A Focus on Food

Sheila Mahoney and Gordon Douglas '55

Gordon Douglas ’55 and Sheila Mahoney are committed to communicating and helping to find solutions to the perils of industrial food production. They approached the Princeton AlumniCorps Board with a plan to help increase the number of fellowship placements focused on this important public health issue. Here is an update from Gordon and Sheila on their work to bring attention and expertise to this issue through our fellowship program:

Our idea for food fellowships was presented to the Board of Directors of AlumniCorps on September 25, 2010. The problem addressed in the proposal is modern industrial food production (“factory farming”) and its devastating effects on human health, the environment, and on animal welfare. The marked rise in obesity and Type II diabetes plus sustained high rates of cancer and heart disease are directly attributable to modern food production.

With the goal of creating fellowships in this very important area we have been approaching nonprofit organizations that are working on making the facts clear, increasing public awareness of the issues and promoting sustainable alternatives. Fellowships may be focused in a variety of areas including public policy, science, public health, alternative agriculture initiatives, and advocacy.

Some of the most active organizations with whom we are in contact are Pew Charitable Trusts, Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for a Liveable Future at Johns Hopkins, Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Humane Society of the United States. They have all been very enthusiastic about the program. Additional organizations that have indicated interest include universities, health departments, foundations, state and community food programs, and more. One of the officers at the Pew Charitable Trusts called this the “new environmental movement.”

We plan to continue to email you with updates and we welcome your involvement.

Gordon Douglas ‘55
Sheila Mahoney

For more information, email project55@alumnicorps.org

Individual Donors Shine in 2009-2010, Despite Economic Recession

Princeton AlumniCorps’ 2009-2010 annual campaign, led by volunteers and staff, raised a total of $192,123 from 331 individuals, an 11% decline from the previous year. However, events in celebration of our 20th anniversary were instrumental to bridging decreases in support. The gala and other anniversary celebrations across the nation raised a net total of $114,194 from 291 individuals to supplement funds raised from our annual campaign.

We are delighted to report that last year was a record year for gifts from new donors, with more than 130 individuals making a first time gift to Princeton AlumniCorps. A special thanks to all of those who made their first gift last year – we hope you will continue your support!

The support of our individual donors also mitigated an immense decrease in foundation funding last year. We received $72,000 from foundations, a decrease of more than 50% from the $146,557 raised in the previous year. Although we anticipate increases in foundation funding in 2010-2011, individual donors provide our largest source of support, and your help is critical to advancing the mission of Princeton AlumniCorps.  

“We have the stalwart supporters from the Class of 1955 and the many donors from younger classes to thank for our success. In 1989 we were an organization envisioned and supported by members of one visionary Princeton Class. Since our inception, Princeton AlumniCorps has engaged donors representing 58 different Princeton classes,” says Executive Director, Kathleen Reilly. “When you choose to give to Princeton AlumniCorps, you are not only supporting yourself, your community, and current Project 55 fellows and Community Volunteers. You are bringing attention and social context to the good work of Princetonians of all ages, for many generations to come. Our impact in cities across the country is only made possible because so many passionate, dedicated alumni give.”

As we launch our new umbrella name, two exciting new programs, and a renewed commitment to engaging alumni of all generations, Princeton AlumniCorps is relying on your support! Make your gift count for the future of AlumniCorps and donate today!

Board Member Spotlight: Margarita Rosa ’74

Margarita Rosa '74

Margarita Rosa, Esq. ’74 has dedicated much of her life to the pursuit and promotion of social justice. As an undergraduate she joined other students in advocating, and planning for, the creation of the Third World Culture Center (now the Carl Fields Center) at Princeton University. As a student, and later as a member of Princeton’s Alumni Schools Committee, Margarita recruited students to college from inner city schools in NYC, her hometown. Since 1995, Margarita has led a community-based, human service organization the Grand Street Settlement (GSS), located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Margarita has taught public policy/public administration and law to graduate students and has spoken extensively on subjects related to human rights, justice and equality, and inclusive diversity.

