2011 Volunteer Award Recipients
The Winifred and Edith Holt Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service: Clo and Charles S. Cohen
Clo and Charles S. Cohen, are two of our most generous philanthropists and volunteers dedicated to sustaining the Lighthouse for the future. They have maximized the valuable potential of our in-house theater for bringing audiences — and significant Conference Center revenue — to our organization. A member of the Lighthouse Board of Directors, as well as several Board committees, Charles brought his extensive expertise in real estate to refurbishing our theater, overseeing every stage of its transformation into a red-carpet-worthy facility. He engaged the architect and renowned theater designer, approved the plans and, together with Clo, most generously underwrote the cost, which totaled more than $1 million. The redesigned theater and adjacent lobby is a stunning state-of-the-art venue for members of the film industry and others to gather for movie screenings and conferences. Last fall, it was formally dedicated as The Academy Theater at Lighthouse International, enhancing our visibility locally and nationally. In addition, Charles has lent his expertise to help us refinance our mortgage, negotiate with tenants and extricate ourselves from two onerous leases for external sites. With astute leadership and savvy business skills, Charles has saved millions of dollars for the Lighthouse. Charles and Clo are also generating countless thousands more in new revenue. We could not possibly do justice to all that the Cohens have contributed to the Lighthouse both professionally and personally. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude!
Partnership Award: Ethel LeFrak and Somers Farkas
Somers Farkas, Lighthouse Director of Special Events, saw a compelling need for improving our children’s facilities and turned to an extraordinary partner and generous philanthropist to make it possible: Ethel LeFrak. Together, they toured our integrated preschool, which is a nationally recognized program where children who are visually impaired learn side by side with their sighted peers for a more enriching, holistic educational experience. They envisioned immediate enhancements, including more teaching space and updated technologies, as well as future expansion. Thanks to an extremely generous multi-million-dollar gift from Ethel, this dream is becoming a reality. We have already built a new classroom for children unable to join the integrated Pre-K program because they have multiple developmental delays, in addition to possible vision problems. And we look forward to formally dedicating The Ethel and Samuel J. LeFrak School and Children’s Services Programs next week, which will usher in an exciting new era for our youngest students. In the coming months, we will undertake a needs assessment of children in surrounding communities to explore the potential for expansion to another location, with classrooms for elementary and middle school students. To implement this visionary plan, Ethel and Somers will share the powerful message of providing hope, which we believe will inspire other donors to follow in Ethel’s far-sighted footsteps. We are profoundly grateful to Ethel for her generosity — and for partnering with Somers on behalf of all the children who take their first steps toward independence at the Lighthouse. We can’t possibly thank each of you enough!
Community Partnership Award: Fire Department — City of New York (FDNY)
When we decided to kick off our Double Up 4 Vision fundraiser with a 24-hour tandem bike relay, one of the biggest logistical challenges we faced was where to make the transitions from one team to another. That’s where New York’s bravest — the FDNY — came to the rescue! This 125-mile odyssey would touch parts of all five boroughs and feature six amazing teams. With over 200 community-based firehouses located across the City, each of which is staffed 24-hours a day, FDNY leadership was the perfect partner to help route coordinators identify five transition points that would fit the timing and distance for each leg of the relay — and assist our riders and support staff along the way. During the ride, firehouse officers and firefighters were terrific hosts and ambassadors for the world’s busiest fire department, making the riders, Lighthouse leadership and even the media feel welcome. We want to extend our deep appreciation to Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, Deputy Commissioner Frank Gribbon and Director of Special Events Lenore Koehler for their support. We also thank the officers and firefighters of Engine 273/Ladder 129 in Flushing, Engine 220/Ladder 122 in Park Slope, Engine 245/Ladder 161 in Coney Island, Engine 4/Ladder 15 in Lower Manhattan and Engine 22/Ladder 13 on the Upper East Side. Each of you helped to make the relay an experience of a lifetime for our riders!
Special Events Awards: Carol Giustino, Stephen Pearlman, Dale Simpson and Carolyn Zonino
Double Up 4 Vision could never have gotten off the ground — literally! — without the dedication of the tandem bike procurement team: Carol Giustino, Stephen Pearlman, Dale Simpson and Carolyn Zonino. Their singular focus was to find and deliver 50 tandem bikes for the event. Through their coordinated efforts, they located more than 75 — an amazing achievement, given the limited availability of these special bikes — plus 15 tag-alongs for children and ten bikes with baby seats. This feat made it possible for more than 200 participants to ride together and share the experience. They ensured that safety requirements were met, that every rider had a helmet and that bikes missing accessories like a kickstand or light were equipped. Every contingency was covered when the team arranged for mechanics to be available during the 24-hour relay and the next day’s 5K ride. Also pitching in to help with registration and clean-up before returning the bikes, this industrious team was tireless. They worked so well together and forged a bond through respect and dedication to the success of Double Up 4 Vision. The relationships they built with vendors will be invaluable to future Double Up events. Carol, Stephen, Dale and Carolyn — “the A Team!” — went well beyond their primary responsibility to make this inaugural fundraiser a resounding success. We owe each of them many thanks!
