2020 Dr. Harold Keltz Distinguished Public Health Service Award Winner:

Open Door Family Medical Center

Open Door Family Medical Center, 2020 Dr. Harold Keltz Distinguished Public Health Service Award WinnerOpen Door Family Medical Center was the first Federally Qualified Health Center in New York State to launch the Baby Box Program in 2017. This free bilingual program provides a safe place for a newborn to sleep, along with infant essentials such as clothing, diapers and wipes. The program also offers an education class about safe sleep, breastfeeding, nutrition, immunizations, with support from a patient advocate and a behavioral health specialist. Available to every pregnant Open Door patient, the Baby Box has been distributed to over 450 women and infants each year, since its inception.

Based on a program that started in Finland in the 1930s, the Baby Box includes a waterproof mattress with a cotton sheet fitted into a sturdy cardboard box that can be used as a crib. Open Door clients also receive guidance about nutrition, wellness, access to benefits and insurance, screening for postpartum depression, fitness infant safety, parenting and nutrition classes, and help with financial planning.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Open Door modified its signature prenatal program. Now called the Open Door Baby “Bundle” Program, community members continue to have access to essential newborn resources and education while social distancing and keeping everyone safe.

2021 Dr. Harold Keltz Distinguished Public Health Service Award Winner:

Neighbors Link

Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco, 2021 Dr. Harold Keltz Distinguished Public Health Service Award WinnerThe mission of Neighbors Link is to strengthen whole communities through the healthy integration of immigrants. Never was this mission more urgent than during the pandemic. Immigrant families who rely on day work such as housekeeping, childcare, landscaping and construction, or restaurant work suddenly found themselves without income or government relief due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Many live in close quarters with others and have difficulty isolating. In 2020, Neighbors Link served more than 5,800 people throughout Westchester County. From the start of the pandemic, Neighbors Link staff reached out to 1,000 families each week by phone, WhatsApp or text and provided them with wrap-around case management services to assure their basic needs are met.

The agency referred more than 100 people  to Open Door Family Medical Center or Northern Westchester Hospital for COVID-19 testing or medical care; paid for medicine for 20 people with COIVD-19; increased their communication to ensure the immigrant community understood the important public health messages of staying home, social distancing and wearing masks.

Neighbors Link addressed the food insecurity of its clients by distributing boxes of groceries to more than 1,000 people with kitchen access and by providing meal vouchers for those who lack access to cooking facilities. The agency coordinated the donation of nearly 5,000 hot meals from local restaurants to 720 families who were homebound because they were sick or quarantined.

Neighbors Link received a $1 million donation, which it distributed in $1,000 cash grants to 1,000 of the neediest families it serves, to support food, clothing and shelter.

The agency’s Mount Kisco center served as a COVID-19 testing site, helping those who have difficulty navigating the healthcare system due to a language barrier.

Neighbors Link is currently working with the New York State Vaccine Equity Task Force, local employers and other community organizations to ensure that immigrant essential workers fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Neighbors Link has made hundreds of appointments for eligible essential workers who were unable to be vaccinated due to systemic health and digital disparities.

These efforts were made possible by a dedicated volunteer network that includes the 45-member Friends of Neighbors Link, which contributes time and fundraising. Friends provided 320 meals each week to 78 families in the Bedford Central School District. Friends also partnered with 914Cares to deliver 1,874 packs of diapers, 2,811 packs of wipes, more than 3,000 books, puzzles and games, 220 preschool activity boxes and 120 art kits for school-age children to more than 100 families. In 2020, 500 volunteers donated more than 9,500 hours to Neighbors Link.

2021 Dr. Harold Keltz Distinguished Public Health Service Award:

Amy Kirschenbaum

Amy Kirschenbaum, 2021 Dr. Harold Keltz Distinguished Public Health Service AwardAmy Kirschenbaum sprang into action as soon as the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in her New Rochelle hometown. She launched numerous efforts to assist Westchester residents and families touched by COVID-19 and to give back to healthcare workers and first responders throughout Westchester and beyond.

