Staff Spotlight: Gwen is Here to Make a Difference

When you walk into Harlem United’s offices at 306 Lenox Avenue, Gwen’s smiling face might be the first one you see. It’s been 17 years since Gwen joined the Harlem United family, and she has spent each and every one reaching out to her community to lend a hand.

Gwen came to Harlem United when her doctor recommended she join the agency’s Adult Day Health Care program. After six months, she was able to transition into a stipend position with the agency. That turned into a full-time role as a medical clerk.

“When a client would come in to medical and have no insurance, be homeless, and I could connect them to different programs to help them get housing and medical [programs]… that made me feel good about myself,” she says. “Being able to come in every day, knowing that someone counted on me, that was a biggie.”

At the time, Harlem United had only just started offering medical services, and the agency was focusing heavily on reaching new clients. Gwen’s role was stressful, sometimes keeping her at the office until late at night. She spent her days liaising between clients, doctors, and pharmacists, doing everything she could to help the fledgling program run smoothly.

“When I was first offered the job, I didn’t think I would be able to do it,” she says. “To know that I did it, and I did it well, was an accomplishment.”

Three years ago, she changed roles and started working at the front desk at Harlem United’s 306 Lenox Ave. location, where she helps other Harlem United staffers with their projects. She says she loves to stay busy and reaches out to her coworkers to ask how she can help them.

“Harlem United has really been a great asset to me,” Gwen says. “It made me feel more sure of myself—that I could help someone.”

Gwen keeps just as busy outside of Harlem United. She’s a grandmother, she’s a member of a travel club, and she loves to watch sports, play bingo and see plays. But Gwen’s biggest claim to fame? When Harlem United put on its very first client show, back in 1999, Gwen took home the first-place prize for her rendition of Diana Krall’s “Peel Me a Grape.”

“I had a ball,” she says. “I sang that and everybody just went wild. They kept saying, ‘I want you to do that again!’”

We regret to share the sad news that Gwen Palmer passed away on Friday, February 8, 2019. Gwen was a very special person, a long-time member of the Harlem United family, and she touched many lives.

She will be missed by staff and clients alike.