Daily Point of Light # 3006 Aug 12, 2005

Dorothy Epstein has dedicated her life to community service. She is a leader in the fight for social justice, a champion of the labor movement, a role model, an advocate for women’s rights, a strong proponent of advocacy training and an inspiring voice on behalf of older adults.

Upon retiring at age 76, Dorothy joined the Joint Public Affairs Committee for Older Adults (JPAC), a regional, multi-cultural, grassroots advocacy group and a division of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA). She brought an extraordinary knowledge of and interest in the issues impacting older adults. She provided guidance on public policy, helped initiate and carry out strategies for action and testified at public hearings. In 1993, Dorothy was named chair of JPAC’s governing advisory committee. At the same time, she was asked to be the only volunteer member of an advisory group for then Commissioner of the NYC Department for the Aging, Prima Mathai-Davis. Dorothy is currently a member of this group, under the present Commissioner.

In 1993, Dorothy worked with JPAC’s advisory committee to create a one-of-a-kind leadership-training program called the Institute for Senior Action. The 10-week advocacy training, which began in 1994, hones the skills of longtime community activists. The Institute serves as a vehicle for recent retirees and others to become more involved in social action as volunteers. Since its inception, 524 senior leaders coming from 347 different organizations have completed the course. These volunteers have returned to their communities and organizations armed with new skills and a renewed sense of purpose and self-confidence that fuels their social action efforts.

At the age of 92, Dorothy continues to lend tremendous expertise to JPAC and its mission of senior action and continues to propose new directions for senior advocacy. Recognizing the importance of bridging the gap between generations, in 1998, Dorothy forged a connection between JPAC and undergraduate students from Hunter College. With her help, this Intergenerational Committee explores common social concerns and strategies to promote activism. Dorothy has also helped to promote the community work of the Hunter School of Health and Sciences. She has been instrumental in helping JPAC promote senior advocacy through use of video and other media forms, recently assisting in the publication of A Tool Kit for Advocacy, a manual written and published by Institute graduates. Recognizing the lessons that can be learned from the lives of older activists, Dorothy spearheaded the Advocate’s Oral History Project. This project highlights the remarkable lives of more than 30 graduates of JPAC’s Institute.

Dorothy Epstein stands as a strong leader in the senior community. Through her personal example, she has enabled older adults and the public at large to recognize the capacity of older persons to grow, create and contribute to society’s well being. She is passionate about senior issues and is equally passionate about working to ensure that older adult activists are adequately prepared and trained to be effective leaders in the fight for social justice.