Giving back to our communities is a cornerstone of Houlihan Lawrence, and is more important now than ever.
We are inspired by stories of our agents and offices giving back to their communities during the COVID-19 crisis. It is truly a bright spot during this difficult time. Whether making masks at home, serving on the front lines as EMTs, donating food, helping neighbors or homeschooling children, the ways we are giving are countless.
Read on to learn just some of the ways our Houlihan Lawrence Heroes are going above and beyond to support our communities North of NYC.
The Houlihan Lawrence Rivertowns Team
The Houlihan Lawrence Rivertowns team has come together to hold a virtual charity drive in support of the Police & Ambulance Corp members. So far, the agents have raised over $1500 to purchase gift cards from local restaurants to ‘pay forward’ to the local village first responders. Each village department – Irvington, Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, Elmsford and Ardsley – will be receiving a letter thanking them for their service during the COVID-19 crisis, along with $200 of gift cards to supply takeout meals for first responders on duty. A double giving back win: supporting local restaurants who are so in need and the village’s first responders who are so selflessly serving.
Johanna Kline, Houlihan Lawrence Chappaqua Brokerage
Chappaqua agent Johanna Kline joined the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corp (CVAC) a year ago, knowing she wanted to help out her community. Over the past year, the greatest reward for Johanna has been realizing that there are so many ways to make a difference. In these uncertain times, Johanna is more confident than ever that she made the right decision to volunteer as a driver for CVAC. Johanna is truly relishing in being able to lend her support during this difficult time and has been so inspired to see the first responders, doctors, nurses and hospital staff supporting each other.
The Houlihan Lawrence Larchmont Team
42 agents from our Larchmont brokerage have come together to collect over $1200 to support the Larchmont Volunteer Ambulance Corp (VAC) and Mamaroneck EMS. The funds were raised to support these organization’s food funds, which first responders depend on to purchase meals when on call. These first responders always buy locally, making this donation a double win. The Larchmont agents feed the local EMTs and Paramedics, and as a result they support various local eateries for a quick breakfast, lunch or even a group dinner.
Joanne Fox Shapse, Houlihan Lawrence Scarsdale Brokerage
Scarsdale agent Joanne Fox Shapse and her daughter Erica are spending this time at home giving back. They have lead the charge rallying the Scarsdale agents to raise money to provide meals to the healthcare workers on the front lines at White Plains Hospital.
With the help of Scarsdale Metro Diner, the Scarsdale office provided 75 individually wrapped lunches and 75 dinners to be delivered to the ER staff as well as the doctors and nurses working on the dedicated COVID-19 floor. In addition to monetary donations, Joanne has also collected thank you letters to spread positivity and words of encouragement to these essential healthcare workers.
Angela Kessel, Houlihan Lawrence Bedford/Pound Ridge Brokerage
A long-time community leader, Angela Kessel in our Bedford/Pound Ridge brokerage has gone above and beyond to lead her community in fundraising and support efforts to help first responders and those directly affected by COVID-19.
As the Chair of the Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH) Foundation Board, Angela has been approached by many friends, colleagues and clients to ask how they can help during this crisis. Angela has witnessed firsthand the outpouring of love and support that is sustaining the frontline hospital staff who are working so tirelessly, an effort that is grueling and unrelenting.
Angela has spent most of her time over the past several weeks raising funds that go directly to support critical hospital staff through the newly created NWH COVID-19 Emergency Fund. Whether it be assistance with childcare so that they can come to work and take care of patients, offering temporary housing close to the hospital so they don’t need to deal with lengthy commutes after working back-to-back shifts or return home to immune-compromised family members, or a warm meal in between rushing to attend to sick people, the NWH COVID-19 EMERGENCY FUND was set up for these express purposes.
The second line of effort Angela has focused on is encouraging the community to support local eateries by ordering meals which are delivered directly to the hospital for the staff who don’t have a moment to think about getting a warm bite. This is a great way to get a double bang for the community, supporting first responders and small businesses.
Ellen Meuntener at NWH is coordinating this effort for all of the units including the critical care staff, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, IT staff, etc. Ellen has a complete log for lunch and dinner for every day of the week and coordinates directly with the local businesses through which meals have been purchased. If you’d like to donate meals, contact Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angela shared a great experience she encountered when calling one of her family’s favorite local places to submit an order for the NWH staff. The restaurant was actually in the process of delivering 40 meals courtesy of the owner himself as a show of support, even though their business had dropped to 50% of its typical level. The owner was so grateful for the large order and promised to make it especially robust.
