2017 Fall Newsletter

A Message from ACE’s Executive Director –
With 60,350 New Yorkers in Shelters, We Need Your Help

Dear Friend,

Recently, the New York City homeless shelter census reached 60,350 men, women and children.

Martin earns his forklift operator’s certification

With your help, ACE continues to take extraordinary steps to meet this ongoing crisis head on. In June, we opened our new state-of-the-art workforce development facility in Long Island City, doubling our participant capacity and tripling our computer learning terminal access.

We have increased our outreach to communities in need throughout the city, offering paths to a better life for hundreds of New Yorkers each year.

ACE participants in a financial literacy workshop

We also expanded our industry specific training program. Beyond our existing offerings – credentialing in OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health) General Industry, OSHA Construction Safety, OSHA Supported Scaffolding, OSHA Flagger, Janitorial Maintenance, Food Protection, and Forklift Operation – we now offer Basic Green Construction, a 40-hour course in green carpentry and environmentally friendly building techniques, that covers electrical and plumbing basics.

In addition to our credentialing program, ACE continues to offer to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness the very best in vocational services, including adult education, job-placement assistance, computer training, individualized counseling, financial literacy coaching and paid work experience training.

Gregory and Alex at their new job after earning full-time positions

On behalf of the men and women of ACE, thank you for everything you have done to help us rise to meet the homelessness crisis. Your continued support this fall will make it possible for ACE to offer hundreds of homeless New Yorkers a proven, comprehensive program that equips them with the tangible skills necessary to leave shelter life behind!

Please read Erik’s incredible story below and see how lives are being changed at ACE everyday. Thank you for your commitment to our mission and to the men and women we so proudly serve.


James Martin
Executive Director

Locked Up in Rikers Island at 14 –
Erik’s Story in His Own Words

My name is Erik. I grew up in a poor neighborhood on the Lower East Side of New York City in the 1970’s. My father was an alcoholic, so my mother raised me by herself. It was rough for me back then.

“When I was 14, I got locked up for selling drugs. I was sent to Rikers Island.”

Erik receives his OSHA certification

I started drinking and smoking when I was 13. It’s hard, as a child, to know what’s right and what’s wrong, which is what I was—a child. I didn’t understand that being a productive part of the community meant you worked hard and paid taxes. I wish I knew that. I had no one to teach me back then.

When I was 14, I got locked up for selling drugs. I was sent to Rikers Island. It was scary. On one hand I wondered, Am I going to make it through this? On the other hand I thought, If I make it through this, everyone on the street will respect me. I was confused, with no one to guide me. After serving eight months, I was released and given five years probation.

“I took the time to sit down and work things out. I thought, Do I want to die in here?”

I was arrested several more times over the next few years and found myself in and out of prison. It’s hard to do the right thing in prison. In society, if you break the law, you’re an outsider. In prison, if you do the right thing, you’re an outsider.

Erik participates in a mock interview

Finally, finding myself locked up on yet another drug charge, I realized something had to change. I made a conscious decision to end the cycle. I took the time to sit down and work things out. I thought, Do I want to die in here? I realized how badly I was hurting my family, my daughter, myself. At last, I understood, I was hurting society. Selling drugs hurts people.

I was released from prison in 2016, but I didn’t have the trust of my family. My daughter wanted to help me but she was scared that I was going to go to prison again. She thought, He’s been to jail, he’s been to institutions, and only death is left for him. I needed something to show me the way.

In early 2017, a counselor at a New York City homeless shelter referred me to ACE. At ACE, it was like I had finally found myself. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions, I didn’t feel like I was going to be judged. The people at ACE worked with me to build my confidence and that made me want to work harder. Some days, I worked so hard that my fingers hurt, but it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to give back to the community that I had hurt in the past, and I just worked really hard. It paid off because I eventually got hired as a full-time sanitation worker.

“I have a job, I have my own apartment, and I have my family back in my life.”

Erik speaks at Graduation

ACE has changed my life, it really has. I enjoy my job, and I like the people I work with. I wish the same for everyone who comes to ACE. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

I wake up every day and I thank God. I have a job, I have my own apartment, and I have my family back in my life. My daughter tells me, “Dad, keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s working.” She’s really proud of me now.

There are more hard working men and women like Erik making their comeback right now. Make a gift today at acenewyork.org, and take part in their incredible journey to economic self-sufficiency.

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You Helped 45 More New Yorkers Overcome Homelessness

ACE Graduate William and ACE Crew Supervisor Paul at the September Graduation Ceremony

On Thursday, September 28th, hundreds of ACE supporters gathered to celebrate the achievements of 45 new program graduates. Each graduate addressed the audience and shared important milestones in their personal journey to economic self-sufficiency. They reported using the skills they acquired during their participation in ACE’s 4-6 month program to find employment in the fields of hospitality, maintenance, food services, social services, transportation and more.

ACE Graduate William Lester, who is now employed as a construction worker said, “ACE pointed my life in the right direction and guided me to where I can navigate my own way now.”

