Posts Tagged ‘Rodney Beckford’

Meet Ted Staniecki, Catholic Charities’ Unsung Hero

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Old women with walkers shuffled towards the Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center in Harlem last month through a foot of snow and ice.  Moms with hungry children in tow herded towards its food bank.

Ted Staniecki, the center’s facilities manager, grabbed a snow shovel with Kennedy Center Director Rodney Beckford,  fellow staff Hector Estrella and Jose Crisostomo, and dug and scraped until they cleared a path.

Times like these are what Ted says he likes most about his job.

It’s Ted’s low key, hands-on approach facing down hurdles that make him a hero among those who know him best.

“I don’t think enjoying my job is work,” Ted says, “so I haven’t worked a day in my life.”

The son of a Waldorf-Astoria doorman, Ted, before transferring his talents to Catholic Charities, worked his way up from middle school teacher and coach to Washington Heights Incarnation School principal.

This was “back in the days,” wrote a Daily News reporter “when the streets outside were so dangerous team members would have to dive to the sidewalk when gangsters pulled out Uzis.”

Challenges Ted braved were so extreme that news outlets across the city covered them.  The Wall Street Journal wrote about how Ted, the founder, driver, assistant couch and all-around godfather of the Incarnation Angels girls CYO basketball team, brought them to city championship in 1997.  Meanwhile, the team shared their home court, the Fort Washington armory shelter, with 1,400 homeless men.

The same year, The New York Times covered a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing public school teachers to provide remedial instruction to students in Catholic school classrooms.  Sounds logical now, but for the prior 12 years, federal law forbid public school teachers from instructing students with special needs on Catholic school property.

So 200 of Incarnation School’s 520 students grades K – 8 would traipse out of the school for remedial help.  They studied in three trailers parked nearby as drivers idled the vans for power and lights.

“We finally got some common sense,” Ted told The Times.

After retiring from Catholic schools, Ted worked as director of the West Bronx CYO Center.  Then, five years ago, he came to Catholic Charities Kennedy Center.

Similar to its Harlem neighborhood, the Center, he says, needed reviving.

“Kennedy Center needed a paint job; it needed pictures; it needed people,” Ted says.

Deacon Rodney Beckford took over as Kennedy Center’s director, joining Ted and a host of supportive staff and administration to transform the once-sleepy center to one now exploding with activity.  From sunrise to sunset, seven days a week, activities ranging from Harambee dance to gospel choirs, from basketball games to social service programs, fill the four-story building with song and action.

Harlem, in turn, is undergoing a similar revival.  The famous Lenox Lounge reopened along with the Red Rooster restaurant.  Congressmen Charlie Rangel lives across the street from Kennedy Center.  Governor David Patterson and former Mayor David Dinkins live nearby.

“Kennedy fits in well helping the neighborhood heal from the tough times it’s been through,” Ted says. “Our staff is balanced – all nationalities – and people who come here just see someone who is here, who is going to help them, going to respect them.”

Read more about Ted in the New York Times.

Read more about Ted  in the New York Daily News.

Eyewitness News spotlights the “Cupid Shuffle” at Catholic Charities Kennedy Center

Monday, March 11th, 2013

 By Alice Kenny

WABC Eyewitness News visited Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Memorial Center on March 5 to spotlight what they called a whole new look at line dancing with a soulful approach.

And why is it being offered?

“Helping isn’t just when you’re in need,” Kennedy Center Director Deacon Rodney Beckford tells reporter Kimberly Richardson. “Helping is also helping you be happy, helping you have fun, helping you stay healthy.”

The class is free and it’s a lot of fun, Ms. Richardson announces as she takes her turn at the “Wobble” and the “Cupid Shuffle.”

“Once you get bitten, that’s it,” instructor Anita Mullin said. “You become a line dance junkie. You want to do it more and more and more.”

A sentiment shared by everyone here at the Joseph P. Kennedy center. What’s the secret to getting the steps down?

“The rhythm, beat, you’ve got to say it in your mind. Feel it in your soul,” Soul Line dancer Robert Perry said.

When I spotted Perry, the 68 year old was busy fluttering around the room. I can see why what’s happening here is contagious, soul line dancing, popular not only here in Harlem, but all over the country.

It involves following a carefully choreographed sequence of steps, think electric slide, only tougher.

The class kicked off in January. Roughly 60 enthusiasts get together for two hours with Anita leading the way to learn the latest moves.

“It’s a certain amount of comradery. It’s like ‘Oh yeah, help me with that step.’ So yeah, it’s a lot of fun,” she said.

And good exercise, part of the mission of Catholic Charities, which runs this center.

Check out the story and video online.

For more information, contact the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Memorial Community Center at 212 862-5401. The class is every Tuesday evening at 6:30.