Harold Renzo, Stuyvesant Resident Receives Community Inspiration Award

Harold Renzo, long-time resident at The Stuyvesant, has been a supportive neighbor, voice for those unable to speak, and a community icon known for his friendliness and determination. RUPCO honored Harold at Community Lunch on November 9, 2017 for his courage, inspiration and indomitable spirit with our first-ever Community Inspiration Award.

Artwork Inspired by Social Justice Issues focus of Lace Mill Art Exhibit

Lanette Hughes painting abstractOctober is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and coincides with artwork focused on human rights, domestic violence, and world hunger. This is Lanette Hughes’s social activism movement in the form of an art show. This exhibit will take place in all three Lace Mill galleries, 165 Cornell Street, Kingston on October 7 from 3-8 p.m.

Hughes will show 30+ paintings reflecting social issues; all of which, upon their sale, will benefit local organizations that deal with human rights issues. Local nonprofits slated to receive artwork sales include Family of Woodstock, New Paltz, Kingston, Ellenville; the Darmstadt Shelter; Caring Hands Soup Kitchen; Clinton Avenue Methodist Church; MyKingstonKids; O+ Festival; Safe Harbors; and RUPCO. Global organizations include Women in Black and The Haitian People’s Project.

Hughes’ pieces directly relate to real life events. Her abstracts convey deeper messages without being overly explicit. Many pieces depict victims physically harmed, though the paintings don’t graphically portray clear wounds or detailed damage. Each portrayal speaks volumes about issues that are underneath the surface of so many lives — including her own — and nobody would know just by quick observation.

For example, “Human Beings are Not Created for Target Practice” has military undertones. The message conveys a simple thought: if military personnel were stripped of their uniforms, would enemies still shoot them? “Women Running” features women fleeing from human trafficking groups, a worldwide issue that defies ethnicity, gender, and age. Another piece portrays children affected by nerve gassing bundled in blankets; only their faces show, their bodies eerily shrouded mummification-style.

“My hope is that more artists will contribute (to the larger conversation), to include in their work social awareness for change,” says Hughes. “I’d like to see a whole day, week, or month, when artists everywhere do a whole show on a particular social issue.” She also hopes this art show stirs local activism by providing curiosity about what goes on behind the scenes in lives of our acquaintances, co-workers, family, and friends.

Throughout the exhibit’s run, speakers will talk about relevant issues that affect communities. Guy Kempe, Vice President of Community Development at RUPCO, will speak on “Housing, Creative Placemaking, & Community Development” on October 7 at 4:30 p.m. “Aligned with social justice, ‘creative placemaking’ is the proposition that arts and cultural expression, joined with housing, helps to energize community and revitalize disinvested places for minority and disenfranchised populations,” Kempe says. Poet Nancy Smith follows at 6 p.m. with readings from her works that concern human rights.

Filmmaker and veteran Marty Klein will talk about veterans’ issues on October 14, showing his film entitled, “Why Can’t We Serve.”

All artworks are for sale, with 75% of the proceeds donated to organizations that support social justice efforts. The artist retains 25% to cover material expenses associated with making the artwork. Painting prices are negotiable, with no reasonable offer refused. For more information, contact Lace Mill artist-resident Lanette Hughes at (845) 532-3538 or visit her Facebook page LK Hughes.

Senior Resident Finds Peace of Mind At Theater Workplace

Ever go to the Rosendale Theater to watch the latest film? In the booth, the projectionist is a humble man dedicated to his work. Anthony Cacchio, a Park Heights resident at RUPCO’s senior housing campus in Rosendale, NY, casts glimmers of life through his own lens. He’s glad to be serving the community, and intends to keep working as long as he is able.

For over 40 years, Cacchio has been working in the theater business to ensure the sound and video quality are up to company standards. He works closely with an engineer who shows him how to operate the equipment, and if there is a technical issue, he can bank on the engineer to fix the problem in a jiffy—even from home. Indeed, growing up without lightning speed electronics that send signals in milliseconds makes living in this era a bit foreign, but he manages to learn new skills and train every once in a while to keep up with the ever-changing technological advancements.

