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Local philanthropist wins HOPE’s Founder’s Award

June 5, 2018 By Matt D’Angelo Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Paul Neuman, chair of the board of directors of the HOPE Program and founder and owner of Neuman’s Kitchen; Carla Shen, Brooklyn philanthropist and art collector and recipient of this year’s Founder’s Award; and Jennifer Mitchell, executive director of the HOPE Program. Photo courtesy of the HOPE program
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You might remember that earlier this month, a monsoon-like storm shut down Grand Central Terminal. But despite sheets of rain and 70-mph winds, more than 300 guests descended on the Prince George Ballroom to celebrate HOPE.

“I can’t believe all that HOPE has done for me,” said HOPE graduate Terry Stanley.  “[It] helped me learn new skills, come up from the lowest point in my life and get a job that I love.”

The HOPE Program provides comprehensive training, employment and career advancement services to unemployed, low-income New Yorkers. On Tuesday, May 15, HOPE’s students, graduates, staff, supporters and guests mingled over gazpacho shooters, freshly shucked oysters and specially branded cupcakes during A Taste of HOPE to celebrate the organization’s impact, and one individual in particular.

Carla Shen has served on HOPE’s Board of Directors for more than 10 years, and received the prestigious Founder’s Award for her support and dedication to the organization’s mission. Shen joined HOPE’s board after her mother Carol, who was also a HOPE board member and volunteer, died.  

“My board service has kind of a double meaning for me because it’s amazing to give back to an organization that has such a major impact in transforming lives, but I also feel a connection through my mother’s involvement,” Shen said.

Ninety-five percent of the proceeds from the event went directly to HOPE’s programing; supporting classroom instruction, certifications, technology instruction, daily meals and MetroCards for students, and more. This support will enable HOPE to maintain and grow its services to over 450 New Yorkers across five highly effective programs.

“Our staff, students and graduates have the opportunity to be part of the event and represent HOPE in different ways,” said Jennifer Mitchell, HOPE’s executive director. “One of the reasons we do that is because it puts HOPE’s mission front and center. The other reason we do that is because it keeps the cost of the event down, so that the money raised goes right back into programs and operations.

Alex Gomberg is the vice president of Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, a seltzer company that has bottled its product in the borough for four generations. His business has been partnered with the organization for five years, allowing Seltzer Boys to provide internship hours to HOPE students looking to build a career.

“It’s rewarding to give [HOPE students] an opportunity and it’s great to have people come to work,” he said. Gomberg also said the workers he’s dealt with are reliable, so much so that he’s created part-time work to keep them employed after their internships.

Many of the food and beverage partners in the room that night were also in fact employer partners, providing job opportunities to HOPE graduates. These include Neuman’s Kitchen, Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, Butter Beans, Blue Smoke, Indiana Market and Catering, Murray’s Cheese and Zaro’s Bakery.

HOPE has an excellent reputation with their partners and an outstanding success rate, touting 78 percent first-year job retention. Maybe it was these impressive stats, or the emotional speeches given by graduates of the program Terry Stanley and Helena DeRamus, that helped the organization exceed its goal and raise over $375,000 through A Taste of HOPE.

At its heart, the event “is really a big celebration about opportunity, transformation, growth — all the things that HOPE stands for,” Mitchell said.

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