Volunteers of America-Greater New York Honors Three Community Pillars with Awards at 26th Annual Gala

On Monday, April 17, Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) held our 26th annual gala, titled Over the Rainbow: Imagining a Future Without Homelessness, in support of our mission to end homelessness in the greater New York region by 2050. The gala, which was emceed by NBC’s Willie Geist, raised over $1.3 million for VOA-GNY’s operations and honored three leading members of the community for their work and advocacy in service of the VOA-GNY mission.


New York City Mayor Eric Adams delivered compelling remarks at the event about his own experience with poverty as a child, and emphasized the important work of organizations like VOA-GNY. The nonprofit is currently partnering with several city agencies on an exclusive pilot program that transitions individuals experiencing street homelessness directly into supportive housing.

The gala came as New York’s homelessness crisis continues to grow and the pressing need for VOA-GNY’s services—which include the creation and preservation of supportive and affordable housing, management of temporary housing, and connection to mental and physical health services—becomes more urgent by the day.

“When working toward a goal as crucial and challenging as ending homelessness, it is energizing to come together with partners and supporters to raise vital funds and celebrate the success stories, which remind us that even though it can be difficult, the work truly does make a life-changing difference,” said Ericia Antoine, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Partnerships & Special Events at Volunteers of America–Greater New York.

VOA-GNY recognized three honorees at Monday’s gala:


Community Champion Award: Cerberus Capital Management (Cerberus), accepted by Kristen Shanley, Director and Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The award recognizes Cerberus for steadfastly supporting VOA-GNY’s Operation Backpack® campaign, which provides every student living in a New York City shelter with new school supplies each school year.


Shining Star Award: Actor, author, and philanthropist Holly Robinson Peete. The award recognizes Ms. Robinson Peete for her work as an advocate for youth through the HollyRod Foundation, which she founded to help families impacted by autism and Parkinson’s disease.


Achievement Award: Broadway star, singer, actress, and songwriter Hailee Kaleem Wright, who recently performed at the 75th Tony Awards and is starring in the musical SIX. Prior to her success on stage, Ms. Kaleem Wright twice experienced homelessness, including once in New York City, and is now an advocate in the fight to end homelessness.

Notable guests included Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Social Services Molly Park, City Council Members Amanda Farias and Gale Brewer, actor and television host Paige Davis, former New York Giants player Plaxico Burress and former New York Knicks player Charles Smith.

The evening also featured a duet performance by Broadway’s Jenny DiNoia and Kara Lindsay singing “For Good” from Wicked, and a moving performance of “Home” from The Wiz by honoree Hailee Kaleem Wright.