How can we support young people with care they’ll actually use? As Chief of Staff for the New York City nonprofit The Door, Ted Caine ’04 helps oversee a one-stop social-service shop for teens and young adults.
Looking back, Ted Caine ’04 says his senior year at Williston—when he starred in plays and dance programs, captained the track and cross-country teams, and sang with the Caterwaulers—was a favorite period in his life. But it wasn’t just for the experiences, memorable as they were. It was also because he was beginning to recognize his own potential. “The fact that I could be a part of these plays and dance festivals, but also be on a varsity sports team,” says Caine, who was a six-year day student from Northampton and now serves on the school’s Head’s Visiting Council. “That really helped me grow and realize what I could do.”
Today, as Chief of Staff for The Door, a New York City nonprofit that provides a wide range of free educational, health, legal, and social services for teens and young adults aged 12 to 24, Caine is again demonstrating his versatility. The organization’s lead administrator, he works directly with the CEO, serves as liaison to the board of directors, and helps manage and motivate the staff of 300 at its locations in the Bronx and SoHo. “Chief of Staff is really hard to explain to people,” says Caine, who lives in Manhattan with his husband, Josh Korth. “Because you do some of everything.”
Adding to the challenge, The Door’s mission is similarly multifaceted. The organization provides practical resources—crisis assistance, academic support, college preparation services, career development, job training and placement—but also serves as a community center, with art spaces, sports and recreational activities, even meals. “It’s a one-stop shop for young people in need,” explains Caine, noting that the group’s funding comes from public grants, foundations, and private donations. “Maybe you are coming to see one of our 28 lawyers for immigration-related legal work. And once you’re here, you discover a welcoming environment that offers other free, crucial services in the same space—so you drop into the health center and see a doctor, and a dentist, and are able to pick up your prescriptions on site in our pharmacy. The whole point is to remove barriers from treatment and services, so that people can embrace holistic care. And a lot of people use it as a safe space where they can come just to hang out.”
That feeling of community is a concept that Caine has worked to foster in his professional life ever since he experienced it himself at Williston. After earning a B.F.A. in drama from New York University’s Tisch School, he ran the New York-based Attic Theater Company for 10 years, teaching vinyasa and hot yoga classes on the side. The experience heading a nonprofit taught him a key community-building skill: how to appreciate people for what they do, especially when their compensation is limited. “Appreciation is a currency,” he says. “All employers should strive to pay people what they deserve, but for nonprofits—when that’s constrained by lack of funding and support—recognition and appreciation are really important.”
As it happened, it was the job of managing his own wedding in 2016 that would lead Caine to his current position. The officiant was his husband’s friend, Kelsey Louie, at the time CEO of the HIV/AIDS nonprofit GMHC. After watching Caine pull off his summer camp-themed celebration in the Catskills, Louie offered him a job as his executive assistant. (“Honestly,” says an admittedly biased Caine, “the wedding was awesome.”) Five years later, in 2021, after Caine had worked his way up to the position of Managing Director of Administration, Louie was hired to head The Door, and asked Caine to join him as his Chief of Staff.
Caine made the move, a decision inspired in part by that consequential senior year. “The experience I had in school, and what I was given at Williston—to be able to create that kind of opportunity for young people—is what brought me to The Door the most.”
Williston memory: “My senior year, I got to be the lead in the musical Anything Goes. I was singing the song ‘It’s De-Lovely,’ and at the end, he walks up this flight of stairs and kisses Hope. And every time I stepped on a stair, the stair lit up. I just loved that.”
Learn more about the work of The Door at door.org.