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Westchester Jewish Life • April 2022 • Nisan 5782 • Page 9 • www.westchesterjewishlife.com

WRO Mourns the Loss of Nick Beilenson

Nick Beilenson, founder in 1968 of Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. (WRO), passed away on February 22, 2022, at the age of 85. Nick, a White Plains resident and a long time member of Congregation Emanu- El , Rye, was a staunch advocate of social justice and passionate about fighting for equal and affordable housing. His legacy will continue through the work of WRO, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed to address issues of systemic housing discrimination in Westchester.

Located in White Plains, WRO’s mission is to promote equal, affordable and accessible housing opportunities for all residents in Westchester County. Programs (most of which are free) include promoting equal access to housing (eliminating housing discrimination and helping enforce fair housing and fair lending laws); eviction, mortgage default and utility shut-off prevention counseling by HUD-certified housing counselors; first-time home buying counseling; and an independent living program.

affordable housing symposium“I am proud to have served on the WRO Board, and as its Chair for five years. My family was also the beneficiary of the WRO Mortgage Assistance Program,” said J.T. (Ted) Childs, Jr., former WRO Board member. “We have lost a visionary giant, and Westchester and national communities lost a silent, but effective civil rights leader,” Childs added.

“Nick was the conscience of the Board. He inspired the other members with his bright mind, his commitment to making the world a better place, and his consistent promotion of fairness in housing opportunities for all persons,” said Joseph A. DiSalvo, Esq., current and long-time WRO board member.

It has been said that people remember not what you said, but how you made them feel. Nick cared about people. “He made everyone around him feel comfortable and welcome,” said Marlene Zarfes, WRO’s Executive Director, who worked with Nick for more than 11 years. She added: “Nick was an extraordinary person and will be deeply missed.”

Nick supported WRO in various capacities for over half a century, which included serving as Executive Director and as Chair of the Board of Directors. Nick was very active in helping WRO until the last weeks of his life. Even though he lost his wife Evelyn in October of 2021, he came to the WRO office on a regular basis to speak with staff, personally sign letters and write notes to support WRO’s fundraising efforts.

Donations from individuals, foundations, corporations and government grants make it possible for WRO to serve residents of Westchester County. However, with so many on the verge of being evicted from their apartments or losing their homes because they cannot keep up with their mortgage and/or utility payments, the need for donations is urgent and continues in 2022. “Small nonprofits, including WRO, have been among the hardest hit, and experienced the greatest decline in donations,” said Zarfes.

For more information or to make a donation online, visit www.wroinc.org, email info@wroinc. org, call 914-428-4507, or write to: Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc., 470 Mamaroneck Ave., Suite. 410, White Plains, NY 10605.

Keynote speaker Bryan Greene, vice president of public advocacy for the National Association of Realtors, said enforcement of the 1968 Fair Housing Act has been weak, which followed decades of exclusionary zoning, meant to segregate. The vestiges of those practices continue to impact the current housing supply, he said.