How/Why did you get involved with Princeton AlumniCorps? Did it surprise you to learn that Princeton AlumniCorps is a multigenerational organization?

Some years ago, I hosted a visit of Princeton Project 55 participants, including Board members, to the Grand Street Settlement, where I have served as the Executive Director since 1995. I have known of the work of PP55 and have interacted with a number of PP55 fellows over the years and have been impressed with their dedication and their service.

Last year, two members of the Board of Directors of AlumniCorps who are familiar with my work as a nonprofit professional and former government official, asked me to consider serving on the Board. AlumniCorps seemed to be a place where I, as a Princeton alumna, could work with other like-minded individuals to encourage and support members of the Princeton University community interested in participating in public service and in affecting social change. In the summer of 2010, I was elected to the Board of AlumniCorps.

What is your background regarding nonprofits/volunteering? How have you demonstrated “Princeton in the Nation’s Service?”

My engagement in volunteer activities began in elementary school where I tutored young children from my own, and other, underserved communities. While in high school I worked as a Red Cross volunteer and also served as an after-school program volunteer working with school-aged children at a school for the deaf and hearing impaired.  During summer vacations I served as a summer day camp counselor in a camp for deaf children.

While at the Harvard Law School I had summer internships at the Office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund – a civil rights organization – where I subsequently worked as a staff attorney.  I also had the privilege of serving as the NYS Commissioner of Human Rights in the administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo. I began my work in government as General Counsel of the NYS Division of Human Rights and served as Executive Deputy Commissioner before being appointed Commissioner.  My work at the Division of Human Rights solidified my commitment to public service, advocacy, civic engagement and the pursuit of social justice.  When the Cuomo administration ended, in 1995, I joined the Grand Street Settlement as its Executive Director.

What’s the most important thing you look for when supporting an organization or serving on a nonprofit board?

Understanding and believing in the mission of the organization is of paramount importance to me.  I also want to know who the professional (staff) and lay (Board) leaders are and how they carry out their leadership roles. I want to know whether the leaders are well-informed, inclusive, open to new ideas and to new people. Are their interactions with each other, and with the organization’s constituents, respectful? Is there transparency in the organization’s financial and programmatic transactions? Are the organization’s resources – including its human resources (i.e. staff and Board) – used wisely and in service of the mission?

Please discuss the importance of what Princeton AlumniCorps does for the Princeton community and communities across the country.

AlumniCorps gives alumnae/i the opportunity to share their professional and personal experiences and expertise with individuals and organizations that can use their help and support. Volunteers also have the opportunity to learn from the organizations in which they serve and from the individuals whose lives they touch.

For 2010-11, AlumniCorps placed 51 Project 55 fellows. What would your advice be for our newest class of PP55 fellows, and to those Princetonians who are still looking for a job next year?

Whether you’re employed or looking for a job, don’t hesitate to use your formal and informal networks, including classmates, professors, and alumni. Remember that demonstrating that you can “work and play well with others” makes you a valuable and respected member of a team and can lead to new opportunities and lasting relationships.

Project 55 Fellowship Program Update

The deadlines for the Project 55 fellowship program may be in December (3rd for organizations and 15th for students), but October and November are certainly the months to put things in motion. Area committee members have diligently been sending in organization contact information, students have been trickling in through our offices, and there is a steady stream of emails from people who want to know more. How does the process work? How can they take part?

The first major applicant information event of the month occurred on the first day of the month: Friday, October 1st was Princeton Career Services’ General Interest Career Fair. More than 80 students stopped by the Princeton AlumniCorps’ Project 55 table and filled out a sign-up sheet, including 74 seniors. The students had varying degrees of familiarity with Project 55 fellowships: from knowing just our name, to knowing current fellows, to knowing what organization they envisioned themselves at next year.

