20 Oct

Wall Street Journal Ad

2015-10-17 Wall Street Journal Ad
October 18-19, 2015 – The Wall Street Journal ran a full page ad, probono, in its weekend edition to advertise our 2015 Spirit of East Harlem gala.

25 Sep

NYPost: Heeding Pope Francis’ call to alms

A New York Post story on Catholic charities and fundraising in context of Pope Francis’ US tour includes a quote from Reada Edelstein, LSA Family Health Services’ Director of Development and Communications.


Heeding his call to alms

Published online as: Pope Francis’ visit to America has been a God-send for charities
By Georgett Roberts, Nicolas Fernandes and Laura Italiano

September 25, 2015 | 1:50am

Donors across New York and the rest of the country are heeding Pope Francis’ call to help the poor.

“We’ve seen an incredible spike in our traffic, and we’re just so excited right now,” said Marshall Connelly, spokesman for the Catholic Online news service.

“People are coming to us to read about the pope, and the giving from people does pick up,” said Connelly, whose Web site is a portal to Catholic charities around the world devoted to alleviating poverty.

The pontiff has called on Catholics to fight global hunger, illiteracy and homelessness, saying this past October that prayers alone are not enough.

It was a theme he picked up again in his speech to Congress Thursday, when he urged the faithful and the government to “keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty.”

It appears to be working.

One in four Catholics across the country say they have increased their charitable giving, according to a recent survey by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, a nonprofit that promotes philanthropy.

Of those, one in four, or a full 77 percent, say Francis is the reason they are digging deeper, the survey found.

At Habitat for Humanity, an anonymous donor provided $60,000 specifically for the construction of a series of “Pope Francis Houses” across the country, organizers told The Post.

Local Catholic charities were hope for a blessing, as well.

“We fully expect that the pope’s message about caring for the poor will absolutely resonate with our donors and lead to greater giving,” said Reada Edelstein, spokeswoman for Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service in East Harlem.

Her group is a neighbor to Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic School, where the pope will visit Friday. Many of the group’s client families have kids at the school.

“Our clients pretty much all live below the poverty level. They’re really struggling,” she said. “So the work we do is very much what the pope is calling for.”
Businesses, too, are joining in.

Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the country, has donated 150,000 pounds of food in Francis’ honor, to be split evenly for food pantries and shelters in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia, the three cities he is visiting.

“Pope Francis’ visit calls all of us to help those less fortunate, said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic charities in the New York Archdiocese, which is working with Goya.

The “Pope Effect” hasn’t quite reached street level, though.

Panhandlers at busy begging spots along 125th Street, 14th Street and near Penn Station and the Port Authority on Thursday were saying, “Pope? Nope.”

“Please!” said Milwilda Vansquez, 49, rolling her eyes as she begged at 125th Street and Park Avenue. “Nobody offers me s- -t.”

Additional reporting by Megan McGibney, Gillian Kleiman

Read the story online at NYPost.com

25 Sep

NY Daily News: Pope Francis’ visit to East Harlem

NY Daily News coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to East Harlem includes references to LSA Family Health Service and quotes from Sr. Susanne Lachapelle and an LSA family.

Huge crowd greeted Pope Francis at East Harlem school, where he offered blessing to immigrants



Updated: Friday, September 25, 2015, 5:33 PM

A massive crowd of excited kids waving yellow papal flags greeted Pope Francis outside the East Harlem school he visited Friday afternoon.

The exuberant students clamored for the attention of the smiling Pope, who spent seven minutes laughing and touching hands with them as they took endless cell phone pictures.

Accompanied by a bevy of Catholic charity officials and local politicians, the pope entered the school as kids sang “When the Saints Go Marching In,” although they changed the words for his final steps to “When the pope goes marching in.”

Nearly two dozen schoolkids waited inside to show him their science projects, most of which were about the environment and climate change — one of several causes dear to Pope Francis.

Many addressed him in his native Spanish, others in English, as he moved through the room, taking time with each student.

He also stopped for a moment to give a blessing to New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, to shake hands with Dante DeBlasio and exchange a few words in Spanish with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito.