The Judy Van Nostrand Leadership Award: The Calvo Family
In honor of two-year-old Lauren Calvo — daughter of Tom and Kim, granddaughter of Rita and Joe, niece of Joseph and Mimi, and sister of Matthew — the tight-knit Calvo family created “Lauren’s Heroes,” a truly dedicated Double Up 4 Vision team. Their commitment stems from their gratitude for the help Lauren, who was born with a rare eye condition, has received from the Lighthouse Early Intervention Program. She has blossomed in so many ways since receiving vision and physical therapy, inspiring her family to give back. Their devoted efforts as volunteer leaders were fueled by their hope of ensuring that other children like Lauren can receive the same invaluable services. The Calvos set an ambitious fundraising goal of $10,000. With their contagious enthusiasm and team spirit, the Calvos launched an outreach campaign that more than doubled their goal, garnering $21,000 from over 100 donors, including family, friends, corporate colleagues and neighbors from their Staten Island community. They raised the most money as a team, which contributed enormously to the success of our event. As inspiring leaders, the Calvos are serving as Honorary Chairs for our 2011 Double Up 4 Vision; striving to excel, they have set their fundraising goal even higher this year. In addition, Rita works weekly in The Lighthouse Store and at our annual POSH® Sale. We want to extend deep thanks to her — and to the entire Calvo clan — who are part of the Lighthouse family!
Philanthropy Award: Mark Carhart and Artie Elefant
Mark Carhart and Artie Elefant could write a book about mounting a successful athletic event fundraising campaign, based on the results they achieved for the launch our first-ever Double Up 4 Vision tandem bike ride/walk. On board from the start as members of the event’s exploratory committee, first they helped to assess the feasibility of creating Double Up 4 Vision. And when they received the “green light,” Mark and Artie committed — in spectacular fashion — to support it. Together, they identified and solicited every potential donor they knew, reaching out to family, friends, colleagues and former business partners for their financial support. Through their combined efforts, they met their goal of raising $20,000 in support for Lighthouse services. This earned them the top fundraising honors among the six teams that participated in the 24-hour five-borough tandem relay. They doubled up to help kick off the event, with Mark piloting in front and Artie as the stoker in back. Nothing stopped them from their commitment to generate awareness of, and financial support for, the Lighthouse. They exhibited exceptional skill and creativity in recruiting, motivating and coordinating volunteers in sufficient numbers to bring in funds for the project they helped to initiate — and took close to heart. We want to thank each of them for their major roles in making Double Up 4 Vision such an amazing success. They are both serving as Honorary Chairs for our 2011 event, so this dynamic duo will return!
Professional Services Award: Bil Donovan
This year, we refreshed our nearly 40-year-old POSH® Sale and strategically relocated it to Manhattan’s legendary Plaza Hotel. With this exciting change, we knew we had a creative marketing challenge: to attract an even larger number of style-seeking customers to this high-end venue. We appealed for help to Bil Donovan, an artist and gifted fashion illustrator, whose prestigious clients include Christian Dior — where he is the first artist-in-residence for Christian Dior Beauty; Givenchy; Yves St. Laurent; and Vogue and Elle magazines. His stunning, seemingly effortless work has also appeared in countless other publications worldwide. When we contacted Bil, he didn’t hesitate to offer his services — and his talents — donating $25,000-30,000 worth of his professional time. Even more exceptional was that Bil was willing to drop what he was working on to meet our pressing deadlines, drawing 12 glamorous images — each one a finished masterpiece — within a mere 24 hours! We used this series on all marketing and event materials, including invitations, ads, the POSH® website and signage at The Plaza. He also kindly allowed us to work with his iconic art when we needed to make graphic adjustments. Bil has not only reinvigorated — but elevated — the POSH® brand with his talent and generous donation. This modest and approachable creative genius gave the Lighthouse a remarkable gift to boost our visibility and fundraising efforts. We want to extend our POSH thanks!
Reading Services Award: David Judson
Volunteer reader David Judson — 90 years young — was nominated by his long-time client, who deeply appreciates his dedication and continuous service. For more than ten years, he has been there to read her mail and newspapers, to help her pay bills in a timely fashion, to fill out myriad forms — and to even organize her records during stressful tax season. She adds, “David prevents me from being buried under a mountain of mysterious paperwork!” David’s client is grateful, too, that he is extremely reliable — even arriving early to fit in an extra half hour of reading; and cites several wonderful personal qualities that include his sense of humor and generosity. Year-in and year-out, David has helped to make a difference, and his client always looks forward to their sessions and lively discussions. She considers David to be a valued friend — and a very wise man — who lets her “pick his brain!” On her behalf, we recognize David for his outstanding service — and on behalf of the Lighthouse, we offer thanks for being an exemplary volunteer!
