Hearts to Homes News

St. Dominic’s Family Services Partners with Hearts to Homes to Assist Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

St Dominics Family Services Logo

March 21, 2021 Hearts to Homes is pleased to welcome Saint Dominics Family Services   as our thirteenth foster care agency partner! Saint Dominic’s empowers children, adults, and families facing challenges to thrive in their communities by addressing their needs with compassion, dignity, and care.  Their vision, to enable those they serve to achieve their highest potential and live the most independent, stable and fulfilling lives possible, aligns perfectly with Hearts to Homes.

We look forward to providing essential furnishings for St. Dominic’s young adults as they leave foster care to embark on independent lives.

Learn how to become a Foster Parent at Saint Dominic’s Family Services

MDRT Foundation Awards $4,000 Grant!

We are pleased to announce that the MDRT Foundation has awarded a $4,000 grant to Hearts to Homes.

Through its global grants programs, the MDRT Foundation is committed to building stronger families and communities around the globe. This year, the MDRT Foundation will award over $1.5 million in MDRT member-endorsed grants to more than 250 charitable organizations worldwide.

“Hearts to Homes provides critical support to young people making the transition from foster care to independence,” said Mary Theresa McCombe, Executive Director. “The MDRT Foundation grant will provide furnishings and furniture for two young adults in New York City, helping to make their new home a stable place from which to create a life that fulfills their hopes and dreams. We are indebted to the MDRT Foundation and MDRT member, Jack Clark, for nominating us for this grant.”

The MDRT Foundation was created in 1959 to provide MDRT members with a means to give back to their communities. Since its inception, the Foundation has donated more than $38 million in more than 72 countries throughout the world and in all 50 U.S. states. These funds were raised by MDRT members and industry partners. For more information, visit mdrtfoundation.org.

Founded in 1927, Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), The Premier Association of Financial Professionals®, is a global, independent association of more than 72,000 of the world’s leading life insurance and financial services professionals from more than 500 companies in 70 nations and territories. MDRT members demonstrate exceptional professional knowledge, strict ethical conduct and outstanding client service. MDRT membership is recognized internationally as the standard of excellence in the life insurance and financial services business.

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SCO Family of Services Partners with Hearts to Homes to Assist Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

(Glen Cove, NY, February 4, 2021) SCO Family of Services, a leading provider of essential human services in communities throughout New York City and Long Island, has partnered with Hearts to Homes, a nonprofit that assists young adults who have aged out of foster care in their transition to independent living. Hearts to Homes provides household furnishings and furniture, alleviating some of the stress associated with the initial transition. 

“SCO is grateful for this new partnership with Hearts to Homes that will outfit the first apartments of our young people who are transitioning to adulthood,” said Kimberly Thomas, Director of Education & Parent Support Services at SCO Family of Services. “These “virtual housewarmings” give our young people a sense of stability and pride from the start, and are a wonderful complement to the independent living supports SCO’s education, career, and housing specialists provide for our youth.”

Roughly 700 young adults age out of foster care each year in New York City and Westchester County. These young people, generally 18 to 21 years of age, face numerous challenges as they step out on their own. Hearts to Homes removes the financial burden of furnishing a first time apartment, paving the way for a successful transition and a productive life.

“SCO provides the young adults in their care with such tremendous support. We recognize that aging out is a tremendous life transition for youth in foster care. Hearts to Homes knows that the cost of furnishing a first apartment can be a daunting challenge for any young adult, but especially difficult for someone without family support. Hearts to Homes is pleased to provide that support to the young adults of SCO, recognizing the dignity of each individual, the power of choice and the increased stability that having a safe, furnished home can provide,” said Mary Theresa McCombe, Executive Director of Hearts to Homes.

As part of its recent expansion to partner with additional foster care agencies, Hearts to Homes will fund furniture and furnishings for approximately 15-20 young adults who are aging out of SCO’s foster care program in NYC.

