Amy Hagedorn, Leading Philanthropist, Dies

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Amy PhotoOne of Floral Park’s leading citizens died last week. Amelia Maiello Hagedorn, founder of The Hagedorn Foundation, a major funder of organizations that help children, families and immigrants, died on Sept. 8 at her home in Floral Park.

“Amy lived most of her life in Great Neck and Port Washington and the past few years in Floral Park,” said Susan Hagedorn, the deceased stepdaughter. “Amy has been one of Long Island’s most sustaining and beloved citizens. She was a great woman.”

“For years, Amy had struggled valiantly with lymphocytic leukemia, until her condition worsened in recent weeks and she died, surrounded by her family,” said Liz Axelrod, grants manager for the Roslyn-based foundation. “Her death, just short of her 80th birthday, is a source of immense sadness to her family, her friends, and her colleagues at the foundation. Her life has been a source of pride for all of them, an inspiration for the organizations her philanthropy has helped, a comfort to a long line of people she has helped personally.”

In 1995, Horace and Amy Hagedorn started their original fund at the Long Island Community Forum. In the past two decades, it has been an amazing success, giving $65,403,917 in nearly 2,985 grants to more than 500 nonprofit organizations. On the heels of that success, Amy Hagedorn, in 2005, started The Hagedorn Foundation. That fund has been similarly successful, giving $49,438,800 in 689 grants to more than 175 nonprofits whose work directly benefits Long Island.

In the realm of education, Hagedorn, according to Axelrod, delighted in the achievements of Hagedorn-aided scholars at Baruch College of the City University of New York and the Urban Sustainability Program at Queens College, her alma maters. On Long Island, Hagedorn was proud of the Community Action Learning and Leadership (CALL) Program at SUNY Old Westbury and The Social Justice Institute at Farmingdale State College.

Other organizations that Hagedorn supported included Miracle-Gro Kids, a program named after the gardening product that was the source of Horace Hagedorn’s wealth, The Opening Word, Littig House, Herstory, The Women’s Fund of Long Island, The Parent Child Home Program and CARECEN among many others.

“Amy was not born to wealth, but when it came her way through marriage to Horace, she knew what to do with it: She chose to give it away through a foundation with a limited life span, making grants of meaningful size, to bring about real change on Long Island—change that she could witness in her lifetime,” Axelrod said. “Amy knew what kind of help she wanted Hagedorn money to bring to society, because she was well acquainted, through her own life and family history, with the kinds of help that people need, the kinds of obstacles they face every day. Amy’s understanding of families and children arose not only from her own mothering, but also from her years of teaching preschool children. So the foundation that bears her name has focused for more than a decade on children and parents. She believed deeply in the pivotal importance of early childhood education as an investment in the adults of the future. And she believed in the need for parents to advocate more effectively in the public arena for their children. Her support of parent leadership training and development has helped provide intensive advocacy and organizing training for parents.

“Her foundation has also worked tirelessly on behalf of immigrants. At a time of poisonously growing American nativism, Amy has led the foundation in spending millions to ease their integration into a too-often hostile culture. Her deep familiarity with their plight flowed not from abstract political argument, but from lived reality. Her mother came to America as an immigrant, and Amy grew up with stories of her family’s hard work and struggles in a country new to them. It was typical of her concern for immigrants that Amy and the foundation hired Joselo Lucero as outreach coordinator. In 2008, a group of high school students, intent on attacking anyone who even looked like a Latino, killed Joselo’s older brother, Marcelo. Now Joselo spends his time speaking with groups of students about the dangers of intolerance and bullying. In effect, he is Amy’s representative in the schools, a living extension of her deep kindness. His goal is to use his own personal experience to avert future hate crimes against immigrants.

“The breadth of her interests was stunning,” Axelrod concluded. “One of her original interests was Sustainable Long Island, designed to promote planning and development that protected the environment, developed the economy and fostered equity for people of all backgrounds. She had a passion for social justice and civic engagement and on Long Island was especially involved in promoting equity and systems of care for children and families in neighborhoods such as Roosevelt, Wyandanch, Central Islip and Riverhead. In addition to her deep devotion to early childhood education, she felt strongly about better health care for families and children, and she served with distinction on the board of Northwell Health.”

Hagedorn is survived by her four children, as well as Horace Hagedorn’s six children, 34 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren. A public memorial service will take place in October. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, those who wish to express condolences make a contribution to the Horace and Amy Hagedorn Fund at the New York Community Trust.

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Joe Scotchie is the editor of both The Roslyn News. In 2009, he won a New York State Press Association (NYPA) award for a sports feature. Joseph Scotchie’s past publications include biographies of Thomas Wolfe and Richard Weaver and a comprehensive history of the city of Asheville, North Carolina.

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