Police Arrest Three for Stealing and Altering Checks
- Category: Today's News
- Published on 30 October 2014
- Written by Traci Dutton Ludwig
This week, police made headway on crimes involving stolen and altered checks with three arrests. On Oct. 21, Latroya McCalvin, 24, from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, was arrested on charges of third-degree grand larceny and second-degree possession of a forged instrument. McCalvin is accused of depositing a fraudulent check in the amount of $5,000 into her Diamond Credit Union account on Sept. 18. On Sept. 22, McCalvin made two withdrawals from the account – for $4,000 and $500. The fraudulent check was written against a Grand Park Avenue man's account. McCalvin was arraigned at Scarsdale Village Justice Court and released on $1,000 cash bail, paid by her mother. She appeared in court on Oct. 22, and the case was adjourned to Nov. 19. A temporary order of protection was issued in favor of the Grand Park Avenue man.
On Oct. 21, police also arrested Carissa Ceara Anthony Chandler, 24, of the Bronx, on charges of fourth-degree grand larceny and third-degree possession of a forged instrument. Chandler is accused of cashing two fraudulent checks written against a Mamaroneck Road woman's bank account. Chandler was released on $250 cash bail. She was ordered to appear in court again on Oct. 22.
On Oct. 23, Devon Wright, 22, of the Bronx, was arrested on charges of petit larceny (two counts) and third-degree possession of a forged instrument (two counts). The charges stemmed from two separate incidents in which Wright allegedly altered and cashed checks written by Scarsdale residents. The first incident involved two checks written by a Madison Road man – one to Ronald McDonald Foundation for $70 and one to a utility company for $200. The checks were left in a public mailbox at the intersection of Bradley and Locust roads for mailing. Wright is accused of altering the payee's names and payment amounts on these checks. The $70 check was altered to $470 and made payable to Devon Dumar Wright. The $200 check was altered to $925.55 and made payable to another individual. On July 31, Wright allegedly cashed the check for $470 at a New Rochelle bank, using his passport for identification. The check for $925.55 was intercepted at a bank and flagged as suspicious without being cashed. The second incident involved a $200 check written to Scarsdale Adult School by a Boulevard woman on August 1. She attempted to mail the check at a public mailbox at Boulevard and Gaylor Road. On September 2, the woman received an email from the Adult School, stating her payment had not yet been received. Investigation determined Wright altered the $200 check to $480 and made it payable to himself. During an interview at headquarters, Wright admitted to cashing the check at a bank in Bronxville, using his passport for identification. Following his arrest, Wright was released on his own recognizance. He was instructed to appear at Scarsdale Village Justice Court on Oct. 29.
On Oct. 22, John Petro, 47, of South Richmond Hill, was arrested on charges of first-degree harassment in the form of stalking. The alleged victim in the case is a 47-year-old Yonkers man, identified as an acquaintance of Petro. Petro was arraigned at Scarsdale Village Justice Court, where Judge John Galloway issued an order of protection in favor of the victim. Petro was released on his own recognizance with a return court date of Oct. 29.
On Oct. 21, a Southwoods Lane man reported his Social Security number was used to file a fraudulent tax return.
On Oct. 25, a Kingston Road man reported five fraudulent checks were written against his Chase Bank account from Oct. 1 through Oct. 19. The checks were written for the following amounts: $8,460, $3,850, $2,750, and two checks for $1,800. Chase's fraud department is following up.
A Dolma Road woman received an email asking for personal information Oct. 22. Because she believed the email was a legitimate notification about fraudulent activity on her credit card account, she provided personal data on an online form. Later, she realized the email was most likely a phishing scam, and her credit card provider confirmed this.
A 56-year-old Hutchinson Avenue man received a call from a person who identified himself as an "IRS agent" Oct. 23. The caller demanded a payment of $6,980.70 for alleged overdue taxes and threatened to issue an arrest warrant if the man did not pay the money immediately. The caller instructed the man to purchase "Reload-it" money cards. The man's wife purchased $4,500 in cards and transferred the money to the caller. The man contacted the caller with some suspicions, and the caller said the money would be fully refunded if police contacted him. Police attempted to contact the caller, but he did not answer. Police advised the couple to report the incident to the credit monitoring bureaus.
