For any other person, a lifetime of volunteer work, capstoned by winning a prestigious Invest in Others Community Leadership Award, would slow them down, but for Karen Altfest it was just the opposite.
Back in 2012, the Principal Advisors and EVP, Client Relations at Altfest Personal Wealth Management®, earned the Community Service Award for her work spearheading the development of the Yorkville Common Pantry, now known as the New York Common Pantry (NYCP). The NYCP is New York City’s largest community-based food pantry, serving over 30,000 people a year.
Winning the Community Service Award came at a time of funding cuts for the NYCP. The monetary aspect of the award was in no doubt helpful but, according to Karen, winning created a domino effect. “It was very exciting for me and for the organization. It led to the involvement of the Altfest Personal Wealth Management® staff in preparing and distributing food packages. The NYCP message spread to friends and clients, who in turn are now more engaged with the issues. It was truly a win-win!”
Over the past year, NYCP has grown substantially. In December, two new satellite sites in the South Bronx opened to deliver food and nutrition education services to 13,504 low-income seniors each month. The NYCP was also named the Gold Prize winner of New York Community Trust’s 2015 Nonprofit Excellence Awards. Selected out of a pool of 56 applicants and following an intensive application and vetting process, the first place win recognized NYCP for excellence in nonprofit management.
Looking forward, Karen is concerned about the rising rates of homelessness, hunger, and low quality education in New York City. “We are witnessing a considerable return of people sleeping on the streets and begging,” she commented regretfully. She argues that the solution is not to throw money at the problem, instead “we need to bring these issues to residents’ attention, negotiate changes in the system, work with small groups to develop resources, and put needy people in touch with services that will help them get on their feet and recapture their dignity.”
To this day, Karen has yet to limit her charitable work, choosing to spend a significant amount of time in pursuit of a better world. “While the NYCP remains my most pressing philanthropic involvement, I have also established the Altfest Women’s Educational Fund to share experiences through seminars and events,” she said. This month, the Altfest Women’s Education Fund is holding a panel, “Women: Jumpstart Your Financial Future,” moderated by Karen herself, and in May is leading a docent-directed tour of the Breuer branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“It’s wonderful to set an example as a busy person who wants to give back, and I encourage others to do the same,” said Karen.