Hendrika (Henny) Neys, Dutch American Heritage Award 2008 Recipient
In September 1960, Dutch emigrants Henny and Alan Neys arrived in Lansing, Michigan with their two-year-old daughter and six-week old baby boy. It was a cold winter and they could not find work. In May, the Neys took a train to San Francisco in search of better opportunities. There, in the ‘city by the bay’, two more children were born.
For Henny, charity truly does begin at home. In 1976, she and Alan began helping needy Dutch emigrants, operating out of the Neys household, helping those who were homeless, unemployed, lonely or scared. Some of these people stayed until they could stand on their own ‘two feet’again.In the years that followed, the operation broadened its reach. She became the representative for three Dutch organizations: “Ouders van Emigranten” (Parents of Emigrants), “Wereld Contact” (World Contact), and “Wij Komen” (We Will Come). Hired by Martinair to provide support for passengers at the airport, particularly the elderly, she became well-known and was fondly nicknamed the “airport mother”.
In addition to serving as president of the Netherlands Benevolent Society, Henny founded the Netherlands American Cultural Heritage Organization (NACHO) to concentrate on the needs of Dutch immigrants of Indonesian descent.Over the years, Henny and Alan also found time to manage the Frank Campini Foundation, a charity supporting civic and cultural activities. In 2000, at 60 years old, Alan died, and Henny became the sole director of the foundation, now a 22-million dollar charitable organization.
To honor her husband, Henny established the Alan Neys Memorial Fund, designed to aid elderly citizens of Dutch descent living in Indonesia, often neglected by their own government or forgotten by relatives. Alan had grown up in Indonesia and this cause had been close to his heart. Henny travels annually to Indonesia, visiting people and providing financial support. To realize objectives, she often travels into remote kampongs. In addition Henny continues to direct and finance the Campini Foundation, while supporting numerous other initiatives in the Bay Area and beyond.
A remarkable individual, a great humanitarian, Henny has been recognized for her outstanding charitable and philanthropic work.Beloved by many, she has been referred to as “Mother Henny of the Bay Area and Beyond”; “the Dutch Social Worker of the Bay Area”; or, more simply and affectionately as “Mother Hendrika”.
Earlier this year, she was decorated for her distinguished civil service and became a member in the Order of Orange-Nassau.