The Community Service Award was given to Karen C. Altfest, executive vice president of Altfest Personal Wealth Management in New York, for helping to create and support the Yorkville Common Pantry.
This food pantry in Manhattan, founded in 1980, provides 25,000 people a year with hot meals, nutrition education and help finding public assistance, as well as offering referrals for long-term housing.
The pantry provides 2 million meals a year, and its menu of personal services includes haircuts, mail and laundry — “all things the rest of us take for granted,” Ms. Altfest said.
The $20,000 award from the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation “will help YCP meet the needs of our guests” and comes at a time when the organization is seeing increasing needs and decreasing grants, she said.
Ms. Altfest said that she co-founded the organization when she and others “saw people digging in dumpsters on the Upper East Side some 30 years ago — when we were told such people did not exist in our community — and felt we had to take action.”
Although she hoped to make a dent in the number of hungry people in her neighborhood, she didn't foresee the pantry's becoming a major force in the community.
Ms. Altfest only wishes that there weren't still such a need for the pantry's services.
She attributes her dedication to assisting others to her mother, who helped start the Cancer Research Society in Montreal.
“My mother taught me that waiting and watching wasn't enough, and sympathizing wasn't enough. Making a hands-on difference in our community is what counts in our lives every day,” Ms. Altfest said.
Ms. Altfest, who still acts as a senior adviser and fundraiser for the pantry, incorporates her advisory business into her philanthropic work by making a contribution to the charity whenever clients refer her firm to their friends or family.