An Edgewood resident reported harassment by a former employee Oct. 24. According to the man, the former employee has been sending him unwanted emails, texts and voicemails since the employee was fired Oct. 1. The former employee has also been sending similar forms of communication to former coworkers regarding his termination. As the messages continued, they allegedly became "more and more strange and in some instances had threatening undertones." The company's legal counsel sent a letter to the former employee, advising him to cease and desist. Communication stopped for a few days but recently resumed, the man said. Patrol called the former employee and advised him to stop all communication with the man and his former coworkers. The former employee agreed to stop all future communication, except for contact involving a fantasy football league and letters of recommendation.
A Wheelock Road resident said approximately four kids rang her doorbell, banged on her door and hit her mailbox before they ran away across her front lawn at 9:30 p.m., Oct. 24. Police canvassed the area but did not find the kids.
Police located a lost 86-year-old woman in Eastchester near Scarsdale Avenue Oct. 20. The woman had wandered away from her daughter's house about 25 minutes before the daughter called police. Officers determined the woman did not need medical assistance and drove her to her daughter's house.
A pedestrian flagged down a police officer on Garth Road to assist with an elderly woman who appeared lost Oct. 24. Using information from a medical alert bracelet, police contacted the woman's son, who said his family had been looking for the woman. Patrol waited with the woman until her husband and a health aide picked her up.
On Oct. 20, a man called police to report a possibly disoriented woman at Greenacres School playground at 5:45 p.m., Oct. 20. According to the man, the Asian woman, approximately 40-50 years old, was banging her head against her hands. She was accompanied by a young child who did not appear to be scared or in distress. The woman and child left the playground before police arrived.
A Cushman Road woman reported possibly suspicious activity outside her house Oct. 20. The woman told police she heard a knock on the door, but no one was there when she answered it. On her doorstep, she found a bag of candy with a note addressed to her children. The note stated the children should knock on another friend's door and leave a bag of candy. Police determined it was a harmless Halloween tradition.
A caller reported a woman was possibly accosted by an unknown man on Myrtledale Road Oct. 20.
At 10 p.m., Oct. 20, a caller reported seeing a short man, dressed in a hockey mask, a denim jacket and jeans, walking west on Boulevard. Police canvassed the area but did not see anyone matching the alleged man's description.
A caller was worried about an abandoned bag near an East Parkway trash can Oct. 25. The bag was described as pink with butterflies. It was empty and worn. Patrol deduced it had been discarded as trash.
A Sage Terrace woman saw someone on her property and thought it was a possible intruder Oct. 21. She asked police to check her house and advised she was hiding in a second-floor closet. When police arrived, the woman identified the man on her property as her landscaper. She said she did not realize he would be working at her house that day, and she got startled.
On Oct. 22, an Ardmore Road woman reported someone might have entered her house without her knowledge or permission. According to the woman, a wet umbrella was lying on her kitchen table, and a dresser drawer was found open. Police checked the house and could not find any sign of criminal activity. Nor was anything missing from the woman's house.
Responding to a call for help, police and firefighters went to a Greenacres Avenue house, where a group of 4-year-old girls accidentally locked themselves in a bathroom Oct. 22. By the time police and firefighters arrived, the homeowner had already managed to unlock the door and release the girls. They were unharmed.
A Roosevelt Place resident reported two men arguing in a car outside her house at 5:30 a.m., Oct. 24. On scene, patrol spoke to the driver who said he was the designated driver for a friend's birthday party. He stated he dropped a friend off at a Roosevelt Place house, and another friend vomited in the backseat of his car. He said the commotion was in reaction to the vomit – not an altercation.
Cars and roadways
A truck driver was lost on Crane Road Oct. 20. Patrol directed the driver to Ogden Road.
On Oct. 21, police put flares around a disabled bus at Post and Mamaroneck roads. Police placed a reflective traffic cone and warning triangle in a large hole on Fox Meadow Road Oct. 22. The hole was the result of ongoing road repair.
A 1998 Honda Civic became disabled near Weaver Street and Penn Boulevard Oct. 23. The driver called for help from AAA, but AAA did not show up as scheduled. Police arranged for a tow truck to move the car instead.
A parked car was mistakenly left running on Brewster Road Oct. 23. Patrol contacted the registered owner who arrived and turned off the car's engine.
Police notified the highway department about a broken storm drain on Christie Place Oct. 23.
Patrol issued a parking summons to the driver of a car parked too close to a fire hydrant on Brown Road Oct. 23.
A Carman Road resident complained about a van parked on his lawn at 5 p.m., Oct. 23. The driver said he was waiting to pick up a woman employed by a Bradley Road family. Patrol advised the driver to obey all posted traffic signs and refrain from parking on private property. Patrol also issued the driver a summons for a broken brake light.
