Staff Spotlights

The staff at Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) are critical to the work we do. As essential workers, they have shown up every day throughout the pandemic to keep our neighbors in need safe.

Meet them below and be sure to follow our new #WisdomWednesday (formerly #FrontlineFriday) series on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.



“Believe in people.”

Corvenia has had a busy few years. Since joining VOA-GNY in 2019, she’s been promoted three times, earned a master’s degree in social work, and given birth to twins! Coming from a family with seven siblings, multitasking comes naturally to her—and so does helping others.

As Associate Program Director at one of our single room occupancy (SRO) programs that provides permanent supportive housing to adults who’ve experienced homelessness, Corvenia prides herself on being a good listener. She understands that clients are often dealing with difficult circumstances, whether they’re mourning the death of a loved one or having trouble finding a job. Whatever the issue, Corvenia is always there, reminding them that, “No matter where they came from, they can always get somewhere else in life.”

Corvenia says she’ll never forget the time she helped a former client who had moved out of the SRO and into local a nursing home. Soon after he left, she learned his basic needs were not being met. After paying him a visit and realizing he had no one to advocate for him, she began calling the nursing home on his behalf every day. Before long, he began to receive better care and even recovered enough that he was able to move back into the SRO, which felt more like home to him than anywhere else. “After all,” she explains, “that was the community that he knew best—and we, the VOA-GNY staff members, had become his family.”



“A support system is crucial.”

Since joining VOA-GNY more than 20 years ago, Sharon has fulfilled many roles, including Case Manager, Substance Abuse Counsellor, and now Associate Program Director at one of our Manhattan supportive housing residences for individuals who were formerly homeless.

Human services work has always appealed to Sharon—she never considered doing anything else—because understanding people comes naturally to her. Even during challenging moments, Sharon always finds a productive, empathetic way to engage.

She and her staff help individuals who have fallen on hard times work to restructure their lives. “One of the most important things is to help clients identify someone in their community who can support them, whether that is a pastor, family member, or home health aide. Once that support is in place, we help them learn new skills, or build on skills they already have, to help them recover to wellness, whatever that means for them.”

“It’s not easy work,” Sharon admits, but she finds great fulfillment in supporting clients and seeing their improvement. Many times, after clients move on to independent living, they come back to thank Sharon and other staff members and let them know how they’re doing. She proudly recalls a former client who’d gone on to live independently in Florida and came back to say that he was working as a manager of a small business, and another who returned with her new baby.

Sharon concludes, “We know we’re doing good work when we don’t see them back in the shelter system again



“Feeling appreciated goes a long way.”

Kenisha had already lived a full life before coming to work at Volunteers of America-Greater New York. Fourteen years ago, after migrating from Guyana and working in real estate, she accepted a position as Front Desk Monitor at one of our adult supportive housing sites. Since then, she’s been promoted multiple times, currently holding the position of Residential Services Manager at one of our Brooklyn shelters for individuals who are formerly homeless, some of whom have behavioral health concerns.Kenisha ensures that the building runs smoothly. Sometimes that means checking in with security or maintenance. Other times it means making sure utility bills are paid on time or answering any building maintenance-related questions clients may have.With over 100 tenants and 17 staff members, Kenisha is always busy. But even when things become hectic, she knows all her hard work is appreciated when a client or staff member expresses their gratitude. “That makes even the most stressful day feel worthwhile,” she says, “because then I know I’m making a difference.”In addition to making sure the building is safe and clean for both clients and staff, she sometimes plays a role in organizing special events, like the time she helped plan a formal tea party for clients—an experience that stands out in her memory because it meant so much to the individuals who took part. “One woman had on a gown,” she remembers. “The residents felt like they were really seen — it was a way for them to forget their circumstances, even if just for a couple of hours.”



“Make sure you know where everything is.”

The work that VOA-GNY does to help people in need can be life changing, but if the bills are not paid, no needs can be met, nor lives changed.

That is where Regna comes in.

