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(New York, NY)–HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services raised over $325,000 at its Annual Benefit on Monday, October 17 at Tribeca 360 for the over 6,000 children, adults and families in its care.
Over 450 guests attended the event. HSVS honored Andy Sukhu with the Fred and Nancy DeMatteis Award, Melody Joanne Centeno with the inaugural Rising Star Award and Diamond Henry with the Rev. Msgr. Robert M. Harris Youth of the Year Award.
Sukhu, who is the founder and CEO of Y2K Credit Solutions, spoke about his connection with young men and women in foster care, which emerged after he opened internship opportunities to them at his company. Centeno, who grew up in care and was an American Dream Scholar, shared her struggles growing up, including living in at least 10 different foster homes. “The staff always told me to keep going,” said Centeno, who earned her BS and later MSW from Adelphi University. Centeno recently launched Foster Care Unplugged, an advocacy group to raise awareness of issues affecting youth in foster care.
Diamond Henry, a high school senior, was nominated as the agency’s Youth of the Year, for her extraordinary personal and academic strides. As a child, Henry entered foster care when her mother was deported to Guyana. She entered into care again recently when her adoptive mother became very sick. At an HSVS group home for young ladies in Staten Island, Diamond became an avid reader and hopes to become an English teacher one day.
“I would get lost in books. I would pull a motivational quote every day for my bedroom wall. I then started posting a quote on the door of the group home each day because I wanted my housemates to be uplifted as well,” she shared. Diamond’s self-starter attitude has helped her thrive in school and with the support of HSVS looks forward to attending college next year.
The event also premiered a video story about Eric Williams, who grew up in the care of the agency. Very much like honoree Melody Centeno, Williams recalled the consistent presence of supportive adults throughout the HSVS community, who encouraged him to earn his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Williams now runs the HSVS group homes “that raised him,” he noted in the video.
During a mobile campaign, guests pledged $40,000 in donations, exceeding the $25,000 goal in five minutes. The event also was made possibly with the support of generous sponsors, who were acknowledged in a program journal.
Actor Sean Ringgold, known for his work on One Life to Live, Orange is the New Black, Billions, Shades of Blue, The Breaks and Luke Cage (Marvel), was the event’s returning Master of Ceremonies. Other notable guests included the Hon. Stephen Levin, Hon. Benita Miller, Hon. Matthew D’Emic, Hon. Paul Grovesnor and the NYU Office of Community Engagement.
Bearded Dapper Gents, a movement started by NYC blogger and photographer George Myrie to transform how the public perceives African American men, also were in attendance. The group donated custom made suits, which young men of HSVS programs proudly wore to the event.
HSVS strives to lift New Yorkers out of poverty. To learn more about HSVS programs, visit www.hsvsnyc.org.