15 Aug

Wishing Sr. Judy Farewell

Yesterday we held a going away party to wish Sr. Judy Garson, RSCJ, farewell as she leaves New York City to assume a post in Albany.  For over 25 years, Sr. Judy served as CEO of LSA Family Health Service, seeing the organization through a period of great growth and expansion.  Recently she worked on immigration reform, principally through the Westchester Hispanic Coalition in White Plains, NY.

About LSA and Sr. Judy’s tenure as Executive Director, former staff member Lorraine Tierney said:  “It’s a very innovative place.  Sr. Judy created a culture and atmosphere here that benefited everyone.  It always was a leader and it met the need.  It was a place where the staff cared with all their heart.  I can see that the staff are still like that today, and it’s wonderful to see that.”

Trish Gough, Director of Volunteer Services, added “Sr. Judy empowers people, and I think that spirit continues here.”

Sr. Judy with Ray Lopez, Director of Programs.

Friends shared stories about their time working with Sr. Judy at LSA.

Former staff members, like Else Sanchez, joined the farewell party.

 

08 Aug

The Sharing Place Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

National Thrift Store Day and a 20th Anniversary Make for a Week of Great Shopping at The Sharing Place, East Harlem

The shopping stars align this month as The Sharing Place Thrift Store celebrates its 20th Anniversary on August 12th and recognizes National Thrift Store Day on August 17th. Intrepid shoppers have discovered designer labels like Carolina Herrera, Betsy Johnson, Coach, and Manolo Blahnik among other treasures on the store racks.

In 2012, New York Post readers voted The Sharing Place the Best Thrift Store in New York City. All sales support programs at the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service (LSA), located on East 115th Street in Manhattan, off First Avenue.

Emergency relief

Besides being a favorite shopping destination for high-quality low-cost goods in the community, the store also provides free emergency goods to people in urgent need.

“We give out free vouchers to The Sharing Place when someone has an urgent need for clothing or household goods,” said Lucia Russett, Director of the Advocacy program.  Vouchers are given upon referral by a social worker or case worker.  There are many reasons why someone may receive a voucher:  they may be living in a shelter with few personal belongings, need appropriate clothing for a work program, have suffered job loss or a fire in their apartment, or just be newly arrived to the neighborhood.  In all cases, the customer has financial hardship.  With the thrift store’s modest prices, the vouchers go a long way.

In 2014, when a building in East Harlem collapsed due to a gas explosion, LSA was able to receive and provide clothing and other household supplies to displaced residents with the help of The Sharing Place.

Designer treasures 

The store celebrates its 20th Anniversary on August 12th with one of its “Designer” sales: a curated selection of the store’s best items.  Shoppers will also enjoy free giveaways and refreshments.  The celebration continues on August 17th, National Thrift Shop Day, with additional discounts to the store’s regular weekly sales.

“You can find great deals here,” said Diamond, a regular Sharing Place shopper, as she tried on a blue silk jacket by Lorraine Parrish.

The Sharing Place accepts donations of new and gently used clothing and home goods in good condition.  To schedule a free donation pick-up or to learn more, visit the store website:  thesharingplacenyc.com.

Visit The Sharing Place on Instagram:  @thesharingplace.

Read Catholic New York’s story on The Sharing Place’s 2nd anniversary in 1999: Gathering Spot: Little Sisters’ East Harlem thrift shop is a place of good prices, good will.

Press contact:  Asari Beale, 646-672-5200

Catholic NY Article on The Sharing Place

 

Sharing Place shopper

Diamond, a regular Sharing Place shopper, found a beautiful silk jacket by designer Lorraine Parrish.

 

 

 

Volunteer in The Sharing Place

Volunteers like Jonathan gain job-readiness skills while working in the store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Jul

Summer Learning & Fun!

Our summer youth program is in full swing! Thirty children in grades K – 3 attend for math and reading support to keep them on track during the school holiday.

The main focus of the program is literacy.  Even the math instruction includes reading comprehension.  Jadie Vasquez, Program Coordinator, said “we really want to increase their reading level and keep them improving over the summer.”  One of the program’s goals is to have each child read a minimum of 10 books before September.

Parent engagement is an important part of the program.  Parents participate in classroom activities that teach techniques for reading with their children at home.  The activities are adjusted to accommodate parents at any literacy level.  Jadie said, “it’s really about motivating the parent to be an active part of their child’s education, even if they don’t have much education themselves.”

The program will conclude in August with a fun field day in Central Park.

This summer, we’re also grateful to have the help of five Summer Youth Employees through the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development.  These industrious teens are working with children in our summer program and at our thrift store and food pantry.

24 Jun

Verano Verde raises $20K!

