Executive Director Pam Koner (far right) and staff
Fifteen years ago, Pam Koner was sitting comfortably in her Hastings-on-Hudson home with her children and a full refrigerator when she was struck by a New York Times article about an Illinois neighborhood suffering from extreme poverty. “It was one of those tap-on-the-shoulder moments,” she recalls. “I got in touch with the pastor profiled in the article, and I asked him what he needed.”
Koner put out a call to the community she had built through after-school programs and parenting groups, and organized 17 donor families to send monthly boxes of food, books, and clothing to 17 families in need. Educating herself on nonprofit operations as she went, Koner developed her efforts into a full-fledged organization in 2003.
Today, Family-to-Family sponsors 230 families in the New York-metro area on a monthly basis, including 106 in Westchester, and provides support for veterans, Holocaust survivors, and refugees, as well as $54,650 annually in donations to provide monthly grocery supplements for Westchester families. Family-to-Family has built strong relationships with business benefactors, too. Local branches of Wells Fargo, Allstate, State Farm, Webster Bank, and Danone have all funded the organization’s efforts, and they receive regular support from such local mainstays as Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers and Irvington-based clothier Eileen Fisher.
Koner says she owes her philanthropic spirit to her grandfather, an attorney involved in social-justice causes, and her father, a celebrated photojournalist who documented poverty as part of his work in the 1950s and ’60s. “My father was the kind of man who, through his work, took the step that people want to take but don’t take and don’t know why they don’t,” she says. “He believed in giving back; that was the mantra of my childhood.”
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