Judy Zangwill of Sunnyside Community Services: Creating growth and enriching lives

Thought Leadership on Peer Advantage presented by Vistage Worldwide.

Sunnyside Community Services’ (SCS) website explains that the Queens, NY-based not-for-profit strengthens its community by providing a continuum of vital services and activities that enrich the lives of individuals of all ages.

For Executive Director Judy Zangwill, “continuum” is the key word in the mission.

From pre-kindergarten enrichment and college preparation programs to fitness classes and home care services for seniors, SCS offers something for community members of every age.

“If needs change for our residents, which they inevitably will, we want them to seamlessly transition,” Zangwill said. “They don’t have to be concerned about transitioning into an environment they’re not familiar with.

“It’s critical we feel trusted. That’s one of the things I feel passionate about.”

Zangwill’s passion has been present at SCS for 30 years, the last 26 in her current role. During that time, she’s watched — and helped lead — SCS’ growth from an agency that served less than 2,000 people in 1990 to one that now assists approximately 14,000 people annually. Today, SCS has more than 130 in-house staff, 2,000 home health aides and more than 400 volunteers, and it now offers programming for all five New York City boroughs.

One explanation Zangwill offered for the growth was a decision she made five years ago that goes back to SCS’ overall mission.

SCS is made up of three corporations that many times functioned independently. Zangwill pushed to consolidate as many departments as possible so SCS could operate as one entity, a move she thought would result in greater efficiency and enable the smooth participant transitions she and SCS strive for. Also critical to the agency’s growth has been a focus on quality of work and reputation.

Under her leadership, SCS received the 2009 Neighborhood Builders Award from Bank of America, accompanied by a $200,000 general operating grant. The organization also received the 2015 Age Smart Employer Award for policies and practices that encourage different generations to work productively and effectively side by side. And the New York Senate honored Zangwill in 2014 as one of its Women of Distinction for her contributions in enriching the lives of those in her community.

Despite the accolades, Zangwill operates with humility.

“I don’t know everything, and I’m aware of that,” she confessed. “I’m not reluctant to ask questions or seek help when I need it.”

That attitude is why Zangwill benefits from her involvement with Vistage, which brings together successful CEOs, executives and business owners for private peer advisory sessions. As one of only two nonprofit executives in her group, Zangwill learns about different mindsets and business approaches she’s never had to consider.

Not surprisingly, she’s soaked it all in.

“The reason Vistage has been so helpful is it offers a completely different perspective I’ve never been exposed to,” Zangwill said. “There are some practices these small businesses leaders have that I’ve used because I think they’re applicable. I have found their expertise very helpful.”

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