Growing up in a much different period of film and TV, Cacchio remembers his favorite shows from the 1930s, at the beginnings of the film industry. He laments that he does not watch recordings of them because they remind him of young celebrities who embodied vigor and have since passed away or have consummated their years of acting. So Cacchio gets his drama fill from working night shifts six to seven days a week, and prefers his home life to be quiet and serene.

He has been living at Park Heights for 5 years now, “and was lucky to get in right away.” Cacchio describes the home-finding experience as an easy process. “RUPCO gave me a nice comfortable place, in a nice area, and I am content here.”

Back when he was living at his parent’s home, he was also content with the peace that large plots of land could afford. Cacchio remembers his father used to cut the grass with a John Deere tractor. Every once in a while, neighborhood grandchildren would visit and provide noise that the day-to-day environment lacked. When his parents passed away, he and his brother inherited their childhood home. But, he explained, it just wasn’t suitable for happy living; the reminders of his parents were just too much when he walked past their room. Apart from the constant emotional tug, Cacchio decided that one person doesn’t belong in a six-room house, when a family could easily enjoy the space. Selling the property, he ventured on to rent an apartment at Park Heights, where he lives close by ladies who are familiar faces in his daily routines. “We treat everybody as buddies,” he says; if the ladies don’t see him for a day or two, they worry.

Anthony Cacchio, senior resident at Park HeightsLuckily, 85-year-old Cacchio has good genes. His father lived until he was 91; his mother, 90. He has clear intentions to keep on working, and “to make the best I can out of it.” Perhaps his hard work ethic is the family trait that keeps them so young; Cacchio used to assist his father in the tile and marble industry, working for other businesses to provide construction work.

With years of experience behind him, Cacchio continues to play an important role in the community, including being a happy parent to his cat, “Princess.” She lets him know what foods she does and doesn’t like, and insists that he stay in the room until she finishes eating. Her melodramatic personality entwined with a need for attention lends unique companionship, and Cacchio appreciates her taking center stage in their Park Heights home while he works behind-the-scenes.

Jake Michels joins RUPCO Senior Leadership Team

RUPCO welcomes Jake Michels as Director of Property Management at its Kingston office at 37 John Street. He will oversee issues relating to tenant property and maintenance, as well as coordinate best practices to ensure departmental efficiency. Michels, a graduate of Duchess County Community College, previously worked in management for luxury and commercial markets based in Poughkeepsie. He is currently studying for a real estate license; the educational background will provide him with a more comprehensive knowledge of the real estate field and property administration.

“I am excited to be here, to be a part of RUPCO’s mission and moving them forward. Over time, we can improve processes and increase usage of resident software to better our practices and building relationships,” states Michels, who currently resides in Poughkeepsie. Property management oversees building maintenance, tenant relations, and neighbor interaction. His personal philosophy on why stable housing is so important also influences his work approach. “Home Matters because it’s the foundation of our lives. Stable housing allows you to progress in all other areas, and allows you to progress as an individual.”

Michels recently went through the homebuying process himself after renting for years. He brings personal knowledge of the renting process to his job duties so he can better serve the tenants that live under RUPCO’s housing programs.

“Jake’s fresh perspective and diverse background in Property Management will be a great addition to the department,” says Vice President of Operations Sheila Kilpatrick. “RUPCO is growing its portfolio in the Hudson Valley. Jake’s ability to streamline processes and proactively prepare for new ventures will be invaluable.” RUPCO currently owns/manages 16 properties with 411 apartments providing homes to over 560 people. The majority of those residents represent the area’s most vulnerable populations: the elderly, seniors, disabled and working class families. In its $70-million real estate development pipeline. RUPCO plans to add another 171 units in 19 buildings at 4 locations.

Call for UC Homeowner Interest Letter: Septic System Repair/Replacement Grant Program

UPDATE: 2/14/18 – This program is no longer being offered at at this time. Please contact  (sdolan@rupco.org) or call the HomeOwnership Center at (845) 331-9860 for more information about future programs like this. 