Numerous teachers from Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck were quarantined last March after they were exposed to the first person in New Rochelle to be diagnosed with COVID-19. To cheer them up, Amy, who is a physical education teacher at the school, brought them breakfast and then spoke with community leaders about other ways to help.

Throughout her community, Amy made herself available any time to buy groceries, pick up prescriptions and other necessities for families suddenly confined to their homes. Amy helped to establish a Young Israel of Scarsdale COVID Fund, which has collected and disbursed more than $10,000. She delivered more than 350 meals to healthcare workers and first responders, provided gift bags to their children and brought meals to people home sick with COVID-19. Amy made sure to shop local. She bought lunches and dinners from New Rochelle restaurants whose business declined because they were located in the COVID-19 epicenter. 

Amy launched an iPad and iPhone drive and delivered 350 donated phones and tablets to area hospitals so that COVID-19 patients could communicate with their loved ones, sometimes for the last time. She organized a toy drive that delivered 420 new toys to domestic violence victims and children in foster care and residential treatment. She collected more than 600 boxes of diapers, wipes and feminine hygiene products for the Mary J. Blige Center for Women and Girls and Young People Achieve in Yonkers.

She continues to help fellow teachers by collecting funds to cover meals and shopping for those who must quarantine due to an exposure or who are in isolation because they tested positive for COVID-19.  

2020 J.R. Tesone Youth Public Health Service Award Winner:

Hana Zalvan

Hana Zalvan, 2020 J.R. Tesone Youth Public Health Service Award WinnerHana Zalvan was recognized for her advocacy and outreach on eating disorder awareness. Now a freshman at George Washington University, Hana was nominated as a senior at Briarcliff High School, where she was a passionate and effective advocate for eating disorders awareness for years.

Hana has given testimony on eating disorders before County and State panels, and has worked to bring this issue to the attention of lawmakers. She joined State Sen. David Carlucci for a roundtable discussion on eating disorder-related health policy.

Hana conferred with Michael Orth, Commissioner of the Department of Community Mental Health, as well as Northern and Southern Westchester BOCES, to discuss ways to encourage the inclusion of eating disorder education in public school health classes. Together, they proposed a panel discussion for educators and an updated series of informational brochures on eating disorders for the County to distribute to healthcare providers. Hana presented her campaign to the Environment, Health and Energy Committee of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, and to the Board’s Families Task Force.

She also worked with State Sen. David Carlucci’s office to write and introduce bills to advance eating disorder screening and education.  Bill S5869 would establish a fund for a statewide eating disorder awareness campaign and Bill S5870 would require pediatricians to screen children for eating disorders as part of their annual physical examinations. Hana plans to seek Assembly co-sponsors. 

2021 J.R. Tesone Youth Public Health Service Award Winner:

Nolan James

Nolan James, 2021 J.R. Tesone Youth Public Health Service Award WinnerPrior to the pandemic, Nolan James, a Rye Country Day School junior from Larchmont, was a frequent volunteer at the Caritas weekly food pantry.

Nolan reached out to Caritas last summer and said he had a group of friends willing to help out. Caritas challenged Nola to organize a bicycle meal delivery program using four donated bikes. Every Thursday throughout the summer, and then on Saturdays when school resumed, Nolan and his friends made food deliveries to local families by bicycle. He noticed the paper bags Caritas was using were not up to the challenge of heavy groceries, so he organized a collection of Fresh Direct bags through the NextDoor Larchmont/Mamaroneck app and neighborhood families. Within a few days, Nolan delivered carloads of donated bags to Caritas, with plenty left over even after 400 turkeys and 600 turkey dinners were distributed.

Nolan is a member of the Caritas Student Advisory Council, which connects Caritas to high schools throughout Westchester. He started a Meals on Main Street Club at Rye Country Day School, and made other students aware of CaritasNolan reached out to the CEO of FreshDirect, and later secured additional bags for Caritas deliveries to families, many of whom were affected by the pandemic, along with a $500 donation.