Recognizing Kayle Plotkin: A Pillars of Change Honoree

It’s National Volunteer Recognition Week! Every day this week we’ll be highlighting a Sanctuary volunteer

It’s National Volunteer Recognition Week! Every day this week we’ll be highlighting a Sanctuary volunteer who will be honored at our Pillars of Change Volunteer Recognition Event on May 10th. Learn More and Register for Pillars of Change.

Kayle Plotkin has been volunteering with Sanctuary for Families for five years, after being referred to the Volunteer Program by a friend of her daughter who had completed an internship at Sanctuary. She had previously volunteered at a domestic violence organization in Connecticut and was interested in Sanctuary’s work from the first time she heard about it.

“I believed from the beginning that the work Sanctuary does is important and focuses on those who need help the most,” Kayle explains.

Kayle volunteers her time within the Brooke Jackman Family Literacy Program at the Queens Family Justice Center, a program which is designed to engage parents and children in literacy-based activities. The Brooke Jackman Program brings together staff and volunteers to read books (in English and Spanish) with mothers and their children. The families also participate in arts and crafts and share a meal together at the end of each event. As a volunteer, Kayle has played a central role in each part of the program and has consistently gone above and beyond for our clients.

Kayle has been an unwavering and consistent presence at the Queens Family Justice Center since she started volunteering in 2013 and her ability to form strong relationships with our clients has produced some memorable interactions for Marissa Stranieri, Children’s Program Coordinator at the Queens Family Justice Center:

“Kayle is absolutely selfless and doesn’t hesitate to pitch into any task. She freely lends herself to soothe crying children, engage overwhelmed parents, or even clean up after art or a meal—she really does it all!”

Kayle’s time at Sanctuary has also resulted in some memorable moments:

“On one particular occasion, a two year old child was crying inconsolably during the reading portion of the program despite efforts from staff and the child’s mother to calm the child down.  His piercing shrieks seemed as if they wouldn’t stop, when suddenly, the crying turned into laughter. At that moment, everyone noticed Kayle dancing with the child quietly in the back of the room. She is so nurturing, she definitely has the magic touch with all of our clients!”

Kayle’s selflessness and sincere commitment to Sanctuary’s clients is commendable. “Everybody chooses something different for their ‘me time’. Some choose the gym, some choose a spa; for me, the accomplishment of working for such an amazing organization and being able to make a difference is my ‘me time’. I am so grateful to be involved and so proud.”

Pillars of Change is an opportunity to honor extraordinary volunteers like Kayle, who bring warmth, ferocity, and an infectious laugh to our staff and care and comfort to our clients.

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on May 10, 2018 to recognize Kayle and four other incredible volunteers for their service. You can join us at Pillars of Change by registering now!

Recognizing Diana Steele: A Pillars of Change Honoree

Diana is a 2018 Pillars of Change honoree.

It’s National Volunteer Recognition Week! Every day this week we’ll be highlighting a Sanctuary volunteer who will be honored at our Pillars of Change Volunteer Recognition Event on May 10th. Learn More and register for Pillars of Change.

Diana Steele has been volunteering with Sanctuary’s Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project since 2014, when she was connected to Sanctuary through the Attorney Emeritus Program.

Diana’s goal had always been to work in public interest law. Prior to her long career in corporate taxation, she had worked in nonprofit organizations such as The Legal Aid Society and the ACLU.

It was this deep commitment to public interest that inspired Diana to dedicate her time to Sanctuary for Families upon retiring.

“I had always wanted to get back into doing something more consistent with my initial public interest goals, and Sanctuary’s mission clearly fit that goal”, she explains.

In her time as a Sanctuary volunteer, Diana has become an invaluable member of the Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project team, a group of attorneys and advocates who provide survivors of gender violence with legal representation to obtain divorce, child support, child custody, and other relief to which they are entitled.

“Diana does research and writing on complex legal issues that arise in our cases.  She has handled everything from researching details about service of process in foreign jurisdictions to drafting arguments for appellate briefs,” explains Amanda Norejko, Director of the Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project.

Diana’s skill and productivity was evident from the beginning and her research and writing has played a central role in supporting a wide range of clients’ legal needs. Some of Diana’s achievements include collaborating on winning briefs in cases before the Appellate Division, providing research for manuals used to train new attorneys in housing law, and stepping in to support time-sensitive case while the primary attorney was on vacation.