RUPCO, in coordination with the County of Ulster as the sponsor, is pursuing a grant opportunity to assist low- to moderate-income homeowners with private septic systems in need of repair or replacement.

RUPCO is requesting Ulster County homeowners with private septic systems that are failing and who are interested in participating in a grant program to provide basic information, so RUPCO can better identify the need for this type of grant program.

Interested homeowners should submit a Letter of Interest ASAP

Letters of Interest will be accepted on a rolling basis

  • by fax (845) 331-9864
  • mailed to 289 Fair Street, Kingston, NY 12401
  • hand-delivered to RUPCO’s HomeOwnership Center, 301 Fair Street, Kingston, NY 12401
  • or e-mail Sally Dolan

The Letter of Interest below does not commit you to participation. However, RUPCO will contact you if funding is allocated to this program. If funding becomes available, RUPCO will invite you to an informational meeting outlining program details.

Eligibility Requirements: 

  • Applicants must own and occupy the home with a deed in the name of at least one household member.
  • Homes in mobile home parks are not eligible.
  • The property must be up to date with all taxes, mortgage payments and homeowners Insurance.
  • Systems must be privately owned. Systems connected to public waste systems are not eligible.
  • City of Kingston residents are not eligible. Homeowners within the New York City Watershed are not eligible for this program; however, you may qualify for funding available through the Catskill Watershed Corporation.
  • Applicants must meet the gross annual income guidelines below by household size.

Letter of Interest Ulster County CDBG Well & Septic System Repair Program

Owner(s)/Name on Deed:___________________________________

Property Address:_______________________________________

Mailing Address if Different:  ______________________________________

Phone:_________________________

E-mail:___________________________

Household Size: _________       Bedroom Size: _________

Gross Household Income: $_______________________

Current septic system size in gallons:___________________________

 

 

Letter to the Editor: Petition for What is Right

In response to recent articles about Landmark Place — in particular RUPCO’s filing of an amended petition, Article 78 and HUD complaint — RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor distributed this letter to area news outlets. Some opted to print his comments in full; others not. Here is the complete content of that letter issued 8/22/17.

On behalf of our senior citizens and vulnerable elders, we filed an amended petition on July 11 as one strategy to protect our collective rights. While New York State law allows for a protest petition by neighbors of a proposed rezoning to trigger a super majority, the law is equally clear that if there’s a 100-foot-buffer between the rezoning and the neighbors, a protest petition from neighbors cannot force a super-majority for approval of the rezoning, and a simple majority vote is enough to approve it.

Let’s remember that a majority of the City of Kingston Common Council voted 5-to-4 in favor of a zoning change for this site. That is an expression of the democratic process and the will of the People of Kingston. While the City assumed the protest petition was valid, thus requiring a 7-to-2 vote to approve the zoning change, we believe the petition fails the legal requirements and should have been rejected. Therefore, we have filed an Article 78 and Declaratory judgment action that challenges the denial of the zoning change under our original petition as well. We think the courts will deem the original vote in favor of rezoning to be sufficient.

In addition, if necessary, we will also file a complaint with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and will follow with a lawsuit against the City of Kingston for failing to make a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Both the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect persons with disabilities from discrimination and require reasonable accommodations to be made by a municipality to ensure fair housing practices. Persons with disabilities are a protected class, no less important than race, sex, religion, national origin, color or familiar status. Those protected classes include several of our intended tenants: seniors with mental illness, seniors with substance use disorder, and seniors with physical impairments. The record is clear that certain members of the Common Council relied on inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric against protected classes in making their decision on the original rezoning request. Simply put, a municipality may not make zoning or other land use decisions based on neighbors’ fears that a dwelling may be occupied by members of these protected classes.

While we harbor no ill will towards the neighbors who have protested against this project, we do believe it’s time – particularly given the hateful rhetoric that has been demonstrated across the country against persons of color, certain religious groups, and other protected classes – that the hateful rhetoric spoken here in Kingston against our most vulnerable senior citizens at public hearings and written in the comment sections of the newspaper and on social media stops, once and for all. Kingston has declared itself a sanctuary City and its leaders have almost universally spoken out against the culture of hate displayed elsewhere. It is time to take care of business at home and to stop treating people as “other” people! We stand with the majority of Kingston Common Council members who voted to support our proposed project.

