Beyond our love of sweet treats and all good things to eat, Alecia Bakery NYC was created so that we could help our community. We were honored to be able to provide Harlem RBI with our artisan caramels for “A League of Our Own” which celebrates the girls and women within their organization. The following is a quick note of thanks from Special Events Associate, Idalia Soto.
I wanted to take a moment and say how thankful we are for the support you have given Harlem RBI. You helped make A League of Our Own so special and delicious! Our guest could not stop raving about how delicious the treats and wine were. We included your contact information in our gift bags that went to all our 300 guests.
Below are some photos highlighting the event and some of donations (I will send more once we get them from our photographer). I could not have worked with a better group to make this all possible. We were able to raise almost $80,000 dollars which was a new record for this event. That would not have been possible without you!
Thank you for allowing our youth to Play, Learn and Grow!
One week ago as Lenny and I were out for our evening walk, a toddler no more than 18 months old ran towards us on the sidewalk with his parents closely following. The child, his cheeks puffed from his giant smile, had one end of a ribbon tied around his wrist attaching a large round mylar balloon to him like a bouncing tail as he toddled towards us as fast as his chubbly little legs seemed to allow. I couldn’t help but smile and think to myslf, “We should all experience life with such joyful abandonment!” However, for many, this is sadly not the case.
“The number of New Yorkers without homes has reached an all-time high. Tonight, more than 50,000 of our neighbors — including 21,000 children — will sleep in emergency shelters. The Coalition provides hot meals, crisis services, job training, permanent housing and special youth programs to 3,500 men, women and children each day while fighting for long-term solutions.”
Okay, okay! You’ve heard the numbers. You’re tired of being shown sad faces and despicable living conditions. Let me, instead, tell you about a magical night in Central Park where children and families were able to play until their cheeks hurt from smiling and bellies ached from laughter. A night that kids were free to be kids with one another — no matter what their socioeconomic status — and how that single evening helped set the stage for more smiles, more laughter and more happy memories.
According to Accuweather, “New York City has its seventh-wettest June on record.” Considering I’ve worn my wellies and dressed Lenny in his raincoat more times than not this month, I believe it. I would be a liar if I said I hadn’t been nervous tracking the weather forecast in the days preceding the Coalition for the Homeless’ Carnival Night for Kids. Mother Nature, however, sandwiched one perfect evening between two full of drenching rain. I’ve learned to be thankful for small miracles and this was definitely one.
My guests for the evening were New York Times bestselling author, Jerome Preisler, and his lovely wife (& Alecia Bakery NYC assistant), Suzanne. We were joined by the Director of First Step Job Training Program, my friend Liz Henderson, who introduced us to her co-workers and engaged us in thought-provoking discussions about our society while answering questions about the evening’s event and the Coalition.
“Camp Homeward Bound — The nation’s first summer sleep-away camp for homeless children. Located in beautiful Harriman State Park CHB provides hundres of boys and girls with a fun and safe summer.”
“Bound for Success — Gives homeless students the educational support they need to succeed in school through afterschool and summer day camp programs.”
Little could have pulled me away from meeting such hard-working and dedicated people, but the gleeful squeals and children’s chatter that swirled around us captured my attention.
Cheering wildly as they took turns soaking the camp counselors in the dunk tank…
Skipping gleefully through random puddles with their faces brightly painted…
Giddily wearing balloon corsages…
Eating chicken fingers and cotton candy until their tummies were full…
Singing camp songs with a stage full of counselors…
Nothing I could say or write could fully express the joy that filled Victorian Gardens last night, but I believe these pictures captured some of the magic…
(*click on the thumbnail to view the photo in its entirety)
“Every summer since 1984, Camp Homeward Bound has given homeless youngsters the chance to escape crowded shelters and sweltering city streets to enjoy swimming, music, arts + crafts and learn cooking and computer skills. It’s a rare chance to forget the stress and insecurity of shelter life and just be a kid. Camp fosters self-esteem and confidence to build upon when summer ends. You can give a homeless boy or girl and opportunity to enjoy a summer he or she won’t forget by sponsoring a camper today!”
“That’s right. I’m the social do-gooder yer mama warned you about!”
A couple weeks ago, with my 41st birthday quickly approaching, I began considering how to mark the day I was born. Birthdays bring to mind memories of pool parties with neighborhood friends, the cacophony of Chuck E. Cheese’s, getting your driver’s license when you turned 16 (for those of us who grew up in Michigan), slamming shots on your 21st culminating in your swearing you’d never drink again (ummm…no mum, I didn’t do this), and the years following when celebrations became smaller and more intimate yet more meaningful.
I’m not much for being the center of attention and with such a high percentage of my social circle spread out across the country a traditional celebratory gathering wasn’t in the cards. I found myself reflecting on my 30th birthday. My husband had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away just weeks prior and my co-workers didn’t want me to be alone so they took me out to dinner after the shop closed that evening. While at dinner, calls and texts poured in from family and friends across the country. It had secretly been planned that everyone would participate in my birthday celebration remotely. It was a wonderful night and a birthday I will always remember for the love sent over the airwaves. So in that same vein, while speaking with my dear friend, Jerome, I came up with “The Peanut Butter Cookie Project” which would allow me to celebrate with friends and family no matter their location while helping an all-volunteer, non-profit, no-kill rescue organization that was near and dear to my heart — Curly Tail Pug Rescue.
WHO COULD PARTICIPATE?Anyone who was my personal Facebook friend. Yes, sometimes it’s beneficial to be friends with a baker who owns a company 🙂
WHAT WAS REQUIRED?
* Donate a minimum of $20 to Curly Tail Pug Rescue. (Many of my friends donated more because, well, they’re awesome!)
