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October 16, 2017
There was never a dull moment during Wednesday night dinners at the Solomon household in 1994.
That’s when Nancy Solomon, the recipient of our Eleanor Roosevelt Award at this year’s upcoming Celebration Breakfast, was enrolled in CCC’s Community Leadership Course. After a day of visiting sites that serve low-income New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs and learning more about the myriad challenges they face in their everyday lives, she would come home fired up about what she had witnessed.
“Every Wednesday I would tell my husband all about what I had seen,” Nancy says. “He would say I was yelling,” she adds.
It was hard for Nancy not to become invested in the children and families she met throughout the course. “My eyes were opened on so many levels to what low-income families go through,” she says. She particularly remembers visiting family court during the trial of the mother of Elisa Izquierdo, a six-year-old from the Bronx whose horrific abuse and murder led to reforms in the city’s child welfare system.
“Elisa was never mentioned by name, but I felt like all the newspaper articles about her story were coming alive in the courtroom,” Nancy says. “I felt so frustrated watching a lack of justice play out before my eyes.”
The resolve to do better by children like Elisa has kept Nancy involved in child advocacy for more than two decades. She has taken on several leadership roles at CCC, including leading the Community Leadership Course for seven years, serving as Board Chair, and currently serving as a Vice President. She dives into all of CCC’s issues with equal enthusiasm, noting that the issues CCC advocates on are all closely interconnected.
“You can’t talk about poverty without also taking about homelessness, or healthcare,” she says. “I love that CCC recognizes this and works on issues simultaneously.”
Nancy has had conversations on all of CCC’s issues with multiple elected officials over the years, always volunteering to head to Albany to advocate on behalf of children and families. Some of the meetings she remembers most fondly are the ones that did not go as she expected.
“I remember one year we were meeting with a senator from upstate who was the chair of the Agricultural Committee,” she says. “We didn’t have a lot of common ground with him, but when we presented our idea to make produce from upstate available in New York City food deserts, he sat straight up in his seat and started nodding along.” The idea eventually turned into a successful pilot program with the support of that senator.
Nancy notes that deal was made possible by CCC’s nuanced understanding of the issues and creativity in putting together proposals with multiple beneficiaries. “It makes it easy to meet with elected officials when you can discuss an idea that’s a win-win for everybody,” she says.
In addition to the policy work and the desire to make positive change in the city for children and families, Nancy is driven by the people she has met and worked alongside over the years at CCC. She says she has been humbled to have the opportunity to collaborate with the smart, talented staff and volunteers who gather at CCC and that she has learned more from them than she would have in a formal graduate school program on advocacy and child well-being.
“People like Lee Link, Joanne Stern, Marge Scheuer, Betty Wolff, Sister Mary Paul Janchill, Sam Peabody, and so many others have all dedicated their lives to New York City children and families,” she says. “In all my life, I’d never thought I’d have the chance to be involved with an organization full of so many brilliant, dedicated people that I could work alongside.”
Nancy also credits CCC staff and leadership with keeping her engaged over the years. “I don’t think many volunteers at other organizations in the city can say they’ve learned as much as I have,” she says.
Although she’s been volunteering with CCC for nearly a quarter of a century, she has no plans to stop anytime soon. “We haven’t solved all the problems yet,” she says. “I’m still here because there’s still work to do.”