Dave Bolotsky spent his early years on the Lower East Side of New York City, where his grandfather once ran a candy store just a few blocks away. His father worked for the United Nations, so his family traveled extensively, and for as long as he can remember, he has been influenced by art, individual creativity and international cultures. He also found himself surrounded by animals at a young age, during his early jobs at nature centers and animal shelters.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he managed the school’s record store, he spent twelve years as a retail research analyst for Goldman, Sachs & Co. Not the typical Wall Street analyst; he also obtained a license to drive a pedicab and moonlighted as a bicycle taxi driver!
Finding the retail landscape of the late 1990s homogenized by mass-produced merchandise, Dave recognized an opportunity. Out of his interest in artistic creativity, individuality and social responsibility, he founded UncommonGoods in 1999. Dave is personally committed to improving education for less-advantaged young people. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of Comprehensive Development, Inc. (CDI), a non-profit organization that works with an innovative NYC public high school to provide tutoring, legal and medical advice, job placement, and homelessness prevention to its student body, which consists of 17-22 year-old students who are either previous drop-outs or recent immigrants to the U.S.
Florence Eng is the Senior Development Officer for the Women’s Refugee Commission. Based in the New York office, Florence manages the foundation, government and corporate fundraising relationships.
Florence has an extensive background in both the private and public sectors. A native New Yorker and a former board member of Manhattan’s Community Board 3, she began her career as a community organizer and tenant advocate in the Lower East Side and Chinatown for It’s Time, a grass roots community based organization. She then spent several years in marketing management, product and business development at Thomson Reuters, CareerMosaic and iVillage. She returned to the non-profit sector as the Senior Program Development Associate at Phipps CDC. Prior to joining the Women’s Refugee Commission, Florence was the Assistant Director for Foundation and Government Support for University Settlement Society of New York and its affiliate, The Door.
Florence graduated magna cum laude from Baruch College with a BBA. She was also awarded the CUNY Woman of Excellence by the CUNY Women’s Coalition. Florence lives in the East Village with her husband and three children.
(via New York Daily News)
His Harvard degree led him to a life in poverty.
David Garza‘s hero is his late single mother who raised him and two siblings in a Brooklyn apartment on Ninth St. in Park Slope, toiling as a nurse.
“My mother has been my greatest source of inspiration,” he says. “She raised three kids alone on a limited income and always made sure we had access to every opportunity in life.”
Garza’s older brother became a NYPD detective, and his kid sister became a public school teacher. When David graduated from Harvard, he came home to live on the same block he grew up on and today heads the Henry Street Settlement, the 114-year-old poverty program on the lower East Side.
“I wanted to go to Syracuse University and play football,” he says. “But I’d cracked my hip in Xaverian High.”
His guidance counselor said he had a 96 average and blew away the SATs and that he should apply for some big schools. So with some Brooklyn moxie, Garza applied to Harvard, Cornell, Brown, Duke, SUNY Binghamton and Syracuse.
To his amazement he was accepted into all six.
“My mother was my guiding light since my father walked out when I was 6,” he says. “I asked what I should do.”
The proud, hardworking single mother said, “Harvard.”
“We’d never looked at any of the colleges,” Garza says. “One September day, me and my neighborhood pals stood behind the marble monument of the Marquis de Lafayette on Ninth St. and Prospect Park West, smoking cigarettes. They said ‘Right on’ to me as I went away to Harvard.”
When Garza returned with a degree in psychology and social services in hand, he became a buyer for Macy’s, then did the same for Gap.
“I watched my mother struggle all her life, and so after getting a degree from an Ivy League school I believed that the measure of my success was in how much money I could earn,” he says. “But one day I thought: I’m selling jeans as a life. I don’t demean that, but it didn’t fulfill me. So I moved to TV, producing the New York Giants pregame show and for the Food Network. I felt blessed, like Forrest Gump. But it still didn’t fill up my soul.”
Then in 2000 Garza did two weeks of volunteer work in the restoration of St. Theresa’s Church on Henry St. on the lower East Side. “At the wrap dinner, I told the project coordinator that I’d had such a rewarding time volunteering that I wished I’d gone into social work, which I studied in school, instead of chasing dollar signs,” Garza says. “He said if I wanted to get into social services, I should talk to a guy across the room named Danny Kronenfeld, who ran Henry Street Settlement.”