CIANA donor, Glen Schleyer, in Athens Square. Photo: Maria Eliades
Former CIANA Board Member and volunteer Glen Schleyer still stays involved in the CIANA family as one of its most dedicated donors. Maria Eliades, CIANA’s Communications and Programs Manager, finds out why Schleyer was inspired to join CIANA in helping immigrants in New York City, and why the lawyer continues to remain passionate about CIANA’s cause.
Maria Eliades: How long have you been involved with CIANA?
Glen Schleyer: Shortly after the 2016 election, after a period of despondency, of feeling that supporting candidates did not result in the outcome that I wanted, I thought that it would be much more fulfilling to focus locally. I’m so appreciative to have raised my children in Queens and to have benefited from the diversity, and to have children for whom it’s the norm that everyone is different and celebrates different holidays, and with grandparents that speak different languages. That’s really fantastic.
I realized that I wanted to help do what I could to contribute to that. So for two years I was a board member and a secretary of the board. It was a young, really enthusiastic board, and Emira, the founder and executive director, has tremendous energy and passion. The staff and volunteers, and obviously the clients, children and the parents, are great to be around. For a while, I also volunteered and taught the immigration exam through the civics class, which teaches US history, the Constitution, and structure of government to new immigrants. It’s so inspiring to see people coming to the country like my grandparents did. They’re so excited to learn about the values and the history and the structure.
Now that I’m off the board and no longer volunteering, I’m still supporting it financially because having been on the board and involved you see how much can be done with a relatively small amount of funds. You can really change people’s lives. So I’ve definitely encouraged family members to support.
I’ve also really taken away some great friendship of people in the community, and obviously, I’m still in Queens. It couldn’t be a more important thing at this time to support immigrants.
ME: When and how did your family come to the US?
GS: My mother’s parents came over from Ireland in the early 1900’s, when they were young. They met here, actually. My grandmother came over with her family through Ellis island as a teenager. My grandfather was a character, orphaned in Ireland, going from farm to farm since he was 10 years old doing jobs and he somehow got a boat over to Canada and came in through there. He ended up meeting my grandmother and worked for the city parks his whole career. So, same story, no education, his children all went to high school, my parents all went to college, what he would have hoped and what people kind of envision.
My father’s grandparents came over from Germany. My wife, her family comes from Ireland, so our kids are 75% Irish. Since my grandparents had the Irish brogue and talked about the homeland, I definitely had a sense of the immigrant experience. I was very close with them growing up. I would spend my summers with them and definitely had the sense of them as the were integrating into the country and becoming a part of the community. They’re typical Americans.
ME: Given that background, how does that make you feel about what’s currently happening to immigrants?