The NYC Department of Veterans' Services aims to connect transitioning veterans and veterans experiencing isolation to their veteran peers as well as their local community. This section provides resources for veterans looking to join their local community boards, access veteran identification, or participate in NYC's Veterans Advisory Board meetings. The page also features valuable data on the demographics of the veteran community.
The DVS Veteran Community Changemaker Series is our way of highlighting Veterans, spouses/caregivers, civilian volunteers, and other practitioners who actively support the NYC Veteran community. Each month NYC's Department of Veterans' Services will honor two New York City Veteran champions with a certificate and feature in our newsletter and on social media.
September's Veteran Changemaker Honorees are Mercedes Elias and Wilfred L. Cotto. Mercedes Elias served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2007 to 2016, completing a combat tour in Afghanistan in 2011. Afterwards, she quickly found her place in finance, becoming CEO of AmeriVet Securities–a service disabled, Veteran-owned broker-dealer on Wall Street. In 2020 she was appointed by the Mayor to serve a 3-year term on the Veteran Advisory Board. Wilfred L. Cotto served in the Navy from 1977 to 2005 completing multiple deployments in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, ENDURING FREEDOM, and IRAQI FREEDOM. Currently he serves as the Manager of Borough of Manhattan Community College's (BMCC) Veterans Resource Center coordinating outreach, recruitment and retention efforts, programs and services for the college's student Veterans population.
This June, our Changemaker Honorees are Elizabeth L. Hillman and Matt Butler. Elizabeth L. Hillman served in the Unites States Air Force as a space operations officer and history instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Hillman is currently the President and CEO of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, President of Mills College in California, and serves as an appointed chair of the U.S. Department of Defense Military Justice Review Panel. Matt Butler is a retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant and is the current Director of Military and Veterans' Services at Fordham University. In his work at Fordham, Butler mentors, advocates on behalf of, and organizes a robust ensemble of student Veterans who have been repeatedly nominated for excellence at the national level by Student Veterans of America(SVA).
For May, our Changemaker Honorees are Chaplain Marisa Estrella and Sharon Sweeting-Lindsay. Chaplain Marisa Estrella served in the U.S. Army from 1997 to 2006, and began focusing on helping Veterans who are or at risk of becoming houseless. With her passion, she founded Bronx-based Worldwide Veterans and Family Services, which aims to empower and provide Veterans with an array of services like: emergency funds, job training and placement, counseling, and housing assistance. Sharon Sweeting-Lindsay served 26 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, becoming a Major and retiring. For the past 5 years, she has operated a Veteran food pantry out of the Rosedale American Legions Post in Queens, striving to ensure Veterans are not subjected to food insecurity.
April's Veteran Changemaker Honorees are Viviana Decohen and Rev. Dr. Jacob Kelly. Viviana DeCohen, affectionately called "Mama V", became the Director of the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services in December of 2021, which has now officially become a full agency as NYS Department of Veterans' Services. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Mama V has dedicated her time and talent to assisting veterans by ensuring they have: food, shelter, clothing, education, employment, and a little motivation. Rev. Dr. Jacob Kelly served over 25 years on reserve and active duty as an Army officer in the military. After his service, he was hired as the Senior Army Instructor for the cadet leadership program at Eastside High School located in Paterson, NJ. After growing the program to the largest cadet leadership program in NJ, he was hired as the Senior Army Instructor for the prestigious St. Francis Xavier High School’s leadership program in New York City.
Let's take a moment to congratulate our March Veteran Community Changemaker Honorees—Wendy McClinton and John Rowan. A decorated Army Veteran—Wendy served during the Desert Storm Persian Gulf Era and is now the President/CEO of Black Veterans for Social Justice. John is an Air Force Veteran who served as a linguist during the Vietnam War and served eight terms as the National President of the Vietnam Veterans for America. Both Honorees are also members of the NYC Veterans Advisory Board and wholly committed to making sure those who serve our country receive the care and respect they have earned.
For the inaugural edition of our Honoring Veteran Community Changemakers series, we are celebrating two of our own—Donee Smalls and Terrance Holliday. A former supply sergeant for the U.S. Army, Donee now serves the New York City Veteran community as a Community Coordinator for our agency. Terrance a.k.a. Terry is a retired Air Force Colonel and the former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Veterans' Affairs. Please join us in congratulating them as our inaugural Veteran Community Changemakers!
Do you know someone who could be the next NYC DVS Veteran Community Cangemaker? Could it be you? The Department of Veterans' Services is looking to you for nominations! All applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis and we do accept self-nominations. Submit your nomination today!