Ann Farmer in Board Operations on May 16, 2019
While Felice Hannah was growing up, her mother made her and her two sisters volunteer after church and after school. “We volunteered and volunteered,” laughs Hannah, who, at the time, would rather have been playing with the other kids.
But the habit stuck. So did the good feeling it gave her. Today Hannah, a retired school administrator, serves in a long list of volunteer positions, key among them her role as vice president of the co-op board at the 1,840-unit North Shore Towers in Glen Oaks, Queens, her home for the past 13 years. She also serves on Community Board 13, the board of directors of Queensborough Community College, and as the retiree representative of the union local of the American Federation of School Administrators.
Hannah doesn’t just sit there. When she was chosen to chair her co-op’s political action committee, for instance, she transformed the rather quiescent post into a potent force, staging monthly events that educate and inform shareholders. She and the committee recently staged a public debate among the seven candidates running for Queens district attorney, which drew a crowd of 400. “It helps residents make informed decisions when voting,” Hannah says. “And voting for the person that you believe will make a difference in your life and others’ is one of the most important exercises you can do.”
The monthly presentations transcend politics. The committee recently brought in a speaker from the city’s Department of Finance to explain tax abatements. As a longtime state-certified volunteer Medicare consultant, Hannah hosts an annual forum on Medicare changes. When the federal government shut down recently, she and the committee began a drive to collect basic items such as soap and diapers for people in need; that drive is still ongoing. And in partnership with the nearby Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the co-op’s committee regularly offers health seminars. A recent one focused on envisioning calmness, which attracted about 200 people. “If we helped one person,” Hannah says, “it was a great evening.”
Inclusion is important to Hannah. She spent the first years of her life in Wilson, North Carolina, and she still remembers being mystified by signs denoting which facilities were for “Whites” and which were for “Coloreds.” After explaining the vicious realities of Jim Crow laws, Hannah’s mother told her: “Don’t ever let anyone define who you are. You define who you are.”
After Hannah’s father passed away, her mother moved to New York City, seeking better educational opportunities for her three girls. “If you can get your education,” she told them, “no one can take that away from you.” All three completed college. Hannah initially worked as a nurse, then went into teaching before becoming a school administrator and an adjunct professor at Dowling College on Long Island, which closed three years ago.
Since joining the nine-member North Shore Towers board in 2013, Hannah has been involved in passing a smoking ban, renovating the pool, revamping the parking regulations, and other actions large and small. “Our board is as congenial as it can be,” she says. “We should not agree all the time, but we should be able to agree to disagree – and we do.”
While her volunteer work consumes a major chunk of her energy, Hannah makes time to visit her two far-flung grandchildren in Denmark and Florida. As for her volunteering, whether she’s putting on a political forum at her co-op, attending a meeting of the Community Board, or collecting soap and diapers for people in need, Hannah says it all comes down to the same thing: “It’s the satisfaction that I’ve helped somebody today. That’s all I want out of volunteering.”
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