Every day when I enter our Meeting House, I’m welcomed by our staff. It’s not a perfunctory greeting; it’s a hearty and warm exchange. Often it’s about the weather or what’s happening in the building, but it’s also personal because we are family. Years of working together will do that to people. And when we depart at the end of the day, we express our appreciation and wish one another safe trips home because we know that journeys can be precarious, and we care.
Too often our staff is invisible to visitors and even members. They are the stage hands behind the performance that is the NY Society. When things go wrong, we hear complaints; when they go right, too often there is silence. So this is a love letter to NYSEC’s staff, several of whom I have known since I arrived here as an intern in 2001.
I came from the Brooklyn Society where members do almost everything, even the heavy lifting, so I rolled up my sleeves and went to work setting up chairs for a meeting when David told me he would do it for me. Well, I couldn’t just stand there watching him, so I helped him and we talked. We still talk. His father lives not too far from mine in western NY State and we both like to bake. We tease each other about who makes the better banana nut bread, and now Maggie has entered that competition.
Yolanta keeps everyone’s plants alive and designs beautiful floral arrangements from Sunday’s flowers and large green fronds. Leonardo’s children visit me in my office, reminding me of all the times I helped my father in his repair shop. Yalitza loves a party and finds occasions for us to celebrate, pulling even the quietest among us into the action.
Deborah Foster is the quietest among us, and she has served NYSEC the longest (almost 26 years). At the end of June, she is leaving her position as administrative assistant. Our declining membership (fewer than 200 members) necessitated a restructuring of support staff and a reduction in force. The tasks she performed so well will be done by existing staff, and no replacement will be hired. No one could ever replace Deborah, and we wish her well.
Besides Selma Friedman, who for many years has copyedited the newsletter, few members knew, or even saw, Deborah. She sat at a computer screen both at the office and in her home in Delaware. I appreciated her willingness to learn new skills as the job and technology changed. She approached every challenge with grace and determination, displaying patience when others were frustrated, calm when they were anxious. Her constancy was a gift that we will long treasure. We will miss her infectious giggle, delicious cookies, and the coolest collection of sneakers any long distance commuter ever owned.
I could go on extolling the virtues and charms of our staff, but I invite you to find out for yourselves. Below is a list in alphabetical order of NYSEC’s support and maintenance staff. Each has an important job and a remarkable story. They are dedicated to the members of this community, something they prove every day.
Executive Director Robert Liebeskind and Facilities Manager Leonardo Gibson join me in expressing our heartfelt gratitude to these wonderful people.