Today Siena College is honored to have the opportunity to recognize Mr. Ralph F. Perez, co-founder, Executive Director, and Chief Executive Officer of Create, Incorporated. Mr. Perez has been a pioneer and role model in partnership as a layman with the Franciscan Friars in direct service to the material poor and the marginalized. Create is a not-for-profit, multi-service organization in Harlem, New York City. The organization has partnerships with the Holy Name Province of the Order of Friars Minor and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
Mr. Perez's long-time association with the Franciscan Friars began in the 1960s. While attending high school, he worked in community service at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan. His salary assisted in the support of his family, who were poor and headed by a single parent mother. He later attended Bard College through the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and in 1973 was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. While attending Bard College, he devoted free time to the outreach work of the Friars among the poor of Harlem.
Having completed college and present at the "birth" of Create, Inc., in 1973 as a government-funded agency, Mr. Perez served initially as its Deputy Director. He played a leading role in establishing the structure, staffing and building construction, necessary for an agency serving the multiple needs of people. One of the "hats he wore" was that of Project Director, working with development teams of architects, private contractors, government and private lending institutions. As a result, he developed the organizations physical plant from one corner storefront to its present locations: seven state-of-the-art buildings which were formerly abandoned, dilapidated city-owned buildings. Concurrently, he continued to pursue his personal growth by combining evening and weekend classes at Pratt Institute with his on-going capital development experience. He was awarded a Master of Science in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institutes School of Architecture in 1993.
Mr. Perez has served as Executive Director of Create, Inc. from 1992 to present. Under his leadership, Create has grown to serve over 1200 persons annually. Its programs include chemical dependence treatment programs - both outpatient and inpatient; transitional housing and support services for homeless young adults; permanent housing for homeless women with children; a day center for senior citizens; and emergency food services for the hungry. He oversees a budget of over $5 million annually and provides leadership to more than 75 employees and many volunteers.
In gratitude for his partnership in the Franciscan mission of proclaiming the Gospel, by his life and service to the poor, Mr. Perez was affiliated as a member of the Holy Name Province on September 12, 1998, sharing in the ministry and spiritual works of the Province.
In November 2006, Mr. Perez was awarded The Puerto Rican Heritage Award in recognition of his achievements and contributions enhancing the self esteem of the Puerto Rican Community. Additionally, other personal and organizational tributes have been received regarding Create's success in combining vocational training with treatment for recovering chemical abusers as documented in a Federal Government research study; development and operation of the first privately operated transitional shelter for adults, funded by the City of New York; as well as the development and operation of one of New York City’s shelters exclusively for homeless young adult males, aged 18-25.
In recognition of his life of dedication to the service of the poor in the Franciscan Tradition as an advocate and service provider for more than forty years, while assisting countless men, women and children to obtain a better quality of life, Siena College awards Mr. Ralph F. Perez with the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.