From humble beginnings to Wall Street and a new start in Bergen County, this spunky redhead has dedicated her life to giving back.
“I will ask anyone for anything for charity,” says the unabashed Annie Hausmann, a Bergen County mother of two, wife and advocate for the community whose determination brought her from humble beginnings in the South Bronx to Wall Street and now to a life as a full-time philanthropist.
“I get what I want for causes I’m passionate about,” says the spunky redhead whose causes include numerous local non-profit organizations, such as The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, Spring House for Women, Women’s Rights and Information Center, and Philip’s Academy Charter School in Paterson.
Hausmann’s dedication to helping those around her trace back to her childhood, growing up in a household of seven children in city-run housing. Her mother, Joan Rogers, who Hausmann names as her biggest role model, encouraged her kids to participate in church functions and charity events, instilling in them the joy and power of sharing with community.
“My family and upbringing greatly influenced the type of person I am,” Hausmann’ notes. “Despite the chaos, my mother, who worked full-time and just turned 90, volunteered at the church. My mom was and is a kind, giving soul; the work was ingrained in me.”
Growing up, Hausmann imagined herself as an English teacher. She enrolled herself at a community college and went to a temp agency in order to make money to contribute to the household. She was placed at a trading desk at Drexel Burnham Lambert, where shortly after, she was transferred to the floor of the American Stock Exchange. Instead of becoming an English teacher, she worked on Wall Street for 16 years until she left to become a full-time mother once her youngest child was born in 1999.
Her passion for giving back never left her. Throughout her hectic and demanding New York City lifestyle Hausmann remained involved in non-profits, working with Covenant House on the suicide hotline two nights a week, as well as with the Guardian Angels, for which she helped plan its annual event. Later, as her immediate family grew, so did their joint volunteering.
Hausmann, her husband, David, and her children, Jack and Georgia, spend much of their time doing good. Each year, they work at the Center for Food Action in Englewood. After Hurricane Katrina, the family traveled to rebuild houses with the St. Bernard Project and together they volunteer at many local charities.
“We have been doing service work as a family since the kids were born. We took Jack to the local county nursing home for Christmas when he was two months old,” Hausmann says. “I always try to gently remind the kids that they’re fortunate to be raised in Bergen County, but their childhood is not better than mine was in the Bronx, just different. I was poor, but I didn’t know it; everyone was. I lived in the projects, so it wasn’t like I had any frame of reference other than people like me. And we were the lucky ones. My parents were married; we went to church together, and we had family dinner at 5:30 every night. I was happy. I didn’t know what I didn’t have. It’s an internal struggle with the kids. I don’t want to jam down their throats every day how ‘lucky’ they are. They’re grounded kids and we’ve instilled in them the value of giving back to those less fortunate.”
While Hausmann remains actively involved with a host of non-profits throughout Bergen County, she is selective about where she volunteers her time and talents, and is “heavily motivated by either what gets on her nerves or what she is passionate about,” she emphasizes.
“Working with women and children inspires me. I have seen lives shattered, lost, and families torn apart,” she explains. “I’m deeply moved by men, women, young people and kids who are struggling and I have the honor of meeting and, hopefully, supporting them on their journey. I believe that people and situations are put in your path for a reason, and I try my best to pay attention; observation is my biggest motivator.”
This was the case when Hausmann initially became involved with the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation (TNBC), which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. TNBC focuses its efforts on raising money for research and educating the local and TNBC community about why this cancer is different from other breast cancers. “As an organization, we strongly believe that education and awareness of any disease is critical if we are going to combat it successfully,” according to Hausmann.
“When Nancy Block Zenna was diagnosed it was the first time I heard of TNBC. Nancy and I were not close friends at the time, but we had mutual friends. I loved her energy. She was a spitfire, sassy, beautiful, and I was drawn to her. Often at social gatherings I would end up sitting, chatting and laughing with Nancy for the evening. She was larger than life and hilarious.” Hausmann recalls.
“Nancy had access to the best care, and yet the treatments she endured were absolutely ineffective and ultimately futile,” Hausmann continues. “This type of cancer wasn’t even on the map 15 years ago. It normally targets pre-menopausal women, who are just starting their lives, careers, having children; it’s aggressive and ugly. Nancy had a three-year-old when she found her tumor and she died shortly after our first event. Her daughter, Jolie, turned 13 last year.”
Hausmann now serves on TNBC’s board of trustees and is the organization’s chair of events, where she spearheads the foundation’s signature gala “Peace, Love & A Cure,” which is held every spring in a “showcase home” in Bergen County.
“My role is expansive and wide-ranging but simply put, I plan and execute fundraisers and awareness events, oversee 3rd party events organized by the foundation’s many incredible supporters,” Hausmann explains. “I kind of like the terms ‘party girl’ and ‘professional beggar,’ but there is so much more involved in my role.“
Following their mother’s example, Hausmann’s children founded the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation Youth Initiative three years ago. Hausmann is extremely proud of this initiative to involve young people in fundraising and awareness.
Hausmann also focuses her charitable efforts at Spring House for Women in Paramus NJ, a halfway house for women recovering from alcohol and substance abuse.
“Lots of women who enter Spring House are pretty much at the end of the road. I always say Spring House should be the first stop on the train, not the last,” Hausmann notes. “This incredible place offers love, support and a path to recovery, in a nurturing, confidential, therapeutic environment filled with respect. Whenever possible, I volunteer here, driving women to appointments, helping out with fundraisers, doing whatever I can. Sadly, not many people support organizations working to assist alcoholics and drug addicts. However, I have seen miracles walk out the doors of Spring House and blossom into productive members of society. At Spring House, the laughter is as powerful as the pain and the camaraderie brings tears to even the most hardened eyes.”
Hausmann’s charitable nature extends outside of non-profit organizations, too, as she is part of the finance committee for Josh Gottheimer’s Congressional campaign. And—motivated and driven by the people and stories that are all around her—Hausmann’s charitable and civic pursuits continue growing.
“I never know what it is that will move me or why I get so passionate. Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much, but the honest answer is that I get so much more than I give,” Hausmann admits. “When I stand in the back of the room of an event and see all these people having a lovely time and the awareness being spread, I feel a sense of accomplishment. It makes me feel really connected and peaceful.”
Yet, even with all of the good she’s done for the community, Hausmann regards her family as her biggest accomplishment. Her son is in college in Austin, TX, and her daughter is entering her senior year of high school. Hausmann, looking to the future, is unsure of what the next chapter will be for her. For most of her time in Bergen County, she believed she would return to New York City. However, after all the connections, relationships and friendships she has made over 22 years, she is no longer sure. She is certain of one thing, though: whatever path she takes, it will involve growth, purpose and generosity.
“I made a home here, and I am very involved in the community,” she says. “Now that my youngest is looking to college, the question of what’s next is really on my mind constantly, and I don’t have a clue. I keep threatening to move to the city where I belong—that’s what I say, at least—but I just don’t know. I wish I could say definitively where I will end up, but life never works out that way, does it? So I will continue the work I do, evolving and changing all the time, and I’ll end up where I belong.”
Tara DeLorenzo is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to BC THE MAG.