2012 Accomplishments

On September 27, 2011, the street in front of our main facility—East 104th Street between Second and Third Avenues—was officially renamed “Union Settlement Way,” and Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed the day as “Union Settlement Day,” in recognition of the contributions that we have made to the East Harlem community.  Union Settlement has been located on this same street since 1895.  Fewer than six community services institutions have received this honor in New York City in the past decade, and the ceremony held on that day was attended by our State Senator, Congressional Representative, City Council Member, and the City’s Comptroller, as well as a broad range of community representatives.  In his official proclamation, Mayor Bloomberg noted that “Union Settlement is a crucial part of our city‘s economic vitality and social fabric, and drawing on its amazing legacy and outstanding staff, it will continue to be a fixture in its community.”

But why “Union Settlement Way” rather than “Union Settlement Place” or “Union Settlement Street”?  Because we believe there is a Union Settlement Way of working in and for our community, collaborating with participants, and tailoring our services to fit the changing needs of those we serve.  For almost 120 years, we have not only provided programs in education, childcare, youth development, the arts, counseling, nutrition, senior services, job training and economic development at the highest levels of quality, but also in a way which is sensitive and responsive to our community. Our long history means that we are particularly attuned to the needs of our population and the differences among the various cultures, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic groups represented here. When a need for a new service area appears in the community—services for disconnected youth, low-literacy immigrant women, or Spanish-speaking people living with HIV/AIDS—we have been there to fill that need. The majority of our staff comes from the same socioeconomic background as our participants, and many are bilingual. We offer many Spanish-language services, including mental health, HIV and immigration counseling.  We are not just in and for the community of East Harlem—we are of it.

This is the Union Settlement Way, and in these pages can be found just a sampling of what we have accomplished in the past year.

Agency Wide

Early Childhood Services

Youth Services

Youth Services- Out of School

College Readiness Program

Adult Education

Senior Services

Mental Health

Credit Union

Home Care



  • We are currently undertaking a strategic planning process with the goal of building on our strengths and becoming a more effective organization in the coming years.  In 2011, a Strategic Planning Prep Service Grant from the Taproot Foundation provided us with a team of independent professionals to conduct research and analysis to prepare for and inform our plan.  At the conclusion of the prep process, we contracted with the strategy consultant who headed the Taproot team to help us complete the planning process.  Over the next nine months, we will:  (1) create the strategic plan, with the active engagement of the Board of Directors, agency leadership and program directors; (2) translate the agency-wide plan into program-specific executable strategies; (3) incorporate these strategies into our programmatic initiatives; and (4) develop a protocol for making strategic reviews an ongoing process in the future. We expect this process to have profound short-term and long-term effects on our institutional culture, from an immediate impact on our program approach to a long-range strategy and process for continual assessment and planning. Furthermore, the ability to turn the principles and goals of the plan into a series of program-level steps will carry us into the future and help develop a more sustainable agency.
  • This year, we launched an agency-wide effort to ensure that Union Settlement is a safe environment for East Harlem’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) population, and that questions of sexuality will never adversely affect a participant’s or staff member’s experience within any of our programs. We have formed an internal “Safe Space Network” committee, consisting of staff members representing a variety of our programs, and co-chaired by Steven Portericker, Director of Youth Services and Melissa Nieves, Director of Adult Education.  The goal of the initiative is to “promote an open, safe and aware community with respect to matters of gender and sexuality through education.”  This past fall, the committee developed an anonymous agency-wide staff survey on LGBTQ attitudes, perspectives, and experiences.  While past staff surveys have had response rates of under 25%, we are proud to report that a total of 188 employees – over 60% of our full-time staff members – completed the survey.  Moreover, Network members conducted a substantial amount of face-to-face outreach to programs and staff, which stimulated a great deal of valuable internal inquiry, conversation and exchange.  The results of the survey were enlightening—showing a mix of positive and negative attitudes towards LGBTQ issues—and make clear that substantial internal work needs to be done.  On Saturday, May 5, the Safe Space Network held its first public event, a half-day conference called The Other Colors of East Harlem, and in the coming months, the Safe Space Network will be offering LGBTQ awareness and diversity trainings to our staff. We are creating a basic workshop that all staff will attend during the next six months.  In addition, we will offer more specific training targeted to meet the needs of our various programs and staff members’ responsibilities.