A car parked on Chase Road was left with its trunk wide open, exposing luggage inside on Oct. 24. Patrol's attempt to locate the car's owner was unsuccessful. However, in the meantime, a woman familiar with the trunk's closing mechanism came by and closed it.
Police notified Verizon about a loose wire dangling above Fayette Road Oct. 24.
On Oct. 25, police told a party host that parked cars were impeding traffic on Morris Lane. Patrol advised party guests to park only on one side of the street.
Police mediated a dispute between two drivers at Catherine and Wheelock roads on Oct. 26. The drivers relayed different accounts of what had occurred. However, they agreed that no threats were made, and their dispute never become physical. Police advised them to end the incident without escalation, and both drivers agreed.
This week, nine car accidents were reported in the village.
A former mechanic from a Scarsdale Avenue auto repair shop asked police to document a civil matter Oct. 24. The mechanic said he was fired from his job Oct. 16; yet he was still owed four days of pay, which he had unsuccessfully attempted to get from his former employer.
At 7:45 a.m., Oct. 20, police advised roofers on Seneca Road to cease work until a later time, in order to comply with village code.
After neighbors complained about noise, police advised party hosts on Mamaroneck Road to lower the volume of their music Oct. 23.
Pink signs advertising a tag sale on Mamaroneck Road were posted on nearby utility poles in violation of village code Oct. 24. Patrol removed the signs and issued a summons to the person who posted the signs.
People were setting off fireworks near Brite Avenue and Chesterfield Road Oct. 24. They said they were celebrating the Indian New Year. Patrol advised it was illegal to set off fireworks in New York State without a permit. The people apologized and promised to return the next day to finish cleaning up firework debris in daylight.
Police were unsuccessful in catching a dog running loose on Claremont Road Oct. 26.
On Oct. 23, a woman reported losing her driver's license while picking up her daughter from Westchester Reform Temple.
A resident reported losing a wallet in the village on Oct. 24. It contained $40 cash and ID cards.
On Oct. 20, an electric heater was burning in a first floor bathroom in a Brambach Road house. Firefighters de-energized the heater and removed it from the wall. Thermal imaging confirmed the fire had not extended to neighboring walls. However, some light burn marks were found on the drywall just above the heater. Firefighters vented light smoke from the house.
Firefighters cut power to a malfunctioning rooftop heating unit on a Palmer Avenue building Oct. 20.
Firefighters notified Con Edison about a tree in close proximity to electrical wires on Greenacres Avenue Oct. 23.
Cornell Street residents, ages 100 and 86, were accidentally locked out of their house on Oct. 24. Firefighters helped them get back inside. The police department's Older Adult Advocate is following up.
This week, firefighters assisted at one car accident in the village. They responded to 16 false fire alarms caused by device malfunction, shower steam, construction dust, a battery change, cooking smoke and hair dryer use.
Scarsdale Village Justice Court
Demetrius Borden pleaded guilty to a probation violation. He was sentenced to six months in jail, to be served concurrently with sentencing from courts in White Plains and New Rochelle.
Miriam Freedman-Carman pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated (first offense). She was fined $900 and granted a one-year conditional discharge. Her license was revoked for six months, with a 20-day stay. She was ordered to install an ignition interlock device on her car for one year and continue treatment in a drinking and driving program organized by the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles. She was also ordered to attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel.
Andrea O. Gardiner pleaded guilty to the reduced charges of driving without a license and disobeying a traffic control device. She was fined $436.
Sandro Giambrone was arraigned on charges of operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a controlled substance violation, speeding (74/40) a lane violation and a turn signal violation. An evaluation by Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities was ordered, and the case was adjourned to Nov. 26.
Maureen Hart pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal contempt. She was granted a conditional discharge and fined $255, including a $50 DNA fee. The court issued a five-year permanent order of protection against her.
Judy A. Nouel pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of driving without a license and was fined $193. Bail was exonerated.
Bail was exonerated for Brian W. Sanchez. His case was adjourned to Oct. 29 for sentencing.
Victor Santana Jr. returned on warrant and was issued fines of $476 for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and speeding.
Hermin Sagassome-Morales pleaded guilty to using a gas-powered blower in violation of village code. He was fined $75.
The village prosecutor withdrew village code violation charges from one couple after they showed they were in compliance with village code regarding wetlands activity.
