Meet our New Board Chair, Marcia Bystryn

A woman smiles next to a Goddard Riverside logo

“It’s all the things I’ve always cared about, but right in my own backyard.” 

Our new board chair at Goddard Riverside and the Isaacs Center has a wealth of experience with city and state issues. Marcia Bystryn says what drew her to get involved here is the chance to make a difference in her neighborhood.  

“I was walking around the Upper West Side, where I live, and I realized I was so little involved with my own community,” she said. “That really is the charm for me with Goddard.” 

Bystryn has served on the boards of the Natural Areas Conservancy and Our Energy Policy, and as vice chair of the Peconic Land Trust. She headed the New York League of Conservation Voters for nearly two decades before stepping down in 2018. She’s worked in government, too—as New York City’s Assistant Commissioner of Recycling in the first half of the 1990s. 

“I’m very into governance,” she said. “I’m really interested in how not-for-profits work and in playing a constructive role in their governance.” 

Bystryn joined the Goddard board back in 2015. She replaces lawyer Christopher Auguste, who served as long as term limits would allow, and who remains on the board. She set out  two main priorities as chair: making sure the ongoing merger of Goddard and the Isaacs Center concludes smoothly, and looking at whether our programs can and should change to reflect changing realities in the city. “Goddard has done so much since the beginning of Rod Jones’ tenure as president,”she said. “I’m really sort of focused on the big picture of where we’re going.” 

One thing Bystryn has confidence in is the abilities of the people she’ll be working with: “I am extremely impressed with the staff of Goddard. I’ve met such a range of talented people and hope to get to know them better. And the board too—this is a smart and committed board and it’s going to be fun working with them.” 

“It Spoke to Me”: Connecting to a Career in Food

A young man smiles for the camera in front of a fuzzy background of trees and blue sky

Louis Delatorre grew up learning about cooking at home. “I’ll stand next to my grandmother and she’ll cook, my mom, she’ll cook and I’ll just watch her,” he recalled. “They’ll teach me all the little basic things, the seasoning and everything.” But he never thought food and cooking would be his career. 

When he came to the Isaacs Center in 2021 looking for help finding a job, he started in our Summer Youth Employment Program. Then he went on to our Culinary Arts training—a seven-week program in a professional kitchen, where students learn everything from knife skills to menu planning to how to plate a meal. He discovered a passion for feeding people. “It spoke to me,” he said. “It crept up on me and I love it.” 

When he finished Culinary Arts, Delatorre moved on to a part-time position at our Soup’s Up program. This innovative model provides our Culinary graduates with further training, while creating meal kits to fight hunger in the community. The kits typically include a soup or salad and an array of fresh produce.  

Sarah Jackson, who runs Soup’s Up, said Delatorre has blossomed during his time at the Isaacs Center. “Lou has gone from an 19-year-old just learning how to cook, to my right hand at Soup’s Up. I’ve watched him take on a natural leadership role easily,” she said. 

“It felt really good,” Delatorre said. “I know what to do, I know the task, and when someone needs help I can help them out.” 

Late last year he achieved his ultimate goal, landing a full-time position in the Isaacs Center food pantry. 

“I’m very comfortable where I’m at,” he said. “I love the hours and I love having a full time job.” 

From Culinary to Computers, our Education and Workforce Classes are Enrolling Now!

A collage of four photos showing a young person working on a computer, a young person showing off a dish he made, several people graduating, and a nurse assistant shaking a patient's hand
A collage of four photos showing a young person working on a computer, a young person showing off a dish he made, several people graduating, and a nurse assistant shaking a patient's hand

Ready to take the next step toward achieving your dreams? The Isaacs Center is here to help! Our Education and Workforce program has multiple FREE classes starting in early February.

For more information and to apply to any of these programs, go to linktr.ee/IsaacsEdWorkforce and fill out the form for that program.

Workforce Training

These courses include paid internships and job placement to help you turn your new skills into a career.

