Giving Rye is a new occasional feature highlighting non-profits and community groups in and around the City of Rye. Today meet Tom Kissner of the Port Chester-Rye branch of the NAACP.
Your Name: Tom Kissner
Organization: The Port Chester-Rye branch of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
Your role: Branch President
MyRye.com: Tell us your organization’s mission.
Kissner: Our mission is to achieve equity, political rights and social inclusion by advancing policies and practices that expand human and civil rights, eliminate discrimination and accelerate the well-being, education and security of black people and all persons of color.
How long have you operated in Rye?
Kissner: 82 years since 1941. We are a nationwide civil rights organization. The City of Rye has been home to many of the outstanding leaders of the Port Chester / Rye branch over the years.
What programming or work in Rye is the organization best known for?
Kissner: We are probably best known for the M. Paul Redd housing discrimination case in Rye during early 1961. The result of winning this case was the passage of a law banning discrimination in housing anywhere in NY State.
- Respond to complaints of discrimination.
- Advocate for issues impacting racial, ethnic, religious, or gender equality.
- Encourage civic participation in voting, responding to the census, etc.
Looking forward to 2024, what will be your top initiatives?
- Educate the public (in a non-partisan way) about the issues and candidates in the 2024 elections. Then encourage voting participation.
- Cooperate with local school districts on educational programs.
- Provide cultural enrichment projects for the young people in our youth council.
Tell us about the population you serve and how they can get involved with your programming and services.
Kissner: Most people who ask us for help are African American, but we respond to anyone. If we can’t help, or if the problem isn’t within our mission, we can refer complainants to other resources. The majority of our Rye members are Caucasian.
Are you a 501(c)(3) non-profit with tax exempt status?
Kissner: No, our local branches are not 501(c)(3). But our national office in Baltimore, MD is 501(c)(3) and can receive tax-advantaged contributions earmarked for the local branch and send them back to us.
Looking back across 2023, what were your organization’s top achievements?
- Our disaster preparedness community forum planned by our Environmental & Climate Justice Committee.
- Our successful Freedom Fund luncheon fundraiser. Congressman Jamaal Bowman was our speaker.
- The reactivation of our youth council for teens.
How can local residents support your organization?
Kissner: Rye residents can join the branch. (There is strength in numbers.) Also, they are welcome to run for leadership positions as branch officers or committee chairs. And, naturally, we would welcome financial contributions connected or not with our occasional fund-raising activities.
What local Rye residents and area businesses have been the longest, steadiest supporters of your organization?
Kissner: In Rye: Robert S. Brown and M. Paul Redd. In Port Chester: the local African-American churches.
Tell us about you:
How long have you been in your current role?
Kissner: 13 years total as president over the last 30 years.
Is the role full time or part time? Paid or volunteer?
Kissner: I am retired, but I serve as a volunteer in many organizations. It is a full time responsibility.
How would your friends and family describe you in one word?
|Coke or Pepsi?
|Regular or diet?
|Action movie or rom com?
|Cook, order in or eat out?
|Dog, cat or no pet?
|Balsamic vinaigrette or ranch?
|Ruffles Original, Lay’s Barbeque or Funyuns?
|Still, sparkling or tap?
What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
Kissner: 58 years ago, at Michigan State University, I needed special permission to take an extra class in order to have enough credits to graduate. Dean of Students Russel Frank made the decision to trust me with the extra class load. (I graduated on time.)
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?
Kissner: I would like to take my wife back to Nigeria, where I was a summer exchange student. I’d like to see what changes have occurred in the last 59 years.
What is your favorite streaming / TV series?
Kissner: I mostly watch news channels.
What is your favorite movie?
Kissner: “Sahara” starring Matthew McConaughey
Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you lived in the City?
Kissner: I live in Port Chester, in one of the Westchester Avenue co-op apartment buildings.
Organization website (not available).