled being in denial,

believing that his problem could be fixed

with eye drops. He spoke of a total aversion

to ever learning Braille. The first time he

was given a cane, he snapped it in half,

and refused to use it.

After being bruised from stumbling down

a flight of stairs and walking into objects,

Mr. Castro realized that a cane was

necessary. He also began looking for

organizations that would help him learn how

to adapt to life without sight. With their

help, he received training on how to do the

basics like cooking, shopping and even

navigating city streets.

Throughout it all, Mr. Castro, now 26,

fruitlessly sought a cure for his blindness,

often visiting doctors and even receiving

treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. His

mother, Ana, 66, flew him to Colombia in

2005, to meet with an herbalist, in the city

of Buga.

“The first night that I took the herbs,

I woke up and felt a warm sensation on

the back of my brain,” Mr. Castro said.

“I started just blinking, like something was

trying to turn on.”

Whether the herbs were the trigger is

unknown. But that moment marked the

beginning of the gradual restoration of his

eyesight. He began to discern shadows,

which led to his distinguishing shapes and

seeing colors. Though Mr. Castro is still

legally blind, his vision has improved to

the point where he can see some objects in

front of him and read 12-point print. His

peripheral vision remains damaged.

“I used to notice improvements every

three, four months,” he said. “Now it’s

maybe once a year.”

In 2010, something else was taken away

from him: his home. Mr. Castro’s stepfather

announced that he had met another woman

and planned to marry her, and told him

and his mother to leave the apartment they

all shared, Mr. Castro said. With nowhere

to go, the pair entered a homeless shelter.

Driven to find steadier work than the

numerous temporary jobs he held over

the years, and an employer who would not

discriminate against his visual impairment,

Mr. Castro sought the help of the Catholic

Charities Guild for the Blind. In April,

he completed interpreter classes and has

found freelance work as an interpreter for

Spanish-speaking patients and clients at

two hospitals, for the city Education

Department, and with the Administration

for Children’s Services.

The only jacket he owned was full of

holes, and his shoes were worn out. So

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New

York, one of the agencies supported by

The NewYork Times Neediest Cases Fund,

withdrew $300 from the fund so that

Mr. Castro could purchase a suitable work


With some of the money he has earned,

Mr. Castro paid for classes for his mother

to learn how to be a home attendant, in the

hope she will find work. Mr. Castro knows

it will be challenging for a person her age

to be hired. At the moment her only source

of income is $60 a month in food stamps,

while Mr. Castro receives $240 a month in

Social Security disability.

Mr. Castro now has three goals: to land a

full-time job, enroll in college to become a

physical therapist and secure an apartment

for him and his mother.

In October, he and his mother were

forced to leave the homeless shelter because

of the income earned from his freelance

work. The pair now live in a cramped

basement apartment in East Elmhurst,

Queens, that has just one mattress.

Mr. Castro said that it was frustrating to

run into these obstacles, and that despite

all his accomplishments, he was still left

in a financial limbo. He is trying to simply

stay optimistic.

“There’s people who invent stories to

get S.S.I., there’s just people who sit

all day, they don’t do nothing,” he said.

“It’s messed up, because I’m actually



Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

Welcoming and Integrating

Immigrants and Refugees

Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission. 22

New York Times METRO Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Borrowed Hearing Aid

Opens New World to Teenager


Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Vladimir Gongora, 17, moved to New York

from El Salvador earlier this year.

He is hearing-impaired and had never

received formal training until he began

school in New York.

He thought he was the only one.

There were no other deaf people in

Cuyantepeque, El Salvador, the isolated

farming village where Vladimir Gongora,

17, lived for most of his life. Nestled

between mountains, the town also had no

health center and, until recently, no road

access for cars.

For Vladimir, there was also no school:

Because he could not hear or speak,

teachers shut him out, his family said.

For years he lingered by the school doors

at recess, waiting for other children to exit,

waiting for playmates. He communicated

only with his two sisters and grandparents,

using hand signals they had invented.

No one informed him that other deaf

people existed.

And so in 1997, Vladimir’s father, Jose

Gongora, left for the United States. First,

he aimed simply to make money for his

growing family. But as he learned more of

his son’s seclusion, a new, unshakable goal

emerged: He would bring Vladimir to New

York, where his son could get help.

