January: Community Service
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a National Day of Service, this January we are highlighting YPs working to directly serve their communities.
Congratulations to our January Spotlights of the Month, Mike Braun, Astoria YP, and Jennifer Daniel, Princess Chambers!
After a tumultuous 2020, my colleagues Kelly Licul and Jessica Haverlin and I came together with a vision to offer a platform for young professionals in our beloved Astoria community to reconnect. The Astoria community is filled with diverse, energetic, and caring young people eager to meet new people and give back to the neighborhood they love so dearly, and Astoria Young Professionals (AYP) is a group for Astorians designed to do just that.
During the holidays, AYP partnered with the Variety Boys & Girls Club and the Astoria Food Pantry to raise money for their annual toy giveaway. With the combination of monetary and in-kind contributions, we raised over $4,000 for toys that went to local children and families across the Astoria neighborhood, and all of the gifts were purchased at local Astoria stores. This tremendously successful first fundraiser exemplifies the how eager our Astoria young professionals are to give back to the neighborhood they love.
A quote by author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar always stuck with me, and I think it resonates with people in any industry: “you can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
I’ve been a New Yorker all my life. I grew up in Elmont, Long Island; I went to college at SUNY Cortland for my bachelors and the University at Albany for grad school; and now, of course, I live in Astoria. But I think I didn’t actually understand what it meant to be a New Yorker until I went abroad to Europe for two weeks while in college. Let’s just say–New Yorkers have an image, and I’m proud to represent this city anywhere that I go.
Growing up in a single-parent low-income household, I understood what it meant to have limited resources. Although my mom didn’t have all she wanted, she believed that no one is “too poor to give.” She instilled a spirit of service and generosity in her children. The desire to help others continued to grow when I attended a high school rooted in community development. From an early age, I have volunteered with food distributions to senior citizens, community drives, health-focused research initiatives, and homeless outreaches, and participated in international community restoration projects over the years. The passion to improve the quality of life for others was bred from those experiences.
I am most proud of the ability to identify issues within the community and actively address them. Princess Chambers began as an opportunity to meet a need in the community after a conversation with a few high school seniors who mentioned that they were not going to attend their prom because they couldn’t afford it. That first year, I conducted a prom dress drive and collected 250 dresses and organized an event in two weeks. Turning an initiative into a nonprofit organization and being able to expand our mission to include mentoring and scholarships, and the pivot to provide casual clothing for young women to attend school with confidence after pausing our prom giveaway due to COVID is something I am also proud of.
My advice is to pay attention to the problems in the world and make note of the ones that stay at the forefront of your mind. If it keeps you up at night, chances are you are the person to address the issue and/or be part of a communal effort towards change through an existing organization or initiative. If there is one thing these unprecedented times have reiterated is that life is fragile and unpredictable so it should be filled with meaningful moments.We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and we can make the world a more equitable and comfortable place by leading our lives with empathy and compassion.
I am a Brooklyn, New York native and I realize that comes with being desensitized to most things that the average person would not consider “normal.” Those moments come out when people from other states and countries visit this magical place and become surprised by things that are a norm to the average New Yorker such as excessive traffic noise, the ability to get fresh sliced mangos and churros on the train platform, ordering your favorite meal at midnight, and seeing “showtime” subway performers and people move furniture on the train.