We also held an information session on October 12th that was well attended by approximately 40 enthusiastic students. Katie Ko ’09, Scott Welfel ’06 and Julianne Grasso ’10 spoke about their fellowship experiences in New York, Newark and Philadelphia respectively. We will be participating in three information sessions in November: a November 9th panel hosted by Career Services featuring staff from Princeton AlumniCorps as well as Princeton in Asia, Princeton in Africa, and Princeton in Latin America; a panel event hosted by the Princeton Varsity Club aimed at reaching student athletes on November 16th; and a Project 55 fellowships information session on November 17th.

Alumni interviews with fellowship applicants take place in Princeton in January. If you’re interested in helping to interview fellowship applicants or learning more, please contact Sara Gordon at project55@alumnicorps.org.

Regional Updates: The PP55 Fellowship Program

-Boston-

In the Boston area, Princeton AlumniCorps is in full swing!  The current class of fellows has attended seminars on careers in the public interest as well as education reform in Massachusetts. The Area Committee has worked to engage previous fellows and is now focusing efforts on recruiting new partner organizations. Tom Flynn, parent of Julie Flynn ’10, who is currently a fellow at the New York District Attorney’s Office, has joined the Boston Area Committee and is leading up the partner organization recruitment efforts.

-Bay Area-

Our five fellows are very engaged in the work at their placements, including Christina Jones ’10 at KIPP Foundation, who was able to catch an advanced screening of widely discussed Waiting for “Superman” which features KIPP schools.  Another Bay Area highlight, Christina adds, is the popularity of orange and black after the San Francisco Giants World Series win! On November 11th, the fellows attended their first seminar at Stanford entitled “Strategic Philanthropy: Getting Results and Adding Value” along with TAN affiliates Harvard CPIC and Stanford SPIN fellows. Steve McNamara ’55 and his wife Kay generously hosted a welcome dinner on November 20th.

-Chicago-

Kristen Molloy ’08 writes, “The weekly seminar program for 2010-11 Chicago PP55 fellows is off to a great start.  For the past two months, fellows have attended a series of seminars focusing on the theme of “hard times” and how the economic downturn has affected neighborhoods in Chicago.  During this series, fellows visited organizations such as the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Chicago Jobs Council, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository and heard from speakers such as journalist Salim Muwakkil, who discussed how the downturn has affected the African American community in Chicago.  Starting in December, seminars will focus on education reform in Chicago.  In other news, the Chicago Steering Committee has been busy recruiting new placement organizations, hosting events to acclimate new fellows to Chicago, and planning a spring event for PP55 alums.

-Connecticut-

Connecticut’s two fellows Blessing Agunwamba ’10 and Idil Kore ’10 are excelling at Norwalk Community Health Center. Harry Berkowitz ’55 is looking to work with Larry Cross, the health center’s executive director, to organize a day-long Public Health and Civic Service Event  for local Princeton alumni and the community.

-New York-

Kristen Smith ’03 writes, “We are thrilled to have 20 fellows in New York this year. On October 6th, Steve Houck ’69 and Toni Houck held our annual welcome dinner for the fellows complete with delicious Indian food. We recently held a seminar at the District Attorney’s office which was a debate between Peter Kougasian ’76 (Bureau Chief of Office of Special Narcotics) and Robin Steinberg (Founder and Executive Director of the Bronx Defenders).  We reached out to fellows from Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth to participate in this debate creating a lively discussion about the criminal justice system. We are looking forward to our Career Night on November 30th hosted by the Arthur Malman ’64 P’96 P’03 and Professor Laurie Malman during which the fellows will have an opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals.”

-Philadelphia-

Julianne Grasso ’10, fellow at Foundations, Inc. came to Princeton on October 12th to serve on a panel for an information session and encourage applicants to consider a fellowship in Philadelphia, as a key group of volunteers on the ground works to expand the program. This initiative is being led by Carol Rosenfeld ’05, who has been in touch with Chet Safian ’55 about growing a program.