SCO recipient Listardt Francis, who just recently exited foster care remarked, “I couldn’t say thank you enough. I am very grateful and I want to thank everyone involved with Hearts to Homes. Without your help, I would never have been able to buy all this furniture on my own.”

For over 50 years, SCO Family of Services’ Foster Care practice has been helping children and their families grow, heal and thrive. SCO finds safe, temporary families for children and teens throughout New York City and Long Island. In addition to family foster care, SCO provides therapeutic foster care for children with behavioral health challenges and group homes for older teens and young moms with babies. The ultimate goal of foster care is permanency, and SCO works to ensure that children are safely reunified with their family, placed in loving adoptive homes, or confidently set on the path to adulthood.

About SCO Family of Services
SCO Family of Services helps New Yorkers build a strong foundation for the future. We get young children off to a good start, launch youth into adulthood, stabilize and strengthen families and unlock potential for children and adults with special needs. SCO has played a vital role delivering human services in communities throughout New York City and Long Island for 125 years. For more information, please visit www.sco.org.

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Talented and Treasured

Our thanks for the treasure, time, and talents of these three original Hearts to Homes board members who have finished their term. All three joined Hearts to Homes from the start, and their efforts on behalf of foster youth helped us expand to support youth at eleven agencies.  Our mission would not have had this growth without their amazing leadership!

From top, left: Laurie Wilson has written our quarterly newsletters for the past few years. Without her help, we would not have been able to share with you all of our good news! Her vision for how to communicate our mission has helped grow our team of donors in the past three years.

Jeanne Marconi was instrumental in helping us to provide the signature red, H2H cozy blankets that so frequently are featured in our social media photos. If you scroll our social media, you’ll see this beautiful gift provided to every recipient. Our young adults love them! Her work in pediatrics helped guide many board decisions.

Paul McLaughlin helped create the wildly popular Open Hearts event at Oceana Restaurant to benefit Hearts to Homes. The concept for our largest fundraiser ever was Paul’s idea and accomplished with Paul efforts. In addition, specialty drinks in December and May helped spread the word of our mission and raised critical funds.  Supporting youth in the transition to independence was something Paul took to heart.

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Meet Our New Board Members!

new board members
 Clockwise from top left: Nicole Grogan, Debbra Stolarik, Cookie Humphrey, Ameena Makhdoomi and Todd Wood

Hearts to Homes is pleased to welcome, and introduce to our donors, four new members and one returning member to our Board of Directors. Each of these individuals brings a commitment to philanthropy and to our mission to help foster youth make a smoother transition from care to independence. We look forward to working with them as we plan for future growth, enabling Hearts to Homes to provide services to more foster youth in New York City and Westchester County.

Nicole Grogan is Managing Director and Head of National Accounts at DWS, a global asset management organization. Nicole has over twenty-five years of experience in financial services, received her Bachelor of Science at Villanova University and her MBA at Fordham University. Her interest in supporting Hearts to Homes is rooted in a firm belief that all children and young adults deserve an opportunity to build an independent life for themselves, where they can achieve their personal goals, and lead a happy and fulfilling life.

Cookie Humphrey is the owner and publisher of Compulsive magazine, a celebrity publicist and worked as a HR consultant in the Middle East and Asia. Cookie has served on the boards of Women In Motion, Rising Star Music Awards and The Bronx Hip Hop Museum. She holds a B.S. in human services from Springfield College a M.S. in HRD from the University of Bridgeport and is completing her PhD in psychology. As a former foster child, and youth advocate, Cookie knows the importance of young people aging out of the system.