Before he began his prepared remarks, he got a welcome from some soccer team members who put on a brief display for him.

Then a group of immigrant construction workers gifted him with a hard hat.

“We are the workers, we welcome you, we are immigrants, many from your country,” said one of the workers in Spanish.

“We are proud to receive you in this moment as your family,” he said, to the beaming pontiff.

Among the lucky few able to meet the pope was sister Sister Susanne Lachapelle, a nun who works in East Harlem at a health center run by Little Sisters of the Assumption.

She said his decision to visit the section of Harlem known as “El Barrio” wasn’t a coincidence.

Catholic nuns with the Little Sisters of the Assumption branch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, came to stay with Pope Francis’ mother when he was born 78 years ago, Lachapelle said.

“He (Pope Francis) never forgot that,” Lachapelle said of the sisters who stayed with Francis’ mother through childbirth and for two weeks after.

“When (Pope Francis’) sister was born, they did the same thing,” the nun added.

Lachapelle, who is in regular contact with representatives from the Argentinian branch of LSA, also said that Pope Francis has an LSA crucifix on his bedside table and that he has regularly been celebrating jubilees together with the sisterhood in Buenos Aires.

Lachapelle launched a letter-writing campaign to the Pope when she found out he was coming to New York.

She had children using LSA’s services write 295 letters to him asking him to at least pass by the clinic in his motorcade.

“When we found it that he was actually coming here I couldn’t believe it. It was like a miracle,” Lachapelle said.

Pope Francis, whose progressive views have captured the world’s attention, offered a special blessing in East Harlem to refugees and immigrants — including those living here illegally.

It’s a message that resonated with Martina Juarez, a Mexican immigrant who lives in El Barrio and has relied on LSA’s various services for the past decade.

She and her family were chosen by LSA to meet Pope Francis along with Lachapelle — and they were thrilled they’ll be able to speak directly to him in Spanish.

Juarez’ daughter, Fabiola Garcia, 12, the only family member who knew English, said they were “amazed” by this whole experience.

“I was watching TV and then my mom got a phone call,” said Fabiola, who has attended LSA programs all her life. “I was curious about what the call was about but she wouldn’t tell us. She kept writing things down in the calendar.”

Fabiola said that her mom didn’t tell her that they were going to meet the pope until two days later.

“I was amazed and curious and just kept asking questions,” she said.

Thousands of others who hoped for at least a glimpse of Pope Francis were waiting outside Our Lady Queen of Angels School when he exited.

Sofia Ramos, 7, her mother Adriana Vidal and her cousin Abigail Lopez arrived before noon. Sofia wore a shirt with the Pope’s picture on it.

It also carried a handwritten message — “I love you” — next to a heart.

She said she wanted to tell the pope he was “a nice man.”

Her mother, who has a sister and brother-in-law who were forced to return to Mexico — leaving behind their children — also hoped the pope could do something to help the immigrant community.

Read the story online at NYDailyNews.com

Download PDF

24 Sep

National Geographic: Kids Struggle to Breathe in This Neighborhood on Pope’s Tour

Photo by Kieran Kesner for National Geographic

A feature on neighborhoods visited by Pope Francis on his US tour includes profiles of families in LSA Family Health Service’s Environmental Health Services program.


Kids Struggle to Breathe in This Neighborhood on Pope’s Tour

In East Harlem, families live with traffic exhaust, cockroaches, and mold. Kids there are three times more likely to suffer an asthma attack that sends them to an ER.

By Lindsey Konkel

Photographs by Kieran Kesner

PUBLISHED THU SEP 24 07:00:00 EDT 2015


Less than a block from where the pope will meet East Harlem families Friday at Our Lady Queen of Angels School, Elizabeth Gonzalez shares a two-bedroom apartment in a public housing project with her three kids ranging in age from 15 to 20.

Cockroaches scurry across the walls and floor. She’s tried to get rid of them, but they keep coming back—through the electric outlets and from under the sink, where leaking pipes create a black sludge. Her floor is wet, her walls damp and moldy. Garbage bags stacked in the living room keep the family’s possessions dry.