Scroll through photos from the evening by clicking the right and left arrows, below.

Verano Verde  Photos by Kaddy Tsang

June 22, 2017 — New York, NY — LSA’s Junior Board raised over $20,000 for LSA programs at Verano Verde: A Celebration of East Harlem.

Over 150 guests attended the event, which was held at the Frieda and Roy and Furman Gallery at the Lincoln Center Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater.   The evening included music by Sebastian Cruz and delicious food reflecting the flavors of East Harlem.

On behalf of the Junior Board, we thank all of the fantastic event sponsors and all the guests and donors who helped make this event such a success.  

THANK YOU!

If you couldn’t make it to Verano Verde, you can still make a donation to support LSA’s life-changing programs for families in East Harlem.

DONATE NOW


SPONSORS

El Paso Restaurante Mexicano * Omni-Wine  * Rosa Mexicano  *  Siete Foods  *  Nocciola Housemade Pasta * Grano Gluten-Free  *  Greensbury Market  *  Hot Jalapeño Restaurant *  Nocciola Pizzeria e Trattoria *  Costco  *  The Film Society at Lincoln Center  *  J Cellan Florists  *  Imperial Vintner Wine & Spirits  *  At Your Service Event Planning  *  Kaddy Tsang Photography

 

16 Jun

El Paso at Verano Verde

Verano Verde

VERANO VERDE : A Celebration of East Harlem, hosted by our Junior Board, is just around the corner on June 22nd!  (Tickets to Verano Verde are sold out, but you can still learn more and contribute to support LSA programs.)

We’re excited about the amazing line-up of food sponsors contributing tastes of East Harlem to the evening. The main sponsor is El Paso Restaurante Mexicano which will offer an authentic Mexican taco bar and its exotic signature cocktail, a fusion of tequila and tamarind.

Read the inspiring story of Rodrigo Abrajan, chef and partial owner of El Paso, below.

Other delights will be provided by:

Rosa Mexicano
Siete Foods
Hot Jalapeño Restaurant
Greensbury Market
Omni-Wine
Grano Gluten-Free
Nocciola

Along with the delicious eats, guests will enjoy a silent auction and live Latin jazz by the talented Sebastian Cruz.

Our thanks to the fantastic food sponsors and to all those contributing to make a Verano Verde a success!

 


About Rodrigo Abrajan, Chef at El Paso Restaurante Mexicano

Rodrigo Abrajan

Rodrigo Abrajan

Located in the heart of El Barrio (Spanish Harlem), El Paso Restaurante is recognized as one of the finest Mexican restaurants in the country. Its menu features classic regional Mexican cuisine prepared with authentic recipes and fresh ingredients, and includes a wide selection of tequila and mezcal.  Here is the story of El Paso’s chef, Rodrigo Abrajan, in his own words…

My name is Rodrigo Abrajan and I am part owner and chef at El Paso Restaurante Mexicano. I was born in Puebla State, Mexico, and when I was 11 years old, I use to wait tables at a restaurant there and help the kitchen prep small sandwiches. This was my first introduction into the restaurant world.

I came to New York City in the summer of 1990 at the age of 16 years old. At first I didn’t realize how far away New York City was or that I was going to end up in the biggest and most important city in the world. When I arrived it was hard for me to find a job as an underage, skinny boy from Mexico.

Finally, after two months, I got a job as a dishwasher at Pellegrino’s in Little Italy.  When I started there I would always look around and watch the chefs make pasta and ask if I can help. Some cooks didn’t like that I was always watching and asking to help, but others would let me put butter and oil in the pans. I remember one cook asked me if I liked to cook. At that time I didn’t realize cooking would become my passion.  I worked at Pellegrino’s until the middle of November.

After Pellegrino’s, I worked with a variety of food vendors and restaurants.  For a week I helped another guy selling hot dogs out of a pushcart. From November until the spring of 1991, I worked at a Chinese restaurant where I was a delivery boy and helped with prep. In the spring of 1991, I worked in an Italian kitchen. In the mornings I would help the kitchen prep and at night I was a coffee boy. Working there helped me become familiar with a lot of fresh herbs and ingredients that I didn’t know you could cook with. In Mexico, basil is used as a remedial herb. I had no idea it was such a huge part of Italian cooking. Shortly after, I was given the opportunity to be a cook for a small sandwich shop in Midtown.  I never had any formal training or schooling; as I worked my way through the many different restaurants, I would watch the chefs carefully and learn my techniques that way.