We take no pleasure in bringing lawsuits against the City of Kingston, and we are troubled that the City has recently faced two other federal fair housing lawsuits. We hope the Common Council will take action to avoid unnecessary taxpayer expense by settling our claims without costly litigation. Between the cost of litigation and the loss of tax revenue this project would bring, all of the taxpayers of Kingston should not bear the burden of defending unlawful actions. We listened to the neighbors early on and responded by making reasonable accommodations in our proposal – we adjusted the age of the population to be age 55 and over for all tenants. The law requires the City to do no less. We were pleased to receive a negative declaration from the City of Kingston’s Planning Board and an endorsement from the Ulster County Planning Board prior to a favorable vote by the City’s Common Council to change the zoning. 

A proposal that is widely supported by the record is being held up by a handful of families who live next to the project. Their opposition is based on unfounded fears about the populations to be served, are veiled in arguments which the record reflects are unfounded. We reject any notion that simply living near senior and supportive housing will have a negative effect on people’s lives.

We are compelled to move forward based on our mission and the following facts:

  • The City of Kingston, based on the fact that it accepts federal Community Development Block Grant funds, has a duty to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing.
  • The need for affordable and supportive housing for the age 55 and over cohort has been soundly demonstrated in the record.
  • Since 2001, other municipalities in Ulster County have approved and built 534 senior housing units while the City of Kingston has built zero. It is well past time for the City of Kingston to step up and meet the needs of its senior citizens. The rhetoric of opponents that the City of Kingston has “done enough” is simply not factual.
  • In 2009, Ulster County adopted the Three County Housing Assessment Needs Study, executed by an economist and paid for by the Dyson Foundation that stipulated that to meet the affordable housing gap, the City of Kingston would need to build 1005 units of affordable housing by 2020. Since that report was published, the City has only added 55 units of affordable housing.
  • RUPCO has the experience and expertise along with funding commitments to develop, build and adequately staff Landmark Place to safely provide 35 supportive housing units for seniors with special needs along with 31 affordable housing units for seniors of low income.
  • Landmark Place will pay a robust $132,000 recreation fee to the City of Kingston Recreation Department and put the property back on the tax rolls for the first time in its history. The $20-million development will bring tax revenue and jobs to the City during construction and as permanent positions when operating.
  • Landmark Place will save local taxpayer dollars by moving folks out of motel rooms, shelters, and overcrowded boarding homes where local taxpayers are paying up to $100 per night to house them, and alleviate the burden on local hospitals by keeping people housed and supported with regular care.
  • In the end, Landmark Place will accomplish all of the above and provide 66 permanent, healthy, accessible homes to our senior citizens, some with special needs, in a richly designed, well-built, well-staffed campus.

We hope that the will of the People of Kingston and the obligation of our City to serve its seniors and disabled will prevail, and that more people will come out to show their support.

Kevin O’Connor
Chief Executive Officer, RUPCO

RUPCO-RCAL Summer Intern Sorts Data for Deeper Knowledge

John Krom, Sacred Heart UniversityRUPCO welcomes Sacred Heart University junior John Krom as a summer intern addressing issues of poverty in the local area. Krom will work closely with experienced staff in Program Services to help identifying families eligible for the Family Self-sufficiency Program, explore resident population statistics, and determine other demographic data. A recipient of the American Legion Scholarship Award, Krom is also a part of Sacred Heart University’s Junior Achievement group, which focuses on teaching young children the aspects of business and what careers are available to their generation. Krom’s internship is a result of a partnership between RUPCO, RCAL and New York State  Education Department’s Adult Career and Continuing Education Services (ACCES).

Bonnie Dumas, ACCES Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, coordinated the summer work experience. “We hope this opportunity at RUPCO will give John work experience and provide him soft skills in a career field he is interested in.” She sees this as an opportunity for John to gain the workforce experience he needs to transition from college schedules to business structure.