Gonzalez thumbs through a notebook full of unresolved maintenance requests for her home. It takes months for the New York City Housing Authority to respond to such requests. Often maintenance workers don’t come when they say they’re going to come, even after she’s taken the day off work. And when they do finally show up, they offer little help, she says.

Everyone in her family has asthma. Cockroaches and mold trigger attacks.

“I’m happy to have a roof over my head, but this apartment is keeping us sick,” says Gonzales, a grade school assistant teacher who makes only $26,000 a year.

“People feel trapped. They hold on to these awful apartments, because it’s all they have. It’s their home, their community,” says Ray Lopez, director of environmental health and family asthma for LSA Family Health Service, a nonprofit that serves more than 7,000 East Harlem residents, including Gonzalez and Smith.

LSA was founded by the Little Sisters of the Assumption, a religious order of nuns that provides health services to poor families around the world. Pope Francis’ own family sought help from the Little Sisters of the Assumption in Barrio de Flores, the working-class Buenos Aires neighborhood where he grew up.

José Espinoza, who has a daughter with asthma, gets family health services through LSA. Under the canopy of his Second Avenue flower stand, Espinoza wraps a bouquet of sunflowers and describes the poor conditions of his sixth-floor walk-up apartment. It’s infested with cockroaches and bedbugs, and he worries that allergies to the insects trigger his daughter’s asthma attacks and make his other children sick.

Read the full article online

Download PDF

26 Aug

LSA Family to See Pope Francis

Associated Press: Mexicana pedirá al papa ayuda para traer a sus hijos a EEUU (as published by Telemundo) / Mexican mother would ask the Pope for help in bringing her children to the U.S.

Telemundo: Madre de origen mixteco conocerá al papa Francisco durante su visita a Nueva York (video) / Mother of Mixteco origin will see Pope Francis during his visit to New York

Vida Nueva: Iglesia en el Mundo: Viaje a Cuba y Estados Unidos / The Church in the World: Visit to Cuba and the United States

August 26, 2015 — Martina Juarez and her family will attend Pope Francis’ visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels school in East Harlem as representatives of Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service. Martina will join representatives from a selection of Catholic Charities and students from the school, around 200 people in total, who will be present at the Pope’s visit to the school on September 25th.

Martina and her family were invited to attend as representatives of LSA and our work in East Harlem. She is a dedicated mother and a grandmother and has benefited from several LSA programs and services over the years. As a recently arrived immigrant from Mexico, Martina learned about the organization through word of mouth and initially came for assistance from our Food Pantry. When her children were small, her family participated in our early childhood programs: Parenting and Child Development and Early Intervention for children with developmental delays. Now that her children are older, they are enrolled in our homework help and tutoring programs, and her daughter, Fabiola, is in our Girls Mentoring program.

We are honored to be invited by the Archdiocese of NY to represent the families of East Harlem in welcoming Pope Francis to New York City.

26 Jun

LSA Featured in Channel NewsAsia Report on Child Poverty

2015-6-26 CNA Child Poverty


One in three children living in poverty in US: UNICEF

According to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, one in three children living in the world’s richest nation are in poverty, with over 20,000 children estimated to be living in family centres in New York City

By William Denselow
POSTED: 21 Jun 2015 18:04

NEW YORK: When it comes to child poverty in the United States, the statistics are troubling.

According to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, one in three children living in the world’s richest nation are in poverty.

In New York City, it is estimated that over 20,000 children live in family shelters – an increase of over 250 per cent from 20 years ago. Child advocacy groups say this trend must stop to give this generation a fighting chance to escape a cycle of poverty.

For children growing up in poverty the odds are stacked against them. Living in shelters or shared apartments – experts say those conditions stunt development making it hard to recover in later life.

“From a very early age they’re struggling to relate to other children and to have positive relationships with other adults in their lives and down the road, 10-15 years down the road, that same struggle is going to be even more pronounced,” said Heather Mitchell, home visiting director at LSA Family Health Service.

