Guest Advocate Ken Jockers is executive director at Hudson Guild, a 118-year-old community-services nonprofit headquartered in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. Each day this week he introduces us to people and organizations he believes are doing important work to give people the tools and support to build strong communities. Here is today’s pick:
THE BACKSTORY: An artist, Adler has lived for nearly 30 years in Chelsea, where she and her husband raise three children. As a Hudson Guild board member for the past decade, she has connected the students at Little Red School House, which her kids attended, with programs at Hudson Guild, where they serve as volunteers; she also works for greater intergenerational interaction between the guild and the local arts community.
JOCKERS’ TAKE: “Denise uses her time, effort, and smarts to build services for the neighborhood by calling out the need for justice and equity. Whether it’s work she’s doing at her kids’ school, in the arts community, or at Hudson Guild, she’s an engaged person who knows people and can plug effectively into different groups to get things done. She’s absolutely proof that on an individual level, one person can effect change.”
About Our Guest Advocate
Ken Jockers was happily serving as a deputy general counsel in the New York City mayor’s office when he was contacted about whether he would be interested in becoming executive director of Hudson Guild.
“I actually loved working in the mayor’s office,” says Jockers, who received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School and had a background in social services through earlier roles at the City Volunteer Corps and the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project. “But I was anxious to get back into community work,” he recalls. “And Hudson Guild had an extraordinary reputation as an on-the-ground organization that focused on and cared deeply about its programs-oriented roots. I ran as hard as I could toward the opportunity to be part of it.”
Jockers has served as executive director of the nonprofit since 2008. Patterned after the settlement house model, Hudson Guild provides social and human-services programs — including daycare, services for teens and adults, opportunities to see and create art, and on- and off-site mental health support — for some 14,000 residents each year. “One in six people in Chelsea lives in poverty,” he says of the neighborhood surrounding the Guild’s West 26th Street headquarters, which includes two large public-housing projects and rent-stabilized complexes with working-class, middle-class, and older populations. “We believe that empowering individuals in a holistic way helps to build a strong, healthy, thriving community.
“I’m lucky enough to see the proof of the value of what we do on a daily basis,” continues Jockers, citing as an example the story of a young woman from a deeply unstable and struggling family who was enrolled in guild programs from daycare through college prep. She’s now a sophomore at North Carolina State University. “We know the grandmas, the moms, the aunts and the kids,” he says. “It’s hugely satisfying and really fantastic to see a person or family progress on their goals toward living a stable life.”