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Messages from the President & CEO

DE&I Update: New Progress in the New Year

As the calendar turns over to 2024, Hillside’s activities in the DE&I space are ongoing:

A new 12-month cohort of the Urban League of Rochester’s Interrupt Racism initiative kicks off in January, and Hillside will again participate in this vital community-based antiracism program. Our “Change Team”—a diverse working committee of up to 10 members, representing all levels of the organization—will receive training and support to help Hillside more deeply address issues around equity in their specific context. By helping us identify inequitable policies, practices, and behaviors, the Interrupt Racism program will support our commitment to creating an equitable work environment where all employees can thrive.

Hillside’s new LGBTQ Affinity Group will begin meeting in January, providing a dependable forum for our employees in the LGBTQ+ community to engage and discuss relevant experiences, issues, and ideas affecting them every day. This group joins our previously formed Hillside Men of Color and Hillside Women of Color affinity groups, which recognize the importance of helping our people find helpful connections and support.

Finally, our development of Hillside’s first Living Action Plan has made great progress, with the finish line in sight for the inaugural draft of this essential document. Of course, as a “living” plan, it will never really be finished—but it will nonetheless be a critical foundation of Hillside’s ongoing work in creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community for our employees and the communities we serve. Excerpts from the Living Action Plan will be shared on this page later in 2024.

Community Support Keeps #HillsideStrong!

On December 12, Hillside invited state and local officials to join us at our Crestwood Campus to hear more about our programs, priorities and plans for the future. We try to hold meetings like this several times each year, as part of our ongoing engagement with government and community leaders; they understand the role played by Hillside’s services in our community, and their awareness and support is critical to the success of our work.

It’s impossible to consider the effectiveness of Hillside’s services without taking into account our funding streams. Because the rates for many of Hillside programs are set by our state partners, we must be a thoughtful, passionate advocate for the support that ultimately helps our employees do their best work for those we serve.

And funding isn’t the only issue. In an op-ed piece published on the New York Non-Profit Media website, I shared some thoughts about the vital need for structural reforms in our field. The most recent New York State budget showed promise in its increased financial support for many of our services, but that support is only the beginning of the changes needed to allow our programs to fulfill their objectives and let youth, adults and families thrive.

The individuals we serve deserve the full support of our funders and elected officials—as do our employees, in the form of rates for our services that allow staff to be compensated fairly. We continue to do all we can to support higher employee compensation, and with appropriate funding increases, we can do even more.

In the meantime, please don’t forget that your support makes an incredible difference! Whether as a donor, a foster parent or a Hillside employee, you can play an important role in helping us help others.

Thank you for your support of Hillside’s mission!

Maria Cristalli
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

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