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We provide one-sixth of all childcare services in East Harlem, serving over 500 children each year with a well-rounded, bilingual program that includes individualized instruction focused on cognitive, social, creative and physical development.  Union Settlement is a trusted childcare provider, enabling working families to rest assured that their children are receiving the highest quality care.  We also serve approximately 90 homeless families, providing crucial socialization and stability for the children, while allowing the parents time to seek housing and work.

  • Through our pioneering Family Child Care Network, 36 providers are caring for 125 children. The network trains qualified neighborhood residents to set up their own home-based childcare centers, alleviating East Harlem’s childcare shortage and fostering financial self-sufficiency for the new providers.  We are also providing nutritious meals and snacks for another 150 children in the network through our in-home food program. New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services has just renewed and greatly expanded our contract; next year, the Network will expand to provide services for 400 children, providing both high-quality childcare and much needed employment opportunities for our underserved community.
  • We conducted NYC -funded asthma tracking and training activities in childcare and Head Start facilities throughout East and Central Harlem to combat high rates of pediatric asthma.  As of May, we have already enrolled 5,600 children and provided asthma awareness training to 263 staff members and parents at 81 centers.  Our childcare centers commemorated World Asthma Day 2012 by walking to Central Park and marching around the pond at 106th Street, displaying banners to promote asthma awareness in the community.  Following the walk, we undertook a variety of activities designed to encourage children to partake in healthy activities and to promote asthma awareness.
  • We are completing our first year of an exciting new partnership with Jumpstart, a national literacy program that has provided literacy activities in classrooms at two of our sites, reaching more than 80 children. We plan to expand the program to two additional sites by the fall. Along with Jumpstart, we co-sponsored a The Snowy Day literacy event, which gave children and families the opportunity to engage in storytelling and art activities and receive a free copy of The Snowy Day—a book renowned for its pioneering representation of an African-American protagonist in children’s literature—in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.

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East Harlem youth could easily feel defeated by the challenges they face: failing schools, high dropout rates, joblessness and the threats posed by crime and substance abuse. But our young men and women consistently refuse to be discouraged and instead actively seek and create opportunities to forge brighter futures. Our Youth Services programs provide such opportunities, working with more than 2,000 eager and energetic children and teens. Many enter our elementary-age after-school program and stay with us until they enter college. For them, we become a second family.

