For 45 years, Wildcat has been driving innovations in services to the homeless, chronically unemployed, public assistance recipients and those involved with the justice system. Since combining with Fedcap in 2012 Wildcat’s work has accelerated and expanded. New efforts to help these individuals reenter the workforce and hold sustainable jobs – thus breaking the cycles of incarceration, welfare dependency, addiction and crime – are contributing to the national conversation about serving the justice-involved.
On May 10, over 175 people gathered at Blender Workspace in Manhattan to recognize the great work of Wildcat and that of Amalia Betanzos, Wildcat’s first CEO and legendary public servant to the people of New York City. The Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Award was presented to Bill Grinker – also a New York City legend, renowned for his visionary work in combating poverty.
The evening began with remarks by Peter Samuels, Chair of Wildcat and member of Fedcap’s Board of Directors. Peter welcomed new and longtime friends and supporters, and highlighted Wildcat’s latest work – a new initiative at Riker’s Island in partnership with NYC Department of Corrections, expansion of the Wildcat Neighborhood Improvement Project, whose crews provide cleanup, beautification and snow removal services to over 20 NYC Council Districts, and new Back 2 Work contracts through NYC HRA.
Grant Collins, Fedcap Senior VP of Workforce Development, recognized the business partnerships that provide sustainable job opportunities to those served by Wildcat, saying: “For many of those who are involved with the criminal justice system or who were formerly incarcerated, all they need is a second chance – to experience the dignity of work and to be contributing, respected members of their communities.”
Grant presented Fedcap’s WorkStar award, given annually to employers who show leadership in hiring people with barriers, to Clean Rite Center, which operates over 60 cleaning “superstores” in NYC. Since 2015, Clean Rite Center has hired 127 individuals referred from Fedcap, including 29 who are justice-involved. Neville Baptiste, Regional Leader for Clean Rite Center graciously accepted the award.
Carol Kellermann, a longtime Fedcap supporter and President of the Citizens Budget Commission, introduced Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Award winner Bill Grinker. Carol recounted Bill’s longtime support of Fedcap and his remarkable impact on NYC’s neediest, as Commissioner of HRA and co-founder of visionary poverty fighting agencies MDRC and Seedco.
In accepting the award, Bill provided insightful comments about the nature of leadership and thanked Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon for her own visionary leadership in expanding the scope and impact of the work of Fedcap and its family of agencies, includingWildcat.
The evening concluded with moving remarks by Michael McClain, aNYC resident who was incarcerated for 18 months as a teenager. With the guidance and support of Wildcat mentors Michael rebuilt his life, utilizing the work readiness skills he received through Employment Works to pursue a culinary career. Today Michael is head chef at a busy TriBeCa restaurant, earning a good living for himself and his five-year-old son, Michael Jr.
“Culinary work is exciting, and the career ladder is great if you work hard. What got me through was my belief in myself, my work ethic, and the help and support of Wildcat and Employment Works when I needed it most.”