REM donates backpacks, school supplies to displaced youths

Joan Cardona

Forty-two homeless New York City youths are starting school this week with all-new backpacks and supplies, courtesy of Raich Ende Malter’s charitable/volunteer committee, REM-Co Cares.

Patrycja Leszczynski tries a backpack on for size.

Patrycja Leszczynski tries a backpack on for size.

REM-Co Cares received word about the “Project: Back to School” drive through an email from Coalition for the Homeless, a not-for-profit focused on providing food, clothing, shelter, and many other services to the homeless. While the deadline was closer than expected (less than two weeks until school started!), REM employees jumped on board and immediately began gathering supplies and donations. Suzanne Anderson and Joan Cardona of REM’s Broadway office asked Coalition for the Homeless to extend the deadline slightly, and not only were they happy to oblige, they volunteered to visit the Broadway office to pick up the supplies.

Amanda Rinaldo and Mike Meilak fill backpacks.

Amanda Rinaldo and Mike Meilak fill backpacks.

All three REM offices contributed to the effort, with employees purchasing supplies themselves or making monetary donations to help purchase supplies and backpacks in bulk. Even REM’s office suppliers, Weeks Lerman and Huntington Business Products Centre, donated some items after Managing Partner Ellis Ende suggested the idea. All supplies gathered in Long Island and New Jersey were shipped to New York City. On the day of collection, Joan began preparing backpacks, which were divided by grade level. Throughout the day, REM employees helped fill backpacks with school supplies, ranging from calculators to pencils and crayons to notebooks and binders. Ultimately, 42 were completed – 16 for early year students, 8 for elementary schoolers, 9 for middle schoolers, and 9 for high schoolers. In addition, REM stuffed another four boxes with extra school supplies.

For such a time crunch, REM did a fantastic job for a great cause. Sherry Conk, a bookkeeper in the Long Island office, especially enjoyed putting together supplies: “As a mother of two children, the youngest being a senior in high school, I miss going to the store and picking out school supplies like crayons and coloring books. This was a way to relive that and help out children who have trouble getting everything they need for a new school year.”

On September 5, Coalition for the Homeless picked up the completed backpacks and supply boxes from REM’s New York City office. The Coalition is distributing the backpacks and supplies this week to children in need in New York City.

Suzanne, Joan, and Sherry are on board to continue collecting school supplies for next year (hopefully on a less rushed schedule). Joan even plans to bake cookies to serve while employees stuff backpacks. Thank you to all who donated to Project: Back to School. You helped make a difficult time a little easier for these kids.

REM volunteers are life-savers

IT Manager Fred Brown practices compressions while tax supervisor Joe DeMartinis observes.

HR coordinator Suzanne Schultz takes a turn.

During the week of May 17, staff members in REM’s Broadway, Long Island, and New Jersey offices received life-saving training. Those who volunteered for the three-hour course were trained to perform adult, child, and infant CPR; to properly use an automatic external defibrillator (AED); and to dislodge obstructions in choking victims and perform resuscitation (if necessary) in adults, children, and infants. Volunteers are part of the firm’s First Responder Team and are expected to respond should an emergency situation arise.

Proofreader Alex Barnett clears the area before administering a "shock" with the AED simulator device. Tax senior Dylan Brady stands clear.

“I’m personally very proud that so many of our staff members volunteer to join the First Responder Team,” says Barbara Weisbein, Director of Human Resources. “The program is partner-approved and staff-run. In addition to the life-saving techniques, the team is trained to take command, including crowd-control and post-EMT arrival. We plan and update our response protocols every year, and each member contributes to the discussion. A trained mind delivers a trained response.”

REM has offered the course to its employees since 2009. The firm absorbs the cost of the training and individual certifications (good for two years), as well as providing multiple AED devices and first aid kits in all REM locations.

Managing Partner Ellis Ende calls the training program a win-win. “I have to say, I have the greatest respect for our First Responders. Their level of compassion is amazing. And you can tell they’re doing it out of a sense of social responsibility, because so many of the same staff members stay on the team from cycle to cycle. We have wonderful people here.”

IT Manager Fred Brown is one of the firm’s original First Responders. He originally took the REM course in 2009. “It wasn’t the first CPR course I’d ever taken, but it was definitely more comprehensive than anything I’d learned before. One thing I like is that the material is always updated and expanded. We learn more every time.”

To date, the First Responder Team has never had to put its skills to use. Fred acknowledges that this is a good thing. “Obviously, it’s important information, and we should always be ready to act on it, but I’ve got to say, I’m glad it’s never happened here.”