  • We enrolled 175 youngsters ages 5 to 12 in our lively Rising Stars Program after-school program at two East Harlem locations. Our programs feature year-round activities, including tutoring, computer instruction, visual and performing arts projects, recreation and a summer day camp. We also offer unique programs such as our wildly popular circus arts programming, offered in conjunction with the Big Apple Circus, and the Concrete Safaris Explorers Program, a fitness and wilderness education activity that includes hiking area mountains and cultivating a garden and mini-farm at the community center that hosts our programming, where they grow strawberries, broccoli, lettuce and more.  We also offer enriching arts programs, including a weekly arts mentoring program in collaboration with Free Arts NYC, where participants are paired with volunteers to create art projects, and a weekly arts program taught by our own Art Specialist, where children create projects across all kinds of media, such as 2D and 3D sculptures, centerpieces and drums. Last summer, we engaged the Rising Stars children in our highly successfully literacy-building Theme Teams program—multi-week learning projects organized around a specific theme. Students chose Celebrating Bridges Around the World as their theme. Teams researched and visited bridges around New York City to get an idea of how bridges are built, what they are used for and other vital information, which they used to create their own models.  One group created a life-size suspension bridge which people were able to walk across, and other groups created models of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Ward’s Island foot bridge.  We are proud of the academic successes of Theme Teams:  last summer, we administered pre- and post-program tests measuring knowledge of Bridges and the average score increased by 31%.  The program had a great effect on the students’ reading habits:  the percentage of children who had read no books at all shrunk from 23% to 6%, and the percentage reading five or more books grew from 44% to 76%.  By the end of the summer, the percentage of children who said that they felt comfortable asking for assistance in class or help if they didn't know a word rose from 76% to 94%.
  • Our Bridges Middle School Programserved 150 committed students through academic, personal and cultural enrichment as well as two specialized programs: Healing Our Problems Early (HOPE), which focuses on sexual literacy and personal development, and our year-round Middle School College Preparation Program designed to help students in East Harlem's middle schools gain admission to competitive high schools that will set them on the path to higher education.  This year we also added a Leadership Development curriculum, which encourages and develops key leadership skills through public speaking, debate and research in topics such as social injustice, environmental change and political awareness.  
  • We completed the second year of the Union Settlement/OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program, which provides individual attention and literacy support to at-risk elementary school children, grades K – 3, who have been identified by their schools as needing help developing reading and writing skills.  This is a critical time for literacy development, as students’ success in reading throughout their academic career is often essentially determined by the fourth grade.  Through our program, 65 students in six East Harlem elementary schools were tutored by 50 older adults from the community, trained to help build the children’s reading skills, self-esteem and positive attitudes towards learning.  An additional 20 students will be tutored during the summer.  Teachers surveyed reported that 80% of the students in the program improved their academic performance thanks to the tutoring, 95% improved their attitude towards reading and language arts, and 90% improved their self-esteem and confidence in school.
  • Union Settlement’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP), a federally-funded research project in partnership with the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, has completed its third  year.  The program provides specialized, high-impact after school programming for middle schoolers with a history of trauma and violence.  Last year, we served 30 participants, with whom we have been working since middle school, as they completed their second year of high school.  Services included weekly support groups, preventive workshops on health and disease, and a range of leadership and arts activities. As an additional academic support, YEP also provides tutoring, one-on-one mentoring and homework help for all students.  Many of our participants have been exposed to disturbing acts of violence: 55% reported seeing someone beaten, shot at or threatened.  A quarter reported seeing a family member being hit, punched or kicked very hard at home. A quarter also reported being beaten/shot at/threatened. To address the emotional needs of these students, our social worker and youth advocate provided regularly scheduled case management to all 30 of the participants and their families as well as more intense counseling and crisis intervention to  20 students.  Hunter also provided YEP with a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) intern for the 2011-2012 academic year.
  • The East Harlem Teen Health Project (THP), a State Department of Health-supported initiative to provide comprehensive services for the prevention of pregnancy and the promotion of sexual health among 140 adolescents age 10 to 21 years of age, has just completed its second year. This year, the Teen Health Council—a subset of 12 THP participants selected by their peers—completed a seven-week course with the Peace Poets, a community-based arts collective from New York City, who worked with Council members to express their ideas and emotions using poetic techniques.  The collaboration culminated in a performance, where the Council used spoken-wordpoetry to express their concerns about healthy choices, relationships, sexuality, STIs and teen parenting.  Students also created poetry books, which were exhibited at El Museo del Barrio for a month.  Participants also received financial literacy and obesity prevention workshops in partnership with the Union Settlement Federal Credit Union and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.  Parents of participants were in included in workshops and conversations about what their children have learned, and provided with tools and resources to speak with their children about sex. This year, 65% of participants reported gaining a substantial amount of medically accurate knowledge regarding sexuality.
  • Our Healing Our Problems Early (HOPE) program provided sexual literacy programming to 150 middle school students, with 65 participants taking part in more comprehensive services, including our parental simulation module, role-playing activities and Life Skills Workshops.  Since launching the program in 2004, all participants have avoided pregnancy, improved their self-image, gained better self-control and remained in school. Thanks to our program, 83% of males and 84% of females reported having conversations with their parents about sex and 90% reported feeling more comfortable dealing with peer pressure around sex.

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Among our older youth, we face a growing crisis:  nearly one in six of New York City’s young people are neither attending school nor participating in the labor force. Conditions are particularly dire in communities such as ours. We serve almost exclusively African-American and Latino youth, who are more than twice as likely to be “disconnected” as white youth. Poverty, parenting responsibilities, low education levels and lack of job experience also play key roles. It is vitally important to reach out to these young people and provide early intervention before the cycle of unemployment, underemployment and, most of all, hopelessness continues. In recent years, both our Youth Services and Adult Education programs have witnessed an influx of young people ages 24 and under who have dropped out or been pushed out of school. Facing literacy issues, low self-esteem, learning disabilities and other obstacles, these young people sorely need help to build their futures. Our programs provide just this kind of help.

