Our Stories

The Future of Philanthropy

The Future of Philanthropy

Housing Works is incredibly fortunate in that New Yorkers of all stripes donate to us. From individuals to institutions, we’re often on the receiving end of generous and sometimes unexpected donations. We were recently approached by high school senior Colette Gerstmann to be the beneficiary of a concert she was organizing for her school in Brooklyn. On Saturday, May 30, students, faculty and families donated boxes of clothing and funds to help us in our mission to end AIDS and homelessness. We were so taken by her philanthropy and entrepreneurial spirit that we chose to feature her in this edition of Community Stories.

Housing Works: Tell us about the St. Ann’s benefit concert. Is this the first time you’ve held one? If not, who were past charitable partners?
Colette Gerstmann: This is the first benefit concert I have organized and I’m very excited about it! Since I myself am interested in music, and since many people in my school are talented musicians, this type of benefit seemed to make the most sense, and it also seemed like a fun option. Students and faculty will be playing music and we’re asking people to bring in items that can be sold at Housing Works thrift stores and bookstore, and we’ll have donation booths if people would like to give money.

HW: The proceeds from this year’s benefit concert and clothing drive will go to Housing Works. What made you approach Housing Works as a beneficiary?
CG: I really like Housing Works because it’s helping fight the far-reaching, widespread problems of AIDS and homelessness but doing so in a community-based way that’s concerned with helping people out on an individual level. Also, it really struck me that through this organization, the sale of a single dress or a pair of shoes can provide weeks of food and housing for people. Although many people are helping out and attending this concert, my school is relatively small, so it made sense to give to an organization where a little goes a long way.

HW: St. Ann’s has a non-traditional approach to education, if you could narrow it down, what has been your favorite learning experience?
CG: My favorite thing about my educational experience at Saint Ann’s is that it’s taught me to trust myself and be autonomous. The school is about self-motivation, the idea that I’m not learning because somebody is telling me to or because I am working for a grade (we don’t have grades here), but because I want to be learning. I also like that the school encourages us to have many passions and try new things – instead of the student body being separated into cliques based on what we want to do, we can be interested in multiple activities and pursue them for years and try out new ones, too, because we think something will be challenging and fun. Although sometimes we do so many things that I think the school should give us time-turners.

HW: Graduation is just around the corner, what’s next for you?
CG: I’m going to be working in the city this summer and will be going to Swarthmore College in the fall. I am thinking of studying Education, English, Art History and Gender. I’m very excited to go, although saying goodbye to New York City for now is tough – I’ll find my way back here one way or another!

Interested in partnering with Housing Works for a donation drive? Learn more here.

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