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You are here: Home Section Table On Our Minds Just Say Yes: Profile of Community Volunteer Diane Greenwald
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Just Say Yes: Profile of Community Volunteer Diane Greenwald

Diane2Undoubtedly, Scarsdale is such a special place to live because so many community members pitch in to make it so. This week we profile Diane Greenwald, a volunteer extraordinaire. 

When did you move to town and what do you do professionally?

Marc and I moved to Scarsdale in 2005 with our two young sons after living for 5 years in the north end of New Rochelle. We loved Scarsdale services and sought to enroll our children in the stellar schools. I worked for 12 years as an architectural marketing and communications professional. I have had my own graphic design business and also led programs for children and families at museums.

What were some of your earliest volunteer activities?

I started volunteering through my children and synagogue, mostly as a way to meet other moms and families. Life can be a little lonely as a young mother working from home in front of a computer. I took on small tasks at first, like designing a directory for Bet Am Shalom and helping organize truck day for WRT’s ECC.

Who were some of the people you met who encouraged you to participate?

This town is filled with wonderful volunteers, and I have been fortunate to work with so many. My volunteer path started with a little luck and the word yes…

In 2006, about a month before my older son began kindergarten, I was sitting at the playground with a new pal, Jocelyn Sontag, watching our sons play. She has an older daughter, so she was already involved at QRS PTA, and she was on the phone with Suzanne Seiden, then the outgoing PTA president at Quaker Ridge. Suzanne was looking for someone to co-chair Learning to Look, the parent-run art appreciation program and I have a degree in art history. They took a chance on me, and before I had even walked in the building, I was put into a leadership role!

It was a bumpy start but saying yes to that role launched an 8-year commitment to inquiry-based learning through the arts and many more PTA roles. I believe that parent involvement in the schools is meaningful for the community and for child development and I always felt grateful to be welcomed into the classroom. I met other terrific parents committed to enhancing programs, such as Tracy Ludwig, Lisa Eisenstein, Melanie Landau, Shreya Mehta, Michelle Saltz, Deb Hochberg and Leah Dembitzer. I loved Learning to Look so much that I went back to graduate school to study museum education.

At my younger son’s nursery school, I was fortunate to meet another mentor, Ruth Suzman, a deeply philanthropic person who helped place me on my first board, the Greyston Foundation, in Yonkers, where I served for 7 years. Ruth’s mindful, skillful commitment to service beyond our town has been a true model for me as I balanced a commitment to the wider community with my love of this one.

In 2013, when things became contentious in town over a school budget vote, I was lucky to meet Art Rublin, then chairman of the Coalition for Scarsdale Schools (CSS.) Art encouraged me and many others to use our voices, advocating in support of prudent but robust school investment. That shared commitment to education and Art’s talent for empowering engagement, led me to work with (and make friends with) more wonderful volunteers such as Pam Rubin, Nan Berke, Julie Zhu, Deb Pekarek, Mary Beth Evans, Susie Rush, David Brodsky, Linda Doucette-Ashman, Moira Crouch, Jim and Shirley Dugan, Lynn Clark, and so many others.

Through those relationships, I found myself saying yes again and again, including to the League of Women Voters Scarsdale. League women are a talented group who seek to enhance participation and good government through collaboration and consensus. Serving with this amazing board under Deb Morel’s leadership was a volunteer highlight.

Tell us about your volunteer “resume” – which activities have been most meaningful to you?

Well, two things, really. First is the STEP student we hosted, Zaria Cash. Becoming a host family for the STEP program and welcoming Zaria into our home for 2 years on her path to higher education was a life-changing experience for our family. I don’t have words to express the pride and love I feel for this wonderful young woman. STEP’s model might not be the answer to systemic inequity in America but engaging in this one young person’s life is meaningful, challenging and changing for everyone involved. I am grateful for the support of the entire STEP board. It sounds corny, but it really does take a village!

And of course, I can’t forget Scarsdale Public Library. Everything I love is at the Library. In 2015, then Library Board members Susan Kessler Ross and Michelle Lichtenberg, both incredible civic-minded gems, reached out to me to get involved. I joined the Library board, not really knowing what I was getting into, but I quickly learned about the well-defined needs, a well-considered plan for improvement, and a tremendous opportunity to leave Scarsdale better than we found it. What a gift to steward this mission.

