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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee at Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-Greater New York) is a group of staff members from a range of programs, races, ethnicities, genders and job responsibilities united in their desire to see the organization become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive place for all. The committee is responsible for reviewing VOA-Greater New York’s practices, policies and systems to advise and recommend steps that should be taken to achieve this vision.

All applicants were asked to share why they wanted to join the committee and what they could uniquely bring to the experience. We had an enthusiastic response and thirteen individuals were ultimately selected to join the committee. The selection process was conducted by the committee co-chairs (Vanessa Burton and Anddy Perdomo), the facilitator (Kelly Ashley), the VP of Human Resources (Lynne Plavnick), and President & CEO (Myung Lee). Committee members were selected by evaluating the strength of their applications, diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints, tenure at VOA-Greater New York, program sectors and positions. Here they are in alphabetical order:

  • Ali Akhund

    Research and Evaluation Specialist, Administrative Office

    “I am a first generation Pakistani-American, born and raised...in Staten Island, NY, in a mostly Italian Catholic neighborhood. Our family and another Chinese family were the diversity of the neighborhood. Over the years, we all developed very close friendships and became a tight-knit group. During that time, I learned a lot about the culture of the friends I grew up with, which was a wonderful learning experience. I think it is very important that we celebrate our different cultures and identities and not lose touch with them, because it is the beautiful story of this country and what makes it unique. I truly believe that the different cultures and experiences that we each have bring a unique way of doing things, and these different ideas result in a better product [for the organization].”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2020

  • Ericia Antoine

    Donor Stewardship Manager, Administrative Office

    “As a minority, an immigrant, a woman and a young professional who has worked at both small and large nonprofit organizations, I can offer many perspectives. I am also relatively new to VOA-GNY, and would bring an outsider’s point of view, coupled with a passion for VOA-GNY’s mission and desire to see the organization succeed.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2019

  • Tyrone Ashby

    Residential Services Manager, University Family Residence

    “I have [a total of] nineteen years of experience working with Volunteers of America and I have been on several committees. This committee has a feel for a different type of change and I want to be a part of this culture shift. I bring a viewpoint from the African American male experience, good and bad, which I feel is ideal and beneficial to the [kind] of change which this committee seeks.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2002 & 2013

  • Rudilania Gil

    Associate Program Director, Schwartz Assessment Shelter

    “I obtained my master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Monroe College… My experience working at Schwartz Assessment Shelter [has] allow[ed] me to [grow] as [an] individual. Also, [it has] helped me to have a bigger vision of people[’s] needs. I do not hesitate to help staff members go through the learning process. I am very interested in continuing [to work] with the agency at another level. I believe that my work experience in the Homeless Sector and passion, education, and outgoing personality, makes me a strong candidate for…the committee.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2014

  • Camille Hart

    Employment Specialist, Jamaica Women’s Employment Shelter

    “I’m passionate about the state of affairs regarding race relations at every level. I believe the best way to have a voice as a change agent is to have a seat at the table. [N]ow is the time to discuss and address in new ways the needs of the diverse cultures, religions, ethnicities and sexual orientations that are represented at VOA-GNY. Joining the DEI committee at Volunteers of America will allow me to be an active participant in the positive changes I would like to see occur. I’ll bring a unique skill set to the committee, including three years with VOA-GNY… I will also bring several years of experience working with other industries that have diversity and inclusion initiatives… [and] a formal education in Human Resources and Education Management.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2017

  • Deborah Johnson

    Director of Quality Assurance, Administrative Office

    “I’ve worked at VOA for 14 years, so I’ve seen some of the amazing work we’ve done, but I’ve also witnessed discrimination from clients, staff and managers. I’d like to bring my knowledge and experience to the committee in order to help diversify VOA-GNY. Also, as one of the few non-Christians at VOA-GNY, I can bring a sense of religious diversity to the group.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2006

  • Dayna Kurnitz

    Social Worker, New Hope Shelter

    “I am passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion and have been an advocate for many years. I have been active in movements since my time at the NYCDOE in 2000. I was a founding faculty member and advisor to my school's Gay/Straight Alliance. I worked for DOHMH at a time when diversity became a focus of the agency. With almost two decades of experience, I feel I would bring perspective, experience and enthusiasm to the committee.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2019

  • Pedro Martinez

    Maintenance I, Richard F. Salyer House

    “…Communication is the key to a better and healthy environment. I see life as a puzzle where if all the right pieces are put in the place it creates and become a beautiful picture. What I would like to bring to this committee is a set of skills that can help me and others…starting with listening…communication…equality…”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2016

  • Brigette Roth Smith

    Communications Coordinator, Administrative Office

    “This is a topic I feel passionately about. I have been writing a memoir about growing up mixed race (Puerto Rican/white) in this country. What I could bring to this committee is that I have witnessed what it’s like to exist in our inequitable society from both sides. I would love to help create change. If nothing else, I am committed to discussing this topic honestly.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2019