Angela has been overwhelmed by the enormous outpouring of support around these efforts, noting she has been receiving emails and calls from people she doesn’t know personally who want to do their part. Angela has even been contacted by community members looking to donate iPads for patients to make it easier for them to communicate with friends and family since no visitors are allowed in the hospital at this time. The response has been nothing short of inspiring and a reminder of what an incredible community we live in.
Steve Salomone, Houlihan Lawrence Commercial
Steve Salomone in our Commercial group and his wife Susan are well versed in giving back. They established the community action group Drug Crisis in our Backyard whose mission is to bring awareness to drug abuse in our area and offer support for families that are struggling with the effects of addiction in a friend or loved one. During this challenging time, Drug Crisis in our Backyard is donating to the many local food pantries to help feed those in need. In addition, through their foundation, Steve and Susan are holding virtual support groups for those suffering from addiction and need counseling and care during this crisis. To learn more about Drug Crisis in our Backyard, click here.
The Houlihan Lawrence East Fishkill Team
Inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge, the East Fishkill team spearheaded by agent Christopher Coppola created the #LiveOnLocal challenge to support local small business who are so in need during this uncertain time.
Agents purchased $50 digital gift cards from various local small business, with the office purchasing a total of $1150 gift cards. The office then held a virtual Zoom ‘grab bag’ event, with each agent receiving a gift card to a different small business. The goal was to inspire people to try a local business that they hadn’t frequented before and possibly become a lifelong customer. The event provided revenue to local small business during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The office then challenged other brokerages to do the challenge with their teams.
The team’s hope is that this challenge will inspire people to buy gift certificates so small businesses have a source of revenue during these unprecedented times.
Rita Carrozza, Houlihan Lawrence Katonah Brokerage
Rita Carrozza in our Katonah office donated 100 reusable grocery bags to the Community Center of Northern Westchester. In calling the center to find out what food they needed, Rita was told that the center really needed reusable bags. Because of COVID-19, patrons could not come into the facility so food was being pre-bagged and then distributed to those in need. Without hesitation, Rita bought 100 reusable bags from a local grocery store along with a generous food donation.
The Houlihan Lawrence Yonkers Team
The agents in our Houlihan Lawrence Yonkers office have come together to donate to a community fund, totaling $1,600. The money raised includes funds originally dedicated to honor this year’s top sales award-winning agents, but these agents unanimously and graciously decided to forgo their celebratory luncheon and instead donate the funds for this important cause.
The money will be used to support various local causes including providing dinner to the medical staffs at two local hospitals, supporting the Rotary Club in their efforts to provide PPE for medical professionals on the frontlines, and donating to the Hillside Food Outreach program which provides food to those Yonkers residents who are isolated and quarantined, and therefore unable to get out to do so for themselves.
Larchmont Agent Mary Gail Barry's Front Line Family Member
Larchmont agent Mary Gail Barry‘s son in law Dr. Jason Holdych is an Internal Medicine physician in Larchmont, NY. He previously worked as a Hospitalist at White Plains Hospital and has recently gone back into the role at the hospital to help with the influx of patients suffering from COVID-19.
Dr. Holdych shares: “The hospital is a very different place right now and has been almost completely devoted to treating COVID-19 patients. The support from the surrounding communities has been incredible and continues to give all our staff the motivation to push through this very difficult time. Everyone can continue to show their support by staying home and following social distancing guidelines.”
Caroline Shepherd, Houlihan Lawrence Bedford/Pound Ridge Brokerage
During this time of need, Bedford/Pound Ridge agent Caroline Shepherd has been selflessly giving her time to to the Neighbor to Neighbor program coordinated through the Park and Recreations department. Through the program, Caroline is supporting senior citizens in her community by grocery shopping on their behalf.
Each week, Caroline receives a grocery list via email which she fulfills at the local grocery store, The Market at Pound Ridge Square. Caroline then personally delivers the groceries, giving the senior citizens a friendly visit from afar to look forward to as well.