After having worked at Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious auction houses, for 20 years, she now serves as Bookkeeper at one of our supportive housing residences for individuals who were formerly homeless in Manhattan. Among other administrative duties, Regna makes sure that rents are paid and good records are kept. If a tenant says they submitted a rent check but has no confirmation that it was received, Regna can help. Similarly, if a tenant is late with rent, she can send a reminder, or advise them of next steps.

Every day is a good day for Regna. She loves her job and always takes care to give people clean paperwork, which means no coffee or tea at her desk. She especially enjoys working as a team with her coworkers.

“I try to do as much as I can to make sure that operations run smoothly,” she says, “because the money is our lifeline. If the bills are not paid, we can’t help anyone.”



“Kindness is free.”

40 years—that’s how long Jeannette has been working in human services.

Before coming to VOA-GNY as Assistant Program Director of one of our permanent supportive housing programs in 2016, she spent many years working with people who struggle with mental health and/or substance use disorders in NYC. Over the years, she has also worked with individuals with disabilities, prenatal and postpartum mothers, and incarcerated adults.

As someone with a parent who dealt with mental health issues, Jeannette has always understood how to be patient, kind, and understanding with people. That bedside manner is something that comes naturally to her, and she has perfected this art over time.

She has many stories of people who she’s helped coming back to thank her—sometimes even years later—like the truck driver who stopped her as she was walking down the street one day to say thanks for connecting him with job training nearly fifteen years before! Or the woman who she helped as a young mother who recently called to say that her child was now headed for college. “Things like that make me know that what I do is right for me,” she says.

Jeannette admits that sometimes this work can become challenging, but when it does, she says she likes to remember to just breathe—and to always be kind and humble. “I don’t hold a grudge,” she explains. “I’d rather be kind. Kindness is not an easy thing. We do get angry, but that doesn’t make us unkind. Kindness is free. It doesn’t cost anything, and you can totally make someone’s day.”



“The kids keep you going.”

Taking care of others comes naturally to Michelle. After growing up with a disabled family member, she has always understood how to be patient and caring with people. Every time she ever thought about a career as a child, she always imagined she would do something where compassion and patience were essential.

Today she is living her dream as a teacher at our preschool for children with developmental delays and disabilities in the Bronx. It is a job she considers herself lucky to have because she loves to be able to make a difference in the lives of the children and families she serves.

She works hard to set up a consistent routine for her students, in addition to designing her classroom in a way that is always engaging and inviting. “Since a lot of the kids are nonverbal, the setup of the room, with lots of visuals and pictures, is always really important.”

Although the job can sometimes be difficult, Michelle says it is always gratifying to see when progress is made, like when a child who has been nonverbal begins to form sentences, or when a kid who had been unable to draw a circle learns to draw a face.

She especially appreciates when parents stay in contact with her after their children graduate, or when her students come back to visit. Because then she knows she has been a positive influence in their lives.



“Humanism is what the world needs more of.”

Born in Trinidad, Dominique has never been a stranger to individuals or communities in need. Among other good qualities, he developed a strong love of people early in life. Because of this, helping those who are struggling comes naturally to him.

In his three years at VOA-GNY, Dominique has been promoted four times and has occupied several different roles. Currently he helps ensure all VOA-GNY shelters are in compliance with government health and safety standards. Although he loves what he does now, he sometimes misses working more directly with clients and making a difference in their lives, like when he developed a library system for clients to borrow books and games at one of our programs, or when he discovered a client in cardiac distress—and was instrumental in saving that person’s life.

In addition to his current role as Real Estate Expediter, Dominique also dedicates his time and effort to VOA-GNY’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

A good day at work for him is when he can share laughter with colleagues—he enjoys getting to know people from all different walks of life. And even when things become difficult, he says he always gets through by remembering that he is a part of something larger than himself.



“Let someone know you’ll be there – in good times and bad.”

From law and order to love and kindness.

