AKA Honors Caregivers and Essential Workers

POUGHKEEPSIE – In November we celebrated National Family Caregivers Month. It is a time to honor and recognize family caregivers across the nation. On November 15th, 2021, Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Inc.; Iota Alpha Omega Chapter celebrated National Caregivers Day by honoring Caregivers and Essential Workers throughout our region. The women of Iota Alpha Omega have served the Mid Hudson Valley for over 50 years. We take pride in serving Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess and Orange counties.

This year Joy Rene’ Young, Vice President of Iota Alpha Omega and Program Chairmen, in collaboration with Robyn Michelle Haberman, AARP New York Associate State Director, Community Engagement not only honored Caregivers and Essential Workers, but also had information presentations on brain health and getting your home fit for individuals as we age. The presentations were provided by AARP’s Speakers Bureau. Fifteen people in all were honored. As stated by Robyn Haberman of AARP during the event, “Caregivers are Essential Workers.”

The honorees included, Regina M.Terry of Poughkeepsie, NY, IT support for a medical billing company and caregiver helping her dad;

Elisa Glass of Slate Hill, NY. She is a retired college professor and business owner. She is a caregiver for her husband and father in law.

Fay Williams is a retiree from the human services field. She is the First Lady of a church in Astoria, NY and married to Pastor Darrayle Williams She is a cancer survivor and caregiver for her husband.

Roslyn A. Nurse of Spring Valley has cared for many family members, but is currently caring for her military husband. Roslyn was appointed by the U.S. Army the chief liaison officer on behalf of the wives and husbands and children who many times were left to fend for themselves when their loved ones deployed.

Marilyn Greensberg of Ulster County is a military wife caring for her husband Abner Greensberg who was elected to the New York State Veterans Hall of Fame in 2014. He was recognized for his service of mentoring returning Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans with severe Post Traumatic Stress.

Clockwise from top left: Deborah Danzy, Ava Benjamin, Khala Imani Young, Aisha Reed, Anne Milliken, Elisa Glass, and Fay Williams.
Clockwise from top left: Deborah Danzy, Ava Benjamin, Khala Imani Young, Aisha Reed, Anne Milliken, Elisa Glass, and Fay Williams.

Anne Millikin of Newburgh, NY is a social worker and she works for Castle Point VA Medical Center where she is dedicated to helping families members who are caring for veterans. As one of the coordinators of the Hudson Valley VA Caregiver Support Program, she has gotten to know so many selfless dedicated families who put their needs on the back burner to care for the needs of their loved ones. Veterans of all ages and eras who often bear the emotional, mental, and physical wounds of war throughout their lifetimes.

Ziada Wa-Dutumi-Barnes, RN BSN CMSRN is the First Lady of Living In Jesus Ministries Church in Newburgh, NY and married to Pastor Jamel Barnes. She is a mother of six and nurse at Vassar Brothers Medical Center. She worked on the first unit to care for positive Covid-19 patients in Vassar. She continued to show up for her 12 hour night shift where she would care for patients sick with Covid-19 in full PPE for almost a year.

Aisha Reed is the proud owner of Aisha’s Alphabet Academy in Newburgh, NY. A family daycare that has been in service since 2012. Aisha kept her doors open to service families through the pandemic. She even provided space to students to connect to their virtual classrooms. Aisha likes mentoring young women and collaborating with other young entrepreneurs in the Hudson Valley.

Mary Kostenblatt, MS, BSN,RN School Nurse Teacher at Newburgh Enlarged City School District(NECSD) and a member of the NAACP Newburgh Highland Falls Health Chair (NAACP NHF). After working many years in acute care and ICU, she returned to school to complete her graduate degree in Community/Public Health Nursing and found her true passion. She is now the school nurse teacher for Horizons on the Hudson in the city of Newburgh. Through her work with the NAACP, she worked tirelessly getting information and helping to get COVID19 shots into people’s arms. Our Health Committee has continued to work vigilantly to support our community by active involvement in the planning and implementing of community events like “Community Appreciation Day” held in June. At the event, 400 backpacks were distributed to school children through a generous donation from the Divine Nine Chapters of the Mid-Hudson Valley (Mid Hudson Valley National Pan-Hellenic Council). We continue to deliver current, accurate vaccination data and Covid mitigation strategies at community events.

Marilyn Greensberg
Marilyn Greensberg

Deborah J. Danzy is a certified nurse’s aide and is currently employed with Planned Parenthood of Greater New York as a Community Health Promoter, member of the Newburgh/Highland Falls NAACP, NAACP Health Committee, Vice Chair of Newburgh Democratic Committee, We Are Newburgh, Community Voices Heard, Senior Mentor for Cicatelli Associates (People Living with HIV/AIDS), Advocate for Seniors for Lake St., Burton Towers, Cerone Pl., volunteer for local Churches Farmers Market, Farm Stands, Food Pantries and Soup Kitchen in the City of Newburgh, NY.

Khala Young has worked in the financial industry for the past few years. Khala has built such strong relationships with the people she encounters, that while she was on maternity leave she received many notes from my coworkers saying people had been asking for her. Last year during her pregnancy with her son she was terrified of going to work because she worked face to face with people. COVID-19 was at an all time high. She bought Lysol, hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks for myself and all of her coworkers! She became known as the Covid- 19 Queen at work. Priscilla Kelly is the proud owner and trustee of New Covenant Learning Center, located at 95 Catherine Street, in Beacon, New York. The learning center opened in 2008. Prior to becoming the Director of New Covenant, she worked for the New York State Department of Corrections for twenty-six years. Because of the facility run by her and her beloved husband, many Essential Workers were able to go to work.