“He didn’t hear, he didn’t speak,”

Mr. Gongora said, speaking in Spanish.

“But the understanding was there. I

thought: ‘He wants to be something.

Something — yes.’ ”

Since immigrating, Mr. Gongora has

risen at 5:30 a.m. to work for a landscaping

company, spending tens of thousands of

hours laying sprinklers and hanging

Christmas decorations. In 2003, he brought

his wife, Dolores, to New York.

And then in May, after more than a

decade away from his father, Vladimir

walked through the doors of the family’s

apartment in Flushing, Queens, and into

the arms of Mr. Gongora.

Since then,Vladimir’s world has exploded

into an ever-expanding kaleidoscope of

communication. In October, he began

attending the Lexington School for the

Deaf in Jackson Heights, Queens, which

often helps hearing-impaired children from

outside the United States. There, he is

learning American Sign Language. He has

begun to read and write. He has made

other hearing-impaired friends.

And, for the first time, Vladimir has met

deaf people with professions and families

of their own.

“He’s signing more, with the expectation

that people are going to understand him,”

said Julia Schafer, a caseworker at Catholic

Charities Archdiocese of New York who

works closely with the family.

When Vladimir began school, his family

realized that to practice new words,

he would need an inexpensive computer.

Through Catholic Charities, one of the

agencies supported by The New York

Times Neediest Cases Fund, Ms. Schafer

helped the family apply for a $440 grant

from the fund, and the Gongoras bought

a laptop.

On a recent Tuesday, Vladimir opened

the laptop to reveal a program designed to

teach sign language. His father stood by,

and the two began discussing Vladimir’s

trajectory. They have adopted a hand

language that is uniquely theirs. Their

arms began to fly. At school, “there are so

many children that don’t speak, just like

him,” Mr. Gongora said. “He felt like he

had company.”

And after knocking on the doors of the

hearing community for so many years,

Vladimir has finally found an opening.A test

recently revealed that he has 30 percent

hearing in one ear, and the Lexington

School lent him a hearing aid.

But at the end of each day, he must

leave the device behind.

It opens up the possibility that Vladimir

could begin to speak. Mr. Gongora wants

desperately to buy one for his son, but he

has no idea when he will be able to raise

the $1,500 needed for the purchase.

His monthly earnings at the landscaping

company, typically $2,400, disappear

quickly once the $1,550-a-month rent and

other bills are paid and food is bought for

Vladimir, his mother and his 2-year-old

sister. Anything extra goes back to El

Salvador, where Mr. Gongora and his wife

have two teenage daughters.

“He asks me, ‘¿Cuándo?’” Mr. Gongora

said. “ ‘When are we going to be able to

buy one?’ ”

For now, that goal is out of reach. “He says

he wants to work here,” said Mr. Gongora,

who never went to school, “and later get a

car. He dreams a lot, right?

“ ‘Everything in time,’ I tell him. ‘Step

by step.’ ”

23 Copyright ©2013 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

New York Times METRO Saturday, December 29, 2012

Venezuelan Finds Asylum,

and a Career, in New York


It is very difficult for Maria Marquez, 33,

to talk about her past. She can be specific

about certain things, but not many. The

danger just feels too real.

“I’m afraid,” Ms. Marquez said anxiously

in her Elmhurst, Queens, apartment, an

intensity in her eyes. “There have been

kidnappings. People killed.”

A refugee from Venezuela, Ms. Marquez

carries herself with a confident yet cautious

air. She lives alone with her orange cat,

Max, who is less aware of her need to

mask fear.

“Where could he hide? This time he

outsmarted me,” Ms. Marquez said to

herself as she combed her tiny apartment

looking for Max, her friend and a source

of security. “Oh, there he is!”

Nestled inside a large purple bag, Max

barely moved when she pulled it away from

his body and placed him in her lap.

Ms. Marquez was granted asylum in the

United States in August. She first came to

this country in the late1990s, when she was

19, on a student visa to attend the University

of South Carolina.

“I had been threatened by Chávez youth

groups,” she said. “My parents thought I

should come here and study in the hopes

that things would get better. It got worse.”

Ms. Marquez was active in the Christian

Democratic Party in Venezuela, helping to

campaign against Hugo Chávez, the leader

of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela

before he became president in 1999.

