Gilda’s Club Westchester 20th Anniversary Spotlight on Judy Freeman and Essie Steckler

We’re Celebrating 20 Years! Since opening our signature red doors in 2001, Gilda’s Club Westchester has become a leading expert in the psychosocial side of cancer, serving more than 20,000 people from all parts of Westchester and Rockland Counties, and Connecticut’s lower Fairfield County.  Our “GCW” community is supported by a compassionate team  of experienced professionals.  Two of the longest serving members of our team are: Judy Freeman, our Program and Evaluation Coordinator, and Essie Steckler, our Senior Coordinator of Clubhouse Operations, both celebrating their 19th anniversaries this year.

As the Program and Evaluation Coordinator, Judy Freeman is responsible for keeping our calendar full by offering a wide variety of educational programs, healthy lifestyle classes and social programs.  Her goal is to provide members with a range of options to choose from in order to meet the varying needs and interests of our members.  “Most of our dedicated facilitators have been volunteering for well over 15 years. While many of them reach out to GCW themselves, I frequently make “cold calls” to local physicians, authors, and experts in their respective fields to see if they might be interested in volunteering their time,” says Judy.

Essie Steckler joined Gilda’s Club Westchester in March 2002 as a receptionist.  Over the years, her role position expanded to included outreach to educate the community about GCW and oversite of our incredible volunteers.  “My role at GCW is varied and exciting for me. I wear many hats,” explains EssieShe facilitates an in-person Walking Group once a week at Kensico Dam in Valhalla and a monthly Coffee Talk with Essie via Zoom. Essie says that “Coffee Talk was in person for many years at the GCW Clubhouse and my love for baking made it a win-win for all. I would bake and our members were able to meet and socialize with each other.”   While members may miss Essie’s treats, this important opportunity for socialization has continued through COVID.

Essie describes working at Gilda’s Club Westchester as an “exciting and rewarding experience.” Essie’s favorite memories are the times she would volunteer at the monthly night-time social gatherings, like pajama parties, tailgate parties, Wii Bowling, karaoke, high tea, water pistol parties, campfire foods, pizza parties and many more.

She believes that one of the GCW team’s greatest achievements was “at the last minute during COVID” when GCW closed Friday, March 13th and reopened the following  Monday. “Learning how to use our database remotely so that we could continue to support and be available to old and new members was an incredible journey to navigate,” says Essie.

“Working at GCW has been a gift to me all these years. Helping our members through probably the most difficult time in their life is very rewarding. It’s been great meeting so many wonderful people. I have such admiration for them as I watch how they rise to the occasion during their cancer journey. I have grown and learned from them all,” says Essie.

Just as our team and our membership has evolved over the past two decades, so has Gilda’s Club Westchester by continually adding new programs, services, and resources. For example, we now have support specifically for the Spanish-speaking community.  “By adding a bilingual hotline, facilitated by a Spanish speaking social worker, we have been able to increase our outreach to a larger number of people who might not have had access to our programs,” explains Judy.

“The future of Gilda’s Club Westchester is bright, says Essie.  I am so excited to be a part of GCW as we move forward and continue to grow in many directions. We have great leadership, thanks to Jen Scully, and an amazing staff who cares about our mission to offer FREE support to anyone impacted by cancer.”

She continues, “Our reputation speaks for itself. We are known all over, and referrals keep coming to us from hospitals, doctors, business communities, members, and organizations, of all types. We are the leader in free social and emotional support for anyone impacted by cancer.”

Judy agrees, “Gilda’s Club Westchester will grow in the next 20 years as it has grown in the past 20 years.  Won’t it be fun to see how we evolve, grow and change?”

Gilda’s Club Westchester provides free support, educational program and resources for those of all ages impacted by any type of cancer, as well as those who have experienced a cancer-related loss.  For more information, contact (914) 644-8844; or visit