After starting out as a Criminal Justice major in college, Brieana switched her focus to Psychology when she realized that what she loves most is helping people—and not just helping, but being there and sticking with them through thick and thin.

Today, as a Community Support Services Counselor at one of our programs in Northern New Jersey, she helps individuals with behavioral health disorders tackle things like household maintenance, grocery shopping, traveling to and from appointments, and taking medication correctly. She also helps fill out and submit paperwork so residents can obtain benefits like food stamps and government-issued rental vouchers.

Brieana is often tasked with helping people who have been homeless learn how to live within the community again. One of the things she loves most about her job, she says, is “Taking someone from a hospital or homeless shelter and bringing them into their own apartment for the very first time. They are always so thankful!”

Recently, Brieana and her colleagues took pride in witnessing the progress of a client struggling with hoarding. “It was so gratifying to see the look on this client’s face as she enjoyed the newly cleaned-up and clutter-free living area.” It’s moments like that, Brieana says, that make all the hard work and patience required for the job she does worthwhile.

When Brieana is not helping people at VOA-GNY, you might find her kayaking, picnicking with her mom and sister, or reading thrilling novels by Dean Koontz or Stephen King.

Or, you might find her lending a hand to a friend or family member, because helping is just a part of who she is.



“Sometimes people just need to be heard.”

Do you have a person in your family or friend group who is the reliable go-to for help with personal problems?In Tatiana’s life, she is that person.This makes the job she does helping families who have struggled with homelessness a perfect fit.As Associate Program Director at our family shelter in Upper Manhattan, Tatiana makes sure that residents get everything they need both before and after their time in shelter. Whether they require medical care, referrals to mental health services, or help with education or finding employment, Tatiana and her team make sure that needs are met—and all of this is in addition to the hard work she and her teammates do to help families find and move on to permanent homes.“The best days,” Tatiana says, “are when I walk into the building and see bags and bins, because that is the telltale sign that a family is moving on to permanent housing.”She goes on to explain that sometimes clients, who have spent a long time on the street, or bouncing around among different shelters, don’t believe that they will ever find themselves in a permanent home. Tatiana tells them, “At VOA-GNY we’re different—we’ll move you into permanent housing and you will never return to shelter again.”“And then,” she adds, “we prove it.”



“A life not lived for others is not a life.”

Juan could not be more perfectly suited for working with asylum-seeking families in the Bronx.

As a native of Colombia who obtained his own citizenship by seeking asylum, he understands the process better than anyone and knows what it’s like to be all alone, trying to make it in another country.

Juan also has a long history of helping people. He first became involved with human services work in Colombia after visiting a community that was so poor that its children could only afford to eat once a day. “I was heartbroken,” he says, and has devoted himself to this work ever since.

His efforts to engage and bring people together to create positive change became so successful that he eventually became noticed by #BloombergPhilanthropies #CitiesofService and was awarded a grant for his work.

Over the last few years, Juan has worked at several VOA-GNY programs in multiple capacities, but today he uses his personal experience at our first sanctuary shelter helping families who have been forced to flee Latin America and Central America.

In addition to providing food and shelter to these families, Juan helps them enroll their children in school, obtain medical care, and perhaps most important of all, he gives them comfort and guidance when they need it most.

“Every day,” he says, “I try to empower these families. When I see them sad, I remind them this is a marathon.”

“I have so much empathy,” he says. “I understand what it’s like to be alone in a foreign country with no one and nothing.”



“I’m whoever my clients need me to be in that moment.”

Jacqueline’s first experience with VOA-GNY was when she called the domestic violence hotline in need of emergency assistance.

Christelle Padmore, Program Director at the shelter where Jacqueline took refuge, remembers her well. “She complied with everything and attended all the support groups—DV, Parenting, you name it, she earned all the certificates… and then she volunteered to help the other residents with childcare!”

Since Jacqueline had grown up in the foster care system, she’d always been interested in human services. Before long, she began looking for a job within the field, eventually garnering multiple job offers from various providers. But Jacqueline turned all the other offers down for a position with VOA-GNY—because she wanted to give back to the organization that had helped her so much.

