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Hour Children announces retirement of founder Sister Tesa Fitzgerald

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Hour Children founder Sister Tesa Fitgerald (left) has stepped down as executive director and Dr. Alethea Taylor (right) will take over the Long Island City-based organization. (Photos courtesy of Hour Children)

Hour Children, the Long Island City-based provider of services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children in New York state, announced Monday, Jan. 3, that founder and executive director Sister Tesa Fitzgerald has stepped down from her leadership role after 30 years.

Dr. Alethea Taylor, who formerly served as a distinguished doctoral lecturer with Hunter College School of Education and as the executive director of Greenhope Services for Women, will succeed Sister Tesa as executive director.

“I welcome Alethea with an open heart and the utmost support as she assumes leadership of Hour Children,” Sister Tesa said. “It is a sacred and honored role to be of service to Hour families and to grow Hour programs inside prisons and in the community.”

In 1986, Sister Tesa helped develop a home in Long Island City for children whose mothers were incarcerated, and Hour Children was born of the realization that the mothers she was visiting would need additional support if they were to successfully reunite with their children after their release. In 1992, Hour Children was incorporated and is now the leading provider of prison- and community-based family services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children.

In 2014, Sister Tesa was honored at the White House as one of President Barack Obama’s “Champions of Change.” During her tenure, Hour Children grew to include six communal homes, three apartment houses and two housing partnerships — all welcoming respites where mothers and children could reunite and thrive together.

“The mission that Sister Tesa started is phenomenal. As executive director, I will work with the board of directors, staff, clients, advocates and the community to assure Hour Children is the organization people consult when they think about advocacy, housing and services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and families,” Dr. Taylor said. “We will continue to help advance the fight to end mass incarceration of women. The mission has not changed, the commitment has not changed, but we still have much work to do. I am honored to continue Sister Tesa’s legacy.”

Consistent with Hour Children’s mission, Dr. Taylor brings more than 20 years of experience serving incarcerated or formerly incarcerated women. She is a member of The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and serves as a consultant with the New York Women’s Foundation on its Justice Fund initiative. A graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Dr. Taylor holds a doctorate in Rehabilitation Counseling as well as a master’s degree from NYU in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling.

“Sister Tesa’s passion and dedication to this cause is equal parts inspiring and commendable, and we’re excited to continue and expand her work as Dr. Taylor steps in to lead, build and move this organization forward,” said M. Jane Stanicki, board chair at Hour Children.

The nonprofit provides prison-based services such as infant nurser, transportation and visiting programs and parenting education and advocacy. Community programming includes supportive housing, job training, childcare support, mentoring for children, a community food pantry and Hour Children Thrift Shops to benefit the organization’s work.

For more information, call 718-433-4724 or visit hourchildren.org.

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