50 Years of BronxWorks – Recognizing Kathryn Speller

A woman sitting at a desk. There are two graphics added, one is the BronxWorks logo and one is a graphic that says "50 Years". There is text at the bottom that says "Supporting the Bronx since 1972"
Former BronxWorks Clerical Aide Kathryn Speller, seen here in 2012.

Our organization would not have thrived for the past 50 years without some incredibly dedicated staff. During our last milestone in honor of our 40th Anniversary, we recognized retiring Clerical Aide Kathryn Speller for her lifelong dedication to public service. Now 90 years young, Ms. Speller continues to advocate for young women in the Bronx and children & youth in any way she can.

Ms. Speller spent her life dedicated to the people of the Bronx. She moved her family to the borough from Harlem in 1968 in the midst of public school desegregation and then spent time working for the NYC Department of Health Bureau of Pest Control, where she became their union representative, kicking off a long career of advocacy. She later worked at her Community Board, and it was during those years she became very familiar with BronxWorks, then called Citizens Advice Bureau or CAB. She developed a close relationship with then-Executive Director Carolyn McLaughlin.

Ms. Speller says today, “When I was on the community board, Carolyn was our go-to person. CAB was the only agency doing what they do in the Bronx when we were recovering from the days of the Bronx burning in the 1970s.” She remembers when the Morris Senior Center in her community was under threat to close, saying, “The community was having a meeting that they were going to close the senior center, and everyone said ‘No, we’re going to Citizens Advice Bureau’. Carolyn went to the board and got the proposal to run the center. No matter what we asked Carolyn and CAB to do, they at the very least looked into it and frequently got answers to the questions and problems we had.”

Shortly after retiring from her job at the Community Board, she reached out to Carolyn and joined Citizens Advice Bureau in 1996, working for our organization for 16 years. Looking back on her time as an employee, she remembers current Executive Director Eileen Torres when she first joined the organization. “I remember Eileen, I came to work here when she was just finishing law school. Just to see what this young lady has done since she became the Executive Director of such a great organization, I’m so proud of her. Her leadership has been so fantastic.”

She also sends a message to all the staff of BronxWorks: “I wish everyone at BronxWorks a happy 50th Anniversary. Keep doing what you’re doing, helping the community from the young people to the old people. Here’s to another 50 years.”

The success and longevity of our agency is due to all the thoughtful, dedicated, and amazing staff, like Ms. Speller, who have come through these doors. Meet some more of our incredible staff and read more stories like this.

To see the original story written for our 40th Anniversary, click here.

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