Were you (or someone you know) touched by Henry Street?
The Settlement has launched an Alumni Search Project to reach former students, residents, teachers, social workers, clients, friends and neighbors of Henry Street so that we can create an interactive Alumni Network.
The network will connect former staff and participants with old friends, new contacts and opportunities to get involved with Henry Street.
Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be part of the network.
Alumni Essay Contest Winners
Memories of Henry Street abounded during the agency's first Alumni Network mini-essay contest. Winners are Theresa Kehoe, first place, with honorable mentions going to Michael Boonstra, Allen Goodall and James "Jimmy" Roth. Read the winning essays below.
Theresa E. Kehoe (Winner)
I lived at the Urban Family Center [Henry Street’s family shelter] from 1974 to 1977.
I have many memories, good and bad, of that time, and that experience molded me into the person I am today.
I attended the Urban Family Center School, and one day a priest from England came to visit. I never really took much notice at the time, but that was to be a pivotal moment in my life. Three years later, in 1977, my family moved back to my mother’s home city of Peterborough, England.
During a social studies class in my new school in England, a priest visited us and spoke about the trips he had taken to visit the poor and deprived children on the Lower East Side of New York. You can imagine how a quiet and shy 15-year-old felt as he relayed his story, when she was one of those children, unbeknownst to him. I never forget that no matter what life throws at you, there are always elements of surprise, and it just goes to show you what a "small world” this is!
I recently returned to the U.S. after 33 years, and even found the social worker from my time at Henry Street. She is none other than former Henry Street Settlement Executive Director Verona Middleton-Jeter!
Allen Goodall (Honorable Mention)
In July and August of 2010, I volunteered at Henry Street Settlement through my company’s UPS Community Internship Program. I was assigned to work at the Workforce Development Center, based out of the Urban Family Center, Henry Street’s family homeless shelter. While there I was able to work with several women, assisting them in writing resumes and improving their job interviewing skills. During my time at HSS, I was not sure how much help I was really giving to the women. However, after I returned home, I received the following email from one of the Henry Street clients I had assisted:
Good afternoon Mr. Allen,
How are you doing? How was the flight?
I have to be the one to say thank you to you for giving me the desire to be someone important and to feel that others can see value in me after all the drama in my life. My girls are always asking for you, telling me that they want to send you some more letters and pictures. You made them feel like a star, my daughter said.
The good thing is that I will not go back to the past, I have so much to offer and that is now my number one goal, because if I could have an impact on you in such a few minutes I believe I could go far. It is up to me to engrave that desire in my heart and for God to make it happen.
I really appreciate everything you have done so far. I have no problem keeping in contact with you because it gave me a sense of hope that someone can see me and say "You have potential.”
I will stay positive as much as I can. Maybe one day I can look at all this and laugh knowing that I made it.
I have spoken too much. I really thank you for everything and hope to hear from you soon.
Michael Boonstra (Honorable Mention)
As a junior at Hope College, I lived for a semester at 265 Henry Street, Henry Street Settlement Headquarters. I studied and worked in the children’s theater, performing and building sets for the Kingdom of Noodle Looney series.
Most of all, the real education was coming together at 6 every evening with the 19 other residents of the Settlement for a family style meal in the historic dining room. Mary, the housekeeper, would send the meal up on the dumbwaiter from a downstairs kitchen, and then leave. We were responsible for clearing when we finished, which was often much later, given the collection of people living there at the time. They were from all walks of life and different countries, and our conversations would stretch on for hours. My fellow residents were concerned that I get a good taste of the city, and many wacky adventures ensued: one morning at 4 AM, I went on a trip to the Fulton Street Fish Market with a photographer from L.A. Another day I attended the wedding of a large man who could have doubled for Captain Kangaroo, who worked in drug rehab and married the English governess who worked for former Executive Director Bertram Beck.
Years later I ran into one of the residents who had been a student at Fordham and spoke with a strong Irish accent. He had organized busses to the moratorium in Washington protesting the war in Viet Nam, but had later gone into real estate, and was trying to rent me an office for the project I was working on, a film production.
There was a young woman from Japan who spoke no English but managed to communicate with us nonetheless, a nun working toward her masters in elementary education at Bank Street College, a young Jewish kid from Long Island who worked in the seniors program, and a couple in VISTA. The talk was always lively and compelling; we became a family that cared about and for each other, and we came away with a deep sense of history and a dedication to the wonderful work that was going on all around us. I was very fortunate to have such a splendid introduction to New York City in such a glorious environment dedicated to the arts and to the community.
James "Jimmy" Roth (Honorable Mention)
In 1959, 60 and 61, James Weimer was my piano teacher and teacher of music theory at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center.
He would also come to my house in Forest Hills for my piano lessons. I was very fond of him.
I had composed some short pieces and all the kids in my theory class were so impressed, but today, if I think of those pieces, they were really very cliché-ish and I would be embarrassed to play them.
There was one very short piece — 3 minutes, maybe — that was fairly good and I’m thinking of using it now as part of a larger piece.
Mr. Weimer called it “Concerto for Black Keys and Sore Knees.” That’s because when I composed it I had just fallen and seriously scraped both my knees on the sidewalk after being sick in bed for two weeks. I was really upset.
Unfortunately, I lost contact with Mr. Weimer many years ago. If anyone knows where he is, please let him know I’d love to hear from him.