  • We continue to make a difference among this high-risk, difficult-to-serve populationthrough Reconnect and Rise, a rigorous program of educational, vocational and support services designed to help young men ages 16 to 24 who have left or been pushed out of school and are struggling in the job market. In the 2011–2012 school year, we served 92 students with both direct enrollment and referral services (up from 76 last year), 40 of whom remained in the program for the entire year.  More than 10 of our students were referred to alternate education services or a return to public schools, and five were able to go on to pass the GED exam, Seventy completed the full work-readiness component of the program, and we placed 15 in extended internships (2 cycles of 10 weeks).
  • Seventy noncustodial fathers ages 16 to 24 participated in ourFatherhood Program, which provides individual and family counseling, parent skills workshops, job readiness training and placement, visitation assistance/court advocacy, mentoring, conflict resolution training and life skills workshops. This is a high-risk population. Thanks to our services, all participants have contact with their child/children at least two to three times a week and 50%—up from 42% last year—are now able to provide consistent financial provision for their children. Half of the fathers have acquired long term or temporary employment with restaurants, security firms, maintenance departments and other businesses, and the other half are now actively interviewing for full-time jobs. Ten have enrolled in pre-GED classes. The program has also formed a partnership with SCAN’s Cornerstone Johnson Center, which will increase enrollment by 20 new fathers by the end of June.
  • Project Rising, funded through a contract from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, has just completed its second year.  The program provides disconnected youth ages 16 to 24 with a range of services, including pre-GED classes, case management services, workshops, tutoring and college and career exploration.  The program also includes Preventive Arts workshops and family engagement opportunities for at-risk youth ages nine to 12 in our Rising Stars after-school program.  This year, we served 20 disconnected youth with pre-GED classes, 12 of whom made great gains in their skills levels.  Six students took the exam in December 2011, and five passed.  Seven students are scheduled to sit for the GED in June 2012.  We served 27 disconnected youth with job counseling and workforce development, and 30 participated in a series of Transitional Skills workshops.  Twenty-six at-risk children and 10 disconnected youth received case management services, and 26 at-risk youth participated in Preventative Arts workshops designed to provide a healthy outlet to process their emotions and express themselves. Ninety-minute workshops were held twice per week for 30 weeks. Each participant constructed their own personal journal to record their process and reflections during and after the workshops, and created their own sculptural pens to go with the journals.
  • In partnership with the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES), we launched the Choices Alternatives to Detention Program, providing community supervision and afterschool activities for youth in lieu of juvenile detention while their cases are pending in Family Court. The program provides case management, educational support, counseling, and extracurricular activities with the goal of helping youth avoid further involvement in the criminal justice system. During after school hours, we provide tutoring, mental health assessments, short-term counseling and pregnancy, drug and gang prevention workshops and workshops in healthy cooking, computer animation, emotional awareness, sports and dance. Choices participants take team-building recreational field trips like camping, skiing, and mountain biking.  On a bimonthly basis, we host a Family Night, where participants present and share aspects of the program to their families and friends.  Parents also to meet with the program social workers to discuss parenting concerns and provide support to each other. During our first year, Choices serviced approximately 108 participants.  Of these, 100% received mental health services including assessments, short-term counseling, family counseling and crisis intervention.  All of the participants completed Baby, Think It Over, our teen pregnancy prevention program where they take home a simulated baby to experience the challenges of teen parenting.

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In its 48-year history, our College Readiness Programhas provided nearly 20,000 low-income students with guidance and encouragement to pursue higher learning. This past year we provided college and financial aid counseling to more than 1,100 low-income, prospective first-generation college students in six public high schools and three middle schools in East and Central Harlem, the Upper West Side and the South Bronx. Other services include tutoring, SAT prep, college trips, summer enrichment programs and a large national Talent Search Program, which helps low-income, prospective first-generation college students complete high school and enroll in college.  We provided services to 235 high school seniors, helping them graduate on timeand navigate the college selection, admissions and financial aid processes.  With our help, 97% graduated and 90% have been accepted to college. Students received acceptances from such schools as New York University, Pace University, Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York, St. John’s University, Fordham University, Boston University, Georgia State College and Skidmore College.

