“The love of my children is why I am standing here tonight, and not on the street or dead.” Niki Semnack
Fedcap’s Annual Celebration of Work Gala was one of the most powerful events in our agency’s long history. The theme of the Gala, held on November 28 at Gotham Hall in Manhattan, was the Power of Stories – stories about perseverance and triumph in the face of gut wrenching hardship. Over 500 people – friends, partners and supporters of Fedcap, as well as board, staff and leadership from the Fedcap family of agencies – heard three remarkable individuals share their stories of overcoming not only survive, but to thrive and flourish.
“In this place things hide, treasures I don’t even know I own, strength that I carry around all day…this is the place from which I pull out these three words: I promise you.” Miriam Adler
Miriam Adler shared her extraordinary story about survival in Auschwitz after losing her entire family to Nazi terror. As a young girl she found herself hopeless and alone, with only a promise she had made to her father the last time she saw him alive – never to take her own life. Miriam kept that promise and rebuilt her life after the war. Over the years Miriam told her story to her granddaughter, Yael Mermelstein, who recorded it in her remarkable book I Promise You, a copy of which was given to all Gala attendees.
“I just wanted to fit in…then I got locked up…then I got locked in.” Steve Hickman
Steve Hickman served 19 years in prison for selling drugs. Bolstered by the love and support of his family, he persevered. Steve believed in himself – he would not let his life be defined by one terrible mistake, and knew that if given another chance, he would never go back to prison. He was given that chance when Fedcap hired him to manage Wildcat work crews. Now a proud homeowner who is saving to send his grandchildren to college, Steve recently began a new job with NYC Department of Homeless Services.
Niki Semnack had a hard time growing up in Boston. As a child she was physically and sexually abused. At the age of 16 she became pregnant, and lost custody of her child. Racked with pain Niki began a downward spiral that would last 15 years. She became an alcoholic and a drug addict, living on the streets and willing to ingest any substance to numb the pain. Today Niki is strong, sober and gainfully employed, a proud mother and mentor, and an inspiring figure to all who know her.
The overflow crowd rose to their feet to applaud each storyteller. Many were moved to tears.
In addition to many longtime business and government partners, fourteen companies that were new to the Fedcap family of agencies attended the Gala which included nearly 100 new friends.
Board members Mark O’Donoghue, Larry Ach, Peter Samuels, Ken Raisler and Anoop Dhakad delivered powerful remarks about the power of stories, and Fedcap CEO Christine McMahon described the hope and belief in what is possible that underpins the work of Fedcap. Lorrie Lutz, Chief Strategy Officer, described our launch of The Power of Possible Stories, requesting that attendees sponsor the thousands of Fedcap stories of perseverance— and attendees responded with over $27,000 in sponsorships. An amazing feat for our newly launched initiative.
Powerful stories of tragedy and redemption have deep resonance for the entire Fedcap community. They fuel us, inspire us, lift us up and they connect us to one another in a way that nothing else quite does. They demonstrate the impact of our work. Fedcap is grateful for the generosity and sponsorship of our supporters, and humbled by the courage of the individuals who it is our privilege to serve.