Union Settlement on Building Community in East Harlem


Image by Karen Smul via unionsettlement.org.


According to the New York State Department of Labor, private sector jobs in New York City fell by 583,800 in 2020 to 3,478,800 in September 2020. Losses were widespread and occurred in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, trade, transportation, and utilities, and educational and health services (among others). 


Since 1895, Union Settlement has created opportunities in East Harlem by offering comprehensive programs that help underserved residents improve their skills and build better lives for themselves and their families. At a time when families are hard-hit by job losses, their services assisting in job training, public housing, and community building are as important as ever.


We recently interviewed the organization’s Director of Community Outreach, Ingrid Sotelo and spoke about Union Settlement’s efforts during the pandemic, their projects, and the power of building community.



How were Union Settlement and East Harlem affected by the coronavirus pandemic?


Union Settlement and East Harlem families have been facing many challenges during the coronavirus pandemic - some of the ways they continue to be affected is lack of food security, no technology devices (tablets, phones, or laptops), no internet access, family members facing unemployment. 


What is the power of building community during a global crisis, and working to make improvements on issues like public health and racism? 


The power of building community during a global crisis is the ability to have access to a support system. It gives the ability to share resources across your community and an opportunity to come together to combat an issue or issues together. This is particularly important in a community that is primarily low-income and diverse. 


Image via unionsettlement.org.


Ingrid Sotelo joined Union Settlement in January 2020. She was born and raised in East Harlem. There she attended the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem and was the first member of her family to enroll in college, graduating from Marymount College and pursuing her Master’s in Public Administration from Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College. Ingrid brings 10 years of experience in government and community relations. Her keen interest in government led her to serve in public service for State Senator Jose M. Serrano, Manhattan Borough President’s office, NYC Comptroller’s Office and NYC Census 2020.


How is the organization currently collaborating with other nonprofits, institutions, or professionals?


Union Settlement is currently collaborating with other nonprofits to share information on resources to help our participants. We share expertise to come together and provide the best services. For example, partnering up to provide safe community events, PPE access, voter registration information and census. 


We have also been able to collaborate by helping to identify families in need of gift cards, winter coats, and food access. 

Can you tell us about any upcoming events and activities?


For right now we have scheduled our Thanksgiving Distribution and Free COVID-19 testing and Flu Shots on November 24th. 


Would you like to add anything additional?


We continue to support participants with emerging needs they may be facing. As we receive outside donations we connect with families to distribute items. During the pandemic we have connected with many community members on our services and enrollment process. We will continue to do that in-person and virtually. 




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The Center for Popular Democracy

The Center for Popular Democracy and A Home for Civic Engagement

Dismantle Systemic Racism With These Five Nonprofit Organizations

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