St. George's Society of New York Beneficiary Program
Over the years, the Society's assistance has taken a variety of forms: a bag of coal or a voucher to a woodpile to keep a family warm during the winter months; free ship passage on the White Star line back to England when the American dream did not work out for a spinster in 1898; a free hospital bed at St. Luke's Hospital for the ill (the average stay in 1927 was 1 month); a pawn ticket paid to retrieve a winter coat in 1904; assistance for British War Brides who found themselves in need upon their arrival in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s.
Today, 70% of the Society's stipends are for rent support. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 many private charitable associations in New York City, including St. George's Society, experienced a marked increase in demand for services from people in crisis, many facing homelessness. The overriding goal of the St. George's Beneficiary Program is to prevent homelessness by providing rent assistance for elderly and disabled New Yorkers.
Most people who seek assistance from the Society have enjoyed a normal lifestyle, which becomes interrupted by illness or some other disruption to their income. Within a very short space of time they find themselves in debt and then in crisis. Help may not be available from the State and often they face the prospect of eviction. 65-year-old Roger C. from England recently found that despite living a productive life, his Social Security income no longer covers his basic housing needs.
"I live in a neighborhood with a fairly noticeable homeless population. I see them sitting in the park every day and have wondered lately if that could happen to me. Thanks to St. George's Society, that worry has been very much allayed."
In recent years, we have extended our reach to include people of Commonwealth descent. 66-year-old Millicent B. from Jamaica has done manual labor all her life but was forced to retire from her job as a home care worker when she could no longer lift and pull patients safely. Millicent's $805 Social Security income is insufficient to cover her $700 rent, utilities and other basic needs so the Society provides her with a $400 stipend.
Through its Beneficiary Program, each year St. George's Society assists over 80 beneficiaries and approximately 90% of the Society's charitable budget is spent on its Beneficiary Program. Our support enables seniors to make ends meet, pay rent, buy medication, afford public transportation and generally enhances their quality of life. The financial assistance we provide is supplemented by much-needed emotional support from our full-time social worker, Mary Lamasney, LMSW.
In September 2011, SGS implemented a new initiative to further encourage social interaction and enhance quality of life with its first group outing for beneficiaries. 25 beneficiaries visited the Caribbean Food Delights plant in Tappan, New York, as guests of Vincent HoSang, the founder and CEO, who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. The visit included a tour around the factory and lunch, after which visitors were given samples of the food to take home. Friendships among the beneficiaries resulted from time spent together and a second social event took place in September 2012 - a tea party featuring a reading from the memoirs of one of our beneficiaries.
While the assistance St. George's provides has changed over time, the purpose has remained the same - to help those who cannot help themselves. Since its founding 242 years ago, we have aided thousands of British and Commonwealth persons while striving to fulfill our mission statement: "Let mercy be our boast and shame our only fear."
A note from Mary Lamasney, Manton Social Worker:
One of our oldest beneficiaries, Betty O., died on March 1st. She was at home with her family. She lived a full life with happiness and sadness. She lost her first husband at the start of World War II. He was in the RAF and died soon after their marriage in 1940. She came to the United States, married a second time and had a daughter. Her daughter, Sally, wrote a moving letter to Executive Director John Shannon that I believe reflects the mission of the St. George's Society:
"It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter to you today. I am sure that by this time Mary Lamasney has told you of the passing of my very dear mother Betty O. I feel a strong need to write you and tell you just how much St. George's Society and all the many people who dealt with Mum over the years meant to her. Even though Mum was an American, she never lost her love, admiration and wonderful memories of being British.
She felt proud and honored to be recognized by St. George's and that recognition made her feel she was directly associated with England. Every month when her check arrived, or at Holiday time when a special check and gift came, she always marveled at the way your organization had of helping people without making them feel that they were charity cases.Your people allowed her the benefit of accepting help while still maintaining her dignity, and that is something I was so grateful for.
Mum was a proud woman till the end and keeping her dignity in all situations and circumstances was something she cherished. May the Good Lord grant long life and good health to everyone involved with your wonderful organization and I hope you continue giving to other beneficiaries the same wonderful feeling you gave Betty."
St. George's Society of New York Scholarship Program
In 2008, St. George's Society established a youthful dimension to our giving with a scholarship program at Lehman College, part of The City University of New York. The first contributor was Mark C. Pigott, OBE, who gave $50,000 to launch the project.
Lehman has over 12,000 students, a significant percentage of whom are from Commonwealth countries, making the college a good strategic partner for the Society. Our scholarship program assists promising students who have achieved excellent academic standing in their first three years but due to financial hardship are unable to complete their final year of undergraduate studies.
Over the past four years, we have awarded over $300,000 in scholarships to 125 students of British and Commonwealth origin. Our aim is to award full tuition scholarships to more students every year enabling them to complete their studies and launch their careers.In 2010 the Mountbatten Institute, an organization that runs international educational exchange programs, created a one-year internship to be awarded to one St. George's scholarship recipient per year. The selected student must be majoring in business or a related subject and will participate in a carefully designed, one-year training program in London that provides an opportunity to learn about British, European and international business practices and to experience immersion in British culture.
"The Society's scholarships are vital to the future of these students. Their stories are part of the proud mission of The City University of New York to provide access to excellence for those who come here in search of freedom and opportunity."
Dr. Ricardo R. Fernandez
President, Lehman College
"Having visited Lehman and met many of the St. George's scholars, I have heard firsthand how vital this program is. I hope that the scholarship fund will continue to grow and flourish so that we can help more young people achieve their professional aspirations."
HRH The Duke of Gloucester, KG, GCVO
Royal Patron, St. George's Society