Recognizing Jennifer Escobar & Rita Pascarella-Ronk: Pillars of Change Honorees

Jennifer and Rita are 2019 Pillars of Change honorees.

In anticipation of Pillars of Change on June 11th, we are highlighting Sanctuary Volunteers who will be honored at the volunteer recognition event! Learn More and Register for Pillars of Change.

Rita Pascarella-Ronk was introduced to Sanctuary for Families over 15 years ago through former Board President and the current Chair of Sanctuary’s President’s Council, Stephanie Ferdman. After being involved for a while Rita recalls, “The most memorable incident was when one of my friends was having a difficult day and asked me to dinner to catch up and talk. I was already committed to attending the graduation for clients in Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program and told my friend that she could come with me. To see the women stand up and be proud of each other and their accomplishments, my friend looked at me and said: “Thank you, I needed this perspective”. From that day forward this friend has never stopped volunteering and being involved with Sanctuary.”

That friend was Rita’s colleague, Jennifer Escobar! Since Rita introduced Jen to the Sanctuary network, they have been an incredible team of support for the agency and the clients we support. The two friends have moved jobs (together!) and have created and grown a multi-faceted partnership with their current employer, City National Bank. Over the past two years, Rita and Jen have organized multiple trainings for their colleagues at the bank that cover an in-depth overview of Sanctuary for Families and the challenges faced by clients. The wonderful colleagues within the bank’s Women’s Network have volunteered their time and skills, creating a customized, once-a-month, Financial Development series for the clients living at Sanctuary’s large, transitional residence, Sarah Burke House.

Sarah Burke House is New York’s largest transitional housing shelter located in the south Bronx. The shelter houses 58 families at any given time and provides supportive services to the residents as well as those who have moved out of the shelter through their comprehensive Aftercare Program. Lorena Zavala, a Case Manager at Sarah Burke House shares: “Jen and Rita foster a warm, welcoming, learning environment. This much-needed service is vital for our clients in getting back on their feet after shelter, and Rita and Jen have perfected making our clients feel comfortable and safe around a topic as daunting as personal finances. Their programming has made a huge impact on the lives of our survivors by making financial planning accessible, giving them the tools to progress toward their financial goals, and for some of our residents, providing the first encouragement and guidance to help them become financially independent. They even ensured diversity within the group of volunteers which made a big impact on the residents and helped everyone feel that their financial goals are attainable.”

Although Jen and Rita most often volunteer as a dynamic duo, they each have volunteered as individuals in “personal volunteer side projects” including but not limited to: resume writing, mock interviews, providing support to individual clients, participating as members of our Career Advancement Network which supports the clients within the Economic Empowerment Program, organizing volunteers to provide hundreds of Mother’s Day shoeboxes (thanks to Shoebox NYC) and participating in our gift drives during the end-of-year holiday season.

On one particular occasion, I had one of the women I was helping prepare a budget look at me with tears in her eyes and ask why I was doing this for her and I could only respond, “Why wouldn’t I?” Everyone deserves to be helped. She was so grateful, we hugged at the end of our meeting.” -Jen

“I hope showing up for the events shows the women they have individuals who are cheering for their success and are willing to help them.” – Rita 

“The idea that a small investment of my knowledge and time I can help make a positive impact in someone’s life is very rewarding.” – Jennifer Escobar

We thank Rita and Jen for their combined years of service to Sanctuary for Families. They both have provided an immeasurable amount of educational tools, resources, and encouragement to the lives they have touched, and our clients and staff alike are eternally grateful!

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on June 11th, 2019 to recognize Rita, Jen, and all of our volunteers for their dedicated service. Please RSVP for Pillars of Change today!

Recognizing Gail Friedman: A Pillars of Change Honoree

Gail is a 2019 Pillars of Change honoree.

In anticipation of Pillars of Change on June 11th, we are highlighting Sanctuary Volunteers who will be honored at the volunteer recognition event! Learn More and Register for Pillars of Change.

“When I am at Sanctuary for Families, I am surrounded by family, and I am home.” – Gail

Approximately three years ago, Gail Friedman became an invaluable member to Sanctuary’s In-kind donations team.

Since her first day, Gail has been working in Sanctuary’s Butterfly Boutique and adjacent storage room. The onsite clothing boutique is space at Sanctuary’s Manhattan service providing an office where clients and their children can select from a range of new and like-new donations in a calming and empowering environment. Donations of clothing and other items are an important way that Sanctuary can meet the immediate needs of clients and help them on their paths to safety and independence.

Gail began volunteering at Sanctuary’s original lower Manhattan office and continued to volunteer the agency’s big move to a new location – a location where the Butterfly Boutique did not yet exist. Sanctuary’s Director of Corporate and Volunteer Relations explains, “We didn’t have a Boutique, and our only “In-kind” staff member had just left to return to school. I knew it was going to take a lot to get the in-kind donations program up and running again, but with Gail’s ‘can-do’ attitude and support, I knew it was possible.”

After raising her own family, Gail felt that it was the right time to give back to an organization that provided so much support to so many people. Gail has not only been essential in organizing and maintaining such an integral part of the in-kind program but goes above and beyond to provide a warm and welcoming experience for clients.

“I want clients to leave the Boutique not only with clothing but with a feeling of self-worth.” – Gail

Additionally, because the service is open to all clients throughout the agency, Gail has touched many lives of those who she has never met at Sanctuary’s other 10 locations. “Gail has been one of the best volunteers I have interacted with, ever! She is always very cheerful and ready to assist our clients. I have multiple clients who ask for her and thank her for all that she does for them just by being in the Boutique. Gail has given clothes and items to clients who are the most in need. Always very friendly, kind, respectful, tentative, caring, compassionate, and many more descriptive words,” says Melina Hernandez, Matrimonial and Economic Justice Project Assistant.

