Mount Vernon Man Finds Calling, Career
Working with the Homeless
Meet the executive director of HELP USA Mount Vernon
February 1, 2017 | By
Thirty-seven years ago, Tony Laud moved with his family from Jamaica to New York City, hoping to enjoy the great American dream. They moved to the Bronx, and soon after relocated to Mount Vernon. Laud began working in the retail fashion industry.
But his life would soon change when he found his calling.
Each day as he walked to the train to commute to his Madison Avenue job, Laud would notice a quaint, two-story, brick-faced building on Franklin Avenue in Mount Vernon. Curious, he asked an employee about the building, and discovered it was a shelter that temporarily houses the homeless.
He was so moved by this revelation that he quit his job, and sought work as a family care monitor (essentially, assisting with security) at the facility.
“I wanted to work with the homeless and give back to this great country,” Laud says. “So I made Westchester County not only my home, but my work, and my life!”
Since those early days, he has risen through the ranks at the facility, which is known as HELP USA Mount Vernon and operated by the nonprofit HELP USA. He became a security supervisor, then Director of Safety, then Director of Operations, and then temporary Executive Director of the facility when the Director passed away.
“I loved my job, and I approached HELP USA’s CEO and President and said, “I think it’s my turn to lead the Mount Vernon facility’,” Laud recalls. “And he said, ‘I agree. It’s your turn and you are quite capable!’” Laud then stepped into the Executive Director’s shoes in 2011.
During his tenure, he has overseen the building’s 46 units, which house up to 184 individuals (adults and children), who stay there for up to six months. He has built relationships with nearby community organizations and religious institutions, to help with support services such as after school care for homeless children while their parents work and/or attend life building programs.
“I have known and worked with Tony for almost a quarter of a century,” said HELP USA President and CEO Thomas Hameline. “During his long career at HELP, he has always put the organization first, showing the highest integrity and the utmost dedication to our residents. We are lucky to have him as part of the HELP USA family.”
When budgetary belt-tightening erased county funds for a recreation program, he reached out to a local church to host the program there so kids could also get afterschool help with homework and have a place to exercise. He established a relationship with Westchester County Harvest to supply food to his residents, and with another church to present gifts to kids during the holidays.
“I wanted to change the stigma of a homeless shelter in a community as a negative and turn it around to a positive,” he says. “This shelter is looked upon as a beacon in the community.”
Mount Vernon City Council Member Lisa Copeland has worked with Laud on coat and book drives to support occupants.
“Tony Laud is committed as much to the families who stay there as he is to his own family,” she said. “He is certainly someone who has invested a lot because he cares, and you don’t often get that. He makes you very comfortable, and he’s well-respected.”
Last spring, the Mount Vernon Seventh-Day Adventist Church presented him with a plaque of appreciation because of his work in the community.
“I want to make a difference in a positive way in the lives of the less fortunate,” he says.
Laud never forgets where he came from, and his generosity extends to his homeland. Every two years, he returns to St. Catherine’s in Jamaica to bring clothing and supplies to local clinics and hospitals.
“Growing up was a struggle. We pretty much lived paycheck-to- paycheck,” he says. “Now I am able to sit in the chair as Executive Director, and I have achieved so much, but I want to give back.”
Each morning, he makes the same half-mile walk that he has for 28 years, knowing that he is making a difference.
This story is courtesy of the Mount Vernon NY Patch news site.