The first job Jacqueline held at VOA-GNY was as a maintenance worker at one of our supportive housing programs for adults with a history homelessness and mental illness.

Although Jacqueline excelled in the job and enjoyed it, she was forced to take a sudden leave of absence after her ex found her in a taxi on the way to work one day, sending her to the hospital in need of stitches.

To ensure Jacqueline’s future safety, VOA-GNY transferred her to a new location, but also promoted her to Case Manager, which was a welcome surprise!

Today Jacqueline loves her job at a residence that provides supportive housing to people who are formerly homeless and/or living with mental illness.

“We support those who need support,” she says. “Whether housing, food, or mental health, we assist people with goals they have set for themselves. Sometimes I’m a cheerleader, sometimes I’m a parent—I’m whoever my clients need me to be in that moment.”

But Jacqueline doesn’t take sole credit for the work she does. “Without my coworkers,” she says, “I am nothing.”

Also, she says of her coworkers, “We care about each other so much.”

At VOA-GNY, Jacqueline found not just a job—but a family.

Front Desk Staff


At VOA-GNY, we don’t just provide shelter to people in need—we foster a sense of belonging and love.

But before we can provide any of these things, we first must create a safe environment so that clients can feel protected as they work toward pursuing their goals.

That is why we pride ourselves on employing the very best front desk staff, a group of individuals whose dedication, attention to detail, coolness under pressure, and empathy helps them deliver services to our clients that goes above and beyond what is expected.

Congratulations to the front desk staff who were recently honored for their outstanding security performance by the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) at a special luncheon this month.

Pictured here, from left to right: Michael Coppin, Front Desk Supervisor, Dilan Molina, Front Desk Supervisor, Tatiana Alston, Case Manager Supervisor, Aboudassisou Aliou, Front Desk Monitor, Wilfred Samson, Front Desk Monitor, Demetrios Vasilakos, Program Director, Ramon Martinez, Front Desk Monitor, Jumaane Johnson, Front Desk Supervisor, Linda Moshett, Program Director.



“We engage people by doing small things.”

Sometimes from suffering comes a desire to serve.After losing her mother to drug use, Lisette sought work with a Bronx organization that helps people with substance use issues almost as soon as she was old enough to work.

While helping individuals who struggled with addiction, she developed an understanding for the pain and suffering her mother faced and became a devoted human services professional.

With the mentorship of a friend, in addition to some time spent working in real estate, she also became expert in connecting individuals and families who are homeless with housing, and for more than fifteen years, she has used her expertise and dedication at one of our family shelters in the Bronx.

There she listened to clients, determined their needs, and connected them with food, clothing, healthcare, mental health or substance use programs, education, child-care, employment, and ultimately permanent homes.

Today she is Program Director of our newest and largest family shelter, which is scheduled to open in Brooklyn soon. It is a role she is excited to fill, and she has high praise for VOA-GNY, which she credits with helping her to grow professionally during her sixteen years of service.

As Lisette awaits the arrival of the shelter’s first clients, she is eager to mentor her staff, because, as she points out, “If the staff don’t know what to do, the clients will be stuck [without homes].”What Lisette loves most about her job is seeing progress with clients who have been hard to reach. “Sometimes clients come to us,” she says, “and I can see that no one has ever given them hope. That’s where VOA-GNY is different. We engage people by doing small things, sitting down with them, reading with them, listening to them . . . then little things turn into big things.”


case manager supervisor, Schwartz assessment shelter

“This job teaches you to give people grace.”

Having a strong desire to help people has always been a part of who Kaori is.

Even before joining VOA-GNY, she enjoyed serving in the Harlem community where she grew up—participating in backpack giveaway drives, raising money for youth scholarships, feeding the homeless.

Today she puts her innate desire to make the world a better place to use as Case Manager Supervisor at our assessment shelter for men who are homeless, where she ensures individuals who enter the shelter are matched with the services they need—whether medical, mental-health or substance use related—so they can be referred to permanent or supportive housing placements.

