On Friday, December 7th, the first annual AFS-USA Holiday Party brought together close to 100 AFS Returnees, Volunteers, Host Families, Natural Families, friends, and supporters to celebrate the AFS mission at the historic Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
AFS-USA co-presented the Holiday Party with the AFS New York Returnees Group. There were nearly 20 different destination countries represented among the U.S. returnees as well as several “reverse returnees” whose AFS experience took place in the United States. Several members of the EZ Pass volunteer team from the Greater New York City area were present including Team Co-Chair Sharon Lage.
Proceeds from the Holiday Party benefitted the AFS-USA National Scholarship Fund, which supports initiatives such as the Faces of America diversity scholarship program for low-income students from underrepresented communities, and the need-based Global Leaders scholarships. More than $10,000 was raised for the National Scholarship Fund from the Holiday Party.
Two recent returnees and 2012 Faces of America Scholars, Dianitza Mendez and Armani Eady, recruited from New York City community-based partners, Minds Matter and Double Discovery Center, greeted guests and shared their AFS experiences.
The Holiday Party afforded AFSers the opportunity to meet with the organization’s executive management team and the AFS-USA Board of Directors who were assembling in New York City for the Board’s December meeting. Board Chair Mary Porterfield and President Jorge Castro made welcoming remarks and Andie Sehl, representing the New York Returnees Group, spoke of her group’s efforts to network with other local returnees.
Ms. Porterfield recognized the vital role that volunteers play in delivering AFS programs and encouraged local returnees to become involved with the EZ Pass team. President Castro spoke of a renewed commitment to reaching out to returnees across the country at events like the Holiday Party, and in other ways, to connect them to AFS-USA, just as universities engage alumni for a variety of purposes to advance the mission of the institution.
President Castro thanked the many loyal AFS-USA supporters in attendance including members of the Ambassadors Circle major donor giving society. He also announced that AFS-USA supporter Mark Whitcraft has put up a $100,000 challenge that will match all gifts made to the AFS-USA Annual Fund by December 31st.
The event was held in the Armory’s magnificent Veterans Room, one of only two existing Louis Comfort Tiffany-designed rooms in the world. Holiday Party guests also had the opportunity to view the Armory’s recently opened exhibition of noted visual artist Ann Hamilton’s new work, the event of a thread, which had just received a rave review in the New York Times.
Click here to see photos from the 2012 Holiday Party.