But some kids are lucky. Thanks to groups like Little Sisters in New York’s East Harlem, children and parents alike are given the resources to try and overcome some of these developmental barriers.

Read/View the full story on Channel NewsAsia.com

08 May

Board Chair Scott DePetris Featured on Markets Media

Our Board Chair, Scott DePetris, spoke with Markets Media about the inspiration and drive behind his work with LSA.

(Full text below)

2015-5-8 Markets Media

Portware’s DePetris Gives Back

Published online by Markets Media at: http://marketsmedia.com/portwares-depetris-gives-back/ 

May 8, 2015

If you want something done, ask a busy person, the saying goes. That certainly applies to Scott DePetris, Portware president and chief operating officer. In addition to a demanding full-time job as a top executive at a leading trading-technology provider, DePetris devotes 15-20 hours a week to his role as chairman of LSA Family Health Service, a not-for-profit in East Harlem.

Founded in 1958 by the Little Sisters of the Assumption, LSA provides a multi-programmatic way of dealing with family health, focusing on the emotional, spiritual, educational and mental health of families, especially those with young children. The group’s working premise is that the earlier the intervention, the better chance children have of finding a niche in the world.

After the financial crisis, LSA, like many other non-profits, experienced difficulties as charitable donations took a hit. It was also a challenging time for Portware. “Most financial tech companies felt that in one way, shape or form, and we felt it in the business here,” DePetris said. “In the not-for-profit world, I was making decisions that would effect the services our families would receive, which meant several hundred children might not receive the basic necessities they desperately needed. It puts things into perspective.”

He was introduced to LSA in 1999 by a friend from college. At the time, he was living on 90th St. in the Upper East Side, only 25 blocks but at the same time a world apart from LSA, located on East 115th.

“We were both Fairfield University graduates, which is a school with a long history of volunteerism; it’s just part of the culture of Fairfield University,” DePetris said. At the time, he was “living a really great life at the age of 21, but 25 blocks away it is a completely different world, and that just struck me as odd.”

“The infant mortality rate in East Harlem is unbelievably high and you are in one of the wealthiest cities in the world,” DePetris continued. “The asthma rates are incredibly high. The conditions that some of these folks live in are kind of unjust, at the very best.”

DePetris has had numerous opportunities to apply the lessons he’s learned during his years at Portware to the not-for-profit world. Post-crisis, he and other LSA board members created a strategic plan in order “to work off an incredible foundation, strengthen the organization and plan for future growth. We wanted to create a dynamic, thriving agency that could endure any future challenges,” he said. “We started to assemble a senior team that could help the program directors continue to do what they do. The program directors are the ones who are on the ground doing the early intervention work, that are going into the homes and seeing if there is mold and whether or not there are conditions that would create asthma symptoms for their children. They are the ones going into the homes and doing the prenatal visits and providing the care these families need.”

Recently, DePetris and his partner, Portware CEO Alfred Eskandar, hosted a roundtable for a group of kids at the company’s offices downtown. “Coming from East Harlem, many of them have not been south of 96th Street, let alone down here, so they got to see things they have not seen, they got to walk the financial district,” he said. “We listened to their hopes, their dreams, and we shared our experiences, the importance of schools, going to college, how we got to where we were, and just listened to what they wanted to do. They ranged in age from probably 9 to 16, so their hopes were anywhere from being an astronaut to being an accountant.”

Banks and investment firms are commonly associated with greed and self-centeredness, but DePetris noted there is much more to the sector, under the surface.

“Wall Street in general is a really philanthropic world — I don’t think it gets enough credit for its philanthropy,” he said. “That can be as simple as donating money, but beyond that a lot of people work tirelessly for a lot of different organizations.”

23 Oct

Wall Street Journal: Asthma Complaints Followed East Harlem Blast

The Wall Street Journal featured LSA in a story on a rise in asthma complaints following the East Harlem gas explosion of March 2014.

Download a pdf of the article

Asthma Complaints Followed East Harlem Blast

By Laura Kusisto

A nonprofit health group in East Harlem says a sharp increase in referrals to its asthma program in the wake of last spring’s gas explosion in the neighborhood is raising concerns that the blast hurt the respiratory health of some residents.