Ms. Marquez’s father was a lawyer and

businessman, and her mother worked as a

congressional assistant for the Christian


“I was very devout; we tried to motivate

people to vote,” Ms. Marquez recalled.

“I was beaten up sometimes.”

Unrest in her home country pushed

Ms. Marquez to be successful in the

United States. After receiving her bachelor’s

degree, and then a master’s in social work,

she received a work visa and found a job as

a social worker with FEGS Health and

Human Services in New York.

She worked there for four years, happily.

“I loved my job,” she said. “I always wanted

to help people, ever since I was a kid.”

In June, however, her visa expired,

and she lost her job. Faced with having to

return to Venezuela, she had decided that

the only way to stay safe was to apply for

asylum: Ms. Marquez initiated her

application in the spring.

Though the application was approved in

August, she lost work and had to use all of

her savings to pay her bills.

Ms. Marquez’s monthly rent is $1,032;

food, electricity and other expenses run

more than $400 each month. Fearing

eviction and seeking help as a refugee,

she turned to Catholic CharitiesArchdiocese

of New York, one of the organizations

supported by The NewYork Times Neediest

Cases Fund, for help.

“I always kept in mind that I could

be the one in the shoes of my clients,”

Ms. Marquez said of the switch in roles

from social worker to client. “It feels

uncomfortable sometimes, but I am a human

being, and sometimes you are going to be

in situations where you ask for help.”

A social worker connected Ms. Marquez

to Match Grant, a federally financed

program for refugees that gave her $289

a month for expenses for four months,

beginning in September. She also received

a grant of $294 from the Neediest Cases

Fund, the cost of taking the NewYork State

social work licensing exam.

“I’m studying for the exam because it

will give me more money and more

opportunities to work,” she said. “I want to

work with foreigners and immigrants. I want

to help people to get where I am.”

This month, Ms. Marquez found

part-time employment as a school social

worker at the Western Queens Consultation

Uli Seit for The New York Times

Maria Marquez in her apartment in

Elmhurst, Queens. She has a part-time

job in social work and is preparing

for a licensing exam.

Center. She will not receive her first

paycheck, however, until Jan. 7, and she

still owes $1,600 in rent.

“Right now I’m behind,” she said, once

again wondering where Max had gone.

“I’m feeling that if I don’t get the money

before year’s end, they will send me to

the lawyers.”

Ms. Marquez’s studio apartment has

many nooks that can lure a cat into hiding.

The main room, which doubles as her

bedroom and living room, is cluttered with

odds and ends, chewed-up mouse toys,

clothing haphazardly strewed about and

awkwardly placed furniture. After apologizing

for the mess, Ms. Marquez disclosed

that she had a learning disability that

impaired her spatial orientation.

Organization has always been hard for

her, as is driving, she said, but she sees

the disability as yet another way she can

relate to people who also have difficulties

to overcome.

“I have strategized many things as an

adult,” she said, adding: “But my mom’s

going to kill me! ‘You, in front of that

camera with that house so messy?’ ”

Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.


New York Times METRO Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Survivor of Torture Finds

a Safe Haven in New York


Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Ahamed Idrissou, right, with his wife,

Ziyratou Moussa, holding child,

and some of their other children at

their Bronx apartment.

Ahamed Idrissou, his wife and their seven

children all live in a small two-bedroom

apartment in the West Bronx. And while

space is tight, Mr. Idrissou is not complaining:

they are together and safe.

In his native Togo, which had long been

under the control of a military dictatorship,

Mr. Idrissou was persecuted for years,

imprisoned and tortured. He was granted

asylum in the United States after fleeing

in 2006, but his family remained in Togo

until 2010.

“It was a very difficult time for me,”

Mr. Idrissou, 55, said of the years of

separation. “I was afraid to call my family

because the government listens to phone


The government, which was under the

rule of Gen. Gnassingbé Eyadéma for almost

40 years, operated with a heavy hand,

making Togo, in West Africa, one of the

continent’s most closed and repressive

nations. “People talk about change, but I

tried to do something to change the

government,” Mr. Idrissou said. He was a

member of Togo’s Cotocoli ethnic group,

and had only been loosely involved with

the democratic movement that began in1990.

He became an official member of a political

party, the Democratic Convention ofAfrican

Peoples, citing the vast disparity between

those with the power and those without.

“I gave money to the opposition,” he said.

In Togo, he said, “People die for nothing.