Sometimes Kaori even becomes instrumental in reuniting clients with family members. Once she confirms the names and addresses of a client’s relatives, she helps them purchase a bus or train ticket so they can continue the process of getting back on their feet among those who love and know them best.

One of the things Kaori appreciates most about her job is the incredible support she receives from her VOA-GNY supervisors, who lift her up when times get tough and inspire her to do her best work.

When Kaori is not helping VOA-GNY clients, you might find her blogging, figure skating, planning a podcast or spending time with her very large family, with whom she enjoys an exciting annual road trip.In addition to human services, Kaori relishes family, children, and tradition.



“Sometimes a person just needs to know somebody cares.”

Using his talents with power tools to help people in need is a gift that runs in Joey’s family.

For over ten years his late father was a well-known and loved superintendent at one of our family shelters in the Bronx.

Today Joey follows in his father’s footsteps as a much-adored maintenance employee at one of our SROs that provides permanent supportive housing to formerly homeless adults, many of whom struggle with mental illness, in Upper Manhattan.

As a jack-of-all-trades, Joey is always ready to do what’s needed—whether that means making sure the building is clean, facilitating room turnover (which entails painting and carpentry) for new clients, fixing a leaky boiler, or clearing a stopped-up sink.

He loves that through this job he can learn everything there is to know about the handyman field. But what he values most is the opportunity it provides to help people, whether by fixing a broken refrigerator or just lending an ear when someone needs to talk.

When Joey isn’t taking care of clients, he enjoys taking care of people at home. With two daughters, ages six and four, there aren’t too many dull moments. He especially likes taking them out to the movies and the zoo.“Spending time with family is important,” he says, “because life is too short.”



“A challenging situation will lead to wisdom.”

Denise has worn many hats over the past 20 years. From Executive Assistant to Quality Assurance Coordinator to QA Manager to Assistant Program Director—you name it, Denise has done it.

But today she puts her vast and varied experience to use as Program Director at one of our newest domestic violence shelters, where she provides support, encouragement and guidance to women and children who are survivors of violence in the home.

All her life Denise has been interested in helping people. Having grown up in a religious environment, she cared for her ailing grandmother and always dreamed of entering the Peace Corp as a girl.

After working for a short time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after college, Denise eventually made her way to VOA-GNY. As she recounts, “As soon as I walked in for the interview, I knew I wanted the job—I was floored by the work they were doing at VOA-GNY.”

Today, she relishes a position that allows her to indulge her love of people and desire to give back to the community. One of the things she finds most rewarding is being able to help women in need of emotional support. Sometimes, she explains, clients come into her office with huge amounts of anxiety, and it feels good to see them leave feeling more relaxed. “You have no idea sometimes,” she says, “That you’ll be called to serve in this way on a particular day . . . and it’s really impactful.”

Another aspect of the job Denise loves is seeing her staff laughing and happy. “Because good energy attracts good energy,” she explains.

“And clients can feel when you have good energy.”

Greg & Latoya


A dynamic duo! That’s what Latoya and Gregory have become since they began working together at our assessment shelter for men on Ward’s Island.

As former case managers, each has a deep understanding of what clients need and how best to help them. “Client focused,” is the way Gregory explains it, who is now the Community Engagement & Employment Program Coordinator.

Ever since he began connecting clients with job opportunities, it seemed only natural that he and Latoya, Housing Coordinator, would begin working more closely together—because once Gregory helps someone find a job, then Latoya can begin helping that person find an apartment.“When clients come into shelter,” Latoya says, “Greg is their first step.” He’s in charge of explaining what they need to do to become eligible for permanent housing.“A lot of people have a misconception that as soon as they come into a shelter, they’re automatically going to get housing, but it’s not that simple,” she explains. There are many forms to fill out, documents to be obtained, and steps to be completed.

