In the first installment of the Many Faces of Unique, we’re recognizing the efforts of five incredible women who have helped to shape and support our mission of exemplary care for the city’s most vulnerable populations.
Through the tireless efforts of our late founder, Lynn Wonsang, Unique People Services (UPS) was formed in 1991 to enhance the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities, HIV/AIDS and mental health challenges. By Understanding People, Providing Homes and Serving Communities, Lynn’s goal was to make sure New Yorkers receive vital services regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, health status or criminal history.
More than 25 years later, our extraordinary staff are proudly fulfilling Lynn’s legacy under the leadership of Executive Director Yvette Brissett-Andre. Since taking the helm in 2008, Ms. Brissett-Andre has helped to expand the agency through major fundraising efforts and relationship building with State officials and community partners. UPS’ supportive housing programs remain a safe haven for formerly homeless and mentally challenged New Yorkers, while developmentally disabled individuals continue to thrive in UPS’ community residences and Day Habilitation programs. In September, Ms. Brissett-Andre will lead the agency in its newest initiative, affordable housing, when Lynn’s Place opens its doors in the Bronx.
Remaining at the forefront of quality care would not be possible without the governance of UPS’ esteemed Board of Directors, led by Board Chair, Crystal E. Jackson. Ms. Jackson brings valuable experience and expertise that enable us to develop and maintain successful financial strategies, which is especially critical for the nonprofit sector. Outside the boardroom, Ms. Jackson is committed to serving her community and has participated in a number of volunteer initiatives, both locally and internationally.
As an organization dedicated to making a difference, we’re inspired by success stories our services help to cultivate. Longtime UPS resident Yessenia Acosta epitomizes all that is possible with hope, determination and positivity. Ms. Acosta came to UPS 20 years ago in need of safe living conditions and medical support. Guided by the advocacy of her compassionate caseworker, Ms. Acosta was able to tackle feelings of depression and isolation brought on by years of abuse, and move to an apartment closer to friends and family. She learned how to achieve structure by setting goals and following a regular medication regimen. Ms. Acosta has since gotten married and is the proud mother of three children. She’s currently pursuing her passion for art with renewed self-confidence and deep gratitude for her caseworker, whom she considers a “friend for life.” (To learn more about Yessenia and other heartfelt stories, check out our 25th Anniversary video at www.uniquepeopleservices.org).
With the help of longtime supporters like New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, UPS programs continue to impact lives like Yessenia’s and improve health outcomes throughout the city. Ms. Mark-Viverito’s $1.8 million contribution was instrumental in helping to launch Lynn’s Place, demonstrating our shared vision of tackling the city’s affordability crisis and providing a better quality of life for low-income residents. Her office also helped to fund our 2016 Health Fair, joining us in the fight for #Not62, the borough’s call-to-action to build a healthier Bronx. Ms. Mark Viverito’s remarkable career accomplishments include founding the Young Women’s Initiative in 2015 to address disparities faced by women in education, healthcare and other areas. Her outstanding achievements, activism and deep commitment to our cause earned her a well-deserved Champion Award at UPS’ 25th Anniversary Gala.
Congratulations to our five Faces of Unique and the many other wonderful women dedicated to spreading our mission and ensuring equity for all!