One on One with Nancy Wackstein: Feminist & Leader in Social Work

You may already know that in March we celebrate Women’s History Month, but did you also know it is Social Work Awareness Month? For this special feature, we have interviewed Nancy Wackstein, social worker, activist, and NMIC supporter.  

I am a baby boomer who came of age protesting the status quo, whether it was against the Vietnam War or for the right of girls to wear pants to school. Activism sort of became baked into my life and my career.   

Since receiving her degree in Social Work from Columbia University in 1979, followed by her masters, Nancy Wackstein has been committed to her altruistic values and developed a long-standing career with NYC government and non-profits, focused on policy and advocacy as well as direct service in the community. Today, Nancy works as the Director of Community Engagement & Partnerships at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service. In the span of 24 years Nancy successfully led two nonprofits, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House and United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH). In fact, it was during her tenure as Executive Director of UNH that NMIC became an official member of the coalition.  

In her early days of social work Nancy worked for NYCHA at an East Harlem housing project and as a para-professional in a NYC Public School for at-risk boys on the lower east side. These experiences on the frontline of social work made the inequities in our society visible, especially including the addition of race, gender, class, and age can impact the degree of inequality. 

“Philanthropy often has to make up for holes in the social safety net, which grow larger and larger each year in our country.  There is a severe imbalance in opportunity and achievement for Americans based on race, class, gender, age. It’s important for philanthropy to try to reduce some of that imbalance”Nancy Wackstein 

One of the biggest challenges for the human services sector is adequate funding. Where government funding falls short, it is individuals, foundations, and businesses that close the gap in funding. Programs like NMIC’s Education & Career Services to our free Legal counsel and representation for housing disputes and immigration aim to bridge the gaps that exist in our society, that minorities and the economically disadvantaged often find themselves lost in. Consider donating to support these free programs and services we offer to the community.  

The Task of organizing human happiness needs the active cooperation of man and woman: it cannot be relegated to one half of the world.”- Lilian Wald 

We all find inspiration in the people who came before us and for Nancy, Lilian Wald is just that a trailblazer in the field of social work and social reform “I have to say that an influential woman in social work to me is Lillian Wald, who was one of the original settlement house leaders in New York and nationally. Her legacy lives on in two of the organizations she founded, Henry Street Settlement and the Visiting Nurse Service. A remarkable leader who was not afraid.” Says Nancy, “I think a big beautiful statue of Lillian Wald should be erected in New York! That money would be better spent, for example, than on a big wall on the southern border of the U.S.” 

Nancy is just as passionate today as she was at the beginning of her career to see the injustices of society eradicated, and we can all do our part to do just the same. Are you interested in joining Nancy and making a difference? Email us at   

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Mobile Food Pantry: Building Bridges for Stronger Communities

NMIC and West Side Campaign Against Hunger Partner up to Make a Difference 

West Side Campaign Against Hunger has been a leader and innovator in the hunger-relief space since 1993 when it first introduced its mobile food pantry. Which gave clients the chance to choose from an assortment of healthy and fresh food options, an option still rarely offered to clients who utilize food pantries out of necessity “WSCAH prides themselves on two things. The first is choice….they also specialize in locally sourced, fresh produce. Many pantries rely on canned goods for obvious reasons, but WSCAH is trying to make sure that families receive quality calories.” says Sara Chapman, NMIC’s Education & Career Services Director. Offering clients, the opportunity to choose from locally sourced fresh produce, as opposed to canned food items, not only provides families with healthier food options but also tremendously reduces the cost of food from 88 cents to 55 cents!  

WSCAH and NMIC’s partnership is about bridging community members to the services they need 

“The mobile pantry helps us better connect people to services and programs because we are doing it in partnership.”Says Ysabel Abreu, Community Outreach Coordinator, NMIC. WSCAH and NMIC’s partnership is about bridging community members to the services they need and collectively serve clients with our resources, to truly push for stronger and healthier communities.  

NMIC utilizes its strong community roots to raise awareness and point families in need to the WSCAH food pantry, while clients from NMIC’s Train & Earn Program pursuing customer service and food handler certificates have access to internship opportunities at WSCAH and can even enroll in their Chef Training Program. 

If you would like to learn more about the mobile food pantry and register, please call 212-822-8300. For more information about enrolling in NMIC’s Train & Earn Program call 212-822-8325.  

Watch out for the Mobile Food Pantry here at NMIC on the following dates:  

Wednesday, April 10th 

Wednesday, May 15th  

Wednesday, June 12th   

Consider donating today to support our programs and be a part of the change for stronger, healthier, and happier communities. 

