Urgent: Help us collect more holiday gifts for children in homeless shelters by December 23

More than 22,000 children in New York City are homeless this holiday season.

Every year, NYC’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the Coalition for the Homeless, and other organizations mobilize a massive drive to collect and deliver gifts to every single child living in a shelter or hotel over the holidays.

To make sure every child receives a gift, the NYJL is partnering with the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to help collect 50 urgently needed toys by close of business on Monday, December 23. New toys should be delivered directly to Astor House (130 E 80th St, New York, NY 10075) between now and Monday. The DHS administrator will personally pick up gifts and deliver them to children on Christmas Eve.

  • We need new toys for children under the age of 10, such as toddler toys, dolls, cars, trucks, and board games.
  • Please wrap the toy (if possible) and label it with a description of the toy, the age, and whether it’s for a boy or girl.
  • Toys may be delivered to Astor House today (Thursday) until 10:00 p.m., tomorrow (Friday) until 6:00 p.m., and Monday, December 23, until 5:00 p.m.
  • The DHS administrator will pick up the gifts in the morning on December 24.

If you are unable to hand deliver wrapped gifts to Astor House by December 23, Mary Arnold Toy Store near headquarters is happy to take toy orders and deliver them to Astor House for free. You may contact the store directly at 212-744-8510. You can view their inventory on their website.

Thank you for your generosity this holiday season!

Arts exploration in the classroom

The young artists who take NYJL’s Tuesday morning art classes are explorers. They get lost in the details while carefully sketching a Ming-dynasty-inspired vase. They discover combinations of color and light by creating stained glass mosaics out of tissue paper. And they contemplate the wilderness of Chihuly’s twisted glass sculptures by recreating their own out of other materials. These students are exercising their critical thinking and experiencing the pride artists feel when creating an artwork with theirs own hands.

Research supporting art education’s positive impact on children’s academic success and social-emotional wellbeing is abundant. A 2019 Brookings Institute report found that, among elementary school students,“[…] increases in arts learning positively and significantly affect students’ school engagement, college aspirations, and their inclinations to draw upon works of art as a means for empathizing with others.” And according to studies by the National Endowment for the Arts, students from low-income communities demonstrated higher test scores in science and writing if they were highly engaged in the arts from kindergarten to eighth grade, compared to students who were less involved in arts during those formative years. 

Affirming the importance of arts programming in education, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $23 million in 2014 to upgrade arts facilities and equipment, strengthen partnerships with cultural institutions, expand specialized programming for English language learners and students with disabilities, and support staff development. 

“Arts instruction must be continuous, rigorous, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of the communities and students the DOE serves,” said Chancellor Richard A. Carranza in the NYC Department of Education’s Arts in Schools (2017-2018) report. 

The NYJL is strongly committed to arts education too. In fact, we have six committees dedicated to engaging students in rich, cultural and artistic activities and experiences. One example of our arts education programming is Project Muse. 

Every week, Project Muse volunteers provide interactive art education classes to third grade students at a Title 1 school in the Lower East Side. Volunteers cultivate an environment where students feel comfortable, supported, and inspired to learn and develop their creativity and artistic skills through explorations of diverse artistic styles, championed by artists such as Frida Kahlo and Monet. 

Project Muse organizes several field trips to arts and cultural institutions each year, so students can engage with artworks in real life and create their own inspired projects. Recently, NYJL volunteers and students visited the Children’s Museum of Art to see E.V. Day’s Breaking the Glass Ceiling exhibit, encouraging guests to question invisible boundaries and aspire to greatness beyond society’s expectations and limits. 

Project Muse artists have also visited the Botanical Gardens, where they documented natural works of art through photography. Afterwards, the students walked through the neighborhood to identify and admire street art. 

To foster students’ aspirations, Project Muse hosts a career panel each year so students can learn more about art-related careers.

If you would like to celebrate Project Muse, please join us Thursday evening, December 5, at Golden Tree, where we will celebrate the important contributions of five community projects. A three-day shopping event and celebration, Golden Tree is one of NYJL’s signature events to raise funds for our mission–and continued exploration in the arts. 

The Building Blocks of Parent-Child Relationships

One of the foundational “building blocks” of early child development is a secure attachment between child and parent. In partnership with the Single Parent Resource Center (SPRC), NYJL’s Building Blocks program aims to strengthen these bonds through interactive play. Volunteers organize activities where parents and their children (ages 6 months to 4 years) can tap into fun, imagination, movement, and health. At the end of each session, children and parents take home their projects, which serve as reminders of their time together at Building Blocks. 

Unlike other NYJL projects, volunteers’ children are part of the program. And as many NYJL volunteers are new parents themselves, Building Blocks fosters teaching and learning together and integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection. Some activities have included adorning planters for growing basil at home; decorating holiday cookies; playing soccer; and making lava lamps out of household items. Building Blocks has also partnered with another NYJL community committee, Cooking and Health Education for Families (CHEF), to focus on nutrition and making good food choices.

