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It's with the utmost sadness we have to say good-bye to our colleges and friends, we will think of them often in silence, if only time could turn back to help our aching hearts.
NYAP Board President
On Wednesday, December 29, 2010, our beloved board President, Al Anderson passed away. As Al's colleague and friend, it's an honor to share a bit about his life and legacy with you.
Al was born in Cincinnati, OH. His mother died of alcoholism while he was quite young. Thereafter, his life was quite tumultuous. Al's first job, at age 8, was sweeping the floors of a grocery store. With his earnings Al was required to pay rent to his father and stepmother. By age 15 Al was living on his own due to severe family conflict. He first got a room in a boarding house. By the time he was 16 he got an efficiency apartment so he could protect and provide shelter for his younger sister. Al recalled feeling at the time that it was just he and his sister against a cruel and unrelenting world. But Al persevered. He graduated from high school with his class. A stint in the army, where he served in Korea, and college followed. Al eventually earned bachelor, masters and PhD. degrees and taught at Xavier University. He was promoted several times and became chair of the graduate counseling program. It was also during this time that Al found himself tormented by his mother's demon of alcoholism. He lived the problems and struggles that accompany addiction. Try as he might, it wasn't until the age of 50 that Al drank his last drink. At the time of his passing, Al had celebrated 32 years of sobriety, a feat of which he was understandably immensely proud. Not surprisingly, once sober Al served as the sponsor of many others, young and old, as they struggled to free themselves from the stranglehold of substance abuse.
Al lived what we here at NYAP talk about everyday. Al was our mission personified. He was an energetic instrument of compassion and change. He was an advocate and force for change in the systems, structures and practices that affect disenfranchised people. He fought stigma and sought justice. He served as chair of Hamilton County's Interracial Affairs Committee during the 1970's and was part of a team tasked with the responsibility of applying the lessons learned from civil rights unrest of the time throughout the community. By the mid 1970's Al became increasingly aware of the hardships and difficulties with which so many adolescents had to contend---it wasn't just him and his sister after all! He began volunteering at a runaway shelter and in fairly short order became a foster parent.
Over the course of the years, Al fostered 28 teenage boys, all of whom were involved in the juvenile justice system. Their problems were many. Al's house became home to youth addicted to drugs and alcohol, those who were gang involved, those who were angry, aggressive and defiant and those who had simply lost their way. Al provided shelter and acceptance to youth who were abandoned by their parents and tormented by peers, and society, because they were gay. Having so many challenges in his own life, Al intuitively understood how to help young people on their journey. Al's life served as a testament to NYAP's philosophy of never giving up on young people, regardless of the challenges they represent. Through one of Al's foster sons, I recently learned that Al never locked the doors to his home---he never knew when someone might need to come in.
Al joined the Ohio Youth Advocate Program Board of Directors in 1987. As the Ohio representative to NYAP, he joined the NYAP Board of Director's in 1995 becoming the Chair in 1997, a position he held until his death. Al possessed a quiet wisdom. He mentored many of us and generously shared his time, knowledge and experience in the field of child welfare and human rights advocacy. Al was omnipresent. On NYAP's behalf he could be found at program openings, conferences, committee meetings, graduations, meetings with elected officials and employee weddings, funerals and other ceremonies. Al's support of NYAP and its employees was unyielding.
Michael Drust was one of Al's foster sons. He met Al when he was 16, homeless and running from the police. Michael was also troubled by substance abuse. In speaking with Michael recently I had the chance to ask him what Al's influence and support meant to him over the years. He paused briefly and then said:
Life is a tough sport. When I think about it, Al was my kneepads. He protected me when I fell; he cushioned my fall and made it easier for me to get back up. During the challenging times, Al never gave up on me, even when I gave up on myself. He believed in me, even more than I believed in myself. He would always tell me, "You can do something good with your life." He gave me the tools to figure things out on my own and told me it was up to me to decide what my life would be like. He also taught me the gift of service and the importance of giving back.
Perhaps not surprisingly, with Al's guiding hand, Michael earned his GED and then attended Xavier University where he majored in social work. Michael has expressed an interest in working or volunteering for NYAP as an advocate in our Cincinnati office. He knows how proud Al would be of him. He wants to help carry forth Al's legacy in the organization Al loved.
As we contemplate Al's life and celebrate his courage, conviction and steadfast determination to causes greater than him, may each of us, in our own way, strive through our life and our work, to be a reflection of Al's spirit and generosity---and perhaps even someone's kneepads.
NYAP Vice Chair
On Saturday, November 19, 2011, Scott Kennedy , NYAP’s Vice Chair, died of an apparent heart attack while he was sleeping beside his wife Kris. Scott had been a NYAP Board member since December 2007. We will miss his gentle presence, warm smile, and selfless determination to improve the lives of those we serve. Scott was a former mayor of Santa Cruz, CA and co-founder of the Resource Center for Nonviolence.
