A Board Member, A Backpack and a Dream

Spotlight on Emily Dominguez and the Haverstraw Neighborhood Fund



On a frigid January morning back in 2018 I went for a second interview at the City Line Diner.  Greeting me at the corner table, way in the back were a few members of the Rockland Community Foundation Executive Board.  That was the first time I ever met Emily Dominguez, then RCF Board President.  Her name was familiar, it seemed like everybody knew her in some capacity.  The group round-robin’ed me with the usual drill of interview questions.  I held my own, I thought.  And then Emily asked a pretty simple, yet tough question….”Why RCF”.  Damn!  I had thought about all the quintessential interview questions but the simplicity of this one did catch me off guard.  So, I answered it to the best of my ability (and apparently it was good enough ‘cause here I sit 1.5 years later). But I got to say, the moment stuck with me.

For some reason, this memory percolated back in my head a few days ago, but the ironic part is I thought about the reverse aspect of this question.  “Why RCF” for Emily Dominguez.  Why did she even get involved with RCF and subsequently start one of the most important & successful Funds that we steward.

Emily loves to tell the story about how she was asked to lunch by Rhea Vogel  (One of the RCF Founders).  She then joined the board, was fast tracked to the Executive Board & worked her way up to becoming Board President. She also established the Haverstraw Neighborhood Fund whose purpose was to help support community initiatives that were started more than 25 years ago by her mom and a local reverend.   Ten years ago, Emily saw a need in her community after speaking with some of the local teachers and parents about a shortage on school supplies and how parents were struggling in the community. She had a few conversations with other community leaders, at which point they decided to organize a Backpack Drive to help the children in the community.  The first iteration of this was back in 2010 and about 200 students received back packs at the beginning of the school year that contained essential school supplies so they could start of the year right.  Fast forward to 2020, where 940 backpacks were distributed to students in a time of great need (aka COVID).  The fund has now grown significantly and has garnered support from community minded businesses such as The Haverstraw Elks, North Rockland Rotary, Sterling National Bank, O’Kane Enterprise, Pathway Capital Corp. and Orange & Rockland.   Because of this fund, which continues to spin off good in the community, a void and need were filled.  When I asked Emily recently “Why RCF” she laughed (and had a few pithy things to say to me!) and then shared the following….

I’m very blessed and thankful for the women & mentors who have been influential throughout my life and have left impressions within me.  I love organizing these events and giving back to our community but I can not take credit for any of this because there is no I in TEAM and this truly is a TEAM effort of volunteers, donors, sponsors, elected officials, my friends, family who I drive nuts prior to our annual event every year but the reward of seeing the SMILES on these kids faces getting a backpack filled with supplies, talking about school, seeing friends, is just PRICELESS.   

This year truly was a challenging one and we are so grateful we were able to make it happen because not only did smiles happen but we gave parents and children confidence during these uncertain times.  My personal life quote that I try to live by is  “Love what you do, Volunteer when you can” and I very proud that we did accomplish it for our Back-to-School Backpack Drive.” 

I really do love my job and its these types of stories that really keep me energized and passionate about the work we do at RCF.  Our mission really is to grow the face of philanthropy in Rockland and to help strengthen the power of giving.  Stay tuned for my next blog and feel free to reach out if your fund or another nonprofit related idea would like to be the focus of my next round of words and wisdom!