Messages from the President & CEO

‘Our Children Can’t Wait’: Op-Ed by Hillside President & CEO Addresses New York’s Child Welfare Crisis

An opinion piece by Hillside President & CEO Maria Cristalli was published last week in New York Nonprofit Media, a leading statewide media outlet highlighting critical issues related to not-for-profit organizations. The article, “The crisis in New York’s child welfare system must be addressed,” identifies the urgent need for increased support of child welfare services in communities statewide.

Cristalli’s message calls for increased funding for additional beds in residential treatment facilities, as well as a multi-pronged strategy that includes expanded levels of care; increased training for staff to deal with the most severe cases; a renewal of community partnerships involving communities, local organizations, and state authorities; and greater coordination with healthcare systems, to provide early detection and diagnosis that can enhance preventive measures.

“It’s time to reevaluate and recalibrate our approach, ensuring that all children—regardless of the complexity of their needs—receive the care they deserve,” Cristalli wrote. “The time for action is now. Our children can’t wait.”

Hillside, one of the largest and most programmatically diverse child-and-family-services agencies in the United States, provides a broad array of residential treatment, community-based and educational services to nearly 9,000 youth, adults and families every year. The agency is a leading voice in local and state advocacy for child welfare services.

Community support keeps #HillsideStrong. Make a donation to Hillside today.

Calista Amering Named Chief Advancement Officer, Effective December 11, 2023

Hillside has announced the appointment of Calista Amering as Chief Advancement Officer, effective Monday, December 11. In her executive position, she will lead the philanthropic efforts of the Hillside Foundation, for the 1,700-employee human-services agency that serves nearly 9,000 youth, adults and families each year.

Ms. Amering joins Hillside with over 20 years of experience, including more than nine years of progressive senior leadership responsibilities at Rochester Regional Health Foundations. As Senior Executive Director and most recently as Vice President of Donor & Community Engagement, she has overseen strategic fundraising (including corporate and annual giving) as well as donor communications, event production, stewardship and community partnerships for the nationally recognized health system.

Prior to joining Rochester Regional in 2014, she led stewardship and events at St. John Fisher University, and provided communications and marketing services for clients including the Monroe County Bar Association and University of Rochester Medical Center.

“Calista Amering is an exceptional leader who brings considerable experience into this critical role for Hillside,” said Maria Cristalli, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hillside. “Philanthropy and community engagement are vital contributors to Hillside’s ability to reinvent our services and change lives—and Calista is an ideal choice to advance our message within the communities we serve, and beyond.”

Jill Knittel, Chair of Hillside’s Board of Governors, said of Ms. Amering’s appointment: “As the leader of the Hillside Foundation and the agency’s overall Advancement work, Calista will be a champion of the Hillside mission among broad philanthropic constituencies, strengthen our coalition of community support, and help Hillside touch even more lives in the years to come.”

Ms. Amering holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from SUNY Brockport. She is a Fellow of the Northstar Network Healthcare Business Academy, and a member of the Association of Donor Relations Professionals.

Your generosity keeps #HillsideStrong. Support our mission by donating today.

Special Santa: Your Gift Makes All the Difference

Happy Holidays! We’re heading into a time of year that holds special meaning for many cultures and families in the communities we all call home. No matter how you observe the season, it’s a natural time for thinking of others—and it’s in that spirit that Hillside’s Special Santa program was created.

Now in its fourth decade, Special Santa is a remarkable act of not only charity, but community: across all the regions we serve, our employees join with families served by Hillside and with thousands of individuals like you to make the holidays a little bit brighter for children in need.

I recently sat down for Hillside’s monthly podcast to discuss Special Santa with a member of our staff who’s participated in the program for 35 years. She shared a heartwarming story of a young girl of color who commented that she’d never owned a doll that looked like her—and when she received that doll through Special Santa, she was ecstatic, carrying it everywhere she went.

A simple act of generosity meant so much to that young girl—and your generosity can do the same this season! I hope you’ll join us in contributing in any way you can to Special Santa 2023. Please visit our online Special Santa page to learn more about the many ways you can make an extraordinary difference in the lives of the youth, adults and families we serve.

