Heights and Hills honors Patricia Kavanagh and Schwartz-Barnett-Greenfield family at 47th Annual Spring Benefit
A multigenerational family with a tradition of helping others and a neurologist dedicated to improving the brain health and mobility of older Brooklynites were honored at Heights and Hills 47th annual gala Monday night at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
The Schwartz-Barnett-Greenfield Family — Rita, Laura, Mark, and Jack Allen — were celebrated for their unstinting community service spanning three generations.
Rita Schwartz accepted the Mary Ellen Critchlow Award, presented by Hildy Simmons, for her family. Rita, with her late husband Allen, was there in the early days when Heights and Hills served seniors mainly in the Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill communities. She started by volunteering at one of the earliest Thanksgiving dinners 45 years ago, while Allen became involved in the Meals-on-Heels and Flower Fund.
This family tradition of community service has continued through the years – with daughter Laura Barnett and son-in-law Mark Greenfield now serving as the organization’s Thanksgiving kitchen captains, and their teenage son, Jack Allen Greenfield, as a welcome ambassador and meal deliverer since his toddler days.
“When I first started with Heights and Hill it was just one Hill,” Schwartz joked, recalling the days when the group served Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. Currently, Heights and Hills assists older adults in roughly a third of Brooklyn’s communities.
She used the occasion to urge others at the gala to take time for others.
“I think we can all do a bit more,” she said. “Everyone here can write a check, and we all do. But there’s something else that’s important — that is giving of yourself. It’s the right thing to do. Visit the homebound. Play some cards, play some music. Teach older people how to use the computer —please… It takes more than a meal and a room. We all need someone to care.”
Patricia Kavanagh, M.D., neurologist and co-founder of Foray Design, was recognized for her work with diseases affecting older adults and her creation of medical equipment that is both functional and beautiful. Priscilla Newbury presented the award.
Dr. Patricia Kavanagh transitioned from an investment banker to medical school and a new career as a neurologist specializing in movement disorders after being inspired by husband James Grant’s gift subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine.
In her Brooklyn Heights practice she developed a particular interest in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other disorders often seen in older adults. This led her to partner with Colin Touhey and Hal Ebbott to found Foray Design in 2013. There, she is combining her years of business experience and patient-focused priorities to create innovative medical equipment – the first being an elegant, dignified roller walker they’ve named Spring.
Kavanagh thanked her husband Jim Grant for his “imagination, wise counsel, patience and for supporting all my crazy ideas,” she said.
She spoke of the importance of Heights and Hills for isolated seniors.
“If you’re here tonight, you’re a connected person. But we’re surrounded by isolated people. For the isolated older person, sometimes their only connection is with the cashier at Gristedes. I marvel sometimes at the patience and compassion that store clerks show old, disabled, demented, isolated people. They don’t get paid to do that. But almost every day I see an act of kindness and understanding at the cash register. Serving these people in a more methodical way is the critical mission of Heights and Hills.”
Heights and Hills Executive Director Judy Willig was applauded as “a leader, a role model, a mentor, and force” behind the Heights and Hills team.
“Heights and Hills is one of the most worthwhile charities in the city. They do amazing work,” author Helen Simonson told the Brooklyn Eagle. “When I’m old I’m going to sign up.”
“We’re living in a NORC — naturally occurring retirement community — and we need to keep it that way by keeping their programs going,” said local resident Andy Mirer.
Heights and Hills provide social services, caregiver support, friendly visitors, and intergenerational programs that serve older adults ages 60 to 104 in 19 Brooklyn communities. Their Park Slope Center for Successful Aging has become a community focal point for active older adults, serving weekday lunches and providing programs that enhance health and fitness, promote lifelong learning, and encourage social interaction.
Lizanne Fontaine, Dona Metcalf Laughlin and Patty Vigorita served as gala co-chairs.
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