Business Person of the Year 2018 Honoree: Sister Tesa Fitzgerald

Though Hour Children has accomplished so much already, Fitzgerald said there’s always a need to improve and be more effective. As they add more supportive housing units, they will need to hire more social workers.

There’s never enough housing, despite the gains they’ve made on that front. Last year, Hour Children had to say no to more than 150 women who needed housing, simply because they didn’t have enough space.

They’re also beginning to serve many older women coming out of prison. Many served long sentences and have no family to come home to.

We have some people here who came out to live with us and will probably die with us. That’s the way it is,” Fitzgerald said. “I would really love to develop that arm, to provide more housing for either senior citizens or ‘long-termers.’”

The nonprofit is contracted to provide family services, including a nursery and parenting program, for both the Bedford Hills and Taconic facilities for women. Fitzgerald said she wants to increases services for them as well.

Another area of improvement is transportation for the children.

You can’t continue a bond with a mother if you don’t see her,” she said.

Though some of these plans seem far off, Fitzgerald is about to fulfill one of her lifelong dreams: building a community education center. Hour Children recently purchased a building one block away, which used to be a factory for a Chinese bakery in Manhattan.

Fitzgerald befriended the owners of the business, who eventually sold their property to the nonprofit. In the next two or three years, Fitzgerald said she hopes to open the site.

The education center would incorporate the daycare, effectively doubling its size, as well as the after school, teen and working women’s programs. At night, it would be open for community needs.

Hour Children has already finished the drawings. They received $2.5 million from the borough president and the City Council to purchase the site. Now, they have to work through the city bureaucracy, including acquiring special permits, to make it a reality.

That’s my immediate dream, it’s going to happen,” Fitzgerald said. “I have lots of dreams and lots of way to do it.

I never settle, I’m not a settler,” she added. “But you have to be careful, you want to make sure we’re true to the mission.”

As Hour Children continues to expand, Fitzgerald said more help is always needed. She encouraged the community to donate, whether it’s money for programs, clothes for the thrift shop or food for the pantry.

For businesses looking to pitch in, Fitzgerald emphasized the importance of providing job opportunities or internships for the women, who can contribute to the company while gaining meaningful skills.

Volunteers can act as mentors for either the children or the women. Even corporate groups can contribute by planning a project.

There are so many things that can be done, you just have to be creative, deliberate and serious about wanting to do something,” she said. “If you are, step right up.”

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