LSA Family Health Service said it received 52 referrals to its environmental health program between the beginning of March and the end of May, up from 17 in the three months between December and February and up 63% from the year-earlier period.

The group said the increase was due in large part to referrals for families who lived near the site of the deadly March 12 explosion and who had concerns about asthma, lead dust or pest control issues related to the explosion and its aftermath.

Of 22 families who were referred to the program, 11 had problems with asthma and four had other respiratory concerns.

The figures aren’t conclusive, and some experts think pre-existing housing conditions such as mold and cockroach problems are the more likely cause of the asthma complaints. At the same time, they illustrate the difficulty of pinpointing the precise cause of asthma in inner-city residents.

Experts said that it would be difficult to link the dust released by the explosion to asthma attacks in the area, which often involve a number of factors. Stress, they said, can also be linked to asthma attacks.

“That is a very tall order…to prove that there’s an association especially when something has so many factors,” said Perry Sheffield, an assistant professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in East Harlem.

The explosion leveled buildings and killed eight people. In the weeks after the blast, “We figured that we’d get some referrals, but I didn’t realize how many we would get,” said Ray Lopez, director of the environmental health and family asthma program for LSA Family Health. The group tapped the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York to help with post-blast health issues.

LSA Family Health representatives visited families referred to its respiratory health program to help clean residents’ apartments for dust and other asthma triggers after the explosion. Mr. Lopez said many of those affected were provided with cleaning supplies, but that many of the families were overwhelmed and hadn’t managed to clean their apartments.

With windows blown out by the blast, dust accumulated in many apartments, Mr. Lopez said. “It seemed like it was up to the families themselves to remove that dust,” Mr. Lopez said.

A spokesman for the city’s Housing Preservation and Development Department said his department and the Department of Environmental Protection performed air-quality testing for a week following the explosion.

He also said the owners of the buildings that were vacated after the explosion and have since been reoccupied have paid to have professional firms to clean public areas and individual units in the properties.

A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Mayor’s Fund provided information to residents on how to access the American Red Cross’s free “Move-in Kits,” which contained liquid cleaning solution, rubber gloves, garbage bags, mops, masks, deodorizers and other cleaning supplies, as well as air purifiers.

The mayor’s spokesman said that residents who have questions about air or dust conditions related to the explosion should call 311. “If dust conditions remain in your home, [New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene] will inspect those locations and, if necessary, order the building owner to clean,” he said.

Asthma rates in East Harlem are already among the highest in the city. But some experts say that it is difficult to measure whether there was a meaningful uptick in asthma and that the cases more likely are attributable to long-standing environmental issues in the community.

“More than anything else, it’s housing conditions,” said Bill Sothern, a certified industrial hygienist who lives on East 117th Street and Madison. He noted that apartments can have issues such as leaks that cause mold and cockroach infestations.

Sarah Borrero, 58 years old, said she and her 16-year-old daughter suffered from asthma before the explosion, but it grew worse for both of them after the blast leveled houses and sent dust flying in the neighborhood.

She said her daughter has been rushed to the emergency room twice for asthma since the blast and spent two days in intensive care during the first visit.

“I’ve never seen her have this kind of trouble; never in all of these years,” Ms. Borrero said.

The family is now living in the Bronx. Ms. Borrero said that the worsening of her daughter’s asthma symptoms appears to be linked to anxiety from the explosion.

Ms. Borrero said that on the first visit to the hospital, the staff asked if her daughter had been through any stress.

Her reply: “Have you got an hour?”

Write to Laura Kusisto at laura.kusisto@wsj.com

30 Sep

NYNP: Lester New Executive Director

September 30, 2014 – The New York Nonprofit Press published an article on Traci Lester being named the new Executive Director of LSA Family Health Service.

“I am thrilled to join LSA Family Health Service, a pillar in East Harlem. I look forward to working with the staff and Board to meet the needs of families living in and around the community, and to help to move the needle higher in providing holistic, and impactful, services for all people touched by LSA.”
– Traci Lester, LSA’s new Executive Director