The Information Technology Support track prepares you for a wide range of entry-level technology jobs. It offers the opportunity to earn the Google IT Support Professional Certificate and the CompTIA A+ certification. The Cybersecurity course prepares you for the growing field of digital defense with the chance to earn a Cybersecurity Analyst Certification (CySA+). Classes are taught in our high-tech classroom in partnership with Per Scholas, a nonprofit dedicated to diversifying the technology field.

The Culinary Arts track gives young people the skills to work in the food industry, from knife skills and plating to menu planning and food safety. It’s open to people aged 18 to 24.

Certified Nurse Assistant training teaches you how to provide direct, hands-on care to people who need it, while you earn key health certifications in skills like EKG and phlebotomy. You must be between 18 and 24 years old.

Jezebel Gomez is working in a fine-dining restaurant in NYC after completing our Culinary Arts training. “I was able to focus on learning rather than how I was going to finance it; a freedom not many get to experience,” she said. “I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity and confidence the program gave me.”

Education

Our GED classes let you learn how YOU need to learn while earning your high school equivalency diploma. Daytime and evening classes are available; the daytime program offers a stipend or paid internship.

Jayda Morrison came to our GED program after scheduling difficulties made high school impossible. She said the program gave her the structure she needed to make progress in school: “I’ve been doing my own thing by myself and I needed a lot of help. I just needed motivation. When I need that, they’re here for me.”

A Culinary Arts Grad Rises to the Top

Jezebel Gomez went through Culinary Arts training in 2022 and wowed the instructors with her teamwork and kitchen hustle. Clearly they weren’t the only ones who noticed: she got hired before she even graduated by her internship site, Hawksmoor, an upscale restaurant in the Flatiron District.  

After spending a year fine-tuning her skills, Jezebel reached out to the Isaacs team for guidance on her next move. We’re thrilled to report that she’s joined the staff of Chef Jean-George Vongerichten’s new fine-dining restaurant, FourTwentyFive, which just opened on Park Avenue! 

The Culinary Arts program asked her to share her thoughts on her experience. Here’s what she wrote: 
 
“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started this program, nor did I know the amount of beautiful people, insightful teachers and immense amounts of support I was going to receive. It was a sense of community I was yearning for, and my love for the kitchen was amplified when given the tools to succeed. I was able to focus on learning rather than how I was going to finance it; a freedom not many get to experience. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity and confidence the program gave me; it allowed me to walk into my internship interview ready for whatever challenge awaited. 
 
“Hawksmoor was a very different environment than the school kitchen. The expectations were high and didn’t allow for excuses. It was a major adjustment, but that high expectation ultimately gave me a sense of pride, credibility, and respect for the kitchen and food itself. Anyone can learn how to cook, but to have respect for the kitchen and everyone who works in it, truly allows you to become a great chef.” 

Our Culinary Arts program provides young people aged 18-24 with training on everything from skills such as knifework, butchery, baking, plating, and presentation to fundamentals such as proper work habits, professionalism, and food safety and sanitation. Students obtain their NYC DOH Food Handler License and ServSafe Certification. The program is tuition-free. For more information, fill out the program inquiry form, or click here learn about all of our workforce training programs.

Year-End Giving Guide: How to Support Us with a Credit Card, PayPal, Venmo and More 

A word cloud including community, giving, charity, service, help, dedicated and other giving words

The end of the calendar year is the most popular time to support your favorite causes. This year we’re making it easy by providing plenty of quick and secure ways to donate. 

With check theft on the rise, authorities say you should avoid simply dropping a check in a blue postal box on the street. If you must mail your donation, try to give it directly to a USPS employee or mail at a post office.  

But first, check out these convenient alternatives! 

Debit or credit card: Give securely online via our donation page. Our partner, DonorPerfect, uses the latest technology to keep your transaction safe.  

PayPal and Venmo: Our secure donation page accepts these platforms too!  