RUPCO oversees paid and unpaid internships each year as part of its commitment to the community. “We believe in providing valuable work experience in the nonprofit sector,” notes Tara Collins, Director of Communications of Resource Development. “In just the last three years, RUPCO has hosted a dozen interns from SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Ulster, Kingston High School, Sacred Heart University and Walden School District. Students gain skills and a resume addition, but the real value comes with their increased knowledge about their communities and how nonprofits support their neighborhoods. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nonprofit sector accounted for 11.4 million jobs nationwide in 2013, 10.3% of all private sector employment. That employment number is rising each year. Interning is a valuable experience for future young professionals and helps them understand the mechanics of nonprofit business in general, and RUPCO’s community engagement specifically.”

Hilary Nichols of RCAL is glad John has the opportunity to share his skillset at RUPCO while also being open to learning new skills that will cross connect in other spheres of the workforce. “John will brings a sense of eagerness and a way for people to re-look at their own job so they have a renewed sense of importance. I hope it will bring a sense of satisfaction within the RUPCO agency to have him there. I hope John will gain a sense of what the culture and climate is within an office or business environment so he learns how everyone needs to come together as a team to get things done. He can take what he learns and also apply it to college.”

John Krom and familyKrom’s previous customer service experience will come in handy this summer. A former line cook at Hurley Mountain Inn and waiter for Olivebridge’s County Inn, Krom also assisted with planning and organizing college activities. These jobs have prepared him with organizational skills and attention to tend to customer needs. Along with data entry and demographic research, Krom’s investigative skills will help RUPCO better understand its client base and how to serve them better in the future. Krom hopes that through collaborative work, he can help RUPCO clients and program participants advance to “better living, so people can move on, to lead more independent lives, and to help them save money.”

For Krom, Home Matters because it “shelters and protects you. It’s your sanctuary, and it makes you feel safe.” He emphasizes the importance of having a stable family life within home. “Family is what motivates you to your best. It helps you grow into the best human you could be, and provides a safe environment for you to live in. Family teaches you the foundation of life and pushes you to never give up. Without my family, I don’t know where I would be or where my motivation would come from.”

Digging Deep for Community Connection

Karen Miller has a special mission: to steward the Rondout and Liberty Street Community Gardens. Conveniently located in Kingston, both areas boast rectangular raised beds of fertile soil, a watering system, and opportunities to get your hands dirty while helping the Earth in a positive way. Miller hopes that these gardens will relieve residents of stress, so that these special places will offer them something in return other than a tangible product.

Miller sees community gardens as a way for people to “have success at what they are doing, that they see their efforts, and that whatever they put in there, they get something out of it. I want people to come back because they feel good about themselves. It’s exciting that they get excited.”

A local resident interested in the gardens called Miller one day and asked for two plots. Miller calls him her “wow guy.” He figured spending time gardening with his ill wife would enhance their relationship and give them something meaningful they could share during an emotionally turbulent time in their lives. Unfortunately, his wife died before they could start together, but he continues to tend the most productive patch on Liberty Street. There’s something therapeutic, digging deep, getting your hands into the soil.

Even children can benefit from the fruits of gardening. Miller hopes that adults who burrow sections of allotted land and soil—solely at the Rondout—will relay practices to children, such as youthful interest in weeding or watering. For example, Miller watched a mother come to the Liberty Street garden recently to show her child the flowers in bloom. The mother put the compost in the flowers and spoke of the purpose of her actions while the child watched. Miller believes that teaching children important life lessons early on is essential towards healthy growth. “I encourage the kids to come and help.”

Miller states that she gets personal pleasure from gardening: a way to recycle a day’s worth of stress or negativity and harness a positive sustenance that heals the mind and body. Miller is mindful when she gardens, “I am a sensualist person. I love the feel of the soil, the smell of the soil. And I like that when I plant something that there is a vegetable or plant that comes from it. I also like the feeling of having a little bit of control of where you put a plant, but also the lack of control.” This perspective has a spiral effect into other areas of life, being aware of control is central in developing a realistic sense of the world. Paradoxically, she hopes people “will lose themselves in gardening,” so that they can pay more attention to things that are in the immediate surroundings and not worry about the past or future. Gardening allows us to develop a sense of where we are, who we are, and what we are doing. It’s about digging deep, making a connection, simply being in that moment with nature.