Marissa Rosenberg-Carlson, a Case Manager within the Anti-Trafficking Initiative, shares that many of her clients look forward to seeing Gail when they come to Sanctuary for appointments. She says, “Gail always remembers what clients like & details about their children, and she goes to great lengths to make them feel comfortable and supported. Seeing her is often a highlight for my clients, particularly after they discuss heavy topics in case management sessions.”

We thank Gail for her years of commitment to Sanctuary’s staff and clients! Her impact is felt far beyond what can be expressed in words.

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on June 11th, 2019 to recognize Gail and all of our volunteers for their dedicated service. Please RSVP for Pillars of Change today!

Recognizing Joy Harris: A Pillars of Change Honoree

Joy is a 2019 Pillars of Change honoree.

In anticipation of Pillars of Change on June 11th, we are highlighting Sanctuary Volunteers who will be honored at the volunteer recognition event! Learn More and Register for Pillars of Change.

Three years ago, after being introduced by a mutual friend, Joy Harris had the opportunity to discuss Sanctuary for Families with Lori Cohen, the Director of Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative.

The Anti-Trafficking Initiative (ATI) provides targeted outreach and services to survivors of sex trafficking. ATI staff support this especially vulnerable population through high quality and holistic civil legal services, while also helping to sensitize and strengthen the response to sex trafficking through their work with criminal justice officials and judges. Since the majority of Sanctuary’s clients within the Anti-Trafficking Initiative are immigrants, staff also leverages their extensive experience in immigration law to help survivors obtain immigration status through T visas and other means.

As a small business owner, Joy searched for an opportunity to give back that easily fit in her busy life, and Lori suggested the perfect opportunity. Lori introduced Joy to one of her clients, Margarita, and her two daughters – the youngest just a newborn when they met. Joy has met with Margarita and her girls weekly for over three years. Joy tutors Margarita in English while also helping the eldest daughter with her homework. As a group, they also enjoy talking and playing games! Joy has been integral to providing familiarity, comfort, consistency, and love to this family, and everyone at Sanctuary who has worked with Margarita and her girls is incredibly grateful for her support.

Joy’s name aptly conveys the impact of her contribution as a volunteer. She brings so much joy into the lives of our client and her two children while imparting the invaluable skill of speaking English with a non-Spanish speaker.  – Lori Cohen

Joy shares that the most memorable part of her tutoring sessions has been to watch the girls grow, and to be a consistent part of their educational growth.

Lori Cohen says, “Joy’s sustained dedication to this client – meeting weekly for over three years – would have been enough to merit this nomination. However, Joy has become so much more than an English language partner. Trafficking clients frequently experience intense isolation after they escape, and Joy has reminded our client that she is not alone in this world, that other people care about her and truly love her.”

Thank you, Joy, for your incredible dedication to this special family!

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on June 11th, 2019 to recognize Joy and all of our volunteers for their dedicated service. Please RSVP for Pillars of Change today!

Recognizing April Wilson: A Pillars of Change Honoree

April is a 2019 Pillars of Change honoree.

In anticipation of Pillars of Change on June 11th, we are highlighting Sanctuary Volunteers who will be honored at the volunteer recognition event! Learn More and Register for Pillars of Change.

In 2014, April Wilson was introduced to Sanctuary for Families through Mary Ann Mailman, one of Sanctuary for Families’ earliest Board members, a beloved Board President, and overall agency supporter for over 30 years.

April worked as a television producer and editor and was encouraged by Mary Ann to share her incredible talents with Sanctuary for Families.

April has always been an advocate for women’s rights, previously volunteering at a women’s shelter in college. Due to her interests and former volunteer position, she felt a close connection with Sanctuary and was especially inspired by Sanctuary’s wrap-around service model to give back.

Every spring, our Annual Benefit is our largest fundraising event and this year our goal is to raise $2.2 million to support Sanctuary’s programs and services for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence.

April has become an invaluable volunteer to Sanctuary’s Development Team through volunteering her time and skills to create the agency’s Annual Fundraising video since 2014. For the past five years, April has given over 80 hours each year shooting, editing, revising, tweaking, mixing, and outputting the annual video. It is an incredible amount of work and we are so grateful for April’s support and expertise. She volunteers an amazing amount of time and energy all while balancing a full-time job and a family. April always amazes the staff she works with by continually trying to brainstorm ways to improve her work to find the best and most impactful way to showcase the agency and the courageous journeys of the clients we support.

Sanctuary’s Director of Individual Giving and Special Events, Amy Abramson, shares:

“I was immediately drawn to her kindness, openness, and interest in sharing our clients’ stories with the world.”

Amy goes on to say, “April’s support and expertise have offered Sanctuary the ability to get our message out into the world by providing a means for clients to share their stories in a safe, welcoming environment. She is deeply sensitive to our clients’ needs throughout every step in the process, and her work puts Sanctuary and our clients in the best possible light when we are sharing their stories with the world. She is interested in the many issues involved in Sanctuary’s work and is always looking for more information about our services to share them with her own family and community. As an example, recently, April held a small ‘salon’ with her family and friends in her hometown in Texas to talk about these issues, bringing materials and information that she learned from her time working with Sanctuary. In short, we could not do what we do at our events and beyond without April’s priceless help.”

Pillars of Change is an opportunity to honor extraordinary volunteers like April who bring skills, experience, and passion to our staff and hope and opportunity to our clients.

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on June 11th, 2019 to recognize April and all of our volunteers for their dedicated service. Please RSVP for Pillars of Change today!