In the summer of 1993, my best friend asked me to join him in selling tacos on the street. I put in my two weeks notice at my job and started selling tacos out of a wood cart. We bought the wooden cart for $800 from an old Puerto Rican man who used to sell alcapurrias out of it. We ran that cart on 104th Street and 3rd Avenue. In 1994, we got our stainless steal pushcart. Two years later we opened our first food truck, which we operated from 1996 to the spring of 1999. Then we opened up our first Taqueria on 104th and Lexington Avenue and a second location on 97th Street. When we opened, it was a big change for me because I never worked with a food menu before. Selling tacos on the street didn’t require a menu. I didn’t have anyone to turn to for help, so I would call my mom in Mexico and ask her what ingredients to use for my recipes. This was when I really found out I had a passion for Mexican cuisine. Then I opened El Paso in 2009, and I have been there ever since.

Coming here at a young age and not knowing anybody or having a lot of money, I was able to work my way up through this business. I am very grateful for all of the opportunities that have been given to me since I arrived in this country and I will never forget the people who have helped me learn and succeed.

El Paso Restaurante

El Paso Restaurante

 

05 Jun

Open Door Newsletter Spring 2017

Open Door Spring 2017

The Spring 2017 Open Door newsletter features stories about our work to ensure the health and safety of children in our community.  The first story describes the work of our Preventive Services program and how its director, Nilsa Welsh, addresses secondary trauma among social workers so that they can do their best to protect children.  The second story describes a new initiative in our Environmental Health Services program through which LSA community health workers are stationed at hospitals to make it easier for doctors to make referrals to our asthma prevention services.

Click below to read more or view a PDF version.

 

01 Jun

Building Bridges Art Exhibition

Eight mothers participating in our Building Bridges of Hope Art Therapy Group this spring shared their work in a special art exhibition at LSA.

Building Bridges of Hope is a support group with the goal of empowering women, helping them increase self-esteem, build confidence, and find a way out of fear and isolation.  Art activities become the tools to facilitate self-expression, reduce feelings of shame and guilt, and develop coping skills to deal with anxiety and depression.

Below are highlights from the exhibit.

 

Photography: What does it mean to love with your whole heart?

Portraits of strong women

Portraits of Strong Women

Light boxes

Clay: Participants created objects to explore notions of identity within their community.

Portraits of Immigrant Women:  What does it mean to be an immigrant for  you?  “It’s about work and sacrifice.  It’s leaving your family behind to look for a better life.”

 

 

Felting. Participants said: “It was beautiful what came out. The result was surprising.”

Felting

Still Painting: The goal was to develop observation skills, pay attention to details and explore the concept of impermanence.

26 May

PCD Graduation Celebrates Culture

Sixty children and parents graduated from our Parenting and Child Development early childhood program. The theme of the graduation was a celebration of cultures from around the world. Students, parents and LSA staff dressed in costumes typical of their cultural heritage.   The children will all be attending preK programs in the fall, developmentally on track to succeed in school.

Below are some photos from the celebration (click the left & right arrows to scroll through).

 

25 May

After-school group builds confidence in kids

A new initiative at LSA has done wonders building confidence and communication skills for children in our after-school program. The initiative involves socio-emotional groups for kids in grades K-3 that engage them in group discussions and activities around books.

The focus on socio-emotional development correlates with high academic achievement, increased motivation and engagement in learning. The goal of the initiative is to provide a space for children where they can build reading skills, feel comfortable working as part of a group and, most importantly, find meaning in what they read in a way that relates to their own personal experience. We believe this is how we will support a community of learners and a strong love of reading.

The program, which started in September, has been very popular among the children.  And, along with tutoring and homework help, the groups have helped the children improve academically, with 80-90% of the children showing better grades in math, ELA or both since the beginning of the school year.


We spoke with Jadie Vasquez, who has been managing the socio-emotional groups, to learn more…

Describe how the socio-emotional groups work.

In the past, the afterschool program only included tutoring and homework help. This year we decided to incorporate the socio-emotional group.

We designed it with AfterSchool KidzLit, because we still wanted the groups to have an educational component. Wendy [Wendy Miron, Director of the Parenting and Child Development program] and I had to get trained for it, along with the interns.  KidzLit gave us books along with instructions on how to do different activities that encourage the children to engage together.  The children are reading, they’re writing, they’re working in groups, they’re doing a lot of hands-on activities.  We have two groups separated by age, so both groups read the same book but do different activities that work best according to the children’s ages.

The main goal is to help children feel comfortable enough to communicate, either in a group setting or one on one.  It’s important that the children feel like they have a safe space. A lot of them don’t have that – a lot of them are loners in school.  They don’t talk to anybody. So we want them to have that sense of friendship, a sense of belonging to something, when they come here.  Then there is the educational part of it, which is learning how to work together, how to dissect a book.  Even if it takes a long time, we give them the chance to explore the world of the book and the artistic freedom to create something inspired from it.