At the 68th Annual Winter Ball, the NYJL will honor two key leaders of the Building Blocks program: Outstanding Sustainer Rosemarie Dackerman and Outstanding Volunteer Olivia Leon. Rosemarie heads community partner SPRC, and Olivia helped launch, and now co-leads, the program.

“Being part of the Building Blocks committee and being able to have my son join our sessions and help volunteer has been a truly rewarding and unique volunteer experience,” says Olivia. “[…]Building Blocks is a great example of how the NYJL grows and evolves volunteer options to meet the needs and schedules of our membership.  But the best part has been working with the Single Parent Resource Center and their clients over the span of three years. It has been great to watch all our children grow together, learn from each other and form friendships.”

Celebrate Building Blocks with us at Golden Tree’s Spirit of the Season: A Spotlight on Community on Thursday evening, December 5. Building Blocks will be among five committees recognized for their important contributions to our community. 

Supporting Survivors of Violence Through Advocacy

When a volunteer commits to NYJL’s Crisis Intervention project, she goes all in. These volunteers are first responders, on call twice a month to support survivors of violence when they arrive at New York Presbyterian Hospital, as part of its Domestic and Other Violence Emergencies (DOVE) program. Certified as rape crisis counselors by the New York State Department of Health, NYJL volunteers listen to clients’ stories, recommend resources, and present options so survivors can make informed decisions. They also clarify medical procedures and help survivors create a safety plan–all while ensuring patients’ rights to information, confidentiality, and privacy are protected. NYJL volunteers are problem solvers, working with law enforcement, medical staff, social workers, and direct service providers to help survivors get the care they need.

Violence appears in many forms: sexual, physical, emotional, economic, and psychological. Not only impacting survivors, violence can have reverberating effects on families and communities as well. Long after the abuse ends, survivors may continue to grapple with trauma, often resulting in learning disabilities, poor health, mental health challenges, substance abuse, and juvenile and adult crime. Violence breaks up families and ultimately costs taxpayers, while offenders, and the institutions that cover for them, escape this burden. 

NYJL has a longstanding history of city and state-level advocacy, working directly with communities to address these social challenges and to advance the health and well-being of women and children in the long term. 

In 2007, the NYJL partnered with the National Organization of Women (NOW) NYC to advocate for New York State’s first comprehensive anti-human trafficking legislation. The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA), placing greater accountability on traffickers and purchasers and strengthening the defence for survivors of trafficking from prosecution for sex work. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the TVPJA into law in late 2015.

In 2008, the NYJL successfully advocated for New York State funding to support shelters for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.

In 2010, Alongside the Women in Prison Project, the NYJL began advocating for the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) to grant judges discretion when issuing sentences to survivors of violence who are convicted of crimes related to their abuse. Under this law, judges may order lesser sentences or send survivors to community-based programs instead of prison. Governor Cuomo signed this bill into law in May 2019.

And most recently, in February 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law,  extending the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits. 

Join us Thursday evening, December 5, 2019, as we recognized the work of Crisis Intervention and four other community projects at Golden Tree, an annual, three-day holiday shopping and entertainment event. Golden Tree is among NYJL’s signature fundraisers to support our community projects, like Crisis Intervention, and ongoing advocacy for women and children. 

 

Spotlight on Performance Celebrates at End of Year Show

Educating children on the arts is a wonderful way to give them the opportunity to express themselves, build confidence and encourage self esteem. At the New York Junior League, the Spotlight on Performance committee enriches the lives of the children by exposing young girls and boys to the world of artistic expression and fostering an appreciation of arts.

The Spotlight on Performance committee recently closed the 2017-2018 academic year with an astonishing performance at the Grosvenor Neighborhood House YMCA: a musical review of Moana. The show was extensive, with elementary school students singing songs from the movie and dancing to the pop version of “How Far I’ll Go” in front of their families and friends. Throughout the semester, students had explored different themes from this musical with focus on marine life in Hawaii and history of animation. At the captivating post-performance party, the children proudly showed their creative drawings of the Hawaiian god and marine life to their parents.

The New York Junior League has established long-term partnerships with a broad range of community organizations that share our passion for improving the New York City community. Beacon to Broadway volunteers work with older children at the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, and use drama, dance, artistic projects, and music to inspire the young boys and girls to express themselves. The LIFT committee works with 12 to 18 year-old at-risk teens at Leake & Watts (now Rising Ground) to provide them with youth development workshops and mentorship. Volunteers from CHAMP and CHEF work with a variety of partners to help educate children on health and wellness and provide families guidance on how to make life-long healthy choices. Learn more about the organizations and programs we are proud to work with.