Best known for their work in keeping New York City’s streets clean, more than 400 of the formerly homeless “men in blue” graduated from The Doe Fund’s award-winning Ready, Willing & Able program at its graduation ceremony last Thursday. After the graduates – most of whom wore caps and gowns for the first time – received certificates and medals, they threw their caps into the air to signify the end of the ceremony and the beginning of their new lives.
More than 1000 friends, family, and Doe Fund supporters were on hand at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Wallace Hall in Manhattan to mark the occasion.
George McDonald, Founder and President of The Doe Fund, reflected on the classes’ success. "How incredible to see 400 of you, more than ever, standing here this evening at the entry point of the rest of your lives,” he said. “You worked hard for this moment; from early mornings with the Community Improvement Project to late nights in the computer lab, you committed to your own future and the future of your family each and every day this year. Tonight you graduate with the ability to look forward rather than back. Harriet and I are so proud of each and every one of you. Congratulations."
“Each of you has in the past year successfully secured employment, and in that successfully secured you and your family’s futures," said Seth Diamond, Commissioner of the NY Department of Homeless Services. "There is no greater building block, no greater way to improve oneself, than a good job, upon which one can continue to grow and further develop.”
George Williams, a 2013 graduate who exchanged a life of incarceration and drug abuse for one of family and employment, said, “I learned that you can live the life you’ve dreamed of. George McDonald had a dream of what should be, and I am thankful that I was afforded the opportunity to be a part of his dream. Today though, I have dreams and goals of my own and I know I will reach them!”
The ceremony also featured a sermon by Alfonso Wyatt, Doe Fund Board Member and Former Associate Minister of the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York.
An elaborate gourmet reception catered by the Ready, Willing & Able Culinary Arts followed the ceremony. Culinary Arts is one of several occupational training tracks in which Ready, Willing & Able trainees can gain marketable skills that help them secure full-time employment. Others include pest control, commercial driving, and energy efficient building maintenance.