New Yorker of the Week: Donna Edwards

In The Media

April 11, 2022

Watch the full video here

Behind this huge desk at the nonprofit Institute for Community Living’s supportive housing residence sits a power house all her own. Donna Edwards’ official job might be staffing the front desk, but in this building, many residents refer to her as “mom.”

“She doesn’t give up on people, because she knows what it’s taken for them to get to this point,” ICL Senior Vice President Jose Cotto said with a smile

What You Need To Know

    • Donna Edwards does so much more than run the front desk at the nonprofit ICL. She’s taken it upon herself to check in on all the residents and make sure their days are going well, adding a personal touch to the residents’ care
    • Edwards wants to see individuals succeed, and is thrilled to celebrate all success, no matter how small it may seem
    • Edwards feels helping those struggling with mental health issues and addiction is her life’s calling

With her brightly colored wardrobe and an even brighter smile, Donna brings light to the lives of the 37 residents struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

She’s not just around to check residents in and out of the building and get them on their way to appointments. Donna goes one step further, leaving her seat at the front desk to check in on residents. It’s a personal bond she’s created with people she sees more as family.

“I didn’t like her because she was jumping on me too much,” said Charlene Cunningham, a resident of the facility. “Then after I got used to being around her, used to her routine, then I fell in love with her.”

“That’s my calling, because I love to help people. I love the underdog. I love someone who I see is struggling and I’ll be like ‘Okay, let’s do this, you can do this,’” Edwards said.

It’s a mission Edwards knew she was called to be part of after her dad died.

“That made me realize how easily someone can get into a deep stage of depression,” Edwards said, remembering her own struggle. “It’s humbled me in many ways. More so to understand why someone stays on substance or why someone is addicted to alcohol.”

For four years, Edwards could be found working at every hour of the day or night.

“Sometimes when they can’t sleep in the night and they come down, they just want to talk. And you just continue to listen to and encourage them and to let them know that, it can happen for you. It can change,” Edwards said.

And when that change happens and residents move on to a new location, Edwards can’t help celebrating.

“It’s gratifying for me to see someone move on and become better. It’s like, hallelujah!” Edwards said with a smile.

For bringing everyone in as family in her fight against mental health and addiction, Donna Edwards is our New Yorker of the Week.

Related Posts