Miller hopes these personal successes and life lessons wrought by gardening will provide fertile ground for future development and joy in unexpected ways. When life’s struggles and stressors cloud our outlook, gardening can cultivate something rich and beautiful within. This light can yield good energy for others to connect with—and therefore create roots in sustainability and livability in an increasingly digital, abstract world.

Residents interested in gardening a raised bedsat either location can email Karen Miller to get started.  Beds are $5 and include access to the garden space, compost, and a fair share of weeds. Bring your own plants, seedlings, seeds, and garden tools; water provided at both locations.

Celebrity Parrots Find Paradise in Ruby

KINGSTON, NY—Gloria Waslyn has been a successful career counselor, a long-time peace advocate, and a professional photographer; but her most important priority is to provide a comfortable and healthy living environment for her parrots who promote messages of peace. Indeed, campaigning for peace and the environment have been at the top of both Gloria’s and her parrot’s to-do list for nearly 20 years. The Parrots for Peace are the primary reason why she moved to the Woodstock area. Waslyn pursued this move from NYC seven years ago, and she and the birds now live in a house in which they feel safe and secure which they were able to purchase with the help of RUPCO’s Homeownership Center. They are also working towards the next steps in promoting peace, effecting equanimity with spirits as light as a feather, strong as a Buddhist mantra.

The family’s origins began at the Urban Bird parrot store in SoHo 18 years ago, where Gloria chanced upon a female parrot who was then three months old, and immediately, she knew their paths had crossed for a reason. Waslyn promised the parrot that “I’d give her the best life I could so she could do the work she crossed my path to do: together, we would work to educate people that we are all inter-connected.” Waslyn named her Merlin, because she could “make the best kind of magic… to make children smile.”

While vacationing in Cape Cod and perusing a shrubbery store, one-year-old Merlin fell in love with a six-month-old male parrot, and Mr. Baby was adopted. Mr. Baby and Ms. Merlin soon became a power couple, rainforest ambassadors, and spokesavians for nature and wildlife. Their portfolio demonstrates an active role in the United Nations’ International Day of Peace as well as Human Rights Day. Since September 11, 2001, their official title became “Parrots for Peace,” which attests to their huge undertaking of national and international cooperation. Since then, the parrot couple have had two beautiful children, Peace-nik and Ara, and they travel together as a family to participate in Peace and Green Festivals.

First-time homebuyer Gloria Waslyn & Parrots for PeaceThough the birds have an impressive track record, getting there cost Waslyn financially and emotionally.  She met a man involved with the peace movement and made the move to the Woodstock/Phoenicia area. Gloria soon became involved in the anti-fracking movement, instead of working solely on Parrots for Peace. Gloria was not earning enough income, and simply ran out of money.

With RUPCO’s assistance, Waslyn took the homebuyer education course, found a home, and qualified for grants that would cover some of the costs necessary to make her new space livable. She secured part of her closing costs and a mortgage. Now, Waslyn is delighted to have monthly payments that are far less costly than her previous rent. “This allows me to have the opportunity to focus completely on the next chapter of my mission; the Parrots for Peace, comprising environmental education, social justice, and advocating for the interconnectedness of the planet.”

Her feet are firmly planted in her home in Ruby, showing stability after not knowing if an opportunity for homeownership would arise in the community. “I have developed real roots here. The idea of going somewhere completely new would be an adventure, but everyone I know is here and is right down the street,” states Waslyn.

