On Thursday, May 7, over 270 people gathered at the MetLife Building in Midtown Manhattan for Fedcap’s annual Spring Cocktail Party.
There was a long list of prominent people who attended the Cocktail Party this year including: The Hon. Nick Garaufis: United States District Judge in the Eastern District of New York, NYS Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, Former NYS Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, Jay Hershenson: CUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board of Trustees, and Commissioner Loree Sutton from the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs.
Every year, this event honors the work of Wildcat, founded by legendary New York City social entrepreneur Herb Sturz. For over 40 years Wildcat has been driving innovation in services to the previously incarcerated — helping individuals learn new skills, find jobs and change their lives. And this important work is spreading to New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and the mid-Atlantic, while informing a national conversation on the changing nature of services to those involved in the criminal justice system.
“It is like a dream to stand before you tonight against the background of Wildcat, which has meant so much, to so many in New York City,” said Mr. Sturz.
This year, the event honored Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an internationally recognized advocate of criminal justice reform, particularly for formerly incarcerated individuals who are returning to society. Mr. Travis was presented with the Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Award – Ms. Betanzos, the late Executive Director of Wildcat and legendary public servant to the City of New York, was a mentor to Mr. Travis and to many of the prominent guests in the room.
“I am delighted that so many old and new friends have joined us tonight to honor Jeremy’s incredible work on behalf of formerly incarcerated individuals,” said Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon. “Jeremy and Wildcat share a vision for helping these individuals in need of a second chance and by helping them we change their family’s lives and we strengthen the communities in which they live.”
Stan Brezenoff, in introducing Jeremy Travis, said that it was an honor to be part of an event that recognizes Wildcat, an organization that is mission driven and points the way to real solutions. He described Mr. Travis as a voice of intellect and sober evaluation in the highly complex and politically charged field of criminal justice reform.
Mr. Travis spoke of finding common cause in the names of Amy Betanzos and Wildcat. He read Fedcap’s mission statement to the assembled guests, tying it in to the thread of his own life’s work. Receiving an honor in the name of Amelia Betanzos was a humbling experience; Ms. Betanzos, he said, “personified the civic leader who could straddle the divide between the halls of power and influence and the real life challenges facing those facing serious barriers.”
During this event we also recognized Plated, an exciting new business that delivers fresh ingredients for home-cooked gourmet meals. Fedcap board member and past chairman of Wildcat Peter Samuels presented Plated with Fedcap’s prestigious Workstar™ award, given to socially conscious businesses that provide opportunities for people with barriers. Plated employs close to 50 Fedcap consumers, over half of which are formerly incarcerated people.
“We could not be more thankful for the partnership we have with Fedcap, and we are looking forward to continuing this great work in the future,” said Patrick Burlingham, Vice President of Human Resources for Plated.
During a very special part of the evening, Ms. McMahon invited Bill Grinker and his wife Mimi to the podium on the occasion of their 48th wedding anniversary. Mr. Grinker is a longtime Fedcap friend and champion, and a distinguished servant to New York City, having served as founding president of MDRC, co-founder of Seedco, a national nonprofit organization that advances economic opportunity for people, businesses and communities in need, Commissioner of HRA and a number of other important posts.
A memorable moment occurred when three of New York City’s legendary public servants – Bill Grinker, Herb Sturz and Stan Brezenoff – shared the stage. These three titans of public service reminisced about their storied careers and acknowledged the great work of Wildcat and Jeremy Travis.
Emmy Award winning sportswriter Eddie Lucas was also in attendance. In his 55 year career he Eddie has covered The Yankees, The Mets, playoffs and World Series. He is blind, and will receive our Excellence in Media Award at the Celebration of Work Gala in December.
In concluding remarks, Fedcap COO Joe Giannetto offered heartfelt thanks to all of the city funders, government contractors, friends and special guests in the room. He thanked the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for providing their magnificent conference space for the event, as well as the presenters, whose great work continues to provide benefits to Wildcat, its consumers and the entire community of stakeholders who care deeply about the previously incarcerated.