Rebecca Sanin, the outgoing president of the Health and Welfare...

Rebecca Sanin, the outgoing president of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Rebecca Sanin, who has led the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island for six years, winning praise for her advocacy for the impoverished and the human service agencies that serve them, will leave the nonprofit next month following her election to the Suffolk County Legislature.

"I'm stepping down because it's very important the council is an independent agency and can work with every level of government effectively," Sanin said in a phone interview Monday. "As the CEO of the Health and Welfare Council, that would be challenging if I was also a legislator in Suffolk County."

Sanin, 45, won election Nov. 7 to Suffolk's 16th Legislative District as a Democrat. She is to step down Dec. 20.

Colleen Merlo, chair of the council's board of directors, said the board is moving at an accelerated pace to select Sanin's replacement, hoping to name someone by mid to late December, with a start date sometime in February.

Merlo said the board was "casting a very wide net" in advertising the position. "We do have a very truncated window because we want to try to get someone on board as soon as possible." Merlo said the application deadline is Monday, "which is quick."

Merlo, who is also chief executive of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness, based in Ronkonkoma, said, the "Health and Welfare Council has a really dedicated board, so we'll be able to make sure the important work is carried forth." 

Merlo and other nonprofit leaders praised Sanin for bringing greater awareness about issues many Long Islanders face, and coordinating with about 250 human service agencies.

Karen Boorshtein, president and chief executive, of the Family Service League, based in Huntington Station, said Sanin's legacy was to "highlight the work of nonprofits … elevate the cause" and enable the nonprofits to "speak with one voice, advocate with legislators, locally and in Albany" on a variety of issues, such as poverty, housing and many others.

Sanin said one of the things she tried to get across was that while Long Island "has promise," there are many who struggle here.

"Long Island is often thought of as the Gold Coast, The Great Gatsby. Think glitz and glamour. And they don't understand we have tremendous poverty on Long Island, and there's poverty in every ZIP code," Sanin said. 

Sanin said under her leadership during the pandemic, the council held twice-weekly meetings with about 200 nonprofit leaders and representatives of every level of government "to make sure information was streamlined, that Long Island's needs were prioritized … and making sure resources were deployed equitably."

Jeffrey Reynolds, president and chief executive of Family and Children's Association, based in Garden City, said Sanin "always brought a sense of authenticity, urgency, energy and compassion to the job, and to speaking out on behalf of those who couldn't speak out for themselves." He added, "As a trade organization, we always counted on the Health and Welfare Council to amplify the voices of nonprofits, whether in regulations, funding or public awareness about our programs."

Theresa A. Regnante, president and chief executive for the United Way of Long Island, said in a statement, "Our collaboration helped facilitate an accurate 2020 Census count for Long Island and we were strong partners during COVID-19 to ensure that our nonprofits were effectively served, and resources amplified."

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