One case was sealed.
The court issued two warrant letters and one appearance letter to defendants who did not appear in court as directed.
Also, one defendant charged with a village code violation involving a leaf blower did not show up for his scheduled court appearance.
Adjournments included some cases with the following charges: DWI (first offense), aggravated DWI, DWI with a blood alcohol level of at least .08 of one percent, first-degree operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, third- and fourth-degree grand larceny, second-degree identity theft, fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, second- and third-degree possession of a forged instrument, driving while ability impaired by drugs or alcohol, possession of marijuana, various vehicle and traffic offenses and village code violations.
This report covering police and fire department activity from Oct. 20-26 and the Scarsdale Village Justice Court calendar from Oct. 22 was compiled from official information.
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Magical Season Ends in Disappointing Playoff Loss for the Scarsdale Raiders
- Category: Schools
- Published on 27 October 2014
- Written by Jon Drucker
The town of Scarsdale was brimming with anticipation on Saturday October 25 --a beautiful fall day for the first home playoff game for the Scarsdale Raiders in 25 years. Longtime coach and local legend Rippy Phillips, was spotted in Scarsdale Village early on Saturday morning exhorting shoppers to support the team for its Class AA quarterfinal matchup with neighboring Mamaroneck High School.
At the field, a packed crowd roared with excitement as the Raiders jumped out to a 14-6 lead behind the shifty running and pass catching of co-captain, James Nicholas, who evoked memories of former Jets star, Emerson Boozer, and the accurate passing of junior quarterback, Michael Rolfe, who ended up throwing for 167 yards and two touchdowns. The former Brooklyn College gridiron great, Marvin Schrier, whose grandson, Harrison Wirth, is a highly effective and dangerous two way player for the Raiders, appeared to be prescient with his pregame observation that it was pivotal for the Raiders to get off to a strong start and put pressure on the high powered Mamaroneck offense.
Unfortunately for the legion of Raider fans at the game, Schrier underestimated the power and breakneck speed of Mamaroneck halfback, Marquez Jackson-Allen, who continued his record-breaking season by piling up 240 yards on the ground against the heretofore stout Raiders defense. With the score knotted at 14-14 and time running out in the first half, longtime Raiders fan, Rich Baumer, correctly anticipated that the Tigers would turn to their top player on a crucial fourth and one call and Jackson-Allen galloped to a 16 yard touchdown to provide the Tigers with a 21-14 halftime lead.
usan Jureller in attendance to watch the Raiders including her nephew, Harrison Wirth, observed that it would be crucial for the Raiders to stop the Tigers on their opening second half drive in order to reassume control of the game. The Tigers, however, responded with a long 63 yard touchdown pass that gave them a two score lead and forced the Raiders to rely heavily on their passing game in the second half. A crucial Raiders turnover and the continued strong running of Jackson-Allen enabled the Tigers to build a big lead and hold off the Raiders 45-20 despite a late Raiders touchdown. Clive Berkowitz, father of former Raiders star, Jacob Berkowitz, noted that the late score epitomized the Raiders seaso- long relentless effort and impressive play and offered promise for the 2015 Raiders squad that should be strengthened by the addition of a strong sophomore class, led by junior varsity quarterback, Barry Klein.
Photos courtesy of Allen Berman. See more photos of the game here.
Professor Ralph Buultjens Draws a Crowd in Scarsdale
- Category: People
- Published on 28 October 2014
- Written by Melissa Hellman
Perhaps there is hope for the world – at least in the eyes of rock-star lecturer Professor Ralph Buultjens who drew a crowd to the Bendheim Auditorium for his talk, titled, The U.S. & the World – Will America Continue to be #1?, sponsored by the JCC of Mid-Westchester and the Scarsdale Adult School.
Many of the attendees on Monday had heard Professor Buultjens speak multiple times before at the 92nd Street Y and were thrilled to have this world-class speaker in a venue so close to home. Audience members spoke of his engagements with such reverence that it was clear that he is a celebrity on the lecture circuit.
Professor Buultjens who is a well-known media commentator (featured on BBC, CNN, ABC) was awarded the Toynbee Prize for Social Sciences, and is the author of 10 books on world affairs. For over 15 years, he has been a lead speaker at the 92Y World Affairs Program and is an analyst of world affairs, a Professor at NYU and former Nehru Professor/Professorial Fellow at the University of Cambridge.