It costs only 55 cents to buy medicine, and

people still die.”

Mr. Idrissou’s politics, ethnicity and

business status had placed him on the

government’s radar. He owned his own

business importing and exporting cars,

and selling car parts from Africa to Europe

and the United States. He also owned and

operated commercial buses.

In 1993, he was arrested and taken to a

military camp where he was interrogated

under torture. For five weeks, he was

repeatedly beaten and humiliated; some of

his teeth were pulled out.

He was released but was arrested,

tortured and imprisoned several more times,

he said.

His buses were repeatedly commandeered.

On one occasion in 2004, soldiers

removed four passengers from a bus and

made Mr. Idrissou take a government

official on a two-hour trip. The waiting

passengers were forced to their knees at

gunpoint until Mr. Idrissou returned.

After General Eyadéma’s death in

2005, the military installed his son Faure

Gnassingbé, and then engineered his

formal election; that election incited a tide

of violence and civil dissent. Mr. Idrissou

said the situation became even more

dangerous for him.

In September 2006, one of his sons

warned him that men had come to their

home to arrest him again. Fearing for his

life, Mr. Idrissou did not return home but

fled to the United States, where he was

granted asylum. He was determined to

have his family join him, and for that he

needed money. With help from Catholic

Charities of the Archdiocese of New York,

he obtained the green card he needed to

get a job.

An opportunity came along one day while

he was riding the subway. He spotted a

fellow countryman wearing a yellow jacket

and learned that the man worked for

CitySights, the New York City tour bus

agency. It was not long before he was

donning the bright uniform and making

his living on street corners, encouraging

tourists to take sightseeing jaunts around


In 2010, he had earned enough money

to send for his family. They arrived in

September of that year. But not all of his

children made it. His daughter Karima died

in 2008 at age 16. “She died from typhoid

fever,” he said. “There was no medication.”

He and his wife, Ziyratou Moussa, 43,

had another child, Idris, now 9 months, who

was born in the United States. The rest of

his children, ranging in age from 16 to 20,

are in high school and learning English.

In his job selling tickets, Mr. Idrissou

earns $1,032 a month; the family receives

$470 monthly in food stamps and a housing

subsidy. But the family’s income barely

covers expenses.To help, Catholic Charities,

one of the agencies supported by The New

York Times Neediest Cases Fund, secured

a grant from the fund of $310 to buy the

books, backpacks and other school supplies

for the children.

Mr. Idrissou knows he is lucky to have

found a safe haven. He participates in the

Bellevue/N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of

Torture to cope with his past, but remains

concerned for Togo’s future. “In America,

people cry, but there is food,” he said. “In

my country, the bellies are very empty.

Maybe if the government is changed, my

country will change for the better.”

25 Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

Featured Agency Directory

The Catholic Charities, a federation of 90 agencies in New York City and the Hudson Valley, provides services

that touch almost every human need. Below are those federation agencies that had their work with clients

highlighted in the 2012-2013 New York Times Neediest Cases Campaign and featured in this booklet.

Catholic Big Sisters and Big Brothers, NYC

137 E 2nd Street

New York, NY 10009

(212) 475-3291

Dominican Sisters Family Health Service

299 North Highland Avenue

Ossining, NY 10562

(914) 941-1654

Catholic Charities Community Services

1011 First Avenue 6th Floor

New York, NY 10022

(212) 371-1000

Elinor Martin Residence for Mother & Child

86 Mayflower Avenue

New Rochelle, NY 10801

(914) 235-0505

Covenant House New York

460 W 41st Street

New York, NY 10036

(212) 613-0300

Grace Institute

1233 Second Avenue

New York, NY 10065

(212) 832-7605


73 Lenox Avenue

New York, NY 10026

(212) 663-1975

St. Raymond Community Outreach Center

71 Metropolitan Oval 2nd Floor

Bronx, NY 10462

(718) 824-0353

Project Manager: Pierette Imbriano

Produced by: Amelia Lopez

Written/edited & compiled by: Alice Kenny

Publisher: Joseph Ferruzzi Associates, Inc.

Designer: Ken Rabinowitz



FOR HELP: 888-744-7900

TO HELP: 646-794-2051

1011 FIRST AVENUE •11TH FLOOR • NEW YORK, NY 10022-4112

27 Copyright ©2012 The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

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