A Life Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Others: A Profile of William R. Guarinello
This year, HeartShare celebrates its centennial anniversary, and, as William (Bill) Guarinello reflects on the agency’s dedication to New York’s at-risk community, he is proud of his leadership. Currently, HeartShare provides services to over 29,000 children, adults and families at over 65 program locations throughout Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Upstate New York. HeartShare continues to enhance its programs and facilities to better serve those communities.
The big news this month is that HeartShare Human Services of New York officially announced its affiliation with St. Vincent’s Services. St. Vincent’s Services now will be known as HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services (HSVS) and the third largest provider of children’s services in New York City.
Bill Guarinello continues to lead HeartShare as President and CEO of the organization. “With similar histories and strongly aligned programmatic goals, our two organizations will leverage shared expertise and resources to serve at-risk New Yorkers more effectively and more efficiently. As HeartShare begins its second century of service, I very much look forward to this strategic affiliation that we believe will enhance the lives of the children, adults and families in our care,” stated Bill Guarinello, HeartShare’s President and Chief Executive Officer.
Upon his graduation from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, HeartShare, formally known as Catholic Guardian Society of Brooklyn and Queens, hired Bill as a social worker. In 1970, social work was not a very popular field for men, but, with a degree in psychology, it seemed a good opportunity to grow his career at a well-respected organization.
Always willing to accept more responsibility, Bill ascended the ranks at HeartShare. One specific assignment that was a real challenge was the daunting task of opening a new family counseling office in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The agency recognized a need in that neighborhood for the services it offered, but didn’t have the financial resources to put towards it. After months of searching for real estate, Bill identified office space that met the agency’s needs, and budget. Although the space only accommodated one desk, it was enough to get the family counseling program started, which currently helps hundreds of families every year.
Following the expose’ of the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island in 1977, and with his recent success on the family counseling project, Bill was charged with developing program sites for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Within two years, HeartShare was operating two group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities—one for young men and one for children. Since then, 27 group homes and more than 20 supportive apartments, four early childhood centers, one school-age program for those diagnosed with autism, one evaluation center for children, 10 adult day programs, a variety of family support programs and a medical clinic have been opened under his leadership.
In 1985, Bill was named Executive Director, and promoted to President and CEO in 1991. Since then, HeartShare has continued to expand its programs to meet the changing needs of the community, and remain a vital resource for children, adults and families of all backgrounds.
“I believe in a team-based approach to running the agency, and I have a good, strong team behind me. I was given the ability to put my imprint on something by my supervisors, and I am trying to do the same thing now,” noted Bill. “Every year has been an adventure; it never gets boring. Before I knew it, 10 years had gone by, then 20, and now I’ve been here over 40 years. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”
In addition to his work at HeartShare, Bill remains a very committed member of the Brooklyn community. He became involved with his local Community Board 11 in 1984, and has been its Chairman since 1992, ensuring that issues important to his neighbors are heard and addressed.
“I have seen many changes and growth during the past 40 years,” Bill continued, “and yet there are still more things I want to accomplish.”
Celebrating its Centennial Anniversary this year, HeartShare is hosting a series of special events. On March 27th, 2014 HeartShare will host its annual Spring Gala and Auction at the Marriott Marquis. For HeartShare’s centennial year, a historic timeline was created, as well as a 100-day countdown to the official centennial date on July 12, 2014. On permanent display at its 12 MetroTech Center headquarter, is a newly installed Giving Tree that provides an ongoing opportunity for donors to sponsor “leaves” in support of the agency’s mission.
“We not only are looking back at 100 years of history and our accomplishments, but also at the extraordinary growth we’ve experienced,” Bill commented. “With changing program needs throughout the years, we’ve expanded the breadth of our programs and our reach, which sets us apart as a leader among direct care providers and enhances our ability to support New York communities more effectively. While we are very proud of that growth, our goal to serve children, adults and families in need so they live better, healthier and more independently remains very much the same as when we first opened.”#