  • This year, we launched Program Alumni College Transitions(PACT), which is designed to guide graduates of our College Readiness program through the difficult transition to college.  We have become increasingly concerned with how many of our most promising young people head off to college ready to take on the world, only to find themselves intimidated by campus life, unprepared for first-year demands and generally isolated from support systems. Nationally, college retention rates among low-income, minority students remain a major struggle; students whose parents never attended or completed college are twice as likely to leave before their second year. The PACT program provides crucial academic, social, and emotional support, links participants to on-campus support services and activities, and furnishes students with leadership opportunities to serve as mentors to younger students.  Our College Readiness program helped 296 high school seniors gain acceptance to and enroll in college in 2011, 61 of whom sought transition services.  Of these, two decided to defer entry to college, leaving us with a PACT cohort of 59 students enrolled at 35 different schools, and weare thrilled to report that none of these 59 students has dropped out—all remain enrolled in college for the fall 2012 semester.
  • We offered students their first exposure to higher education through 15 visits to the campuses of Baruch College, City College of New York, Hofstra University, Hunter College, Georgetown University, Lehman College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Brooklyn College, Marist College,  Rutgers University Boston College and more. These trips were in addition to a Summer College Experience at Drew University. Last summer, 36 students took part in two week-long trips, one focused on liberal arts and one focused on the sciences.
  • Forty-six students participated in our summer enrichment programs.  Twenty attended our Summer Writing & Theater Program, developing writing and communication skills, studying drama, seeing plays and spending a week on campus at our Summer College at Drew University. The program also focused on résumé writing college admissions essays. Twenty-six students participated in our Science and Technology Entry Program, hosted by City College’s Grove School of Engineering, studying pre-calculus and biology, conducting lab experiments, attending college workshops, listening to guest speakers in the science, medicine and technology fields and conducting research on air quality in the five boroughs and then creating websites and presentations to document their findings and recommendations. 

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In East Harlem, 17% of residents have less than a ninth grade education, 33% of adults did not graduate from high school and only 25% have a college degree. Many residents are illiterate, including immigrants who lack literacy even in their native language; 24% of residents do not speak English “very well”. One of the area’s largest adult education providers, we are committed to helping our neighbors overcome these obstacles and take vital steps toward achieving their educational and career goals.

  • This past year, we assisted more than 450 students through educational classes that include English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), basic literacy, GED preparation in English and Spanish, citizenship and computer skills. We also offer education and immigration counseling and free tax preparation services to our students, as well as providing referrals to other Union Settlement, community or city services for more than 100 additional individuals each year. This year we are offering 17 classes, and providing immigration and educational counseling to students in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.
  • This spring, Union Settlement was selected as one of 15 nonprofits to participate in the Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge, a competition where teams of Morgan Stanley employees are paired with nonprofit organizations to undertake detailed strategic analysis and planning projects.  Our team was charged with exploring the possibility of expanding our Adult Educationprogram by adding fees to some of our classes.  We are delighted to report that our Morgan Stanley team won the competition.  The team made a compelling case for making two major changes to our program:  (1) switching from a semester to a trimester model; and (2) adding several fee-based courses to our menu of offerings each trimester. We are looking forward to testing these findings in the real world starting next fall.  Government budget cuts have severely impacted our Adult Educationprogram, and we are eager to expand it again, so that we can serve more of our community with crucial educational services.
  • Our innovative Home Health Aide Training Program helped area residents begin careers in home care. Students attend four weeks of job readiness training, health literacy and English skills development, including a minimum of 60 hours of instruction and tutoring, followed by four weeks of full-day Home Health Aide Training at the SKILL Center, Progressive Home Care or Partners in Care. Upon successful completion of the program, students are placed in employment at Union Settlement Home Care Services, Cooperative Health Care, or Partners in Care.  To date, 149 students have completed the full training program and 106 are already working.  
  • For the past 19 years, we have collaborated with the prestigious 92nd Street Y on our Writing Through Reading program, which helped nearly 200 ESOL and GED students learn English and improve their reading and writing skills by reading contemporary literature, enjoying visits from renowned authors and producing their own creative writing. Our students give formal readings of their own work and publish a student anthology. Visiting authors for the 2011-2012 season included world-renowned writers Pico Iyer, Brian Turner, Ilan Stavans, and Kay Ryan.  Nearly 200 ESOL and GED students participated in the program, taking classes, attending readings and producing their own creative writing. The program culminated with the Annual Student Reading on June 5.

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Economically struggling and often living alone, our community’s senior population relies heavily on Union Settlement to help meet their everyday needs and ward off feelings of isolation. We provide a wide range of services to more than 1,300 older adults each year. Our five Senior Centersoffer daily group meals, a variety of exercise activities, benefits assistance, nutrition workshops, health and wellness classes, computer classes, games and arts and cultural activities to 600 seniors every year. We currently provide daily Meals on Wheels service to about 325 homebound seniors—up 8% from this time last year.  Our Transportation program provides East Harlem Seniors with an array of solo trips to such places as the pharmacy, the bank or the Social Security office, and group excursions to sites like City Island, the Botanical Garden and museums. Each year, the program serves about 250 seniors from 15 senior centers in East Harlem and Central Harlem, providing trips for about 25 seniors each weekday.