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Women in Human Services Hall of Fame: Honoring Our Very Own

This month Strong Nonprofits New York held the Women in Human Services Hall of Fame induction, which included NMIC’s very own Chief Financial Officer, Rosaura Morales. Rosaura was honored and recognized for her years of service in the sector. This recognition is greatly deserved and NMIC is proud to have such a committed and passionate individual be a part of our mission to be a catalyst for positive change in the lives of many.  

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You Too Can Contribute to the Empowerment of Women

Freshie Femcare CEO Nelly Reyes Shares How She Carved Her Own Path to Success

At 7 years old Nelly Reyes immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic and moved to Pennsylvania with her mother in the 1980s. In her new neighborhood, there was a very minimal presence of other Latinos, which prompted her to quickly adapt to her new environment, like most children of immigrants learn to do. After graduating high school, Nelly moved to live with her father, who is the founder of Lemisol: the Caribbean’s best-selling feminine care brand dating back to the early 1980s. While there Nelly worked at his import and distribution business and quickly grew a passion for business as well as the acumen for running one which proved fruitful in her future pursuits.  

Nelly continued her professional growth and landed a role in Los Angeles with STARZ in a Sales and Marketing role. During this time Nelly embraced an appreciation for clean and healthy living and soon discovered an unmet need in the natural feminine care product space. Soon after, Nelly enrolled at NYU to complete a degree in Leadership & Management. With the in-depth knowledge, training, and experience she gathered over the years Nelly put her skills, passion, and vision together and successfully launched her first company Freshie Fem Care in 2014. 

“Freshie is about creating the best natural feminine care product options and at the same time educating women on why they need to go natural in feminine care. Freshie is about women being empowered with education and support, and ‘better-for-their-health’ products.” 

People always ask, “why not just continue to work for your father’s already established business?” and I tell them “Because for me it was important to learn to soar with my own wings. Being Latina, and therefore having been raised in a profoundly patriarchal background, it is very important to me to thrive individually as a woman.” 

Nelly believes that to achieve greatness you must contribute to the empowerment of women who have not had the same opportunities as her. When Nelly launched Freshie, she made a commitment to dedicate proceeds from the company’s online sales to supporting organizations that educate and empower women.  

“I chose to partner with NMIC because the work they do in the community is what I consider God’s work. NMIC undoubtedly impacts the lives of many people who would otherwise not have access to the knowledge and resources necessary to improve their lives. When I learned that NMIC also has a program that specifically helps women who are victims and/or survivors of domestic violence I was more compelled to lend my support in any way I could.” 

For Nelly, domestic abuse/violence is a cause that is near to her heart, “because more women than is common knowledge have at some point been victims, myself included.”  

What inspiring words would you tell other young women who are interested in starting their businesses and entering the philanthropic world? “If you want to start a business, do it.  Do your homework, find out what must be true for you to launch, and know that you don’t have to have everything down to perfection to launch, you do however have to have the commitment to yourself and your goal(s). Surround yourself with other women who have done it and learn from them. Ask questions, get involved in women’s networking groups.”   

“As women, we should all be doing something for each other every chance we can, regardless of how small. So, if we commit to supporting one another (whether by volunteering our time or donating funds), we can all be philanthropists (perhaps even should).” 

Consider donating today to support our programs and be a part of the change for stronger, healthier, and happier communities. 

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Newly Renovated Two-Bedroom Apartment Available in Washington Heights Coop

NMIC is pleased to announce the upcoming cooperative conversion of 618 W 187 Street, where we have been assisting the tenant association since 1986. Residents of this building organized against absentee landlords for years and are now able to become a cooperative and manage the building themselves, taking control of their homes and ensure the success of the building moving forward. This 20-unit building has one vacant 2-bedroom apartment, which is being marketed for sale.  It is a prewar five story walk up, recently renovated in 2018, and the purchaser who is selected will be the first to occupy this unit since the upgrades. Renovations include entirely new kitchens, bathrooms, floors, and building systems, such as the roof, boiler, plumbing, electric and heating; all enhanced to reflect modern domestic finishes and meet Enterprise Green Communities’ sustainability standards.   

The current residents and soon to be shareholders are predominantly Latino/Spanish speaking and benefit from having a strong and knowledgeable board who have lived in the building for a long time. This is a rare opportunity to become a homeowner in an HDFC limited equity cooperative, secure your living situation, develop more equity the longer you live there, and preserve the neighborhood’s long-term affordability. The location is convenient for subway transportation-less than a 10-minute walk from the 1 train and A train and there is access to multiple bus lines on Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue. 