How does that benefit the child emotionally?

It helps the children to open up socially and to be comfortable in a group setting, which, for a lot of them, was a very hard thing to do.  When we started in September, some of them didn’t even want to raise their hand, they didn’t want to tell you their name, they didn’t want to talk to the person next to them.

It was a rough road.  But now you can see the difference.  The children actually want to raise their hand and participate.  Now they feel part of this special group, where they feel safe, where they can talk about things happening in their lives.  So it goes beyond the book.  For example, if someone is feeling sad one day, we might talk about it – as a group!  The children learn to share their feelings, which isn’t easy at such a young age.  The books become a tool to help children open up.  And learning to communicate in general and to open up emotionally, in turn, helps them in school.

It’s been such an amazing journey to see them evolve the way that they have. The children that you least expected to open up are the ones that are above the stars right now, just loving this group.   When we’re on a break, they ask: ‘why don’t we have group tomorrow?’   Having them want to do it makes all the difference in the world.

How does the socio-emotional group complement the tutoring and homework help?

One great example is a small child, in kindergarten, who is in the program.  His tutor had a difficult time just getting him to speak with her.  It’s very hard to help a child when he doesn’t even want to talk to you or he’s very shy and doesn’t communicate.  When he did talk, it was only in a whisper.  I told the tutor: let’s give it some time.   So the first thing we did is isolate him and the tutor so that they could work together without distractions.  The second thing we did was work really hard in the socialization group to have him feel comfortable around adults and his peers.

Two months down the line – he had a complete 180.  Now the child is talking.  He’s speaking louder; he has the confidence to tell his tutor, ‘Okay – I want to do this now.’  He’s a completely different kid.  And I know that, in addition to the tutor working very hard and being persistent, the socio-emotional group had a lot to do with that, because he started feeling comfortable with the group.

He isn’t the only one this has happened with; it happened with two or three of the children. The socio-emotional group has been a big part of them opening up and being more vocal.

Has it made a difference for the kids in school?

Absolutely.  We believe that it makes a difference not only here with the tutors and at home, but also at school.  It’s all connected.  If you don’t want to speak to the teacher, if you don’t want to communicate with your peers, if you have trouble working in groups, that’s going to affect you in school.  Those are all things you have to do at one point in a school setting.

So when the kids get that practice here and start to feel that it’s okay, it gives them more courage to do it in school.  Now – all of a sudden – the kindergarten student who wasn’t speaking, comes in here and speaks to everyone. In school, he’s talking to the teacher, something that he was having difficulty doing.  It’s all a domino effect.

Children show off the books they created together in the socio-emotional afterschool group.

Are you tracking results?

We have collected report cards from the beginning. Since September, about 80-90% of the students have done better in math or literature or both.  The kindergarten student I mentioned started the year with ones and now he’s getting twos and threes.  I share that information with the tutors so that they know what’s happening and we’re all on the same page.

How did the book project come about?

My vision was to do something they could work on as a group.  Because really, that’s what the socio-emotional group was about, to be able to work together and see themselves as a team.  Everyone gets an assignment and everyone gets to vote and make decisions together.  We helped give them structure and started the ball rolling.  They took the time and figured it all out together. They drew together, they wrote the book together.  It was an amazing process watching them take the lead.  They were very proud of themselves, and it felt like this was something that really showed how hard they worked throughout the year.

24 May

#LSARecommends Summer Reading for Kids!

Reading Nook

#LSARecommends: Prevent the Summer Slide

Warm weather means school is out, and children may slowly forget what they learned during the school year. In order to combat the dreaded summer slide, we are presenting a social media campaign called #LSARecommends.  Staff are recommending children’s books and helpful tips to make sure learning continues into the summer months.

According to the Children’s Literacy Initiative:  “When children don’t read over the summer, they can fall 2 years behind by 5th grade. It’s always important to support your child’s learning at home, and over the summer this is critical.”

Reading aloud together is a wonderful family activity that can help prevent summer slide and prepare preschool-aged children for school.  For children and parents, reading together promotes bonding, advances literacy and inspires imaginations during the dog days of summer.

Follow the #LSARecommends campaign on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook!

Here are some of our staff’s favorite read-aloud books:

Tony’s Bread by Tomie dePaola

 

The Witches by Roald Dahl

 

Cuentos de la selva (Jungle Tales) by Horacio Quiroga

 

The 21 Balloons by William Pene duBois

 

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint Exupery

 

The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

 

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

 

Monstruo triste, monstruo feliz (Sad Monster, Happy Monster) by Ed Emberly & Anne Miranda

 

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

 

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

 

 


 

Submitted by Caroline Ziccardi