  • More important than ever, as senior hunger rates soar, we provided approximately 70,000 meals at our five centers and delivered more than 100,000 meals to our homebound clients. We continued our much-loved and sorely needed Dinner Project, which provides a supplemental sandwich and piece of fruit to our Meals on Wheels clients, many of whom would otherwise be forced to subsist on one meal a day.  Over the last year, we delivered 60,251 sandwiches.  In our spring satisfaction survey, 93% of clients reported feeling “less hungry” thanks to the service, with 97% reporting “feeling healthier.” Respondents made such comments as “I am grateful for the help and food your company provides me. I don't have to be hungry anymore” and "I can't wait for you to come every day. God bless you all.” Clients regularly report the project’s positive effects on their diabetes, weight and high blood pressure. 
  • We expanded and improved our regular exercise programs. In partnership with Asphalt Green Fitness Center, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to assisting individuals of all ages and backgrounds achieve health through sports and fitness, we are now providing two sessions of exercise (fall and spring) of about 12 – 15 weeks in length. We also continue to offer Walking Clubs during warm weather months and Staywell Exercise (a DFTA program led by seniors) in the winter and on bad weather days.  Yoga and Tai Chi have become staples with a trained leader, and video exercise using Wii and Zumba have gained popularity in Senior Center Groups.  We are happy to report that there are more seniors participating in one or more of our exercise programs than ever before.  We continue to make exercise and fitness a high priority, and our goal is to have every senior participate in some form of exercise at least weekly.  We have recently hired a Health Coordinator who will both expand the frequency and types of health, wellness and exercise programs we offer, and implement an evidence-based system of baseline enrollment evaluation, tracking and periodic evaluation of progress using metrics such as blood pressure, weight, glucose levels, general feeling of well-being, energy level, strength, flexibility, stamina and balance.
  • Our city-contracted Senior Transportation Program provided approximately eight trips for a total of 45 East Harlem seniors every weekday. In addition to providing an array of individual and group recreational trips, the program enhances many aspects of our senior center programming, enabling us to take an average of 20 seniors twice a week to Asphalt Green health and fitness facility for exercise, five or six seniors to their employment or volunteer work sites, 100 seniors to the Farmer’s Market over the course of the summer and 200 seniors to our community garden for our four summer Friday Garden Parties.  The program serves about 250 seniors and 15 senior centers in East Harlem and Central Harlem, including our five senior centers.
  • We continue to expand our Seniors United to Serve Volunteer program. We now have more than 185 volunteers providing 4,200 hours of service each month, with some months seeing as many as 4,700 hours of service.  Across our five centers, they are packing meals and sandwiches, setting tables for lunch, planning trips and parties, refreshing center bathrooms, calling bingo numbers, and assisting in arts and crafts activities.  Perhaps most importantly, they are visiting and calling our homebound and ill clients, providing a vital lifeline to the outside world.  Our last volunteer survey, conducted this winter, showed encouraging results:  97% of respondents rated their volunteer experience positively, 70% said their quality of life had improved since they began volunteering in the program and 91% said they felt the experience had a positive impact on them. Write-in answers spoke to the deep sense of satisfaction, belonging and growth that the seniors gain from the program:  “I have learned how to communicate with my peers”; “I’ve learned to understand different kinds of people”; “I teach and the other seniors teach me”; “It has allowed me to stay focused, motivated, and very much fulfilled and alive”; “I like working with seniors; they show you how to appreciate life’s ups and downs.”  Perhaps the most poignant response was also the shortest:  “I feel helpful.”

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East Harlem has the city’s highest rate of hospitalizations due to mental illness. Poverty substantially increases the emotional burdens many of our residents shoulder, as do the high rates of violence, substance abuse and AIDS and HIV infection. Union Settlement’s Mental Health Services Program, which has been in existence for more than 60 years, addresses these disparities by providing a range of mental health counseling services.