“Diana is incredibly productive, enabling us to meet tight deadlines on major legal briefs. We have come to rely on her consistently excellent work product and she never disappoints us.” – Amanda Norejko.

Diana’s commitment to Sanctuary is undeniable, “The most rewarding parts of volunteering at Sanctuary are working with the dedicated, bright, and hardworking legal staff and witnessing the tremendous courage and resilience of Sanctuary clients.”

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

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on May 10, 2018 to recognize Diana and four other incredible volunteers for their service. You can join us at Pillars of Change by registering now!

Cleary Gottlieb Computer Donation Impacts Clients’ Lives

Lauren Altus is a communications intern at Sanctuary and a recent graduate from Johns Hopkins

Lauren Altus is a communications intern at Sanctuary and a recent graduate from Johns Hopkins University.


In December of 2017, longtime partner law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP donated 60 refurbished desktop computers to Sanctuary with the special help of Partner Francesca L. Odell, Pro Bono Immigration Attorney Kyle Dandelet, and Global IT Special Project Leader Lenis M. Santos. Because of this generous donation, 60 survivors and their families were able to use these computers for a wide array of activities that helped them stabilize their lives as well as prepare for the future.

Many of the families Sanctuary works with are immigrants, low income, or live in shelters. These computers have provided resources that many people take for granted in their day to day lives.  The computers went to families currently engaged in services through Sanctuary’s Clinical Department (18), Economic Empowerment Program (10), and Legal Department (32).

Here are some ways in which the computer donations have impacted the lives of the families we’re working with:

Starting a New Business

35-year old David lives in Brooklyn and is currently the sole provider for his sister, brother, and disabled mother and father. Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project (IIP) attorneys are helping David formalize his immigration status through asylum. In the interim, David has a work permit which IIP is helping him renew. The desktop computer he recently received will help him launch his new construction business.

Obtaining a High School Equivalency Diploma

Natasha was born in Guinea and is a single mother to her daughter. In August 2017, months after receiving her Green Card, Natasha enrolled in Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) at the age of 42. Although she was clearly motivated and eager to learn, one of Natasha’s first barriers to obtaining a living wage job was her lack of a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma.

While in EEP, Natasha worked incredibly hard and since graduating, she has remained dedicated to her goals. Natasha is currently enrolled in a complimentary workforce development training program offered through SUNY’s Advanced Technology and Information Network (ATTAIN) and is working on getting her HSE. She recently took the predictor for the HSE and passed nearly all sections.

The desktop computer Natasha received has allowed her to complete homework assignments and follow-up MS Office Suite trainings so she can finally receive her diploma and move forward with her vocational skills and eventual career. After working as a Home Health Aide for the past 6 years, Natasha hopes to use the skills she learned in EEP to find a job in an office or administrative setting.

Helping Children with School

At the age of 34, Lauren is a single parent and sole supporter of two teenage sons and an infant. Originally from El Salvador, today, they live together in New Jersey.

Currently, the family’s finances are tight as Lauren’s infant son has many medical problems due to a congenital heart condition. Lauren is engaged in comprehensive immigration services with Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project, and has a work permit connected to her pending asylum petition. Lauren reports that the desktop computer she received will help her children succeed in school by enabling them to complete homework assignments and eventually apply to college. Without the computer, her children would struggle to research homework questions, type assignments, and complete projects for their classes. Now that they have a computer, her children’s access to education is one less concern for Lauren.

Learning English

Originally from Mexico, Lorenza is a single mother and the sole provider for her household. Recently, she and her 2-year-old daughter moved from one of Sanctuary’s confidential shelters into a NYCHA apartment in Manhattan. Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project attorneys are also helping Lorenza apply for U Visa status.

To make ends meet, Lorenza currently works part-time as a housekeeper, and also depends on the cash and SNAP benefits she receives on behalf of her daughter. Lorenza is a monolingual Spanish-speaker, and to improve her English proficiency she is attending ESL classes. The desktop computer Lorenza received is helping her practice English and complete her homework. Lorenza also plans to explore the Microsoft Office programs which will allow her to apply for office jobs in the future.