Professor Buultjens' talk focused on America's position in global politics including challenges and opportunities. He spoke soberly of this particularly tumultuous time in the world. The United States is involved in multiple conflicts around the world including military and humanitarian efforts. He also mentioned the threat of Jihadists as a primary concern. Our country is facing strained relations with Russia and China. The American people have given Congress, the Supreme Court and the President historically low approval ratings signifying a lack of confidence in leadership. In spite of the dire seeming situation, he was able to provide perspective by framing current events in the context of historical ups and downs. He stated "the stream of history contains crap and champagne" and Professor Buultjens spoke eloquently about his views on both.
He cited the United States as being a world leader in innovation. He feels that our increasingly open society (using examples such as marriage equality and decriminalization of marijuana laws) will further our culture of creativity and innovation. He also said that our evolving energy self-sufficiency provides us with more political and economic independence when dealing with situations in the Middle East. Further, he mentioned our population growth (neither too big nor too small) as a strength. He spoke of positive forces in the world overall such as the spread of literacy and a feeling of international interconnectedness provided through the use of social media. He also discussed the development of computer voting which will greatly increase much needed voter participation and ultimately lead to a more democratic society and faith in government leadership.
A Q&A followed the 60-minute lecture with audience members posing questions to Professor Buultjens on topics as varied as the recent elections in Brazil, voter registration, the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and climate change. The discussion was very informative and Professor Buultjens' ability to speak in an informed and approachable way on such varied topics was impressive.
Monday's lecture was the first in a series focusing on critical global issues in the context of global political and economic uncertainty, technological advances and the changing balance of world power.
Professor Buultjens will be back in Scarsdale on January 27, 2015 with the lecture Middle East Turmoil – Its Impact on America & Israel and on May 21, 2015 with China, Russia and America— A New Cold War?
Greenacres First Grader to Star in NYC Production of Number the Stars
- Category: Parenting
- Published on 28 October 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Greenacres Elementary School first grader Alyssa Marvin will star in the 25th Anniversary production of Lois Lowry's Newbery-Award winning novel, Number the Stars. Performances will run in Times Square at The Davenport Theatre from November 14-17. Alyssa will share the stage with veteran actors from all over the world.
Set in Denmark in 1943, the story is based on true events. When word got out in Denmark that Jews were to be relocated the Danish resistance, population and police arranged a small flotilla to bring 7,000 Jews to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of war.
Number the Stars is the story of two ten-year-old girls, Annemarie and Ellen, and the hardships they face while their country is occupied by German Nazis. When Annemarie makes the decision to go on a dangerous mission, she must find the strength and courage to save her best friend's life.
We spoke to Alyssa's mother, Lynne Marvin to find out more about Alyssa's burgeoning acting career. Here is what she shared:
Alyssa is six years old and is a first grader at Greenacres. This is her professional stage debut. She absolutely adores acting, singing, and dancing and there is no place she would rather be than on the stage. She will have appeared in twelve shows from last December through this December (mostly children's theater) and literally begs me to sign her up for anything she can audition for locally. Last December, she danced in The Nutcracker at SUNY Purchase. Since than, she has appeared in the Jungle Book, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (playing the role of Snow White), The Magical Land of Oz and Secret Garden at Random Farms Kids Theater and Tarzan, Frog & Toad and Glee! at the Westchester Sandbox Theater. She is also currently in rehearsals to play the role of Molly in Annie Warbucks at the Westchester Sandbox Theater December 19-21st and Buffalo Bill in Annie Get Your Gun at Random Farms Kids Theater. She studies voice and acting at Random Farms and dance at Scarsdale Ballet Studios and Studio B Dance. We knew she loved to perform when she used to toddle to the front of the class at Applause Westchester when she was little over one and do the songs and dances for everyone.
We learned about this role through her agent Mallory Levy at Generation TV (it was the first professional stage audition she was sent on by her). She attended an audition in the city with many other girls and was asked to return later for a callback to do another new scene with adults and children that were also called back. Since all the other girls were older at the audition, Alyssa and I went to a restaurant nearby for the fifty minutes in between so she could memorize the new scene she was given and prepare (since she's only six she likes to know her scenes really well so she doesn't have to worry about reading them). Each part of the audition was about an hour long and she did the scenes with other actors auditioning for different parts. She told me she had a great time at the audition- it was really her first time getting to audition with adult stage actors and she really was into it. She told me afterwards that all the women auditioning for the parts of the mothers were so amazing she didn't know how they would decide (she was really impressed.) We learned she got the part about two days later - I actually picked her up from her cooking club at school and spoke to her principal while I was waiting and she came with me to tell her the good news (it was really nice.) She was absolutely thrilled.
