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Panel Discusses Significant Impact Not-for-Profits Have on Westchester’s Economy

The latest installment of BCW’s State of the Economy examined how Westchester builds community from the not-for-profit perspective, adding to the economic success of the entire county.

The virtual program, which was held Thursday, featured an impressive  panel of leaders in Westchester’s not-for- profit community who represent a wide range of topics and issues including: Ron Abad, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Community Housing Innovations; Gerald Dennis, Founder & Executive Director, Northeast STEM Starter Academy ; Guy Fessenden, Executive Director, Choice of NY; Jeanette Gisbert, Executive Director, Volunteer New York!; Brigitte Griswold, Executive Director, Groundwork Hudson Valley; Kathleen Halas, Executive Director of Child Care Council of Westchester, Inc.; Eduardo LaGuerre, Founder & Chairman, Board of Trustees, Charter School of Educational Excellence; and Rose Noonan, Executive Director, Housing Action Council, Inc.

The program was moderated by BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon who said that one of the major drivers of Westchester County’s economy is its dynamic and diverse not-for- profit sector. She noted a recent study that Westchester nonprofits contribute $3.6 billion in annual wages and an estimated $575,000 in state and federal payroll tax contributions.

Here is some of what the panelists had to say about the role not-for-profits play on the county’s economy:

Ron Abad said there was clearly a direct positive relationship between affordable housing, affordable homeownership, and a thriving economic future for Westchester. “When families and individuals thrive and prosper due to affordable housing and homeownership, businesses thrive and prosper, communities thrive and prosper. All of us know that there’s a deep need for more housing and homeownership nationally, but particularly in Westchester County.”

Guy Fessenden talked about the role Choice of NY plays. “For every person that we can house, that’s one less homeless person on the street. For every success that we have in finding benefits for someone that’s one less person who has to look and eliminate crime as an option to be able to secure money for the basic necessities of life.”

Gerald Dennis said of their STEM Academy, “We want to level the playing field by providing them with great access to high levels of learning and really fun stuff to that makes a big difference in terms of where they go with their lives, what kind of careers they choose to go after, and what they enjoy.”.

Rose Noonan said “housing stability is a crucial foundation for job stability and also the foundation upon which all the other services that we’re talking about today can be delivered without that safe and affordable housing. It’s hard very hard for individuals and families to take advantage of other services. And at the same time, we can see how it benefits the whole community is providing a local labor pool. If people who live close to where they work are more likely to participate in civic associations and contribute to their communities.”

Kathleen Halas noted a new report that the US birth rate is now below the replacement rate. “And one of the key factors behind is that young families are putting off having children and are limiting the number of children that they’re having because of the high cost of childcare. And frankly, we hear that from parents all the time. And there’s some emerging population data on Westchester, which indicates that we are also experiencing a loss of young families in our community as well.””

Brigitte Griswold discussed the mission of Groundwork Hudson Valley. “We focus a lot on climate resilience, and we use residents across the city of Yonkers to help engage in every step of the process of re greening our city. So, we focus on areas of Yonkers that have disproportionately been impacted by industrial pollution, and try and revitalize those spaces into parks and green spaces. If communities are involved in the design of a park, they’re way more likely to steward and care for it and own that green space into the future.”

Eduardo LaGuerre talked about the growth of his school and its impact on the community. “We continue to expand our operation in the area of Yonkers to the point where today we have a high school complex our total campus is 3.5 acres, with a total investment of approximately $63 million. The whole community has become extremely vibrant. There’s a lot of development when we started none of these things were there. People have been able to put money into the properties the value of the homes in the area has increased exponentially.”

Jeanette Gisbert said, “At Volunteer New York, we believe strongly in the power of volunteerism and civic engagement to create really strong communities that include communities that are thriving economically. For profit businesses understand the value of engaging their employees and volunteerism, there’s team building, there’s morale boosting, there’s brand building. Volunteerism really becomes a strategy for how these local businesses create the kinds of organizations that will attract and retain their most important asset, their human capital.”

Concluding the program, Gordon said, “I have to say you have all painted an incredible tapestry of what different sectors of the nonprofit community are doing, what you are all doing and what you’re doing collectively to help build Westchester and the Westchester economy. And we are so pleased that we’ve had this opportunity to meet you and speak with you about the incredible work you’re doing.”

To see the entire session, visit


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