The Library Improvement Project has been a consuming passion and partnerships have been the key to the project’s success– with Library and Village staff, volunteers, and with the community. There is no question that my collaboration with Library Director, Elizabeth Bermel, and Friends (FOSL) President, Dara Gruenberg, has been among the most rewarding of my volunteer life. Scarsdale is lucky to have such a visionary professional like Beth and there is really no one quite like Dara – a brilliant light of positivity! Our shared commitment to community gathering, learning, and to the free access of information for generations to come gives me such joy, as do our friendships! And I hope our synergy has provided a source of value for the community.

Working with several supportive but demanding mayors, including Jon Mark, Dan Hochvert and now Marc Samwick, has ensured the best value for taxpayers. And the extraordinary team of fundraisers, led by Dara, Bob Steves and Betty Pforzheimer, harnessed unprecedented community support, with particularly skillful work by capital campaign members Lisa Messinger, Gary Katz (now on the Library board) Mona Longman, Wendy Kleinman, Justin Arest, (now a Village Trustee) Michelle Lichtenberg, and Terri Simon (both former Library Board presidents.) I am in awe of their efforts and results. And I thank the over 500 donors to this project with my whole heart!

The Library has a deep bench of current leadership too, with the wonderful Elyse Klayman and Margot Milberg, Felicia Block and the rest of our promising, committed board. There is also the amazing Friends Board that is 20 people strong!! It is heartening to know that the Library is a central source of value for so many.

Another volunteer I get to work with is Terry Singer, a former Library Board vice president. A professional architect, Terry stayed on to co-chair of the SPL Building Committee and is a tremendous asset to this town. Her wisdom and experience have made countless projects in Scarsdale better – particularly the Library.

I have the privilege of seeing the Library renovation project emerge; construction is going along well and folks, it’s gonna be better than we ever imagined!! The Library will surely have something for everyone – and I am proud to be a part of it.

Beyond Scarsdale, you often advocate for political candidates and causes – tell us about that.

I am especially committed to supporting pro-choice, Democratic women seeking office. Emily’s List, Eleanor’s Legacy and Off the Sidelines, all are groups that identify, train, and promote women in politics, and have my support.

In Scarsdale, we are represented by amazing women at a lot of levels – Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has a stunning record of legislation, including championing the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act. Our talented and tenacious State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins is the first African-American woman Senate Majority leader. We are represented by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a national leading voice for women’s equality, a central theme of her passionate presidential run. I proudly support them all!

In town right now, we have three women on the Village Board of Trustees – the incredible, dedicated Jane Veron (also our amazing Library liaison!), Lena Crandall and Rochelle Waldman. And three women serving on the School Board, Pam Fuehrer, Alison Singer and Karen Ceske, all distinguished public servants. These are models for our community daughters and sons. While I have great regard for men who serve, I believe we need a ‘new girls club’ to support each other toward gender equity in every arena, particularly the political one.

Have other members of your family gotten the bug and volunteered as well? Tell us about them.

Yup. My husband Marc has long been involved in philanthropic work in the legal and Jewish world. But now, he is also involved in the ‘Dale, serving as the chair of CNC. He also sits on the Scarsdale Baseball Club board and has always been a terrific coach for our boys. He has been a wonderful ‘dad’ to Zaria. When he first got involved in town, he would be called ‘Mr. Diane Greenwald’ – which I kinda love. But he has his own profile now, and I am proud of him. He is also a great bartender when we host community events!

What advice would you give to a newcomer to Scarsdale?

I seek out involvements that speak to me on some gut and/or intellectual level, but I also sometimes just say yes. So, say yes!! Saying yes can open doors you never knew were available. As the League motto states, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Neither is community.

P.S. Friends are the best part of volunteering. I tried to give my gratitude by name to many but there are so many more! So please help me out and pass it on -- Thank a volunteer today!

Note: Diane will be honored by Eleanor's Legacy, the organization identifying, training and supporting women candidates in NYS, on November 17th at 1pm. Information about sponsoring and attending the event and honor can be found here

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