Caroline loves being able to help, and feels she has benefited from making new friends along the way. Caroline has become especially fond of one couple, pictured below, who she has shopped for since the beginning of the quarantine and has come to look forward to their brief visits and chats, always from a safe distance of at least 6 feet.
Andre Szpynda, Houlihan Lawrence Yonkers Brokerage
Yonkers agent Andre Szpynda has leaned into his technology savvy to help frontline workers. Hearing about the shortage of critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Andre along with his brother Eugene started researching how to utilize their 3D printer to help. After finding 3D printed designs for clinical-grade face shields and surgical mask ear savers on the National Institute of Health’s website, Andre and Eugene got to work.
The brothers started producing face shields and surgical mask ear savers, while obtaining the rest of the items from Staples (clear plastic dividers), Harmon (elastic hair bands) and Home Depot (foam weather stripping tape) to complete the shields. A labor of love, it takes about 4 hours to produce one face shield and 20 minutes to produce one ear saver.
After weeks at work, Andre and Eugene were so inspired to help as many frontline workers as possible, they purchased another 3D printer in order to increase production. So far, Andre and Eugene have produced approximately 75 face shields and 200+ surgical mask ear savers, which they are distributing to local hospitals and medical frontline workers.
Sandra Ritossa, Houlihan Lawrence Pelham Brokerage
In these challenging times, we each are finding our own way to make the best of it. For Pelham agent Sandra Ritossa, the opportunity to give back to her community has always been a blessing.
Sandra is involved with Pelham Together, a not for profit community-based organization with a mission to ensure a healthy and vibrant community for and with the youth of Pelham. Sandra has selflessly given her time to receiving and organizing donations of masks, N95s, shields, scrub caps, sanitizers, gloves, etc., and distributing them through a network of Pelham medical professionals who bring the Personal Protective Equipment to their hospitals.
Since Sandra began this effort on March 22, 2020, she along with the help of over 50 community volunteers from Pelham Together, Pelham Civic Association and Junior League of Pelham have distributed over 5,000 homemade masks, 225 homemade scrub caps, 2,300 face shields, 1,500+ surgical masks, and over 3,800+ N95/KN95 masks. This critical PPE has been delivered to over 56 hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers in Westchester County, the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Nassau Counties as well as the Hudson Valley, Connecticut, and NJ area.
Scarsdale agent Avital Soldatenko is spreading positivity in her community as well as in New York City. Avital’s family is lending their support to a local Scarsdalian who is in her 90s, as well as two residents at NYC hospitals who are on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 epidemic. All of the connections were facilitated by people who live in Scarsdale, going above and beyond their usual duties to find ways to help.
Each week, Avital talks to her elderly Scarsdale neighbor and collects any items she needs and hasn’t been able to get herself since she has been doing her best to stay home. Avital then brings the items to her neighbors home and leaves them on the front step to maintain social distance. Beyond household essentials, Avital has also offered up her delicious kitchen creations. Last week, at her neighbor’s request, she and her daughter baked a lemon cake to include in their delivery.
For the NYC Hospital residents, Avital’s family sends care packages with things they think the residents would enjoy or might find useful, along with notes of appreciation to boost their spirits. Avital’s daughter, majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and who is planning to attend medical school, helps curate the care packages from online retailers with items she thinks will be most appreciated.
For her part, Avital is grateful for the opportunity to help in any way she can saying, “There are so many people who could benefit from unexpected acts of kindness right now. There are as many ways to help as there are people who’d like to help. We’d like to do our part to support people in ways that have meaning to them.”
Wendy Fog, an agent in our New Canaan office, has been an EMT for the past 15 years serving in New Canaan as a volunteer.
Wendy humbly speaks of her service saying “I am only one small part of a truly exceptional organization, New Canaan EMS. These volunteer EMTs work over 60 hours a month and the new and ever-changing requirements for protecting not only ourselves, but our patients makes this a more challenging environment. It is an honor working with such an extraordinary group of men and women. Our motto is: Neighbors helping neighbors.”
Over the past couple of months, in addition to handling COVID-19 medical calls, Wendy has volunteered at the local testing center, assisted with delivery of PPE to surrounding hospitals and EMS organizations, decontaminated countless rigs and equipment as well as the EMTs and continued to teach EMS to a new class of students. All this while still managing a busy real estate business. We applaud Wendy’s incredible efforts and are proud to call her a member of our Houlihan Lawrence family.