Nonprofit honors senior and youth advocates

October 18, 2013 Heather Chin
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The Senior Umbrella Network of Brooklyn’s (SUN-B) 10th anniversary luncheon, held October 15 at Dyker Beach Golf Course, honored two women who have dedicated themselves to educating and advocating on behalf of youth and seniors in Brooklyn and New York.

Matilda Raffa Cuomo, former first lady of the State of New York, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work as founder of Mentoring USA and author of The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent People Recall Their Mentors.

Matilda Cuomo with her award.

“It gives me great satisfaction to think people want to help and understand the need to help our children—our future generations,” said Cuomo on being recognized. “A lot of children need more help than others. We must make them feel self-esteem [because] part of life is feeling good about yourself; otherwise, bullying [takes over] and it spills over to the rest of your life.”

On the message she presents in her book and through her volunteer mentoring programs, which serve students in fourth grade and up, Cuomo told this paper that many children, “Don’t have intact families [and it is] difficult to cope with everything, so they need someone to really relate to them. No matter how famous you become, you’ve arrived when you can look back at the mentors in your life.”

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SUN-B founder/president Vicki Ellner was presented with the Power of One Award for her work in launching SUN-B and furthering its mission of supporting seniors throughout Brooklyn, as well as the senior advocates and caregivers who work with them.

Vicki Ellner, center, received her award.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work, tireless effort, collaboration, energy and strong commitment,” said Ellner of the experience helming SUN-B’s first decade. “[We are] a small but mighty nonprofit founded to address the needs of the senior population in Brooklyn [and] we have a big heart and a strong advocacy voice.”

Speaking of Cuomo, Ellner described a woman who “is dedicated to the community and public service” whose work “speaks for itself” in the world of youth mentoring. “She is an icon in New York and beyond,” said Ellner. “She is an amazing woman.”

State Senator Eric Adams, who is the frontrunner to replace Marty Markowitz as Brooklyn borough president, praised both women for their years of work.

“We have an obligation as Brooklynites,” said Adams. “Although we have great successes and talent, the reality is that if our legacy is just [buildings] and not building human beings, then we’ve failed.”

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