On November 9th, we were proud to cut the official ribbon on and dedicate our new Terry Smith Wellness Center. Our special guests included NY State Senator George Latimer, White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach, and Radio Personality Bob Marrone. Executive Director Guy Fessenden and Board Vice President Sharon Moseson both addressed the audience. What follows is a transcript of Guy Fessenden’s remarks:
Good Afternoon. So this that you’re standing in today…this to us is a brand new world. We have never experienced this before. Our world has been out there [pointing to offices of case managers outside the wellness center] and that’s the world where our case managers sit and where we help 45 people in a caseload…1200 people in total…to get concrete things. Where people come to us and say “i’m homeless…I have a drug addition…I need benefits….i can’t support my family…I have a domestic violence situation… I have an immigration situation..i need a job.” And they come to us with a concrete set of needs and we help them to be able to achieve that. And that’s what we’ve done for 20 years and it’s really cool, and it’s really good, and it’s really important. Then we took a step back and said “what else can we do? What else goes into a person being well…being healthy?” Obviously, having a place to live is important. Having a predictable income is important. Having someone support you through all of the twists and turns that go along with a job and a home…. that it important.
But there is more. And as we work with people who are on the street, and we work with people who fell back into drug addiction, and fell back into alcohol abuse and deal with things on a daily basis that most of us would find unimaginable…we found that so much more goes into being well.
Healthy food goes into being a healthy person. So we built a kitchen and we said “we are going to teach people how to live and cook and eat well ..and we’re going to work with shop rite and their dietitian and we’re going to walk around the store and we’re going to learn how to shop and how to cook because that’s an important ingredient to people being well.”
And we’re going to help people exercise . We’re going to create a place where people can come and do yoga and meditation and feel well. Physical well-being is such an important part of psychological well-being. When you feel good, you can do good things…and feel strong…and help yourself.
And we’re going to support people when they want to have hobbies. We have an art group and a spoken word group and a music group that Suzanne and Stephanie and Sarah have worked so hard on for the last number of years.
And we’re going to have a place where people can come and socialize because if you’ve been depressed and if you’ve been isolated and you have no place to go…now you have a place to go. A place to feel like you belong. To just BE.
And we’re going to say “wow…. most of us are socially connected. Most of us are standing here with our phones in our hands and EVERYBODY has the right to email and to be socially connected and to have Facebook and Instagram and all the stuff that I’m too old to understand.”
And if people want to have a job, we’re going to put in a classroom where they can learn about job skills and they can understand what it takes to put together a resume and what it takes to prepare for an interview. We’ll go on the interview with you and when it comes time to do something important, we’ll help you get dressed… because there are lots of places where you can get free clothes but there aren’t places where you can get interview clothes. There aren’t places where you can go and get clothes for “I haven’t seen my family in 10 years. Now I’m going to go back and I’m going to hold my head up and be proud.”
And pride is such an important thing and it’s part of what we do. We don’t actually provide housing. We don’t actually provide benefits. We don’t actually provide jobs. We take people by the hand and teach them to live life with dignity. That’s what we do. We are in the Dignity Business and this is an enormous step in that direction. And I’m so proud of us for doing this because we set aside all that our funders said that we have to do…and we do that….we do that out there….and we set aside a declining healthcare system that provides much less for much more money…and we set everything aside and we said…you know what….we’re going to do something for the pure and simple reason that it’s right. And we don’t make a nickel on this. Somewhere down the road we might. But we do this for the sheer and simple reason that it’s right….and I’m proud of us for that. Life is made up of special moments and for us, this is a home run moment…a moment when everything comes together and it just works.
And to everybody who has put the time in the last few years building up New Rochelle and opening White Plains and doing what we do in Peekskill and doing what we do in Yonkers…. I say THANK YOU. And Thank you to everyone who has made this a success. Thank you Bob [Marrone]. Thank you Sharon [Moseson]. Thank you Senator Latimer and Thank you Mayor Roach. Thank you everyone.