Ava Benjamin prayed for an opportunity to give back to her community. An opportunity came through the opened door of The Salvation Army in Newburgh, NY in 2006. She enrolled her daughter into the after school program and dedicated more time to the program participants as a tutor. In 2010, Ava was chosen and promoted from tutor to After School Director. In 2019, the school was closed due to Covid-19. She was given the opportunity during the pandemic to help in serving meals and packing pantry boxes for families in need. In 2021 the pandemic shifted in educational CDC/State regulations, the program reopened and Ava, again assumed the position as the Director of the Afterschool Program, providing a safe, uplifting, and loving space for the children in the community to flourish.

Sharon Brown, RN is a master-prepared nurse, dedicated to addressing the health determinants of our community. She is currently the Acting Chief of Quality Management for Castle Point VA. She currently has several degrees: Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN), Master’s in Public Health Administration (MPA), and Master’s in Nursing (MSN) with a concentration in Leadership and Organizational Management. Sharon gave 20 years of service to the Newburgh community, working in various capacities at St. Luke’s-Cornwall Hospital. She was a Pop Warner Cheer Coach (Go Packers!), Wappingers Warriors Wrestling team mother, and Oasis Christian School class mother. She has impacted our world by participating in numerous service projects including SIDS education to teenage mothers, CPR training, Back to school backpacks for school age children, Water.com for safe/clean waterways in Central Africa, and supporting free schooling for the lowest caste children in southern India. Family and community are important to Sharon.

Pastor Nikki Wimberly is the pastor of Open Arms Christian Ministries International and is the founder and director of Open Arms Transitional Housing in Wappingers Falls, New York. Open Arms Transitional Housing has been in operation for over six years. This ministry has a mission to help women and children who have found themselves in a crisis situation and can benefit from an home-like environment, rather than traditional shelters. Open Arms has been able to assist more than 30 families with shelter and emotional support, until they were strong enough to get back on their feet and transition into independent living. This ministry is not state run; it is privately run by Pastor Nikki and the generous donations from the community and private organizations.

The women of Iota Alpha Omega, under the direction of their President, Kim Jarratt, have had some outstanding events this year. Even with the challenges of a pandemic we continue to exemplify excellence through sustainable service. In November we also launched our first Entrepreneurs Roundtable, Volume I. We highlighted African American owned businesses which spotlighted the following businesses, Blacc Vanilla Cafe in Newburgh, NY, owner Jerrod Lang; Salon Dae (Hair Salon) Poughkeepsie, NY, owner Danielle Pitts; Essence Of Youth Owner (Skincare), Hopewell Junction, NY, owner Mary Largie; Lioness Love Owner, Middletown, NY (Apparel) – Rochelle Scott. We shined a spotlight on the businesses so that more people support them. The owners also so graciously gave tips to budding entrepreneurs.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.’s Iota Alpha Omega Chapter has had an outstanding year in service. We have collaborated with many African American owned businesses as a part of our Black Dollar 365 initiative. We have also collaborated with many organizations to bring fourth interesting and informative content. We have collaborated with the Black History Committee of the Hudson Valley for a virtual presentation serving Newburgh, NY. along with our brothers from Kappa Upsilon Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

In February we collaborated with the Regional Director of Dutchess and Ulster American Heart Association for a heart health event, joined them later to raise money and participated in their virtual walk. In March we were introduced to The Gambia in Africa virtually and connected with the SAGG Foundation to help young girls in Africa be able to afford school. March was also credit education month. We had wonderful virtual events on credit awareness, insurance matters to be better prepared. In March our corporate office presented an event about navigating the college applications process during the Covid-19 pandemic via the Youtube platform. We invited students from our area.

In September we continued the classes for the College Admissions Process (the #CAP program) where we are assisting students from Newburgh Free Academy, Central Valley and Poughkeepsie High Schools prepare to go to college. In April we had a poetry contest for the youth on Social Justice through spoken word. In April we had events with AARP on Fraud Prevention, A Health & Wellness.

In May we celebrated Mother’s Day with a virtual event performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, an event with AARP on Understanding Legal Documents and we collaborated with Sun River Health for Covid-19 Town Hall with other Sororities & Fraternities. In June we had a presentation by Morgan Stanley titled “Psychology of Investing”. We also celebrated the Historical Marker Unveiling Ceremony for one of our founders, Harriet Josephine Terry in Cornwall, NY. We held a community drive to assist a transitional house in Wappingers, NY.

In collaboration with the Mid Hudson Ivy Foundation, we awarded eight students scholarships from Poughkeepsie High School, Arlington High School, Marlboro High School, John Jay High School, Cornwall High School, FDR High School, Newburgh Free Academy and Storm King High School. We had a much needed break for the summer and in October collaborated with the American Cancer Society to host an event for Breast Cancer Awareness. We had an oncology doctor and three cancer survivors from our communities share their experience. We received rave reviews from the audience about how much they learned and appreciated our efforts. We went to the Poughkeepsie Galleria for National Mammography Day in October as well. We spoke to customers about getting their mammograms and handed out flyers dispelling myths about getting the test. In the coming years we will continue to serve our communities of the Mid Hudson Valley.

We have many more wonderful programs to come. We are elated that the community has signed on to participate and engage in our programs throughout the pandemic. President Kim Jarratt and the ladies of Iota Alpha Omega are very thankful to the communities we serve.

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