Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Great Loss

It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of Janet Sainer, one of our great friends. Janet died June 3 in Denver after being hospitalized during the Brookdale Relatives As Parents Program conference. Although her health had been precarious for some time, the death of such a vibrant, committed leader comes as a shock to us all. This picture, which I cherish, shows Janet and I at the ASA/NCOA conference earlier this year. Thanks to Paul Kleyman sending me a copy - it was taken by Bob Levy at the President's Reception. It's great to have such a special memory on film.

Janet's involvement in the intergenerational field began with her career as a social worker in New York in the early 1950s. She joined the Community Service Society of New York, where she began engaging seniors as resources, based on her hypothesis that many seniors would volunteer to do valuable service if given the opportunity. In 1965, Janet developed a program called Serve and Enrich Retirement by Volunteer Experience (SERVE). Recruiting volunteers for her program from nearby senior centers on Staten Island, NY, Janet began introducing older adults to people with developmental disabilities.

Janet's book, "SERVE" documented the success of her program and served as the platform on which she testified before Congress to get funding for paid staff to develop volunteer programs. SERVE grew into the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and Janet is often referred to as the grandmother of RSVP, which now exists in over 700 sites across the U.S.

Janet's work brought her to the attention of the Mayor. When Ed Koch was elected Mayor of New York City, he appointed Janet to serve as Commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging, a position she held from 1978-1990. During her tenure, Janet was responsible for starting and expanding many critical programs and services for seniors. She established the New York City Alzheimer’s Resource Center, the first municipal center in the nation to provide free counseling and referral services for Alzheimer’s Disease patients and families, and initiated the annual Mayoral Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease, which continues to this day. She also created new linkages among the public, private, and voluntary sectors through the nationally known Citymeals-on-Wheels program, which provides additional meals for the elderly homebound on weekends and holidays. In addition, she developed the Stay-Well health promotion program, minority enhancement services, and a number of intergenerational programs.

Most recently, Janet was a Special Consultant to the Brookdale Foundation, a relationship which began during her years with the City. She focused primarily on the issue of grandparents and other relatives raising children.

Generations United has had the good fortune of partnering with Janet and Brookdale since the mid-nineties, when the issue of grandparents and other relatives raising children began to gain national attention. To the staff of GU, Janet has become more that just a partner, she has become a wonderful friend and part of the GU family. It has been an honor for all of us to work with such an amazing woman and pioneer in the intergenerational field.

She is our hero.


Pat Owens said...

GrandFamilies of America was saddened to learn of the passing of Janet Sainer, one of the greatest advocates for relatives raising relative children this country has seen. Advocacy by and for those grandparents and relatives raising relative children is being done on many levels through out this country. Many have made monumental contributions resulting in significant changes for this population, but most likely, the contributions made possible by the advocacy and financial support provided by Janet Sainer to the population of relatives raising relative children cannot be surpassed or adequately expressed. Through her unfailing support, she made it possible to take this advocacy to a level that would not have been otherwise possible. Our sincere condolences to her family and foundation members.

Kristie Lund said...

The Kinship Care community has experienced a monumental loss in the passing of Janet Sainer. As an advocate and role model for so many of us, she will be sadly missed.
Sincere condolences to her family and foundation.
Kristie Lund for the Relatives As Parents Project, Kent, WA

Anne Pierce said...

Grandparents Parenting . . . Again joins the others posting here in giving condolences to the family of Janet Sainer and Generations United for their loss of a very vital member of their community and ours. I know that she will be sadly missed.
Anne Pierce for Grandparents Parenting . . . Again; Santa Rosa, CA

Debbie Fales said...

GrandParens United DE, send our sincere condolences to her family, Generation United members and every grandparent raising a grandchild. Her legacy she left to all will not be forgotten and will continue by the strength she has given each of us through her devoted efforts and work to break the barriers that grandparents have had over the last 10 years. She will always be with us in spirit of what we do for our grandparents raising grandchildren.
Debbie Fales V.P. on behalf of
GrandParents United DE.Inc.