At the end of the ceremony, graduates formally became members of ACE’s employment retention program, Project Stay. Project Stay will support them in maintaining employment, increasing their earning power and transitioning to independent living.

ACE Executive Director James Martin said, “Tonight, these folks celebrated overcoming the many barriers faced by those experiencing homelessness in this city. They will be heading to work tomorrow instead of to a homeless shelter or program. Today, they are in a better position to take care of themselves, their families and give back to their communities. They are proud of that, and we are proud of them.”

Since 1992, ACE has helped over 2,800 individuals secure employment. ACE’s new headquarters, the ACE Center for Workforce Development, opened in Long Island City, Queens on June 27th of 2017.


#GivingTuesday is December 1st

Giving Tuesday
Donald was all smiles at his ACE Graduation Ceremony

Articles and studies are published on a rolling basis that demonstrate philanthropic giving’s direct relationship to happiness and success.  Here is is an op-ed from the New York Times about exactly that. And here is an article from Science Magazine that cites a Harvard study shows buying gifts for yourself negligibly increases happiness, but giving to others dramatically increases positive feelings for yourself and others.

#GivingTuesday is a chance for us to grab the attention of the public and do some true good in our city, in our world, and in our own lives. Giving will make you happier, it will improve the lives of homeless and impoverished, and it will spur true change in our city. Spread the word about #GivingTuesday.

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Thank You for Helping Lance Go from Shelter to Supervisor

Lance moved to New York City with his mother and father when he was seven. He had a middle-class upbringing and was never worried about financial insecurity. “My dad made good money as an accountant. I never imagined growing up that I could be homeless.”Lance and Jim

Lance graduated high school and immediately wanted to start working. He got a job as a bike messenger for a firm on the 86th floor of World Trade Center One. On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Lance locked up his bike and entered a deli across the street from the World Trade Center. As he put in his usual breakfast order, he was jarred by a series of explosions.

“Oh my God, a plane hit the World Trade Center”

I looked out the window and thought, oh my God, a plane hit the World Trade Center. After a while, the deli filled with soot and debris and everyone started to panic. I panicked. I ran out of the deli and headed for the One train. When I got to the station the police were pushing people into the train. Everyone was yelling and crying. It took an hour to get to 34th street, and that’s when they made the announcement that Tower Two had collapsed. I was in a daze. Later that night, when I finally made it home to the Bronx, my parents and my grandparents broke down. They had thought I was gone.”

ing a freight train coming at me”Lance and His Dad Hug“Finding myself homeless was like standing on the track and see

Like many thousands of New Yorkers whose companies were devastated, Lance lost his job. He shifted gears and started taking classes at Devry University. For a decade, Lance maintained a series of steady jobs, but in 2013 his life took a tragic turn.

Lance had a good position working at the Department of Commerce, but budget cuts were implemented and he was laid off. At the time, he was living with his mother and father in a run-down building in the Bronx. His family was forced to vacate the apartment when they refused to pay rent after a bathtub fell through their ceiling. Lance had no income, no home and his fLances Dadamily had nowhere to go.

Suddenly, Lance and his parents were homeless. They entered the New York City shelter program, and it was there that things went from bleak to terrible. After a short time in the shelter, Lance’s mother unexpectedly passed away due to a he
art attack. Lance was distraught and fell into a depression. Looking back on that time he says, “I took things for granted. Finding myself homeless was like standing on the track and seeing a freight train coming at me.”
A counselor at the homeless shelter referred Lance to ACE’s vocational training program, Project Comeback. It was your support that provided Lance this path back to self-sufficiency. You provided the work experience on ACE’s maintenance crew and the classroom resources he needed to build his resume and apply to jobs. After six months with ACE, Lance earned a full-time position as the Crew Supervisor on the Broadway Clean Team.

“Thank you for believing in me”

Lance at the deskAt the ACE graduation ceremony, Lance touched the audience when he pointed to his father and said, “I just want to make you proud.” With tears in their eyes they embraced. This compelling moment happened because you, and others like you, gave a gift to someone in need. In Lance’s words, “Being helped by someone who doesn’t know you, who is willing to give you a chance, that feels great. Because of those supporters, I am actually now in a position to give to others who want an opportunity. It is incredible.”

It’s now a year later and Lance is doing great. He continues to proudly earn a living managing the Clean Team and he rents an apartment in Staten Island. He asked us to pass on this message, “Thank you for believing in me.”


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How to Have a Great Time with Your Friends and Help the Homeless: The Art Strut

Getting involved in the fight against homelessness can be overwhelming. There are, however, ways to help those Art Strutin need just by doing what you love.

For example, Danielle Natzinitsky wanted to help homeless New Yorkers, and she knew that her friends and neighbors were interested too. She decided to harness the momentum of her community focused organization the SoHo Strut and donate the proceeds from her community event, The Art Strut, to help men and women at ACE get back into the workforce.

The evening was focused on art appreciation in SoHo and drew a savvy crowd to the Zen House. Featured art included Cernesto, Joseph Maloy, Gumshoeart, Eddy Bogaert, WizardSkull, Ramiro Studios and Brandon Seins. A good time was had by all, and as a bonus, Danielle and each one of you who attended contributed to raising $2,000 dollars for job-training programs at ACE.

