Name: Elizabeth “Noonie” Thompson
Neighborhood: Scarsdale, NY
Occupation: Mother, Marathoner, Physician, Entrepreneur (bfflco.com), Poverty-fighter
Why She Rocks: Noonie has run the NYC Marathon four times as part of the Robin Hood Team. Even though she is a die-hard Boston sports fan, she loves New York City. Noonie participated in the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) count—a survey of New York City’s homeless population that had her walking the streets of New York from midnight until 3:00am on a Monday night.
As if her steadfast support of Robin Hood wasn’t enough, Noonie recently took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to share a little more about why Robin Hood is her charity of choice.
When did you first become learn about/become involved with Robin Hood?
I remember seeing the Robin Hood team during the New York City Marathon. I had run numerous marathons for other charities but since Robin Hood fights poverty right here in New York City, it seemed like a great organization to support.
I joined the Robin Hood marathon team in 2007 and found the whole experience very moving. During the race, I ran through all five boroughs and passed through the neighborhoods of people who rely on the programs Robin Hood supports. It was an amazing thing to be cheered on and encouraged by the people you’re trying to help. It made that marathon so much more meaningful.
Recently you volunteered to participate in the HOPE Count. What inspired you to sign up for this event?
I have been very fortunate throughout my life, but I have struggled at times, and I have had to deal with some of the difficult issues that many folks living in poverty know too well, day in and day out. I was lucky and had the means to get myself out of a bad situation, many women and men do not-- they are at the mercy of the system and the good-will of others. I have not forgotten that time and it really makes me appreciate the basic things in my life: having a home to go to, a wonderful spouse, a career and hot food on the table for my family. I am so lucky that I have that. Being able to contribute to a larger effort [like the Hope Count] is just a small way to show my appreciation for the good fortune I’ve received.
Was the experience what you expected?
My team of three Robin Hood staff members and two New York police officers were responsible for covering an area in the lower east side from 14th Street down to Houston between Avenue C to the FDR, which is home to a number of public housing buildings. Our mission was to scour the streets and find as many homeless people as possible, and to encourage them to seek shelter and assistance through a variety of organizations.
It took a couple of hours—we were instructed to look on both sides of the street and look into stairwells, stopping anyone we encountered to conduct the survey. We finished at about three in the morning. Between all of the volunteers at our site, we counted about 120 homeless individuals. That is a lot of people who are sleeping on the streets in the cold.
Our group spoke with one gentleman who was looking through the trash for bottles to redeem—if I saw him on the street, I might not have thought he was homeless. He was wearing clean white sneakers, appeared well-groomed and was carrying a bag full of tools. He explained that he was a carpenter looking for work. The police, who escorted us throughout the evening, said that they recognized him from their regular patrol so he is obviously out on the streets a lot. He said he knew about the intake center at Bellevue Hospital, but he didn’t want us to bring him there to get shelter. It was very sad.
What is something that you have learned through your involvement with Robin Hood that you think others should know?
Get in the game. You need to put yourself out there to make a difference. Growing up, philanthropy was incredibly important to my family. My parents always encouraged us to give back, whether it was giving time, money or knowledge. And I now bring that to my own parenting. There are ways to get involved with Robin Hood beyond attending the annual benefit or going to a concert. Run a marathon. Volunteer your time. Have your kids run a LemonAid stand. With even the smallest actions, you can have a pretty powerful impact on the work that Robin Hood does and on the lives of those living in poverty.
*Robin Hood has volunteered with the HOPE Count for the past two years. The data collected during the count is used to evaluate and improve programs designed to help street homeless. Robin Hood is the largest private funder of programs with street outreach teams in New York City.