Ellen Smith serves as the Executive Director for Keeping Our Promise, Inc. She works on educating audiences about the SIV program, grant writing, housing, fund-raising, and in-kind donation management. She has assisted over 370 SIV refugees and their families since 2014, and her passion for helping these families started with assisting one Army captain in Syracuse, NY gather donations for his interpreters. The National Council of Jewish Women – Greater Rochester Section selected Ellen as the winner of the 2019 Hannah G. Solomon Humanitarian Award. and she was awarded the “Spirit of America” award by the Reserve Officers Assn. for starting this model program, and creating a welcoming community for those who served our country. Ellen was previously a credentialed journalist for 29 years, with 37 top journalism awards including awards from the National Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, the Investigative Reporters & Editors Inc., and the Edward R. Murrow Award.
Theresa Eckert was one of our first Rochester volunteers, working with Ellen in February 2015. She was drawn to helping Special Immigrant Visa refugees because of her son’s service to our country, and her understanding the importance of a role of an interpreter. She was one of the first “caring circle” members before we had a caring circle program, and now trains Caring Circle members. Theresa serves as the Keeping Our Promise liaison to Saint’s Place where our families go for clothing. Because of her volunteer service with families, she brings a wealth of knowledge to our Caring Circle program offering training and guidance to new Caring Circle volunteers, and to the board.
Irwin Solomon has been a volunteer helping the resettlement of SIVs since Spring 2015, and is now our Chairman of the Board and Director of Operations maintaining our volunteer directories, coordinating e-mail and other communications to volunteers, and helping with financial planning and bookkeeping for Keeping Our Promise. Irwin is a member of the social action committee at Temple B'rith Kodesh, and was instrumental in establishing our inter-faith partnership with Temple B'rith Kodesh. Irwin also helps coordinate the Thanksgiving Baskets. He and his wife Ellen, pictured with him, work on the annual Spring Dinner, as well as smaller fundraising events.
B. Andrew Dutcher, esq.
B. Andrew (Andy) Dutcher, Esq., of the Rochester law firm Dutcher and Zatkowsky offers legal advice for Keeping Our Promise He is instrumental in overseeing the funding for the children’s riding program at Lear Stables. He offers legal planning and advice for KOP families, and assists in helping our families with simple wills and guardianship planning for those single parents without a spouse. Andy is a 1976 graduate of Boston University School of Law, and was admitted to the New York bar in 1976 and has been engaged in the practice of law in Rochester, New York since that date.
Dr. Dennis S. Moss
Dr. Dennis S. Moss, a semi-retired radiologist who heads the Keeping Our Promise Employment Committee, helping to find jobs for the newly arrived and underemployed SIVs or steer them towards training in the skilled trades. Dennis and his wife Wendy, pictured with him, have also been part of caring circles, fund-raising, DHS (DSS) problem solving and are both frequently seen at airport arrivals. Dennis assists with resume writing or revision, to job searches and final job acceptance. He lets us know when SIVs are job-ready and in need of a reliable car under our “Wheels for Work” program.
Javayd Samadie was the second SIV assisted in Rochester serves as thecultural advisor for Keeping Our Promise Javayd has watched the SIV community grow, and is helping to formulate the best practices for taking care of newly-arrived SIV refugee families. He is on-call any time we have questions, or need translation assistance. He has taken on the role of helping with insurance for our Wheels for Work program, and also offering job search training advice. Javayd served the U.S. mission in Afghanistan for six years. He has a degree in Business Administration and a Masters Degree in Governance and Public Policy from the University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, and has done work for the United Nations.
Dr. deb. abell
Dr. Deborah Abell is the Keeping Our Promise Caring Circle liaison and organizes caring circles for incoming families. She helps with initial caring circle volunteer training, and answers caring circle questions when they arise. She has also become somewhat of an expert in overcoming DSS problems that frequently come up with individual families. She first got involved as a Caring Circle member for an SIV family of seven who moved to Rochester. She now organizes new Caring Circles for incoming families. She works as a primary care pediatrician. Her son, Matthew helped families by building coffee tables for his Eagle Scout project.
Dr. Kim Schmidt
Dr. Kim Schmidt serves as a Caring Circle member to several families in the Keeping Our Promiseresettlement program. Together with friends and family, she has co-hosted Henna Parties in support of our organization. She is a Marriage & Family Therapist and works exclusively with people who have experienced war zone trauma and loss, and is a tremendous asset to our board with helpful advice on families arriving from a war zone. Her daughter Katrina (pictured with her) is a volunteer and helps with donations, events and caring circles.
Noreen Selinger is the Vice Chair of the board and lead planner for our annual Spring Dinner and other Keeping Our Promisefund-raising and community building efforts. She joined our advisory board in the summer of 2018. She has also been an active Caring Circle volunteer. When not volunteering for KOP, Noreen works as an IT Recruiter for ProActive Recruiters. Her daughter Rory likes to volunteer as well, helping with events and caring circles.
Jill Baszczynski, LMSW
Jill Baszczynski, LMSW, serves as the Keeping Our Promise board secretary as well as family adviser. She is a Licensed Master of Social Work and works for the Unified Court System, New York State Child Welfare Court Improvement Project. In her position she is involved with strategic planning to improve the foster care system. Prior to her current employment, Jill served as a caseworker in Buffalo, NY.
Leah Granger serves as Keeping Our Promise’s board treasurer. In the past she has volunteered with our summer horseback riding program organized for children of SIVs. Leah also provides volunteer tax preparation assistance to the Rochester community through both the AARP program as well as CASH. Her father, Alan, is also a volunteer with Keeping Our Promise, offering driving lessons to our SIVs. Leah is a Wealth Advisor at OakWood Financial Services.