If you have a hobby, interest or talent that you want to utilize to help homeless men and women break into the workforce, please reach out to Jessica Cannold at jcannold@acenewyork.org. If that does not sound like you, don’t worry. Your straight forward donation is already providing life-changing opportunities.


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Thanks to You ACE is an Emerging Leader

2014-01-23 08.26.26 (1)ACE began in SoHo 22 years ago with one man sweeping one block.  Thanks to your support, we have grown into a multi-faceted organization that addresses all of our participants needs, serving over 400 individuals annually.  We’re proud that just in the past few years we’ve expanded our reach and now provide maintenance services in all five boroughs.  Now, it looks like our influence may even cross the New York State borders as we have been asked to provide assistance for workforce development programs in Baltimore, MD, through a two-year grant, awarded by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

ACE senior staff members travelled to Baltimore in August and met with staff from the Weinberg Foundation as well as city and health and human services officials. The Baltimore based representatives voiced their hopes of replicating ACE’s NYC results in Baltimore.  We are honored to be emerging as a leader in the homeless services field, and that our impact is garnering attention in other afflicted cities.  (Fun Fact: ACE’s graduation rates are consistently 18% higher than similar programs in NYC.)  We thank the Weinberg Foundation for their recognition of an outstanding and effective program, and we thank all of our supporters, partners, and friends, because without your generosity, ACE might have still been on only one block.

Thanks to You, Nicole is Going Back to College

Success Story NicoleNicole, a 2013 ACE graduate, is headed to Metropolitan College! Nicole is the proud recipient of the Henry Buhl Academic Scholarship. Below is a brief glance at her harrowing comeback story:

Nicole’s childhood was not a dollhouse fairy tale, but a crack-house nightmare. Born and raised in Newark, Nicole’s mother was on and off drugs and her older brother was a dealer. Nicole remembers seeking comfort and refuge at her best friend’s house, but that turned out to be a devastating mistake, as drugs were more available and accessible there than a glass of milk.  By the time she was 11 years old, sadly, Nicole was in and out of Juvenile detention and incarceration followed.

“My mother used to kick me out of the house if she thought I used drugs,” remembers Nicole, “but she would also kick me out when she was desperate for drugs herself and I had nothing to give her.”

As a young girl, before the weight of a broken home could be felt, Nicole loved school and spent her free time writing stories. Nicole’s mother even encouraged her to pursue education, but Nicole followed her mother’s example instead of her words and dropped out of school in the 8th grade.

Debilitated by her addictions, Nicole continued a relentless self-sabotage that brought nothing but guilt and despair.  When she did manage to hold a job, she would scrape her pennies together to get her fix. “Life was dull and meaningless,” she said, “getting high was all that really mattered. I was tired of myself, I didn’t even know what it was like to be normal anymore.”


In 2012, she mustered the strength to fight her addiction, and reached out to the St. Lukes Detox Clinic of New York. After St. Luke’s, Nicole sought treatment at ARC in the Bronx, and it was there that her roommate told her about ACE.


“Honestly, at first when I turned to ACE in 2012, I was only thinking about the money that I would get there while training for a job. But after staying with the program for a little longer, I realized that you could hardly put a price tag on what I was getting at ACE”, says Nicole, noting that after she relapsed in July and was temporarily suspended from the ACE programs, she felt like she was banned from her heartland. “When I came back in August, 2012, I knew I had the best support system here and I better make it work for me,” she said warmly.

Nicole graduated from ACE’s job-training program, Project Comeback, in 2013, where she earned a Food Safety and a Serve Safe Certificate. From there, she secured part time work in the kitchen of an Applebee’s in the Bronx, and now she is working full-time as a line cook at Bond 45 in midtown, Manhattan. “It’s a different world for me. People are so nice and interesting.”  She shared, “I saw Barbara Walters the other day—she asked about the food choices and we chatted!”

We are proud that Nicole is also ACE’s most recent Project Home participant.  This past June, Nicole moved into an apartment of her own and is receiving a 3 year rent subsidy from ACE to relieve some of her financial burden while she pursues her educational goals.

For Nicole, ACE is the place where she finally received the support she needed to balance her professional, legal, financial, healthcare and housing issues. She gave a special thanks to ACE’s Project Stay Coordinator. “Ms. Jackson called me so many times and we talked… She anticipated my needs before I thought I had any!”

We are constantly inspired by the resilience and strength of our participants. We love sharing these hopeful success stories because they are a direct result of your sustained support and partnership of ACE’s programs. Nicole deserved a chance to have a safe home and education as a child, but it was taken from her. Now, thanks to you, she gets that opportunity as an adult. It is a dream come true for Nicole to attend Metropolitan College and pursue a degree as a social worker. She plans on being there for young kids as they struggle in afflicted households.

We are incredibly proud of you, Nicole, and we know that you will use your experiences to break a cycle of generational trauma and make this world a better place.