Ameena Makhdoomi is an alumna of Hobart and William Smith Colleges the Ethel Walker School and has three years of marketing experience in the wine industry. Since 2019, Ameena has served on our Junior Committee, helping to share our mission with a younger demographic. Her election to the Board was a direct result of the enthusiasm that she has shown for developing creative marketing strategies. She has taken on the responsibility of helping Hearts to Homes with social media strategy.⁠

Debbra Stolarik is Counsel for Deloitte LLP and has served in a similar role for child-focused organizations including Sesame Workshop and Scholastic Inc. She was a founding member and previously served a one-year term on our Board. Prior to her work with Hearts to Homes, Debbra served for nearly a decade on the Board of Advisors for Mercy Center, the BAFTA scholarship committee, and the Boards of the American Constitution Society’s New York Chapter and Friends of the Nyacks. She resides in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Todd Wood is a partner with Sustainability Partners. He is a senior member of the investor relations and business development group. Prior to Sustainability Partners, Todd worked at J.P. Morgan, Hambrecht & Quist, Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn and Tudor Pickering and Holt where he held various roles in sales, trading and business development. His volunteer activities include coaching youth football for the Riverside (Greenwich) Gators, on point squash (Charleston, SC). He is a graduate of Boston College where he captained the football team under head coach Tom Coughlin.

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Hearts to Homes Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic
with Critical Support

Housing Statistics Show Why Such Support is Needed

  • 77% of Hearts to Homes alumni live in NYCHA buildings throughout New York City.
  • 30 of our alumni live within the 10 New York City COVID-19 “hot spot” zip codes.
  • Layoffs were likely to impact our youth at higher rates than the general population. 60% of our youth have a high school diploma or GED as their highest level of education.

Recognizing the impact that the virus and its economic fallout would have on the youth we have previously assisted, Hearts to Homes developed a program to address anticipated needs. Your support of our May Challenge helped ease financial burdens for these youth. Their needs were critical, and what they told us was not surprising.

Since May 1, we have provided over $17,700 of COVID relief stipends to 149 of our alumni and recent referrals. Thanks to your generosity and care, our COVID-19 Assistance Program has helped young people pay rent, cover transportation costs, and purchase life-sustaining items like groceries and cleaning supplies. Your kindness has softened the impact of these past few months.

71% of youth who responded to our offer said that they were out of work or furloughed. Just 25% still had a part-time or full-time job. Showing perseverance, fifteen of our young adults were continuing their college studies as part-time (6) or full-time (9) students.

When asked what their most pressing needs were, over 70% of responding youth identified groceries as their primary need. “I mainly need food as there is not much in my refrigerator, and I was wondering how I would eat,” said one of our young adults. Other needs included making payments for medicine, license renewal fees, paying a phone bill so that they could “stay in touch with family members” during the stay-at-home order, and clothing. Over half of our youth identified cleaning supplies as a need. The college students and those who were still working most frequently identified transportation costs as their most pressing need.

In additional to being able to offer a bit of financial help, Hearts to Homes was able to share information about additional resources, from other organizations, that our alumni might be able to apply for. Every little bit of help, guidance and reassurance can be meaningful to someone who is trying to navigate an experience like this pandemic on their own. For many of us, this crisis has caused us to reach out to our family for help, advice or even for company. When a young adult might not have family to rely on, Hearts to Homes donors were there to help with groceries, cleaning supplies and other important needs!

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Jeremiah’s Speech

Speech by Jeremiah Perez-Torres,
a Hearts to Homes recipient, at the
Open Hearts at Oceana Event January 16, 2020

Jemiah Perez-Torres headshot

It is an honor and privilege to be speaking with you all tonight.

This honor reminds me that I’ve come a long way. I left home at a young age because I didn’t have any other choice.

By the time I was 15 years old I was entirely on my own and over the next two years I moved at least 10 times. I stayed with friends, friends of friends, and even complete strangers. By this time, I was already in the foster care system, and while I connected with great people who wanted to help me, I still did not have any sense of true stability in my life.

I never expected to live past my 18th birthday. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. Many of my friends didn’t make it. I was trying to survive on my own with no support.