Double your Donation: Use our quick and easy digital tool to find out whether your employer will match your gift! https://isaacscenter.org/matching-gifts/ 

Give by phone: Throughout November and December you can call our donation hotline at 212-873-6600 ext. 1012 and give your information directly to one of our Development staffers.

We want you to feel good—and secure—about the way you give. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Annual Giving Manager, Victoria Sheridan, at vsheridan@goddard.org or 212-873-6600 ext. 1026. Have a wonderful holiday season! 

Year-End Giving Guide: How to Donate Items

A word cloud including community, giving, charity, service, help, dedicated and other giving words

As the weather cools, many people start thinking about the holidays: What am I making for Thanksgiving dinner? What gifts do I get my family? Do I need to get out my warm boots? 

The Isaacs Center also asks these questions, but on a much larger scale. No matter the season, we keep working with over 20,000 people to cover their practical needs of food, shelter, education, and care. We’d love for you to join us! 

If you are interested giving in-kind donations to Isaacs this holiday season, please consider the following urgently needed items: 

  • Toiletries and personal care items 
  • Winter coats, boots, gloves, hats, and socks 
  • School supplies 
  • Twin-sized bed linens 
  • Metrocards or Amazon gift cards for $10-15 
  • Books in Spanish for children and adults 
  • Tablets (models no later than 2019) 

Due to health and safety regulations, items must be new and unused, except for tablets, which must be wiped.  

Donations can be dropped off at any of our main offices between November 1 and December 12 from 9am-4pm:

  • Isaacs Center at 415 E 93rd St. (and First Ave.)
  • Goddard Riverside at 593 Columbus Ave. (at 88th)
  • Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center 250 W 65th St. (near West End Ave.)

If you would like a tax acknowledgement letter, please include a note with your contact information with the donation.  

If you have any questions, please contact us at 212-618-2896 x1026.  

“Events Like This Truly Make a Difference”: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

Several women pose in elaborate dresses and sashes bearing the name of their country
Several women in colorful costumes and holding flags pose for a photo

The Isaacs Older Adult Center honored Hispanic Heritage Month with vibrant cultural performances, activities, and traditional clothing.  

Members representing different countries throughout Central and South America entered the dining room one by one to music from their country. They wore elaborate costumes and sashes with the country’s name. 

America Paniagua was participating for her fourth year in a row. She always has a dress specially made in the Dominican Republic for the event: “The show is always amazing, every year. I’m proud to be a part of this.”  

After the parade of nations, attendees lined up to enjoy traditional dishes from various Latin countries, including rice and beans, crispy chicken bites, sweet plaintains and a guava-filled cake. 

Isaacs Center Social Worker Albert Bencosme organizes the annual event along with many volunteers. “It’s about bringing awareness to people in the community about the Hispanic heritage at the Center, and celebrating it,” he said. He added that the event purposely showcases the uniqueness each specific culture while also celebrating their commonalities. 

Amanda Cifuentes, another member of the Isaacs Center, said, “I’m very grateful places like this exist because I haven’t been able to return to Ecuador, my birth country, in 10 years. Events like this truly make a difference and bring nothing but joy and a big smile to my face.” 

Open House Highlights Isaacs Older Adult Center Offerings

Did you know— the Isaacs Older Adult Center doesn’t just have daily lunches? It also has fitness classes, a book club, daily shopping trips, bigger trips to Broadway and other destinations, activities in multiple languages, access to social workers, art classes and more. Membership in the Older Adult Center is free and open to anyone 60 and older. 

“Some people come to see our social workers, but they don’t know about all the programs we offer. Some people come to the programs but don’t know we have social workers!” said Khristel Simmons. Besides overseeing all of our aging and nutrition programs, Simmons is a member of the Older Adult Center’s Hospitality Committee. Earlier this month the committee organized an Open House for members and prospective members to learn about the many benefits of joining the Older Adult Center. 

