REMEMBERING GAIL ASKA

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Gail Aska, a community leader and activist who fought to give welfare recipients a voice in city politics, died Oct. 12 at Mt. Sinai Hospital, after a long illness. She was 60. In 1994, at a time when many welfare recipients felt excluded from the ongoing debate over public assistance, Aska helped launch Community Voices Heard (CVH), one of the city’s most well-known welfare rights and economic justice organizations. As a veteran of the New York City shelter system who knew first-hand the challenges of being a mother on welfare, Aska was committed to building an organization that represented and empowered its members. Over the next decade, CVH grew from a fledgling activist group to a large non-profit with over 1,000 active members, predominantly low-income women of color. During her tenure as a senior staff member and founding board chair of CVH, Aska helped push the city to replace workfare with transitional paid work, and fought state-level welfare cuts. In the process, she encouraged hundreds of women on welfare to join the fight. Aska, who was active in Hunger Action of New York State and the Welfare Law Center, among other groups, once remarked that there was nothing more beautiful than the look of revelation on the face of a person who had just realized change was possible. “Gail was the essence, the definition of a true community leader,” said Paul Getsos, executive director of Community Voices Heard. Memorial services will be held in mid-November; please call (212) 860-6001 for details. (M. Herbert) [11/07/05]