Meet Our New Mission Partner: Search and Care

Brian Kravitz (in jacket) with the Search and Care team.

This is the third in a series of five articles on the new mission partners approved by the Session in January. See our full list of mission partners here.

The story of Search and Care starts in the early 1970s on the Upper East Side. The Rev. Clarke Oler wondered why he hadn't seen one of his elderly parishioners lately at Church of the Holy Trinity. The woman would soon be found in her apartment, where she had died alone.

Oler knew this was not an isolated case, the tragic story of one woman who had slipped through the social safety net. Many elderly New Yorkers were living on limited incomes, with few family or other support, and little access to the social services that would help them keep their homes and continue to live independently.

In partnership with social worker Suzannah Chandler, Oler created an outreach program that eventually evolved into Search and Care, a nonprofit agency to provide at-risk older adults with the professional  resources and referrals they need to maintain their quality of life and peace of mind.

"What that history demonstrates is that you can never rely solely on public services, or on simply pulling yourself up by the bootstraps," says Brian Kravitz, Search and Care's executive director since 2006. "Today we have a staff of 25, but we rely heavily on our partners, particularly our faith partners, to help us provide exemplary and compassionate care."

Now approaching its 45th anniversary, Search and Care has grown from an initial 72 clients to nearly 1,000 today. Although most live in the Yorkville, Carnegie Hill and East Harlem neighborhoods, about 20% live in other parts of Manhattan. The agency never turns away a request for assistance, does not charge for its services, and does not discriminate based on income. Kravitz adds that, unlike any other agency in the city, Search and Care has no waiting list—new clients can receive services immediately.

"Filling a need for people who might otherwise slip through the net is very much what FAPC's Outreach Ministries are about," says Debbie Mullins, a member of the Mission Partner Committee, who evaluated and recommended Search and Care. "A good example is our Meals on Heels program, which provides home-cooked meals on Saturdays to elderly residents who might not otherwise have food for the weekend. We suspect that many of our Meals on Heels clients are also Search and Care clients."

Given the alignment of our missions, a partnership between FAPC and Search and Care makes good sense—and is hardly a new idea. Search and Care received FAPC benevolence grants for a number of years before the mission partner model was put in place in 2013. And it is a longtime recipient of benevolence funds from FAPC's Women's Association.

As a mission partner, Search and Care will receive three years of funding from FAPC as we develop a covenant that identifies how our financial and volunteer resources can best support the agency's needs.

"We are hoping for something much greater than just a financial relationship with Fifth Avenue," Kravitz says. "We would love to develop intergenerational relationships. One possibility might be youth doing home visitations with their parents during the holiday season. A visit like that can make someone's entire holiday."

Search and Care works with several local congregations (including Brick Presbyterian, Madison Avenue Presbyterian and Temple Emanu-El), whose volunteers escort clients on neighborhood walks and medical appointments, assist them with pet care, create gift bags and help out in the office.

"Our organizational roots started in a church, so we find these faith-based relationships particularly fruitful," Kravitz says. "Faith-based partners understand our agency's mission and share common values of benevolence, altruism, a respect for the human condition, and helping every older person as an individual."

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