On Open House day, the dining room and the hallway outside were lined with informational tables run by Isaacs Center programs as well as organizations we partner with. The Holmes Isaacs Coalition, the Holmes Tower Residents Association, State Sen. Jose Serrano’s office, Weill Cornell, the Visiting Nurses Service and more were represented.  

Linda James was manning the Hospitality Committee table. She’s been a member for 9 years. What would she like members and prospective members to know?

“Some people aren’t connected with our emails,” she said. “They can sign up to get emails or robocalls that let them know what’s going on that day.” 

She added that the committee strives to make everyone feel comfortable the first time they come in—so they’ll want to come back. 

“What I value most is the friendships I’ve made here, the camaraderie of people I’ve met over the years,” she said. “It’s my home base—my home away from home!” 

Expanding Summer Options for Teens 

Three young people stand in front of a mural of irregular blocks of peach pink blue and yellow

Beyoncé thumped out of the speakers. Staff and young people helped themselves to a full spread of barbecue, rice and beans and fried chicken. In the room next door, a lively pool game was underway. 

That’s how the Teen Expansion program at our Youth Center brought another summer of good times to a close.  

Teen Expansion is funded by the New York City Housing Authority to serve young people living in public housing at the Isaacs Houses and Holmes Towers. It runs on weekday evenings in the summer to provide a safe and enriching place to go. This year it offered a wide range of things to do, including cooking classes, a spelling bee, podcasting, a cupcake decorating contest, and a group project to paint a colorful, abstract mural on the wall. 

“The Spelling Bee was a highlight,” said Program Coordinator Yazmine Ortega. “Friendly competition is where the fun happens!” 

16-year-old Mikey came nearly every night. His highlights included field trips to the Wildwater Kingdom at Dorney Park and paintball at Area 53 in Brooklyn. He also liked playing games on the Youth Center’s Nintendo Switch.  

“They have a lot of activities,” he said. “It’s a really fun place to be at.” 

Soup’s Up—and So is Fresh Produce

Five people in aprons and hairnets pose in a commercial kitchen

It was a steamy day in East Harlem, but the heat didn’t slow down our Soup’s Up staff. They were chopping up piles of perfectly diced tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers at their usual blinding speed.  

Each week, Soup’s Up creates a heathy plant-based dish—in this case, a summery chickpea salad—and distributes it to older adults in the area along with a selection of fresh produce. It’s the most recent addition to our lineup of hunger-fighting programs, which includes a weekly food pantry and daily affordable lunches at our Older Adult Center.

Director Sarah Jackson said the program fills a key niche. While the pantry includes a lot of “shelf-stable goods — cans, boxes, bottles, things that will last a little longer,” she explained, Soup’s Up is all about fresh foods. 

The program also incorporates a second major goal of the Isaacs Center: helping young people become thriving adults. Soup’s Up gets its staff from our Culinary Arts training program, so it provides extra education and experience for young adults getting started in the food business. The staffers do everything from preparing the food to sorting the produce to distributing the finished product to participants. 

Jackson says this contact between staff and participants creates some powerful intergenerational moments. “The recipients will say, ‘Tell the chef I liked the soup last week’—and I tell them the chef is right here, they’re 21 years old and from the Bronx, and they not only delivered it to you but they made it!” she laughs. 

This spring. Soup’s Up has ramped up production to serve some 1250 households a month—an increase of about 40%. The program is not currently taking on new participants, but Jackson hopes to change that after building additional kitchen space at the Isaacs Center this fall. The new facilities will allow Soup’s Up to stop renting a commercial kitchen and spend that money on food instead.  

Isaacs Center member Eugenia Ortiz, known to all by her nickname, Margie, says Soup’s Up is a lifeline to healthy food: “Vegetables are very expensive now in supermarkets and farmers markets so the vegetables that Miss Sarah gives us help us stay nutritious and healthy. We have a lot of people who come for Soup’s Up and they are thankful to get these vegetables.” 

>