Thank you for your support!

Maria Cristalli
President & CEO

“The healing started at Hillside”: A Donor’s Commitment to Supporting Our Mission

Eighty-year-old Suzanne Robinson can trace her love of helping others back to her youth. As a young girl, she learned from her grandfather about sharing hen’s eggs from the family chicken coop with others who were less fortunate.

Robinson has learned many more lessons since then—about accepting other people with differences, volunteering her time, and donating what she can to help people in her community. As a woman shaped by faith, the retired schoolteacher cites “the widow’s mite,” a bible story in which a poor widow makes a sacrificial donation, which is considered more significant than the larger contributions from those with surplus wealth.

Robinson gives what she can to Hillside because she says “Hillside gives you bang for your buck.” Based on her own extensive research, she trusts the way Hillside manages its donations, and how the staff works with children and connects with families.

Her appreciation for Hillside’s mission also has a personal dimension. Years ago, after becoming a foster parent to twin brothers who had emigrated from Vietnam, Robinson came to recognize that although one of the brothers was adjusting to his transition, the other was experiencing severe emotional and behavioral challenges. Seeking support from a family therapist and other resources, she eventually was referred to Hillside’s residential services.

She recalls their uncertain drive up the hill on the Monroe Campus, and the comfort and kindness shown by the staff. She remembers being reassured that the teen would receive much-needed assistance. And she treasures the knowledge that those interventions, along with individual and family counseling, enabled him to overcome his challenges.

Today, he enjoys a productive, successful life, in a professional role that divides his time between Hawaii and Vietnam. “The healing started at Hillside,” she says.

Robinson says her donations have a sense of urgency: she’s eager to see her philanthropy foster meaningful change, while also allowing her to experience the joy of giving. Charity “gives you much more satisfaction than eating a finely prepared meal in a wonderful restaurant,” she says. “With giving, your joyful feeling will last.”

Despite her generosity, Robinson says she doesn’t seek attention for being a donor to Hillside—but she does hope her story inspires others to join her in giving.

Community support keeps #HillsideStrong. Support our mission by making a donation today.

Mazie Tai Joins Hillside as Chief Human Resources Officer, Effective November 13, 2023

Hillside has announced the appointment of Mazie Tai as Chief Human Resources Officer, effective Monday, November 13. In her executive position, she will lead the coordinated efforts of Hillside’s Human Resources and Organizational Development teams, including oversight of agency-wide initiatives in support of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Ms. Tai brings nearly 20 years of experience in human resources leadership, including executive-level tenures at major regional organizations serving diverse employee and public constituencies. She most recently led broad HR operations at Wegmans Food Markets, with 53,000 employees in seven states; prior to that role, she worked for nearly 10 years as an HR leader at Rochester Regional Health, with progressive responsibilities culminating in the role of Vice President of Human Resources. Her career is distinguished with critical achievements in employee recruitment, staff retention and employee learning.

“Mazie Tai is a visionary leader in her field, and well known in our region for building inclusive workplaces to help organizations thrive to meet the needs of the communities they serve,” said Maria Cristalli, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hillside. “A strong and dedicated workforce is vital to Hillside’s ability to deliver high-quality services to the youth and families of New York and Maryland—and Mazie is an excellent choice to lead our HR functions to fulfill our agency’s potential in the years to come.”

Jill Knittel, Chair of Hillside’s Board of Governors, praised Ms. Tai’s appointment. “Hillside’s extraordinary mission and impact require a commitment to building and retaining a best-in-class team of employees. With Mazie Tai’s skills and experience in HR executive leadership, the agency is well positioned to continue its journey of creating a fulfilling environment for the individuals who choose to be part of this ‘Hillside Strong’ team.”

Ms. Tai holds a bachelor’s degree in community health administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and a master of science degree in human resource development from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Hillside is hiring for a wide range of positions that make a difference in the lives of youth, adults and familes. Visit our Careers page to learn more about working at Hillside, and to find a role that fits your interests and skills.

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