618 W 187 Street is part of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) Third Party Transfer (TPT) Program providing affordable housing for families earning between 80%-120% Area Median Income (AMI).  The vacant two-bedroom apartment is 712 square feet and the asking price is $103,700, this translates to $146/sq. ft, which is well below the $746/sq. ft for the Washington Heights neighborhood, according to All applications must be printed and submitted in paper by mail to the address provided on the application. No electronic applications will be accepted for this development.

There is a 30-day application period for this apartment starting March 29th, 2019 and closing April 29th, 2019.  NMIC along with HPD will also host an Informational Session open to the public on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 at St. Elizabeth’s Church located at 268 Wadsworth Avenue New York, NY 10033 from 6 – 8pmacross the street from the building site, where we will be answering questions regarding the application process and projected timeline.

For an application, you can print one out using the link provided below or pick one up at our office 45 Wadsworth Avenue 8th Floor.  You can also have us mail you a printed application by calling 212-822-8300 ext. 408 or emailing and providing your address or sending a self-addressed envelope to 45 Wadsworth Avenue 8th Floor, New York, NY 10033. For detailed information click Here

Download An Application:

Application (English) , Application (Spanish) , Application (Chinese) , Application (Arabic) , Application (Haitian Creole) , Application (Korean) , Application (Russian)

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It’s Our Birthday!

When NMIC was founded in 1979 with just two employees to address the immediate need of the community, we could hardly foresee our growth to setting our foothold as a community-based organization and a surging voice advocating for the needs of our clients. We have a staff of over 120 and our services extend over a person’s lifetime. We could not have come this far without the loyal support and hard work of each of you!  

Please save the date for our 40th-anniversary celebration on Thursday, October 3rd. We cannot wait to share this special milestone with you.  

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Because of You, ‘I AM’

P.S. 132 Elementary Students Create a Masterpiece Collection of Self Portraits  

The Urban Arts Partnership, Story Studio is a program run by P.S. 132. The program was established as an innovative arts and English language integration program for upper elementary, middle and high school students. Students with limited English ability are supported in the program as they learn, grow and become more connected to their new environment and communities. 

The students of the Urban Arts Partnership program brought their talents to NMIC and created a series of paintings that lined the walls of NMIC’s lobby, creating a colorful, familiar, and warm environment. The student’s paintings were all self-portraits titled “I Am” a proclamation of their self-identity and pride, accompanied by self-describing short poems. The students recited the poems in our lobby area as our clients waited to be seen. It was a heartwarming sight and a gentle reminder that immigrant experiences transcend ages.  

The “I AM” project is the first writing assignment in the Story Studio framework, which enables students to self-reflect and begin to consolidate the expanding and ever-changing facets of their self-identity “Many people don’t realize that immigrants must form a new identity when they leave their home countries. The students I work with are all creating a new identity and it is very challenging for them.” Said Urban Arts Partnership Instructor, Ruthy Valdez.  The program allows students to learn and grow with students experiencing the same challenges and supports their growth in ELA, the arts and beyond.  

If Ruthy could share one thing with the public it would be the importance of giving back to our communities, especially children. And the knowledge she has of the incredible impact including the arts can have in a child’s healing, growth, and academic improvement. “The students become more confident, self- assure, and outspoken in all areas of their lives. By participating the students create a life marker where they can remember doing something courageous and amazing.” It is the work we do together as a community that has a lasting impact. Do you want to make an impact? Support our Education & Career Services program. Click here to donate. 

View Highlights of the Student’s Performance. 

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Becoming a Homeowner for Just $2,500

NMIC’s Cooperative Team Helps Tenants Return Home After Ten Years 

Maria Tineo first arrived in the U.S in the 1990s, and like many other immigrants, she built roots here in the city and raised her family at 21 Arden Street in Washington Heights. In 2008 Maria, her family, and the tenants in her building were forced to relocate to new residences in the neighborhood due to the structure of their building being ruled unsafe.  

The building 21 Arden is a part of a tenant management program called Tenant Interim Lease, the program was established for city-owned occupied buildings, and with tenants involved with the management of the properties, they are eventually renovated and converted to cooperatives.  

However, the renovation project for 21 Arden was originally scheduled to last just one year the tenants did not foresee it would be 10 years before theybegan to see any hope of returning home. 

“When they were first vacated from their building in 2008, they were promised that their building would be renovated in 1 year.  It has been 10 years and they are only now starting renovations.” Said Jennifer Welles who is a part of NMIC’s Development & Organizing Team.  

