By Derek Saker
Over 100 community leaders applauded efforts by city and state legislative leaders and elected officials who were honored for their dedication at Ohel’s Children’s Home and Family Services inaugural legislative breakfast Friday morning. The breakfast was hosted by Jeffery S. Wiesenfeld, principal at Bernstein Global Wealth Management in New York City.
David Mandel, CEO of Ohel, hailed NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s compassioned leadership, as shown in the aftermath of the East Harlem explosion, in presenting her Ohel’s Appreciation Award. “Speaker Mark-Viverito canceled all events to be with the people in her neighborhood that were suffering, emotionally and financially,” said Mandel. “We expect leaders to lead. But what was very special with Speaker Mark-Viverito is showing how she led with compassion. Ohel, too, prides itself in serving people with the level of professionalism and compassion that elevates lives every day.”
Ms. Mark-Viverito accepting the award was joined by Ohel co-presidents Moishe Hellman and Mel Zachter, co-chairmen Moshe Zakheim and Elly Kleinman, and a dozen board members.
”You provide shelter to many people. Ohel truly serves the entire community,” said Speaker Mark-Viverito. “We in the City Council look forward to partnering with Ohel as it serves thousands of people every day, making their quality of life so much better.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, introduced by Josh Mehlman, newly designated chair of Ohel’s Government Relations Committee, promised to partner with Ohel to make sure our communities in Brooklyn are treated fairly.
The Ohel Public Service Award was presented to NY State Senate Majority Co-Leader Senator Jeff Klein. “This is special to me because I know the organization does tremendous work,” said Mr. Klein after accepting the award. “It really rings loud and clear that the people who are involved in this organization truly do G‑d’s work. Over the years, you’ve provided a voice to the voiceless and a beacon of light for those who experience personal darkness.” Touting the NYS budget, which passed this week, Mr. Klein said the Senate “certainly didn’t forget those who struggle with mental illness. We did come together in a very special way and start a program which I think is going to go a very long way in making sure we not only recognize those in our society who need a little help, but also to those who are mentally challenged—the first ever tax credit for those who hire developmentally disabled.”
Queens Councilman Mark Weprin, whose vital support enables Ohel to serve a large number of families with autism, said, “Ohel does such amazing work.” Echoing his colleague, Councilman Rory Lancman said, “We get up every day doing the things we do, so we can support organizations like Ohel.”
Councilman David Greenfield also addressed the group. “The amazing thing about Ohel is that you can visit any one of their programs and you can be blown away. Ohel is an organization that serves folks around the city and they do it in a way with dignity, professionalism, and incredible respect,” said Mr. Greenfield. “But they could not do it without the community leaders who are here today and of course the elected officials.”
“This year in the state budget, I think we accomplished a lot of good things, especially in the health budget,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, chairman of the Health Committee.
”The work Ohel does for kids with special needs doesn’t go unnoticed for men like myself and the legislative leaders,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, promising to support the organization.
NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver received Ohel’s Leadership Award. “NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has truly championed Ohel’s growth over the years. His vital support has enabled us to serve thousands of people in crisis, expand our metal health services, our base of important volunteers, our addiction treatment services and significantly Ohel’s Camp Kaylie–The Dr. Joe Silver campus,” said David Mandel in presenting Speaker Silver the leadership award.
”I’ve been blessed to be involved with Ohel for many years. The range of services, the professionalism, and the loving care provided by this agency is just astounding,” said Speaker Silver. “They can provide for the troubled, the battered, and the less-fortunate more efficiently and effectively than government can. I invite you all to visit Camp Kaylie, truly a special place. With the leadership of Moishe Hellman, Mel Zachter, and David Mandel, we have leadership that is as good as it gets,” Mr. Silver added.
Also in attendance were State Senator Simcha Felder, whose support for Ohel’s trauma services is vital; Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs, who recently visited Ohel’s program on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn for adults with developmental disabilities; and Assemblyman David Weprin, who enabled Ohel to open an outpatient center in Far Rockaway serving hundreds of families in need. v
Since 1969, Ohel has served as a dependable haven of individual and family support, helping people of all ages surmount disability and everyday challenges, heal from trauma, and manage with strength and dignity during times of crisis. Ohel serves thousands in need every day in communities in New York, New Jersey, South Florida, Los Angeles, and California—and worldwide on the web (http://www.ohelfamily.org).