Alyssa is in almost every scene of the show and according to the count of the older girls in cast she has 88 lines, so there is a lot for her to memorize. We read scenes together every night she doesn't have rehearsal to practice, as well as on the way to the city for rehearsals so she can practice her lines. She started rehearsal about a week ago and is in the city 3-5 nights a week for rehearsals for 2-3 hours a night. She loves going to rehearsals, so even though we have had to rearrange all of our schedules and she has had to miss a lot of her other activities, she looks forward to them every day. The other girls in the show are wonderful- they've become great friends already- and she loves working with such an amazingly talented cast and director. We also read the book together in the four days between when rehearsals started and we found out she got the part.
When she's not busy on stage (which she says is her "number 1 favorite thing to do"), Alyssa is a typical active first grader and loves all sports! She is a competitive diver (a member of High Dive Champions and she dove and swam for Scarsdale this summer), cheerleader for Westchester Gymnastics All-Star team, loves to play soccer, softball, gymnastics, race, and play on the monkey bars.
Best of luck to Alyssa.
For more information visit www.NumbertheStarsNY.com.
Scarsdale Residents Improve the Lives of Thousands of Children in Vietnam
- Category: Good Work
- Published on 28 October 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
A Backroads Walking Tour of Vietnam in 2003 evolved into the adventure of a lifetime for Scarsdale residents Eric Hemel and Barbara Morgen. The trip was the couple's first foray into Asia and while touring rural areas of the country they found that many children were not in school. But rather than just noting the hardship and moving on, Morgen and Hemel found a way to address the issue and have spent the last 10 years sending thousands of children to school. Their inspiring story demonstrates how individuals can be effective at solving what sometimes appear to be insurmountable global issues that leave most of us shrugging our shoulders and feeling powerless.
Hemel had a distinguished career in finance before conceiving the Scholarship Program to Enhance Literacy and Learning (SPELL), which provides scholarships to impoverished Vietnamese students to send them through school. Before leaving Wall Street, Hemel was President of Alson Capital, a New York City based investment partnership. Prior to that, Hemel was Co-Head of U.S. equity research at Merrill Lynch, , an equity analyst at First Boston, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch for 13 years, and was ranked in the annual Institutional Investor poll in the Financials and REIT categories for 12 consecutive years, nine as #1 in his sector. Before coming to New York , he held several positions in the Reagan Administration, including serving as staff director of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Eric graduated from Stanford University, where he earned his B.A., MBA, and Ph.D.
His wife Barbara Morgen is an attorney who worked for most of 25 years in the for-profit sector as a futures and derivatives lawyer. In 2004 she joined the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program in Westchester, which is under the umbrella of the Mental Health Association of Westchester. As a staff supervisor, she trains and supervises volunteers. "CASA's" are trained volunteers, who are appointed by Family Court judges to advocate for children who are in foster care, or at risk of placement in foster care, as a result of abuse or neglect. CASA volunteers report to the Court on the child's status, with particular emphasis on a child's health, developmental and educational needs. Morgen is a graduate of Brown University and University of California at Hastings Law School.
The couple moved to Scarsdale in 1986 and have lived in the same house ever since. According to Hemel, "The best thing about it, in addition to friends, was that it was a wonderful place to raise our two children--Daniel and Deborah. The schools were great as per the conventional wisdom. But, in addition, we also found Edgewood to be the perfect "Leave it to Beaver" neighborhood where both the elementary school and parents promulgated and reinforced great values."
Here's the story, in Hemel's own words of his evolution from Scarsdale financier to philanthropist and agent of change:
"Barbara and I were guests on the first Backroads Vietnam Walking Trip in the fall of 2003. It was our first visit to Vietnam and for all practical purposes our first visit to Asia. Our close friends, Barbara Guss and Gil Kemp, joined us on this trip and have been partners in this odyssey ever since. We went as tourists, with no other agenda in mind. But in the course of our trip, during which we walked through a number of rural villages, it came to our attention that in least in some of the poorer provinces a considerable number of school age children were not attending school for economic reasons. It was unclear to us at the time why, exactly, this was the case. But, regardless, we viewed it as tragic that children were not receiving the benefits of a full primary education when their lives could be so greatly enhanced by even a few years of additional schooling.