NMIC has a longstanding history of developing and organizing tenants to empower and advocate for their communities. Jennifer has worked on 21 Arden since 2011 and has seen and experienced the many challenges associated with the tenants and organizers alike. “This is not a typical scenario by any means, but it is something that can happen, and it is very frustrating for all involved, not least of whom the tenants who have been waiting for so long to return home.”  

Getting projects like 21 Arden to the finish line come with many obstacles however what remains true is the reason why the work is needed, we must protect our community from predatory housing practices, the erosion of rent-stabilized apartments, and the skyrocketing costs of housing through active involvement and investment in their residences “The affordable housing projects we work on, particularly the cooperative ones, are amazing and rare opportunities for community control of assets and resources”  

Without the establishment of tenant organizing or the opportunity to ‘rent to own’ residencies native New Yorkers, like Maria and her family are susceptible to the price gouging practices of landlords looking to solely increase their profits, at the price of low-income families losing their homes. “Since I started in the position, we have helped 5 buildings become owned or controlled by the tenants. 21 Arden will be the 6th during this period.” Said Jennifer Welles. NMIC’s organizing and legal team work hard to protect individuals and families from being victimized by these practices, which often lead to unjust evictions and rent overcharges. Would you like to support their work? Click here to donate. 

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What is So Important About the 2020 Census?

Judge Strikes Down Trump Administrations Controversial Citizenship Question on the 2020 Census. 

For months NMIC and other social service organizations have worked hard and advocated from Albany to City Hall to prevent a new proposal from the current administration that sought to include the controversial question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” the question of citizenship is a problem because it would incur fear and deter full participation in the census. Community resources are determined based on who is being counted. The impact of the result of the census lasts for ten years.  If the residents of a community are undercounted, then the community will not have the support to grow and enhance supportive services for everyone.  

Thankfully, in January 2019, a U.S District Judge Furman ruled against the citizenship question and cited it as being unlawful “To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross’s decision stand would undermine the proposition — central to the rule of law — that ours is a ‘government of laws, and not of men,” 

If allowed to pass, the citizenship question could have caused widespread fear and disproportionate allocation of critical funding for services and organizations like NMIC, that work with a variety of vulnerable populations including immigrants. Here in NYC funding for schools and two congressional seats were also at risk of being lost.  

So, how does participation in the U.S Census work? In March 2020 everyone will receive a postcard with instructions on how to complete the Census either online or over the phone. Alternatively, Census workers will come door knocking at the end of April 2020. NMIC has joined the NY Counts 2020 Coalition which works to conduct outreach and educate community members, and will also participate as Census Ambassadors. We ask for everyone to become Census ambassadors, to join committees, and spread the word about the Census. As individuals, we should get our family and friends to complete the Census form and ensure our communities have the proper resources to prosper.  

To learn more about the 2020 Census visit census.govand to apply to become a Census Ambassador click here.  

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Join us. Ignite the Flame that Creates Change.

40 years ago, NMIC was founded with the goal of assisting immigrants in Northern Manhattan who were at-risk of being evicted. 40 years later, the risk is still there.  

Residents are still at-risk of being displaced out of their communities as a result of rents increasing, wages remaining the same, and scarcity of jobs available to those with limited educational backgrounds. Rents are now only affordable to families earning roughly double the minimum wage. It is happening all around us and NMIC has been on the frontlines since 1979.  

This is the story of thousands of longtime residents in the communities NMIC serves – Inwood, Washington Heights, Harlem, and the Bronx. NMIC alone can’t stop displacements, more work needs to be done. This year marks NMIC’s 40th anniversary and in honor of this milestone, we are launching ‘The Spark Collective’a participatory philanthropical giving circle composed of an innovative group of 40 individuals investing $40 monthly to enhance life-changing programs. These monthly gifts provide us with the financial and social capital we need to create radical changes in the lives of our clients.  

NMIC’s very own Executive Director, Maria Lizardo is kicking it off and asking you to join her. “For the last 20 and a half years, I have witnessed the impact that NMIC’s work has on the lives of our community members. For me, being the executive director at NMIC is not just a job it is my life’s mission and as such, I commit to supporting NMIC’s work and celebrating our 40 years of service by pledging $40 a month. Yes, I want to be a part of the “Spark Collective” that creates change in the lives of New Yorkers.” – Maria Lizardo, Executive Director. Join Maria. Join us. Ignite radical change.

This is how it works:  

  • Give $40/monthly.  
  • One-time volunteer opportunities are available such as participating on a professional speaking panel based on your area of expertise.  
  • Invitation to agency milestone events. 
  • Get to know like-minded changemakers! Join us at an annual professional networking event with other Spark Collective members. 

Sign-up now. #NMICignitingchange 



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