Keith Pagnani, the new board chairman of POTS
By Janice Llanes Fabry
This year marks the 40th anniversary of POTS’ (Part of the Solution) service to communities in the Bronx. The nonprofit organization addresses the cycle of poverty that afflicts generations of families by alleviating their suffering from food and housing insecurity, as well as disparities in healthcare, education, and employment, in a welcoming and caring environment.
“POTS means a great deal to us and is improving the lives of so many of our less fortunate neighbors in the Bronx,” remarked longtime Rye resident and new board chair Keith Pagnani, who recently took the reins from fellow Rye resident and longtime board chair Mark Miller.
Founded in 1982 by Father Ned Murphy Sr., Jane Iannucelli, and Tim Boon, the nascent soup kitchen evolved into a shelter and, in the new millennium, began providing holistic services. Today, it is a leading provider of emergency food and social services in the borough, having provided 2,872,000 meals and helped nearly 36,000 individuals with a multitude of essential needs last year alone.
POTS’ three Programmatic Pillars are Dignity and Wellness, Food Security, and Long-Term Stability. Clients have access to hot showers, haircuts, medical, and dental services. They are offered nutritionally balanced meals from the community dining room and fresh groceries from the food pantry, as well as guidance for personal growth. A legal clinic is particularly instrumental in preventing eviction and securing economic stability through public benefits.
In addition to meeting the community’s immediate needs, POTS helps clients plan for a sustainable path. “Our principal goal is to bring people from crisis to stability and ultimately, self-sufficiency,” explained Pagnani. “In our new workforce development program, for example, our clients can acquire the skills necessary to enter and thrive in the workforce.”
Paramount to this full spectrum of services is preserving the integrity of each client. POTS grasps the complexities of poverty and acknowledges the full person.
“We are a family with an incredibly talented and cohesive management team and staff, who drive our mission. Clients entering our doors know they are entering a place where they will not only be able to access meals and an assortment of ‘upstairs services’, but they will be treated with love, respect and dignity and that’s what I believe is our secret sauce at POTS,” he said.
Pagnani, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell’s Mergers and Acquisitions Group and co-head of the firm’s Healthcare and Life Sciences Group in New York, shared that POTS is currently “embarking on significant programmatic and footprint expansions.”
Indeed, they are going full steam ahead with a current rebuild of their neighboring and original facility on Webster Avenue in addition to signing a 15-year lease for a nearby 10,000 square foot facility that will more than double their current space. Moreover, additional programs will be implemented, such as the new workforce initiative.
Pagnani, who has served on the board of New York United Hospital and various school boards over the years, began his altruistic journey decades ago when he and his brother, Rick, organized Thanksgiving Day touch football games. As he quipped, “Our games turned into an orthopedic surgeon’s dream come true, so we decided to turn to the more physically friendly game of golf.”
Soon after, he learned about POTS from one of its founders and has been involved ever since. “When Father Ned Murphy came to Resurrection to speak about POTS at a mass, the outpouring of support from this community was a significant game changer, from donations to volunteers to carving turkeys at Thanksgiving,” recalled Pagnani, who lives in Rye with his wife Katy and their four children, Kiernan (on POTS’ junior board), Keith Jr., Kristen, and Kyle.
Alas, the annual fundraising Thanksgiving POTS Gobbler Cup Golf Tournament at Westchester Country Club was born. Since 1990, it has raised over two million dollars. Today, as POTS Chair, he and the Board are involved in formulating and promoting strategic initiatives as well as being ambassadors for the organization within their communities and networks.
A fortieth anniversary celebration was held at Westchester Country Club this spring with nearly 400 guests in attendance. The gala raised $700,000 and the POTS Heart of Gold Award was presented to longtime advocates Mark and Mary Miller.
“With Resurrection as the linchpin, Rye has always been incredibly supportive. Although we so appreciate our Rye benefactors without whom we couldn’t do what we do, we also work to broaden the geographical reach of the organization and build-out our donor and volunteer base,” noted Pagnani. “I’m hoping there are a few more Ryes out there!”
To learn more about POTS, visit potsbronx.org, call 718 220-4892, or email email@example.com.