After returning to the U.S., my wife and I engaged in considerable research to determine the nature of the problem and what we could do about it. Up until that point we had never engaged in any meaningful humanitarian efforts, so this was all new to us.
We confirmed that despite its Communist form of government, a child's going to "public" school in Vietnam costs his or her family approximately $50 per year, enough to deter the very poorest kids from receiving much more than a fifth grade education ($50 is a lot in a country where the poverty line is defined as income below $120 per capita annually). The challenge for us, at that point, was to find a way to channel funds so that they reached the intended recipients with as little bureaucratic red tape and administrative costs as possible. Based on previous professional experiences, we were distrustful of large development agencies with large institutionalized bureaucracies. We were looking for an organization that was innovative, flexible, able to grow rapidly if funds were available, and close to the grassroots. We wanted to have enough ongoing involvement so as to ensure that our funds were reaching the designated beneficiaries. And we also wanted to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis so as to ensure that once a child began receiving our assistance this arrangement could continue in subsequent years.
After numerous conference calls, e-mails back and forth, and some face to face meetings with different non-governmental organizations with some presence (or at least interest) in Vietnam, we narrowed down our list of prospective operating partners. Then, in March 2004, Barbara and I spent close to a month in Vietnam with five different organizations who either had-or wanted to have--scholarship programs aimed at keeping very poor children in elementary and secondary school. We spent most days visiting schools and/or spending time in very poor villages and urban areas. But we also spent time assessing each organization's capabilities within Vietnam. Both Barbara and I spent many years on Wall Street, she as an attorney and me as an equity analyst, and we insisted on performing our own due diligence in assessing an organization's strengths and weaknesses.
We decided to launch our program through the East Meets West Foundation (now renamed Thrive Networks) which was the largest American non-profit in Vietnam. The program, the Scholarship Program to Enhance Literacy and Learning (SPELL) began in September 2004 with 1,500 enrollees, all in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. In addition to our own financial contribution, funding for this program was provided by the generosity of Barbara Guss and Gil Kemp, and a few other Scarsdale couples and other close friends who took the leap with us, and who have remained as committed donors. The program has expanded, and now approximately 6,000 kids have benefited from the program (in addition, another 7,000 students have gone through a high school program which EMW developed and administered, based on our SPELL experience, but which was funded entirely by the World Bank).
The program is fairly comprehensive for our students. In addition to providing school fees and "income-in-kind" to the students (books, book bags, notebooks, school uniforms, bicycles for the children who live long distances from schools), we also provide, most importantly, extensive after-school tutoring and, in some cases, room and board. The program is also complicated, at least financially, by our pledge (and the pledges of other donors) to continue to pay for the children's school and tutoring expenses through the end of 12th grade so long as they are promoted from one grade to the next (despite the fact that the exact level of future expenses, per student, is impossible to estimate precisely). The initial selection of children is based solely on poverty criteria, not academic performance (although there are some exceptional kids in the program). Subsequently, Gil Kemp and Barbara Guss, with our participation, started the "SPELL Goes to College" component of the program which now provides college scholarship to close to 200 students, most of whom started with us in elementary school.
I am involved directly in all of the major policy decisions and changes regarding the program. I came back from my 25th trip to Vietnam in March, during which I visited students and their parents at 55 schools. My wife Barbara has joined me on many of these trips. Each of our trips involves several weeks of fieldwork, on both SPELL and several other programs we are involved in as donors and/or program initiators. The SPELL related portion of these trips including visiting numerous scholarship families and meeting officials and teachers at some of the 100-plus schools where the program has operated . We rely, day to day, on seven full-time EMW staff members who work exclusively on the program, as well as a far-flung network of Vietnamese retired teachers who volunteer their time to administer the program in their particular locales. The opportunity to transform thousands of lives with a relatively small expenditure has proven both exciting and gratifying. My work is augmented by my having joined the Board of Directors at East Meets West shortly after the scholarship program began. Gil Kemp, who had been a financial partner in this venture from the beginning, joined the Board of EMW in 2009 and now joins me on many of my trips to Vietnam.
There are three important "life lessons that we have gleaned from our experience.
First, traveling to far away places can change both your perspective and your role in the world in unexpected ways. Getting away from crowded tourist spots provides insights that would not be remotely achievable otherwise.
Second, as you are probably aware, U.S. dollars have a whole different meaning in places like Vietnam. Our finding that $50 (in 2004) could secure a child a year in school is just one example.