The following message was written by Joan Baez, who co-founded the Resource Center for Nonviolence with Scott. “Scott died in his sleep last night, I’m sure you know. Scott Kennedy’s death is a loss to not only family and friends, but to the larger family of nonviolence soldiers he has taught, shared with, laughed with, and loved. I’m fortunate to consider myself a member of his compassionate and passionate army. Not many people manage to make a dent in the world of conflicts, but Scott’s work in the Middle East defies all cynicism and hopelessness. At this time in the world of extraordinary current events, we now need those of his nonviolent army to infuse the enthusiastic thousands with the true spirit of Gandhi, and of the minions who have steadfastly stood their ground through the waves of violence with strength, love, caring and the willingness to suffer rather than inflict suffering. May he make the crossing smoothly and joyfully.”
The following is a blog that was written by Mark Johnson on the Fellowship of Reconciliation website. “It is at the intersection of our personal and professional lives that our most precious and enduring friendships form; where that distinction of work life and private life is completely blurred. The public tributes to Scott Kennedy already have and will continue to put a spotlight on the same experience I had in getting to know him. He was selfless in a deeply principles way, a brother, in the family of peace makers, to all.”
The staff of Interfaith Peace Builders wrote the following blog: “With the shock and hurt of the news still fresh, we all mourn and wish peace for his family. To say that Scott had an enormous impact on Interfaith Peace Builders would be an understatement. Our work of sending delegations (39 since 2001) was rooted in delegation work that he pioneered, starting with a trip that Scott and Allan Solomonow led in 1975. Since that time, Scott’s work with the Resource Center for Nonviolence, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Middle Eat Witness all contributed significantly to the program that we know as Interfaith Peach Builders today. Scott has been a tireless advocate, a dedicated trip leader, an active and engaged board member, and a joy to learn from and work with. His work with IFPB was but one of his many projects which spread from Santa Cruz, the city he loved unconditionally, to Israel/Palestine, whose nonviolent leaders he supported at all costs. He dedicated his life to helping others, to seeking justice, and to spreading the power of active nonviolence. When Scott received the El-Hibri Peace Education Prize in 2008, IFPB Senior Fellow Joe Groves wrote a tribute to Scott. We include it here:
I have worked with Scott Kennedy on Middle East peace education for twenty years in many varied venues. What fun! Even though we live on opposite coasts, our collaboration has been consistent, from forming Middle East Witness to take delegations to Israel/Palestine, to working together on FOR’s Middle East Task Force, to collaborating on FOR’s Interfaith Peace Builders Program, to creating an independent Interfaith Peace Builders organizations. That’s one of Scott’s defining features – creating anew by building on strong and deep relationships. Programs can come and go – it’s the people who are crucial. A second defining feature is that Scott makes the work fun, in a deep, complex way that far exceeds laughter (although there is plenty of that). It’s fun stemming from creativity, imagination, stimulating conversation, immense energy, and profound commitment to the work of Middle East peace. We need all of those qualities to sustain work on Israel/Palestine in the midst of consistently grim and discouraging realities. Someone who brings fun to Middle East work – what more can you ask! And what better way to lead in peace education.
Scott will be sorely missed. We, at NYAP, feel the utmost gratitude to have known, worked and laughed him.
Assistant Director of Care Management
Christine (Arnoldi) Kirk, a devoted 20 year employee, passed away on Friday, October 19, 2012 after an extended illness. Chris was a friend and colleague to those she worked with and a determined advocate for youth. Most recently, Chris served as the Assistant Director of Care Management. Prior to that she was the Director of Central Service Reception, a department she built from the ground up. Prior to that she was the Regional Manager for the Columbus, OH region, a region she put her stamp on by expanding services, engaging foster parents as partners and never shying away from the opportunity to work with youth others may have thought too difficult.
Chris was both a formal and informal mentor by her word and deed.
She gently encouraged everyone to be champions for youth and to care for one another. She valued what each person could contribute and was tireless in her commitment to NYAP’s values and principles. She brought out the best in others by always giving the best of herself.
Anyone working with, or near, Chris knew of her great sense of humor. Her friends and co-workers described her by saying she never minced words and you always knew where you stood, that she was very caring and compassionate, subtly irreverent, kind-hearted, had the best dry wit, dedicated to everything she undertook, never complained and always made time for everyone.
Marvena Twigg, CEO, probably best conveyed and summed up Chris’ impact and legacy, “Chris was a servant leader, always leading from the needs and best interests of others. She was a gifted social worker who made a difference to so many, clients and employees alike. There’s a lovely quote about service that comes to mind when I think about Chris; ‘Service...the act of planting a tree in whose shade you never expect to sit.’ Chris was the planter of many trees. We will all miss her.”