The World Trade Center Fund: 10 Years Later

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As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we’re reminded not just of the tragic events of that day, but also of the resolute spirit of New Yorkers. In the days and months after the attacks, New Yorkers were galvanized to rebuild and help each other return to a sense of normalcy. The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) was one of the first organizations to provide emergency assistance through its World Trade Center Relief Fund, offering immediate aid, long-term care and youth development programming. More than 5,000 individuals and families turned to CAS for emergency cash assistance, mental health and grief counseling, legal assistance, healthcare referrals, job training and other services to help them through that difficult time. 

The months that followed gave way to stories like that of Luis Velez, an airline food service worker. The attacks crippled the airline industry, and even after commercial travel resumed, food service on most aircraft was suspended, leaving many workers, like Luis, without jobs. But the World Trade Center Relief Fund, through partnerships with unions, was there to help.

With some initial job training, Children’s Aid was able to help Luis obtain immediate part-time employment. With additional assistance, Luis was able to secure a second part-time job, helping him support his wife and two grown daughters. Later, when a position became available for a building superintendent at one of CAS’ program locations, the World Trade Center Relief Fund provided Luis with the opportunity to earn the necessary certifications for the job. After a competitive interview process, the center director found Luis to be the most qualified candidate for the job.

“Children’s Aid has given me every opportunity and everything I have right now—from college to a part-time job to my position as a full-time superintendent,” said Velez. 

The World Trade Center Fund also allowed Children’s Aid to open its Hope Leadership Academy, designed to assist and encourage youth who have been traumatized by tragedy and violence. Through a series of initiatives, students at Hope learn leadership techniques that empower them to become helpers, rather than victims.

Ashley, one of the Hope Leadership Academy’s first participants, became an active peer educator and discovered her passion for helping others. Now a college graduate, Ashley works as a Child Life Specialist.  “I love being the person children and families can turn to when they are having a difficult time coping,” Ashley said.  “I received that support from Hope and wish to pass it along. Hope made all the teens feel that the future was bright and even today—ten years later—young people are still being helped.”