Help USA’s Annual Scholarship-Awards Luncheon for Domestic-Violence Survivors

The Group Gave 30 Survivors $5,000 Awards and Honored Several Others

By CARSON GRIFFITH
Dec. 5, 2014

2014 Annual Domestic Violence Scholarship Awards Luncheon The homeless-advocacy organization Help USA was founded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo but is currently run by his sister, Maria Cuomo Cole, and for good reason, said yet another sibling, Chris Cuomo.

“She’s the best in the family,” he said with a laugh. “Everyone knows it.”

Mr. Cuomo, a CNN anchor, was at the Plaza Hotel on Thursday for the organization’s scholarship-awards luncheon, an annual event that gave 30 domestic-violence survivors $5,000 awards to help them with housing, education and job training.

Mr. Cuomo lamented the tendency of the public to focus on “vogue-ish” social issues.

“Where helping the homeless was once seen as a cause célèbre, as well as a legitimate social issue, it has kind of lost some of its luster. Like, people are over it, even though the problem is more pronounced than ever,” Mr. Cuomo said. “That’s why you need to keep growing the network that cares.”

That is one of the reasons that Meredith Vieira, who MC-ed the luncheon alongside Alina Cho, decided to take part.

“Often you’re part of some sort of charity event, and you know money is being given, but you’re not really sure of what the outcome is,” said Ms. Vieira, a former “Today” anchor who now hosts her own daytime show. “Here, you see people who have had their lives turned around because of the efforts of this organization.”

Also in attendance were Macy’s Chief Executive Terry Lundgren , Theory CEO Andrew Rosen and Ms. Cuomo Cole’s husband, fashion designer Kenneth Cole.

Several executives were honored for their companies’ sponsorship of the scholarships, including Stacey Bendet, the CEO and creative director of fashion retailer Alice & Olivia, and Xerox’s CEO, Ursula Burns .

Help USA doesn’t publicize the names of its scholarship recipients since they are domestic-violence survivors.

“I grew up in a very challenging set of circumstances by most public perceptions,” said Ms. Burns during her acceptance speech. “I had three strikes against me: I was poor, I was black, and I was a woman.”

Although she wasn’t a recipient of Help USA’s services herself, her story represents what the organization strives for, Ms. Burns said.

“Opportunity plus hard work equals a shot at a better life,” she said.