General Support Services Award: Virginia Holloway
A volunteer for 17 1/2 years — that totals an amazing 5,943 hours of service! — Virginia Holloway is one of our “unsung heroes.” Week-in and week-out, she generously gives ten hours of her time to Volunteer Resources and four hours to Reading Services. Known as the “official” timekeeper, she collects, records and updates data in Volgistics, our volunteer management system. She also audits the electronic volunteer schedule and time records in support of all our volunteers and interns, compiles monthly timekeeping reports for external organizations that have volunteer relationships with the Lighthouse and provides other administrative help. Virginia, who never fails to smile, also never fails to be here! A self-starter who takes the initiative to solve problems, she builds the foundation for reporting the value that volunteers and interns bring to our organization. For this important contribution — and all she does — we thank her!
Corporate Partnership Award: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
For more than ten years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has been a cheerleader for Lighthouse programs and services — and a most generous friend — by sharing its film resources and audiences with us. The AMPAS East Coast membership program is based here at the Lighthouse, and our theater has become — by association with such a prestigious industry leader — a venue of choice for film screenings for film festivals, and for events such as lectures and conferences for corporations and organizations. This wonderful corporate partnership has greatly enhanced our Conference Center rental offerings — and, since opening, has generated more than $500,000 in support of the Lighthouse mission of fighting vision loss. Similarly, our AMPAS association has enabled us to offer hundreds of loyal annual donors and friends the opportunity to see movies — often prior to their public release — as a thank-you for their contributions. Our donors appreciate, and look forward to, this unique benefit, which has enabled us to realize more than $1 million in donations per year. This significant revenue and support fuels our expert services, education and research on behalf of people with vision loss. Last year, we partnered with AMPAS again during the theater renovation project to install new projection and sound technologies, including 3-D, further enhancing our ability to attract rental clients and increase revenue. Upon completion, we were delighted to dedicate our new state-of-the-art facility as The Academy Theater at Lighthouse International; and tonight, we want to extend our deepest thanks to AMPAS!
Good Neighbor Award: Christoph Schmidinger, Regional VP and General Manager, Four Seasons Hotel, New York
Our Annual Volunteer Recognition and Award Ceremony is always a festive and special occasion, thanks to the support of “good neighbors”— most especially, our friends at the luxurious, five-star, five-diamond Four Seasons Hotel on East 57th Street. The Four Seasons is as renowned for its fine cuisine as for its beautiful décor and top-notch service. Under the leadership of Christoph Schmidinger, Regional VP and General Manager, the hotel has consistently made a number of generous in-kind contributions to our celebrations. Each year, the hotel donates its catering services, offering our many guests tempting delicacies prepared by the hotel’s legendary chef and kitchen. In addition to helping us feed our valued volunteers in style, Christoph arranges for the hotel to donate a complimentary weekend stay in great style for one lucky volunteer! We are grateful to Christoph and his colleagues for helping to make this event memorable — and delicious!
President’s Lifetime Service Award: The Women’s Committee of Lighthouse International
The Women’s Committee of Lighthouse International has been an influential force since the early 1940s. Founded by incredibly dedicated women whose foresight helped to bring public attention to vision impairment, and created extraordinary events, such as POSH® — our signature fashion fundraiser — the Women’s Committee is the jewel in the crown of Lighthouse volunteerism. Year after year, POSH® raises hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of vital Lighthouse programs and services that help people of all ages overcome the challenges of vision loss. Since its founding in 1972, POSH® has raised more than $10 million — sorely needed funds that help our patients and clients become productive and independent. Thirty-two years ago, the Women’s Committee also created our Scholarships and Career Awards Program to foster academic achievement and nurture successful careers for people with vision loss. Every year, recipients share their inspiring personal stories, which showcase the Lighthouse commitment to helping people who are visually impaired fulfill their highest potential. The Women’s Committee embraces this philosophy, and helps raise funds to build the program’s endowment. For decades, legendary women such as Jean Stralem, Benay Venuta, Hope G. Solinger and Judy Van Nostrand carried the Committee’s mantle; and today, President Carol Dudley Katzka continues the tradition. This spirit of leadership has inspired many generations of women to join the Committee, lending their time and talents to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. The Women’s Committee continues to be a valued, powerful philanthropic partner, whose collective work and accomplishments are deserving of this special recognition award. We extend thanks to each and every member for their tireless commitment!