Job Training

Originally from Venezuela, Andres is working with Sanctuary to apply for asylum. Both his initial work permit and petition for asylum are pending but Andres reports that in the interim, the desktop computer he received is helping him work toward his goals of job training, beginning a meaningful career, and eventually achieving self-sufficiency.

Working Safely

Sadie, 32, currently lives with and supports her 2-year-old daughter. This past July, Sadie escaped the abusive relationship she had been in for the past six years after her ex-partner’s erratic and violent abuse towards her, their daughter, and their family pet escalated. Throughout the relationship, her abuser was possessive and controlling, going so far as to call her coworkers and employers to make sure she was at work. He often drove the family while under the influence, and he used illegal substances while caring for their infant daughter. Sadie fled to Ohio where she felt she would be safe with her family. Ensuing court orders, however, forced her to return to New York without most of her belongings.

With help from Sanctuary’s Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP), Sadie obtained a Temporary Order of Protection against her abuser in October 2017 and is currently engaged in a contentious custody/visitation matter. Sadie is also participating in counseling offered through Sanctuary’s Clinical Department.

The computer donation has made it possible for Sadie to work remotely, giving her the flexibility she needs to care for her daughter and eventually return to school. With the long-term stability of her family in mind, Sadie hopes to return to City University of New York in fall 2018.

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We are so grateful for our longstanding partnership with Cleary Gottlieb, one that goes far beyond pro bono representation. To the team at Cleary, and on behalf of all the families who benefitted from this donation, thank you for this generous gift. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for the recipients of these computers.

Marjorie Stein: devoted, reliable, generous

Marjorie is a 2017 Pillars of Change Honoree.

It’s National Volunteer Recognition Week! Every day this week we’ll be highlighting a Sanctuary volunteer who will be honored at our Pillars of Change Volunteer Recognition Event on May 10th. Learn more and register for Pillars of Change.

Marjorie Stein was introduced to Sanctuary through her work at Hogan Lovells, one of Sanctuary’s law firm partners. Marjorie coordinated a toy drive among Hogan employees to benefit Sanctuary’s clients, her first of many important volunteer contributions.

She tells us that she was “very happy to handle events” for Sanctuary as she has always been passionate about the protection and empowerment of women.

Thanks in no small part to Marjorie’s steadfast commitment to Sanctuary, Hogan has become an even closer partner of Sanctuary in recent years and in 2014 Sanctuary was voted by Hogan employees to be their local “Touch” charity.

Marjorie has been at the forefront of multiple events and initiatives, including: gift drives and fundraisers benefitting our holiday programming and other campaigns, support of Sanctuary’s Zero Tolerance Benefit and Pillars of Change events, providing a customized legal administration training program for Economic Empowerment Program graduates, hosting career days for Sanctuary clients, and spearheading Sanctuary’s client-focused Halloween event.

Marjorie has witnessed firsthand the extraordinary impact the Halloween parties have had on our clients. Hogan staff, under the coordination of Marjorie, spend days decorating their offices and common area, designing interactive themed spaces, and collecting new costumes for each child residing in Sanctuary’s five shelters.

“I remember when I was told at the first Halloween party that one of the women said it was the first time she had seen her child smile in years. The joy and happiness of the kids at the Halloween Party is just awesome.”

Working with our Economic Empowerment Program students and graduates has been especially rewarding for Marjorie and it is evident how much she enjoys talking with clients, sharing her own story of climbing the corporate ladder, and getting to know the people that she has helped in numerous ways on a more personal basis.

Emily Lo Bue, Director of Corporate and Volunteer Relations says of her experience working with Marjorie, “Marjorie’s input in the process of developing new and better partner programs and services for our clients is invaluable. She takes an idea and makes it a hundred times better, engages people to assist, and coordinates amazing events and initiatives that meet needs that we otherwise would not be able to meet.”

After all that Marjorie has done for Sanctuary’s clients, they have taught her something which she is quick to share with others, “women are the same no matter what their backgrounds are. We all have the same hopes and dreams.”

Sanctuary hopes to work with Marjorie and Hogan Lovells on more exciting projects for a long time to come!

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on May 10, 2017 to recognize Marjorie and four other incredible volunteers for their service. You can join us at Pillars of Change by registering now!