To help make the path from temporary to permanent housing clearer for clients, Gregory recently created an orientation curriculum. Now, as soon as they enter the shelter, clients are provided with a road map for how they can achieve their personal goals.“It’s not always easy,” Gregory admits. “Sometimes clients don’t take advantage of the services that are offered.” But whenever he knows that someone is serious, he sends Latoya an email and she connects that person with a housing specialist.“And if there is no specialist available,” Latoya explains, “I’ll work with the client myself.”

“What I appreciate most about Gregory is that he’s compassionate. He’s willing to go out into the community and do the work. He really cares. It’s not just a job to him and he always has the client’s best interest at heart.”Gregory values Latoya’s leadership and experience. “I like to pick the brains of those I admire, and she is one,” he says.“If not for Gregory, the job would happen, but it would be more difficult.” Latoya says. “There would be no balance. We support each other.”

“Plus,” she adds, smiling, “He brings life to the place.”



“When one does good, it’s very rewarding.”

30 years. That’s how long Diana has been giving of herself to help others at VOA-Greater New York. And having worked in multiple locations and capacities, Diana knows the organization inside and out.

Today, as System Business Manager and Associate Director of Operations at our 80-bed transitional housing program for men in the Bronx, Diana is responsible for making sure things run smoothly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether that means ordering supplies or supporting case managers whose clients are struggling with mental health and substance use disorders, Diana is up to the task.

A staunch believer in preparing her team for the next step in their careers, Diana is especially proud to say that since she’s been in her current position, two of her staff members have been promoted. She loves any opportunity to pass her knowledge on to others, and she is especially pleased when she witnesses her staff doing the same. “It’s all about working together as a team,” she says.

Unlike many who find themselves in human services professions, Diana did not dream of doing this kind of work all her life. She simply needed a job.“But,” she continues, “I stayed because I grew to love it.”

“It’s never boring,” she says. “And because of that, every day is a good day.”



“You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” —MLK

Anita knows about overcoming obstacles in life.

More than twenty-six years ago, she walked away from an abusive relationship and an addiction—a habit that was likely to kill her—in a single day. Today, she draws upon her lived experience to understand the needs of her clients and help them get back on their feet.

As Case Management Supervisor at our assessment shelter for men who are experiencing homelessness, Anita loves interacting with clients and helping them in any way that she can. “If I can help just one person each day,” she explains, “I feel like I’ve made a difference.”Although sometimes her work can be challenging, particularly since many of the individuals she serves suffer from severe and persistent mental health issues, Anita says it is important to stay focused on the job that needs to be done: moving people who are housing insecure into safe and stable homes.

Sometimes this means referring clients to a rehab facility. Other times it means helping them reconnect with family. Anita especially loves when people can be reunited with loved ones. And she is equally pleased when clients who have moved on to permanent or supportive housing call her months later to thank her for all her hard work.

“One phone call like that,” she says, “Makes it all worthwhile.”

Maintenance Team


They really began to click, according to their program director, when Jose arrived on the scene—the building’s superintendent.

Since then, the maintenance team at Richard F. Salyer House, VOA-Greater New York’s permanent, supportive housing residence in Upper Manhattan, has been accomplishing every task quickly, precisely, and with a smile.

Whether putting in new flooring, repairing an appliance or patching a leaky pipe, Nathaniel, Pedro, Mark, Darryl and Jose collaborate and get things done.“This particular team is very knowledgeable,” explains Jose. When a unit needs to be readied for turnover, one person paints, one person does the electrical work, and one person does the floor. Each team member knows his role, and they all support each other.

Plus, they are all very familiar with the residents, and the residents trust them.“Even though we have different personalities,” says Pedro, “we all respect each other. We take the work seriously but have fun while we’re doing it. And when one of us doesn’t know something, we learn from each other.”

“This is the best team I’ve ever worked with,” says Jose. “On top of it all, this is a group of men who all genuinely want to help—it’s more than just a paycheck to them—and that makes all the difference.”

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