Getting Things Up and Running
Carolyn Spector ('86) named executive director of Back on my Feet NYC
Carolyn Spector (’86) went on a run last Friday at 5:30 a.m. However, this was no solitary jog. Just three weeks into her executive director role, she was running with her new organization, Back on My Feet NYC.
Founded in Philadelphia by Anne Mahlum in 2007, Back on My Feet is a national nonprofit organization that uses running as a means to help build confidence, strength and self-esteem within the homeless and other underserved populations. The nine chapters throughout the U.S.—with New York City being the most recent to launch on April 10, 2012—aim for self-sufficiency through a program requiring residential members (individuals experiencing homelessness) to run three days a week at 5:30 a.m.
Groups led by volunteers, or non-residential members, meet at each homeless facility (five in New York City) to accompany the residential members, ensuring sure no one runs alone. If a residential member maintains 90% attendance during these morning runs, he or she has the opportunity to move into the “Next Steps” phase, during which Back on My Feet adds job training, employment and financial aid to the mix, all with the end goal of moving members out of the homeless facility and into a self-sufficient living situation.
“When I saw Back on My Feet, I said, ‘Finally, this is an innovative, truly unique approach to working with the homeless population,’” says Spector.
Spector joins Back on My Feet after spending the past 15 years in the non-for-profit sector, founding organizations such as Walk to End Domestic Violence, Worldwide Children’s Foundation of NY, and Mission: Restore. However, she came to BU School of Law with the intention of becoming an assistant DA.
“I was fortunate enough after graduating law school to find a job at the Cambridge District Attorney’s office,” Spector recounts. “I realized through that experience that my personality was much more oriented to the social work field than the legal field. So I decided I would rather work to help people who needed assistance rather than put people in jail,” Spector said.
Ms. Spector then went on to teaching law at Northeastern University for a few years before moving to New York City, and the non-profit world, in the early 90’s.Her legal skills often came in handy in her work. For example, she used her legal knowledge to do the 501(c)(3) paperwork required to establish an organization as tax-exempt.
“There’s a lot of opportunity that comes from having a law degree. It gives you the opportunity to explore other avenues,” notes Spector. “It lends tremendous credibility to who I am—especially when they find out where I went to law school.”
Today, at Back on My Feet, Ms. Spector finds her motivation in witnessing the transformation that takes place as the residential members in the program progress. In the six months since Back on My Feet NYC launched, 91% of residential members have moved into the “Next Steps” phase, which is 9% above the average for all Back on My Feet chapters.
“The people who become part of our program are really committed to moving their lives forward. We’re not asking them to take huge steps; we just want to see them moving forward with their goals and have the ability to progress,” Spector says.
Back on My Feet has chapters in cities across the U.S, including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Chicago and New York among others. Back on My Feet NYC is currently looking for people to serve on its Advisory Board and for volunteers. For more information,please visit nyc.backonmyfeet.org.
Reported by Elyssa Sternberg
October 30, 2012