The birds have also managed to attract recognition through making lasting friendships. Their presence has made some of the most powerful connections that animals can bring to human lives through a one-time meeting, bound to a child’s memory. Waslyn described a memorable outing with the birds, when they provided love and support to people who convened at Rockefeller Center at Christmastime. A young girl ran up to them, asking them if they remembered her from a few years back. She dug her toes into her shoes, like a tree roots itself in the soil, and spread her arms to catch the sunlight while they perched on her “branches,” and promised to help create world peace. Waslyn was taken aback by the magic that radiated from the connection that lasted between a young child and the parrots over the years. These moments of impact are constituent components of real change, like how a small pebble dropped in water creates ripples. She may not remember the specific event as she matures, but, Gloria states, “…something will stick” and spark a response that will unfold as concern for animals and nature. Perhaps seedlings of animal or environmental activism will sprout, bloom into local efforts, and pollinate far-off areas to achieve a more naturalistic world.

Waslyn is also optimistic about RUPCO’s future and its staff’s determination to carry out a mission for safe, affordable housing for all. Upon reflection, Waslyn states, “RUPCO was one of the many helpful pieces in a long chain of family, friends, and former clients who offered ideas, loans, gifts, and work to make my dream for the Parrots for Peace unfold as step one of their bigger plan.”

RUPCO, NYS Rural Housing Coalition welcome VISTA member

Tara Collins, Monique Tranchina, Colin McKnightRUPCO welcomes AmeriCorps VISTA Member Monique Tranchina to its communications department this week. Volunteers In Service To America, or VISTA, is a 52-week program that focuses on “building capacity in nonprofit organizations to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty.” RUPCO secured its VISTA as part of the New York State Rural Housing Coalition (RHC)’s acceptance of 10 service members to support the work of rural preservation companies statewide.

Pictured here: Tara Collins (RUPCO Communications Director), Monique Tranchina (AmeriCorps VISTA Member), Colin McKnight (Executive Director, NYS Rural Housing Coalition).

VISTA members execute a national mission to “…promote literacy, improve health services, create businesses, increase housing opportunities, and bridge the digital divide.” As measured in 2015, about 13.5 percent of the population was in poverty: roughly 43.1 million people in the United States alone, according to government statistics, and Monique is determined to fight the war on poverty.

“I’m ready to serve those who deserve equal access to housing, and I wholeheartedly believe that even as a volunteer who works behind the scenes of RUPCO, I can effect change,” says Monique Tranchina, VISTA Member. “Through small efforts that ripple out in complex webs of support, intercommunication, and relationships, my service revolves around building a better  community. I hope to convey those messages through my editorial work, storytelling, and social media promotion this year.”

“We’re thrilled to have Monique on the team for the upcoming year. Not only does the VISTA experience offer her the personal opportunity to learn about work at hand in the housing sector and through nonprofit partnerships,” adds Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at RUPCO. “Her presence also provides us the opportunity to increase our organizational impact, help more people, and improve our delivery of programs and services here in the Hudson Valley. As Editorial Assistant, Monique will work in RUPCO’s communication department on storytelling, social media channels, and behind-the-scenes support.”

Colin McKnight, Acting Executive Director of NYS RHC, adds in the affirmative that Monique will lend more awareness of the program, increasing the scope of people reached. “The Rural Housing Coalition is thrilled to welcome Monique to our statewide team of VISTA members working to address housing needs for rural New Yorkers. While gaining valuable work experience, these VISTAs will improve the quality of life for residents of our communities.” Founded in 1979, the New York State Rural Housing Coalition supports New York-based nonprofit housing and community development agencies to preserve affordable housing, develop new affordable housing units, and promote community revitalization. RHC further addresses the issue of homelessness or inability to afford housing without financial assistance, and works to secure local individuals or families with homes that suite their needs and income levels. RUPCO is one of 200 member organizations working in partnership with RHC to bring aid to Hudson Valley residents and homeowners.

On a smaller scale, Americorps VISTA members work within the United States to aid those within the nation who are underprivileged. Their sister program, Peace Corps, works more broadly to serve those internationally, and assists foreigners with professional training in their area of need while bridging the economic and social gap between other countries and the United States. While there are over 7,000 volunteers serving with Peace Corps, about 3,000 volunteers serve with the VISTA program this year. However, the impact of smaller organizations that designate smaller areas of assistance is equally as valuable as global outreach.