  • Alvaro Salas

    Sector Director, NYC Homeless, Safe Haven and CSS

    “…[D]iversity and inclusion should be part of our daily life. I’m a Latino multilingual person who [has] lived and worked in four different continents. I [have] worked with youth, seniors, immigrants, and LGBTQ communities which [have] provided me with an understanding of the need for inclusion and empathy for all.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2011

  • Donna Stewart

    Administrative Assistant, Lydia E. Hoffman Family Residence

    “As a millennial born on the cusp of tradition and innovation, I believe that my views, input, willingness to work, interpersonal skills and [desire] to see change, are qualities that are an asset to any team. For a company to not only exist but thrive in ever changing times, [it] must be able to adapt and change as well. I wish to see a change in some of the 'not so positive' culture present throughout VOA-GNY. I am passionate about ensuring that every client and employee feels represented…or, at the very least, feel[s] comfortable that all of their needs/rights…are met.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2019

  • Angelette Waring-Starnes

    Associate Program Director, Safe Dwelling II - Network of Hope

    “I firmly believe that [being] open to learn[ing] of other cultures and experiences only enhances our ability to empathize. I am a Black woman with a multi-racial family. I bring to this experience a history of opportunities and challenges that I have faced and continue to navigate as a middle aged, educated, compassionately proud woman, mother, wife, sister, grandmother of color raised in the urban setting of New York City during the 1960’s.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2019

  • Kevin Young

    Client Care Worker, Cromwell Avenue Safe Haven

    “I possess over 20 years of experience in human services, including volunteer work encompassing empowerment and advocacy for historically underrepresented communities. My life and career are the personifications of diversity and inclusion. I have held various positions spanning direct care to managerial, providing me with a comprehensive understanding of the various perspectives and realities of consumers, colleagues and multiple members of interdisciplinary teams. I am confident my participation will continue to further VOA-GNY's growing mosaic of persons dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2020

Committee Co-Chairs & Facilitator

  • Vanessa Burton (Co-Chair)

    Sector Director, NYC Homeless and Community Support Services

    "I’ve been an employee of VOA-GNY for 27 years and have held many positions within the organization. I’m currently the Sector Director for NYC Homeless and Community Support Services. Previously I was part of the NYC Emergency Housing and Shelter Services team, which serves hundreds of families experiencing homelessness each year. I’ve also been an agency trainer. I am currently a member of the NYC Department Homeless Services Social Worker Work Group, an initiative that helps phase in social workers into shelters."


    Joined VOA-GNY in 1993

  • Anddy Perdomo (Co-Chair)

    Director, Specialized Housing & Veterans Initiatives

    “I’ve been the VOA-GNY Director of Specialized Housing and Veteran Initiatives since 2012, after joining the organization as an Associate Program Director at a homeless residence. I helped develop the Patriot House program—a first-of-its-kind temporary housing program for veterans left homeless after hospitalization—and in 2014, expanded the program to a second location. In 2016, I led the Supportive Services for Veterans and their Families (SSVF) program to obtain a three-year accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). I have worked for some of the city’s premier social services agencies, and managed workforce development, vocational, and employment services for people with disabilities and on public assistance. Before that, I was a vocational counselor, an academic advisor, financial assistant specialist, and career counselor for my undergraduate alma mater. I’ve served on the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, Women Veteran Advisory Board. Currently I’m a member of Bronx Community Board 3 and Chairperson for their Health and Human Services Committee. I’m a CARF Surveyor, a minister for VOA-GNY and an alumna of We Are the Bronx Fellowship, an executive training program for managers.”


    Joined VOA-GNY in 2012

  • Kelly Ashley (Facilitator)

    Director of Learning and Performance

    "I joined VOA as a Team Leader at Camp LaGuardia Men’s Shelter in Chester, NY and was promoted to Human Resource Manager in 2001. Six years later, following the closure of Camp LaGuardia, I became Associate Program Director of Grasslands Homeless Shelter in Valhalla, NY. I eventually returned to HR when I accepted the position of Human Resource Manager for Sector 4 in 2007. My current role as Director of Learning and Performance, which I began in 2017, gives me an opportunity to meet and welcome every new hire that joins VOA-GNY—something I enjoy. Part of my responsibility, and that of the department, is to ensure each employee has an understanding of the culture at VOA-GNY, including our Shared Values. Diversity has been one of our Shared Values since 1995, but now, we need to take a deeper look to ensure our policies, procedures and day to day operations are equal for all. I look forward to serving as a facilitator for the DEI Committee. VOA-GNY and the people that choose to be part of this organization are very special, and I want to be able to help create a culture that honors and values each one of them."


    Joined VOA-GNY in 1999