The third lesson is that involvement in developing country philanthropy can entail more than just writing a check. As I have conveyed, Barbara and I have been involved in every key policy decision regarding our scholarship program.
On a different front, I have been heavily involved, since its inception, in funding and designing EMW's Breath of Life program where $2,000 pays for a neonatal device, CPAPs (continuous positive airway pressure machine - -used over 30 years ago in U.S. hospitals) which can, over the course of several years, save as many as a dozen moderately premature infants from death or brain damage (we have deployed several hundred of these machines over the last five years, hopefully and probably saving at least several thousand lives). A portion of my trips to Vietnam have included visiting provincial and district hospitals in order to assess what we were doing right-and wrong-in our choice of sites for this program; we have several prominent American neonatologists who were actively involved in the program from its inception, and accompanied me on many of my hospital visits. I have actually now visited hospitals in 59 out of Vietnam's 64 provinces (by contrast, the SPELL program is concentrated in seven provinces). The Breath of Life program has now expanded to another dozen or so countries; I have been active in laying the groundwork for our efforts in Myanmar, which I have visited for each of the last three years, also visiting hospitals all over the country. Gil and Barbara gave their full endorsement to this project as well, initially as financial partners. More recently, Gil has joined me on some of the Breath of Life fact finding trips.
In regards to this last point, our experiences need not be unique. East Meets West (now Thrive Networks) very much wants "engaged donors", with the knowledge that philanthropy coupled with direct involvement will entail a stronger commitment on the part of the contributors, as well as greater program accountability and effectiveness."
Hemel did note that today the economics of sending a child to school have changed. Ten years ago it cost $50 per year to keep a third, fourth or fifth grader in school. But now, inflation and more important, the aging of the kids, has definitely changed the numerical picture. A majority of their students are now in high school, where costs can range from $75 to $1,000, depending on the students' family circumstances and their own academic interests and potential. The college program, largely made up of SPELL high school graduates who started with the program in elementary school, costs $1,000 per student per year.
I've Got Your Number
- Category: Local Finds
- Published on 24 October 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Here is a letter from a Scarsdale10583 reader: We live in a town where seemingly eternal education (and its resultant financial success) is the highly valued norm. Within each household, at least one member's name is followed by MD or JD, or at least one person makes the daily pilgrimage downtown to Wall Street, where the stars of the financial sector shine brightly. Having lived in this community for over 17 years, I could not help but notice that our limitless opportunity (read entitlement) has resulted in an interesting phenomenon; each individual person has come to believe that he is uniquely the most important person alive.
Yet I remain in Scarsdale, ensconced in my community, having found my smaller world – friends with shared values, common beliefs and an appreciation of the fortunate hands we have been dealt. Why, then, put forth the effort, take pen to paper to express my view regarding our privileged neighbors? Sadly, intellect and finance do not necessarily have wisdom as a corollary. I have a pet peeve which is clearly not shared by many in this town, a grievance ignored by most, a simple task which if not undertaken, can only result in harm to oneself and possibly others.
HOUSE NUMBERS! Drive through Scarsdale and notice that it is the rare home that clearly displays a number. Homes large (gigantic) and small (still quite large) remain unidentifiable in conflict with the residential code, building code and fire code for the state of New York. This issue has been difficult for me for many years, as I struggled to locate unfamiliar houses for my children's playdates or attendance of birthday parties. The creation of applications such as Waze has vastly improved my life, by immeasurably diminishing my overwhelming anxiety associated with any sentence beginning with "Mom – can you please drop me off at...?" More importantly, I am not the only one unable to readily locate a specific address – the speed with which ambulance workers, firemen and policemen identify one's house is also impeded by an absence of visible house number. A few years ago, the Scarsdale Fire Department, in an effort to facilitate home identification, even went so far as to provide highly visible, reflective white house numbers on green backgrounds to be placed outside an individual's residence, available at no cost to anyone upon request. Did our citizens avail themselves of this opportunity? While few did, the predominance did not ... perhaps the esthetics of the signs were too displeasing. If so, alternatives include personally acquiring a more elegant house number, or delaying the identification of one's home in the case of emergency (or playdate).
I am left wondering why people with such intelligence, so much education, would not perform a task as simple and helpful as placing a visible street number on their home or property. Enable those who want to help you (or have our children play together) to do so. To our emergency workers, when you are in danger, you truly ARE the most important individual alive... give our responders an opportunity to find and assist you, should the situation arise.