-Washington, DC-

Kate Lewis-LaMonica ’08 shares the following: “The DC Region was excited to welcome our largest cohort ever – 13 fellows. In July, the early arrivers gathered in Chinatown to meet the other fellows and local volunteers, and then again in August to volunteer together at Bruce Monroe Elementary during DC Public Schools Beautification Day. We finally formally welcomed the fellows at our orientation dinner in September: As tradition,  AlumniCorps President Bill Leahy ’66 and his wife, Chris, hosted a wonderful dinner at their home. Fellows gathered for a September workshop, Career Reflection 101, and the most recent seminar, “Options in Your 20s,” featured a panel of successful young professionals degree who spoke to the career choices they’ve made since graduating. On the social front, volunteers and fellows have organized outings to farm festivals and community dinners to sprinkle fun into our fall calendar.”

Changing the Atlanta Community: A Profile of Sara Deitch s55

By Krystal  Hill ’11, AlumniCorps Intern

“What are you going to do with the last third of your life?” asked Ralph Nader ’55, with an intense, inquisitive look in his eyes. It was 1989 and an aging group of men and their wives sat staring right back; many pondered the question, but they had not answered it, “What could they do?” Leaning forward, Ralph Nader paused and slowly surveyed the room. In a low voice he said, “Create an alumni service organization.” It was a simple idea; but it struck a chord as each felt the electricity of excitement in the room. They could change the world.

Sara Deitch s55

Sara Deitch, wife of Milton Deitch ’55, felt the electricity too. But the idea was for the men. The women, mostly housewives, were not considered part of the big picture. It was not until months later, when the men realized that starting an alumni service organization required the expertise of women, much like their wives, that Sara was able to really smile and relish in the excitement of the idea.

After the mini-reunion in Washington, Milton and Sara Deitch both became part of the AlumniCorps community. They were proud Board members of the organization and for six years they trekked back and forth from their home in Atlanta to AlumniCorps in Princeton to attend Board meetings, where ideas flew like sparks.

In 1992, Bill Shafer ’55, another Board member, got her involved in service credit banking. Sara used the concept of service credit banking to create her own organization, CareShare Exchange, which helps senior citizens live independently instead of in institutional care. If a woman needs a ride to the doctor, a driver, whether older or younger, is available to drive her and then banks the hours, and in return the woman would offer another service such as making telephone calls to make up for the hours it took to drive her. Younger volunteers banked hours into a community account where people could withdraw from without having to do anything in return.

Despite fundraising barriers, Sara is quick to say the program was successful. By providing services for Senior Citizens, Sara’s organization raised awareness within the Atlanta community about senior citizen life.  Under her guidance, from 1992 to 2004 CareShare Exchange blossomed into a functioning senior citizen program that benefited not only the senior citizens involved but also the volunteers who participated. In 2004, the Atlanta Senior Citizens Services, another senior citizen community organization, was intrigued by what Sara had been doing and folded CareShare Exchange into their program.

Sara’s hard work for the elderly carried over to helping Princeton students in Atlanta. She ran the Atlanta Project 55 Fellowship Program in the 1990s, forming bonds with over 20 agencies for placements. “She is a visionary…very determined,” says Milton, describing his wife, “because of her I became involved in a lot of things that I wouldn’t have been involved in on my own.”

The Deitch’s house became a home away from home for many Princeton interns and fellows and they remember Sara’s kindness and generosity. She enjoyed building lasting relationships with the interns and fellows in Atlanta during and after their time working for non-profits in the area. Additionally, Sara built relationships with the support staff at Princeton AlumniCorps in Princeton, particularly Marjorie K. Berger, the late Princeton AlumniCorps administrator.

“The changes taking place now are wonderful because you can see the concept broadening to involve more alumni…it’s evolving,” says Sara. Sara Deitch, in her own right, changed her world and the world of the people she came in contact with; thus fulfilling and building upon the ideas Ralph Nader proposed in the 1989 Washington Reunion. Twenty-one years later, Princeton AlumniCorps is still going strong.

“Awesome!” is the first word that comes to mind when Sara thinks about Princeton AlumniCorps; it is also the perfect word to describe her. What began in Washington has multiplied across cities and across generations with the hard work of leaders like Sara.  Thank you, Sara Deitch, for your years of meaningful service.