  • The Johnson Counseling Center, our licensed mental health clinic, provides assistance to the residents of East Harlem through individual, family, group and couples therapy, crisis intervention, psychiatric evaluations, advocacy and other services. This year we served 687 clients, an increase of 23% over last year.  Approximately a quarter of our clients are ages 12 and under, with another 14% ages 13 to 20. Nearly 20% are over age 55. Our HIV Counseling Programprovides professional assessment, treatment and case management to 43 HIV-infected adults, their partners and their family members in both English and Spanish. Our broad range of therapeutic group services has proven a boon to our population.
  • We provided 142 emotionally disturbed children and adolescents with mental-health-focused case management services through our Children’s Blended Case Management Program.  We helped to ensure that these children, who have serious emotional issues, are receiving all the mental health, educational, medical and social services that they need to remain with their families and out of institutions. In the past year, we have collaborated with a number of East Harlem childcare providers, including the Association to Benefit Children, Little Sisters of the Assumption and Northside Center, to provide specialized services to children under 5 years who are impacted by the effects of trauma.

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Since its inception in 1957, the Union Settlement Federal Credit Union (USFCU) has been a financial lifeline for East Harlem’s low-income residents. USFCU is an outgrowth of Union Settlement Association, whose employees saw the need to establish a financial institution they could call their own. After the Credit Union's charter was approved in 1957, members’ savings were lent back out for small loans. As time passed and member savings grew, so did the size of new loans. A vital addition to Union Settlement’s original mission, USFCU is a separately-incorporated, not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative dedicated to the economic development of the East Harlem community. 

  • Last year, USFCU provided $1,054,747 in personal, business, home and educational loans to its members, helping 250 low-income community residents take steps toward achieving their dreams of opening or expanding an East Harlem business, purchasing their own home or attending college. 
  • USFCU continued to promote financial literacy in the community through our Money $mart financial literacy workshop series.  The series is targeted at participants in Union Settlement’s programs—including parents in our childcare program, senior center members, youth in our after-school programs and Adult Education students—and members of the East Harlem community at large.  In 2011, we held a total 66 workshops serving 455 total participants—up from 26 workshops and 340 participants the previous year.  Some workshops are given in English and some are in Spanish, covering topics such as home ownership, improving credit, identity theft, debt and student loans. All participants are offered a free “soft-pull” credit report, free credit score and one-on-one financial counseling.  Participants are also linked to USFCU’s many services, including free tax preparation and one-on-one financial counseling to assist them in achieving their goals in these challenging economic times.
  • During the 2011 tax season, we again partnered with the New York City Financial Network Action Consortium to sponsor a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to provide free tax preparation to members and the East Harlem community at large. This year’s program filed over 1,800 tax returns, generating $2.9 million in refunds—up from $2.4 million last year—for low-income New Yorkers. Within this total, 1,352 taxpayers qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and received a total of $2.6 million in EITC funds. In addition, USFCU opened 68 credit union accounts for previously unbanked East Harlem tax clients, connecting these filers with opportunities to save money, develop assets and improve their credit.    

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Union Settlement Home Care is a separately incorporated subsidiary of Union Settlement Association, providing comprehensive home care services to chronically ill, disabled and elderly clients in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn.

  • As need grows, Union Settlement Home Care Services has proven an increasingly vital resource. Over the past year, we provided care for an average of 285 elderly or disabled clients, and a total of more than 370 patients have been served this year.  Our aides provide basic health care and companionship and assistance with activities crucial to daily living, such as bathing, grooming and toileting as well as help with cooking, cleaning and shopping. In addition, they provide assistance with medication, dietary restrictions and other health-related issues, to enable patients to remain in their homes and avoid institutional care.
  • We continue to refine our evaluative mechanisms to ensure that we are providing our frailest constituents, homebound seniors, with the best possible care.  This year we added a process to assess the skills of our aides and re-train them in key areas, so that they can care for the increasingly complex needs of our patient base.  Home health aides are also trained by a nurse to meet the special needs of individual clients, such as insulin administration or eye drops; these aides are given special training cards to verify their competency in these tasks.

We continue to strengthen our nursing services and the skill level of our home health aides.  Home visits by nurses provide supervision and guidance to our aides in improving overall basic health and well-being of the patients.  While making these supervisory visits, nurses also assesses the patient, often identifying unmet needs and additional environmental risk factors, such as fall risks, to be addressed.

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2010 Accomplishements 

2011 Accomplishments 

Union Settlement Association | 237 East 104th Street NY, NY 10029-5404 | P (212) 828.6000 | F (212) 828.6022 | www.unionsettlement.org
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