I ended up going to four different high schools. I never considered college because I couldn’t really focus on studying, and my grades suffered. During my senior year of high school, I met a guidance counselor named Anna. She looked past my rough edges and D-minus grades and told me it wasn’t too late to get an education and carve out a better future.

We talked about college, and she encouraged me to get more involved in activities and internships to make up for my grades and improve my chances of admission. Anna gave me the push to believe in myself – to better myself, and I took it from there.

I set out to change my whole life. I got my act together and finished high school. I distanced myself from the negative people around me. Although I knew it might get lonely, it was more important to reinvent myself.

I enrolled at the Borough of Manhattan Community College where I sat in the front row of all my classes and soon became an honors student. In my spare time, I got involved on campus, including mentoring incoming freshman as a Student Success Leader. BMCC opened its doors for me and helped prepare me for my transfer to SUNY Buffalo State College.

At Buffalo State College I continued thriving and became very involved on campus. I enjoyed working with New York State Police in several capacities such as a student mediator and an overnight patrol officer. Through all of my effort, I was fortunate enough to receive a state-wide award from SUNY, the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. Reinventing myself finally paid off, and I graduated from Buffalo State College with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Intelligence Analysis.

After graduating, I knew what I wanted to do and had figured out several pathways to achieve my career goals. I was accepted into the Criminology Doctoral Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where I am now in my third year and am a doctoral candidate. The work I am doing for my PhD centers around counter-terrorism, de-radicalization and war. This coupled with my work for different law enforcement agencies is helping cement my future in the global security field.

When I was 16 years old, I completed all of the paperwork and was put on a New York City housing list with a foster care priority level. I was finally going to get a home. I mean, I knew I had to wait, it was a wait list after all, nevertheless, it almost 7 years later that I was finally told they had an apartment for me.

I had no family or support that I could rely on during this process, and while I finally got the home that was promised to me so long ago, I needed to make it my home and furnish it. This is when I was introduced to Hearts to Homes. I worked with a few people to fill out a registry and set up a delivery date. This was such an exciting process, but I was hesitant to celebrate. With so many failed promises from my foster care experience and the 7 year apartment waiting list, I feared that this process would amount to nothing.

Hearts to Homes was the first time that I was promised something and it was delivered. The process was easy, straightforward, exciting, and it happened exactly as it was promised to me. The mission of Hearts to Homes is simple yet so powerful. I encourage you all to look at the mission statement online but I think the most accurate part of that statement for me, in terms of the impact it had on me, was that it alleviated stress associated with this process and it gave me someone to depend on. I was provided with a fulfilled promise, a comfortable living environment and a furnished home. Even with my struggle and success throughout the years, I finally had a home to call my own that I did not have to directly associate with homelessness, struggle, my school or job.

It really helps to surround yourself with positive people who believe in you like a foster parent. Or a teacher. Or an organization like Hearts to Homes that offers an invaluable opportunity to a city’s forgotten children.

I’ll never forget receiving all of the items on my registry from Hearts to Homes. It had everything a home needs.  Unpacking all those boxes was such as exciting time. It relieved a lot of stress and worry and has allowed me to be successful and not worry about having living essentials and a place to call home. Till this day I have everything that was given to me from that registry and still use it all! One of my favorite things is the swivel chair where I sit to give myself a brain break and twist in circles!

I want all of you to know how much I appreciate you being here, your kindness, and the ways in which you have helped foster youth who have aged out of care a place to call home. I encourage you to support Hearts to Homes so that more young adults can be helped and Hearts to Homes can expand to more agencies! Having a home in and of itself can help individuals who have aged out of foster care turn their lives around and succeed despite any negative circumstances they have encountered.

Thanks to you and Hearts to Homes, we can make our dreams of a better future a reality. Because of you, we can leap forward a few more steps. We can set ambitious goals. We can lift ourselves up to a better place. We can have a place to call home, mend our hearts and succeed. Because of you, we can do this.

Thank you.

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