Staff & Consultants
María Alvarez, Executive Director
María Alvarez has worked with senior citizens groups as an organizer, advocate, and director of housing and caregivers programs for over 25 years. She has designed and implemented educational, social service, and leadership programs for older adults. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Marquette University and a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management from the New School for Social Research where she was a Sloan Fellow.
Joan Akpan, Media/Marketing
Joan has a comprehensive background in communications with 20+ years leading client relations to integrated marketing and project execution. Her experience includes working in the Advertising industry in Seattle and New York City, managing clients such as American Standard and Disney. She also worked in Visual Merchandising for Speedo and Liz Claiborne. As the President of the Knickerbocker Tennis Foundation, Joan oversees several youth tennis initiatives and develops programming focused on making tennis more accessible to all.
Sarah Askew, Outreach Counselor
Sarah Askew grew up in Oswego County and currently resides in Tompkins County. She graduated from SUNY Oswego with a degree in English literature and did graduate work in social issues. Sarah has worked in the health care and human services fields for over 10 years. She is passionate about helping people and being a force for positive change in the world.
Stefania Buta, Program Development Coordinator
Stefania is a proud resident of Central New York and attended college at SUNY Cortland. She later received her Masters in Public Health from Columbia University. She comes to NY StateWide with a background in research methodologies and experience with domestic and international community resilience initiatives. In her free time, Stefania enjoys spending time outdoors with her family and her rescue dog, Toby.
Tiffany Erhard, Outreach Counselor
Tiffany resides in Western New York and attended college at Jamestown Business College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Marketing. She has a decade’s experience working with seniors one-on-one in a variety of settings. Recently she worked with Senior Life Matters honing her skills assisting seniors with healthcare and other aspects of aging. She is on the committee of Journey to Active Aging and is passionate about helping people in any situation. Tiffany’s hobbies include painting and wood-burning/ pyrography when she isn’t camping with her husband and two dogs.
Gene Dumlao, Outreach Counselor
Gene joined the staff in February, 2011 and is one of the staff experts that responds to the Patients Rights Hotline calls. He provides counseling on Medicare benefits and the EPIC program to help enrollees make informed choices. He is a certified HIICAP (Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program) counselor. Prior to that, Gene assisted seniors for five years at EPIC, the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage plan for New York State. He honed his skills and knowledge on their Helpline then served his last four years there as an EPIC Outreach Field Representative. Previously, he was with IBM in Dallas, TX serving as a Customer Fulfillment Professional. Gene also was the Distribution Warehouse Manager for Diamond Distribution out of Laredo, TX. Gene has been solving issues and doing what is right and fair for organizations and members for over thirty years.
Marcus Harazin, Coordinator Patient Advocates Program
Marcus Harazin is implementing StateWide’s initiative on Patient Advocacy. A lifetime member of StateWide who has recently retired as Deputy Director of the NYS Office for the Aging, Marcus will be making presentations throughout the state to help seniors negotiate the health care system and collect information to inform policy makers about needed changes in the health care delivery system.
Jacqueline Kennedy-Saddler, Outreach Counselor
Jacqueline Kennedy-Saddler is a seasoned health care executive with over 30 years experience in the Health Care Industry. She is proactive in building relationships between elected officials and racially diverse, multi-ethnic communities and a fundraiser for low income communities.
Jacqueline is the recipient of numerous awards in health and community service including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award, Valiant Woman Award, and the Distinguished Community Leadership Award. She serves as chairperson for the Bedford Stuyvesant Task Force, Co-Chair of the Brooklyn Wide Interagency Council for Aging (BWICA) and serves as a member of the Vision Services for the blind.
Melissa Kinney, CNY Community Outreach & Organizer
Melissa Kinney comes to NY Statewide Senior Action Council with over a decade’s experience working with seniors and community members with disabilities while working for the Department of Social Services. Most recently she worked with children with special needs. She graduated from SUNY Poly and Mohawk Valley Community College, in Utica, NY with degrees in Humanities and Social Sciences.
Gail Myers, Deputy Director
Gail joined the staff of New York StateWide Senior Action Council in April 2011. In 2013 she was named Deputy Director. She is a certified HIICAP (Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program) counselor, a certified Long Term Care Ombudsman, and has served on the NYS Dept. of Health DSRIP CBO/Cultural Competency Workgroup. Gail has more than three decades experience working to improve health and human service programs and as a public relations specialist. Prior to joining the staff of StateWide, Gail was appointed by Governor Spitzer to serve as the Special Assistant for Community Affairs and Public Participation at the New York State Office for the Aging. In prior years, she was the political director for the Medical Society of the State of New York, the principal lobbyist for the New York State Nurses Association, and legislative assistant to the Chairman of the NYS Assembly Ways & Means Committee. She is currently serving as President of Bethlehem Neighbors, a neighbor helping neighbor “village” in Albany County.
Jennifer Sanchez, Outreach Counselor
Jennifer is a dedicated and resourceful social worker who has years of experience in ensuring that vulnerable seniors are not forgotten or marginalized. As a Certified Dementia Communication Specialist and Care Consultant serving families during the pandemic, she worked tirelessly to facilitate virtual educational, wellness and supportive webinars to link homebound caregivers and seniors with access to vital information, resources and support from experts and providers in geriatric care management. Jennifer has worked in housing case management for individuals coping with mental health and substance abuse disorders while battling chronic homelessness within the New York City shelter system. She finds great fulfillment in acting as a community liaison to increase awareness about all issues affecting seniors in alignment with her personal mission to empower people to take up the cause of advocating for our elders in the great state of New York and beyond.
Leslie Sierra, Outreach Counselor
Leslie joined the Staff of StateWide in April 2012. She comes with over 20 years experience working with the senior population and is a certified HIICAP counselor. She started the Brooklyn Caregivers Program while a Sr. Case Manager for The Institute for Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly and was responsible for one of the first support groups for caregivers in Brooklyn. She was the first of many to recognize and honor caregivers for the unpaid work they do in the borough of Brooklyn. As a Crime Prevention Specialist, Leslie trained over 500 seniors and staff on crime prevention, elder abuse, and financial abuse for the Ft. Greene Senior Citizens Council. Leslie is also President of the Board of Directors for a 325 unit Co-op in Brooklyn and an ardent wedding and event planner.
In addition to our direct staff, StateWide works with consultants to provide the expertise necessary to advance our Mission.
Dr. Cynthia Rudder
Dr. Cynthia Rudder has been a longtime advocate for nursing home residents in NYS since 1979. Dr. Rudder was a Founder and Director of LTCCC (fka) Nursing Home Community Coalition of New York State from 1982 to 2012, and is continuing her advocacy work with a number of organizations fighting for a good quality of life and care for our most vulnerable citizens. She has received a number of awards for her research and advocacy, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from CMS in April, 2013; Director’s Distinguished Achievement in Aging Award for Advocacy and Protecting the Rights of the Elderly from the NYS Office for the Aging in 2010. She has been or is a member of many state and federal advisory groups and with grants from numerous foundations and governments. She has published a number of reports and articles on nursing homes and assisted living.
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