QUEENS, N.Y. (PIX11) — Half of all working-age New Yorkers are struggling to cover their basic needs, according to a new report by the United Way NYC.

The CEO of the United Way NYC said it’s her calling to help New Yorkers in need and support communities like the one she was raised in. Grace Bonilla has been the CEO of the United Way NYC since July 2022.

Bonilla was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens. Her family is from Ecuador. She said she first learned her sense of community and service at home and then in the neighborhood she grew up in. 

Most days, you can find her on the sidewalk talking to people. Bonilla asked PIX11 News to come with her to Jamaica Avenue and go back to where she grew up. Everywhere she went, people wanted to talk to her. Bonilla is in charge of more than 600 community organizations. From humble beginnings, Bonilla said the strength and inspiration she got from her parents. 

With that experience of being hungry, she has a sense of urgency. PIX11 News visited one of the pantries on 164th Street. They were swamped. Under her leadership, more than 14 million pounds of food have been distributed across New York City.

While Bonilla has been CEO, the United Way NYC has hosted 912 community wellness events, 1,300 New Yorkers for chronic diseases, provided 2,068 free Lyft rides for health-related services and delivered more than 70,000 books to kids in need, according to United Way NYC.

As the CEO of one of the largest social service agencies in NYC, Bonilla is very hands-on in serving her community.

Bonilla said part of her push over the next few months is to remove the barriers many vulnerable New Yorkers face in obtaining SNAP benefits. 

If you have a story, reach out to Monica Morales at monica@pix11.com.