New Rochelle Public Library
Foundation Guardian Gala May 12th

The New Rochelle Public Library Foundation will hold its Guardian Gala on Thursday, May 12th at the Greentree Country Club in New Rochelle. The evening will include cocktails, dinner, dancing, a silent auction — and guests happy to celebrate the return of the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation’s popular fundraising event.  CBS TV reporter Tony Aiello will serve as the evening’s emcee. Tickets cost $175 per person and are available at


NRPLF’s Guardian Award will be presented to Karen and Irwin Redlener, dynamic crusaders for children’s healthcare and strong public health advocates. Former New Rochelle residents, the Redleners – along with legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon — founded the Children’s Health Fund in 1987 to serve critical unmet needs of children in New York’s homeless shelters. Today the organization has 50 mobile clinics serving early 300,000 kids and family members each year in poor and rural communities across America. As Director of Columbia University’s Center for Disaster Preparedness Dr. Redlener has been especially busy over the last two years, working to educate the public about the COVID pandemic. Dr. Redlener is also the author of The Future of Us: What the Dreams of Children Mean for 21st Century America (2017), which earned the 2020 Gold Nautilus Book Award, and Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now.  


The Redleners note that the pandemic has caused much grief and distress throughout the world, including serious challenges to making sure children and all Americans remained educated and clear eyed about what we must all do. Among Irwin Redlener’s most important goals now is to help everyone learn how to distinguish truth from dangerous misinformation. Both Karen and Irwin believe that America’s schools and libraries must aggressively embrace this role, now more than ever.


The Gala will also be recognizing three other NRPLF supporters: The Foundation’s Community Service Award will be presented to Ellen and Steven Sonet, longtime volunteers and supporters of the Foundation’s mission, and Judith Factor, NRPLF Board Member who is the Executive Director of Friends of Karen.


The Guardian Award was created to recognize individuals whose careers and lifetime accomplishments exemplify the mission of public libraries: Providing free and open access to information and to a broad variety of ideas and viewpoints. Journalists Fareed Zakaria and Tom Goldstone were the first recipients in 2019.


The New Rochelle Public Library Foundation (NRPLF) was established in 1994 to support the Library and all that it provides to the city’s diverse community of approximately 80,000 residents. A nonprofit organization comprised entirely of volunteer members, the Foundation raises resources and provides advocacy to keep this vital institution vibrant, up-to-date, and able to serve the needs of the citizens of New Rochelle.  For more information visit the NRPL website at  



About Irwin & Karen Redlener


In 1971 pediatrician Irwin Redlener was recruited to be the medical director of a federally funded community health center in what was then the 6th poorest county in the U.S. Extremely high rates of poverty and a significant presence of racism characterized the everyday reality in Lee County, Arkansas. Weeks after Irwin arrived in the desolate community, Karen, a recent sociology graduate from Pomona College, arrived in Lee County as a volunteer with VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) –- now AmeriCorp — the preeminent organization matching young volunteers with communities in need.


The bond and the partnership between Karen and Irwin, along with a terrific local and VISTA staff, created a series of innovative and comprehensive programs to foster good health and education of the county’s underserved children.


Within a few years, Karen and Irwin were married and have continued their work together for more than 50 years. Along the way they raised a blended family of four children.

In 1987 the Redleners, in partnership with singer-songwriter Paul Simon, co-founded the Children’s Health Fund (CHF), now one of the largest U.S. organizations using mobile medical units to provide high quality health care to children and families in some of the most disadvantaged urban and rural communities in the U.S.


Karen served as CHF’s long time executive director and developed the prototype for an innovative, fully equipped, self-contained mobile pediatric clinic. Karen also developed the new program, Healthy and Ready to Learn.


Irwin, while president of CHF, developed the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, and the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, along with a new program fighting the Covid Pandemic. He is also currently an NBC/MSNBC Public Health Analyst.


Karen and Irwin live in New York and remain engaged in a number of state and national advocacy programs They are also the very proud grandparents of 7 grandchildren.



Steve and Ellen Sonet


Steve and Ellen Sonet are longtime New Rochelle residents who have contributed to the community and specifically to the New Rochelle Public Library, where Steve’s mother was, for many years, the beloved children’s librarian.


Steve, a member of the firm of Levy Sonet & Siegel LLP,  has been practicing law for more than 40 years. While the firm is a general practice firm which provides broad-based legal services, it has developed a particular expertise in the construction and design, furnishings, and fashion industries. Steve serves as the firm’s senior litigator and also leads the firm’s real estate practice.


A graduate of Mamaroneck High School, Steve received a BA in History from Northwestern University in 1974 and a JD from Boston University in 1981.  In addition to being a past Board member of the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation Steve is a Past Board Member and President of Youth Soccer of New Rochelle-Travel Division,  and served as pro-bono small claims arbiter for New Rochelle’s City Court. He currently serves on the Board of Volunteer NY! and is a member of the New Rochelle Policing Review Committee.


Ellen Miller-Sonet is the Chief Strategy and Policy Officer for CancerCare , the leading national organization dedicated to providing free, professional support services — including case management, counseling, support groups, educational workshops, publications and financial assistance —  to anyone affected by cancer. Ellen holds a B.A. in Political Science from Brown University, and both an MBA and a JD from Boston University. Currently Ellen serves on the Board of the National Educational Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder and sits on several committees, including the Cancer Diverse Communities Working Group, National Minority Quality Forum; Cancer Equity Accelerator, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Tisch Cancer Institute. In 1995 she received the Somerset County Commission on Women “Outstanding Woman in Somerset County” award in the Business Management category, and in 1996 she received a TWIN award (Tribute to Women in Industry, sponsored by YWCA and nominated by Schering Plough).



Judith Factor


Judith Factor has had a distinguished career in the non-profit sector, serving as the Executive Director of Friends of Karen since 2008. Prior to that she was Senior Vice President for External Affairs at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. Her experience includes serving as the National Director of Development for Women’s American ORT in New York; Director of Development and Administration for The Synergos Institute; Director of Development and Public Relations for the International Peace Academy; and Executive Director of Metro International (now known as One to World).


Judy received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Boston University.  In addition, she earned a certificate from Columbia University Business School’s Institute for Not-for-Profit Management.


Judy is an active member of the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation’s Board of Directors, where she served as President and Co-President for six years.  She is an avid reader, traveler, and theater goer. Judy resides in New Rochelle with her husband