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Albany – Adrienne Smith-Kissee was many things to many people: Mother, Daughter, Wife, Sister, Grandmother, Mentor, Friend, and Advocate. She was a pillar in the community and a joy to all.
After 69 years of a vibrant life filled with love, Adrienne departed this earth in the arms of Jesus Christ on January 22, 2024. She was born on October 9, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York to King Solomon and Irene (Shephard) Smith. Adrienne grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, specifically the Sumner projects with her parents and two sisters, Barbara and Renee. Adrienne’s family attended Mt. Sinai Cathedral Church of God in Christ under Bishop Clarence L. Sexton Sr. and were deeply involved in the faith community. She attended Bay Ridge High School and Shortly after graduating, she met the man who would later become her husband, Keith Kissee of Brooklyn, New York.
Both relocated to Albany where Adrienne began working for the New York State Department of Health Cancer Registry (NYSCR) for 32 years, retiring in 2011. While working and raising her family, Adrienne went on to earn her associate degree in business management from Bryant & Stratton College in 1998, Bachelors in Business Management & Economics from SUNY, Empire State College in 2000, and a Master’s Degree in Human Services minoring in counseling from Capella University in 2009. Concurrently, she worked at Hope House Inc. as an Alcohol & Substance Counselor for three years while becoming a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC-T). She was a long-standing member of Wilborne Temple Church of God and Christ for more than 30 years, serving on the usher board and as a choir member.
Although married, Adrienne primarily and consistently provided for her three children, Damien, Vanessa, and Davone. She was intelligent, resilient, and consistently modeled the importance of education, and was the epitome of one of her favorite phrases, “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
Adrienne selflessly volunteered her time and served on many committees within the community and citywide. She served as a mentor for the YWCA, a group counselor at the Damien Center, member of the NYS Department of Health Women’s Task Force, member of the Majority Minority District Redistricting subcommittee, member of the Albany County District Attorney Felony Diversion Board and a coordinator for the New York State Employee Assistance Program.
While working for New York State government, she spoke about her God given vision of founding her own program serving children in the community. Her passion was people. Most importantly, she loved God and showed the love of Christ to all whom she encountered.
In 2008, three years prior to retirement, Adrienne birthed Team Esteem on The Hill, Y.E.P. Inc.. She was a one-woman army, dedicated to serving children and families in the community with innovative programs to engage and empower. She knew that it took a village to raise a child, and for 14 of 16 years, she operated her non-profit organization with no additional funding. She used her own state pension to purchase food, gifts, clothes, and this past year, even purchased a permanent transport vehicle for students; anything to support and enhance the lives of neighbors she considered family.
In recent years, she coordinated with local and state government officials and funding organizations to deliver additional resources for Team Esteem. Over the last two years, she wrote and applied for several competitive grants and secured more than $100,000. This critical funding has been used to provide educational field trips, host graduation recognition ceremonies, staff development training and salaries to further expand the mission of development serving the youth of our community.
In her final days, she spoke about expansion of the program, which included renovating transportation and finding a permanent location for Team Esteem programming. Even as her health was fading, her commitment to her community and the children and families never wavered.
Adrienne is predeceased by her husband, Keith Kissee and is survived by her children Damien, Vanessa, & Davone Kissee. as well as her three granddaughters, Amaya (YaYa), Semadia (Madi Madi), & Kissiah Irene-Grace(Toot), God-children Tamera Norman, Mattie Allen, Yazaire Coleman, Sarah Gonhue, Tyler, & Simone Howard. She is also mourned by her siblings Renee Guelce (Roger) & Barbara Smoaks; nieces Maureen & Renice Evans, nephews Taykwun Smoaks, Gabriel Gray, & Noah Ethan Riley Arthurs; and a host of friends, community members, and family.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that monetary donations via cash or check be made to Team Esteem on The Hill Y.E.P. Inc. Your contributions will help sustain the ongoing operations of the program and support the youth of our community for years to come.