* When participants received their cookie, they took a digital picture of themselves, their family, etc., enjoying their treat in honor of my birthday and posted it on my Facebook page with the hashtag #ThePeanutButterCookieProject.
ABOUT THE COOKIE:The Alecia Bakery NYC Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie weighs in at a WHOPPING 7 oz. MINIMUM! This is the total weight of an ENTIRE box of Girl Scout Do-Si-Dos, which is the inspiration for this treat! This monster of a cookie consists of two nearly 5″ Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies sandwiched together with deliciously creamy Peanut Butter Buttercream. Of course, we couldn’t let it go there. We had to add something extra to gild the lily — a swirl of house made caramel! Salted Caramel adds a touch of sweetness while Habanero Caramel adds heat and sweet! And since these mammoth treats are too big for any of our pre-made bags, we hand cut cellophane and hand wrap each one.
Five steps to peanut butter sandwich cookie heaven…
We have all heard the word and many have discussed the plight of the homeless, but few of us have truly experienced what it is like to have no place to call home. No place for a moment of solace. No place for a shred of privacy. No place for safety. No place to shelter ourselves let alone our family. When tough times strike, most of us are fortunate enough to have family and friends upon which to lean.
In the fall of 2011, while this company was in its infancy, I lost what little financial security I had. I was shaken to my core and terrified of how I would survive. Luckily, I had an incredible support system who offered me everything I needed to keep my head above water and Lenny in kibble. They refused to let me falter and in return I promised that I would do everything possible to make this company successful. Two years and many ups and downs later, Lenny and I still have a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, clothing on our backs and the “little company that could” is steadily growing and making its mark not only in people’s tummies, but in their hearts as well. But what of those who are not as lucky as we?
I have been blessed with an amazing circle of family and friends who make the world a better place daily by reaching out to those less fortunate and offering them a helping hand. One of those people is my dear friend, Liz Henderson. Liz is one of the kindest, gentlest, most considerate people you will ever meet. She has an infectious laugh and her fiance, Kevin, and their pug, Lennon, make me smile daily knowing that they are out there making the world a better place. You see, Liz is the Director of the Coalition for the Homeless First Step Job Training Program.
“A record 10,000 families sleep each night in New York City’s emergency shelter system. Thousands more live doubled- or tripled-up with friends or relatives, unable to afford housing in one of the country’s tightest real estate markets. The overwhelming majority of these homeless families are headed by single mothers who want to provide their children with safe and stable homes. Many lack the career skills necessary to find and maintain living wage employment. Others suffer from low-self esteem and self-worth, usually caused by years of domestic abuse. That’s why the Coalition’s First Step Job Training Program is so vital. By empowering homeless women to reach self-sufficiency through hands on job training, internships, mentoring, job placement and social service support, First Step benefits every member of the family.
“First Step’s innovative 14-week curriculum includes over 75 hours of computer instruction, along with literacy workshops, communication and interpersonal skills development, and other hands-on activities that give students a thorough and practical understanding of the job market and workplace. First Step also places students in internships with major corporations or non-profit organizations, and offers mentoring by experienced professional women. We also provide a lifetime of post-graduate services, including job placement assistance, ongoing mentoring from staff and volunteers, support groups, additional training seminars, and numerous networking opportunities with alumni and business professionals.
“Each year First Step helps hundreds of women achieve a new found sense of self-esteem and direction. The program has proven to be highly effective. Last year, of those enrolled, approximately two-thirds graduated, successfully completing both the classroom and internship portions of the program, of which 75 percent secured full-time employment.
“Coalition for the Homeless is the nation’s oldest advocacy and direct service organization helping homeless men, women, and children. We are dedicated to the principle that affordable housing, sufficient food, and the chance to work for a living wage are fundamental rights in a civilized society. Since our inception in 1981, the Coalition has worked through litigation, public education, and direct services to ensure that these goals are realized.
When Liz, in her quiet way, approached me about sponsoring this year’s Women Mean Business Luncheon it wasn’t a question of whether we would participate, but how. We couldn’t afford to buy a table (but one day we will) so, we went about making caramels to fill 350 organza pouches which would be included in the event gift bags. As I worked silently in the kitchen cutting and wrapping each confection one day, I reflected on the small community of homeless and near-homeless men who inhabit a corner of my block.
I often rely on Lenny to gauge the character of a person so when he immediately took to one of the men who sold newspapers at the subway entrance, I made a point to learn his name. Roy has never asked for money or food. He and his boys sit on milk crates most days chatting and watching the goings on of the public housing buildings across the way. On days when the sun is shining, Lenny stops and sits amongst the men letting them pet him while they tell me about the dogs they used to have. One man calls him “Sandy,” but I’ve never corrected him because it’s not important. What is important is that for a few minutes each day a lady and her dog stop by to chat. We don’t walk by and turn a blind eye. We don’t treat the men like pariahs. We smile and ask how they are doing. Simply, we treat them like humans — with dignity and respect — just as we wish to be treated.
It was my honor to be seated with Liz, Corporate Partnership Award recipients of Deutsch and Class 112 graduate Marlene Romero at this year’s luncheon. It was an amazing two hours in which I was inspired by the strength, perseverance and words of hope, spoken by President & CEO of Coalition for the Homeless Mary Brosnahan, Class 111 graduate Shakira Kennedy, Class 106 graduate Jessie Garcia and Ms. Romero. Many tears were shed and 350+ attendees walked out of the Grand Ballroom at The Pierre on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, with a renewed energy for change.
As Deutsch stated in the event program, “The difference between wanting change and creating change starts with standing up. Here’s to empty seats.”
I was having a particularly challenging personal day, during a particularly challenging personal week, during a particularly challenging personal month, when I received just the ray of sunshine I needed to begin parting the clouds of my psyche.
Taking a couple hours to escape reality one Wednesday afternoon, I decided to stroll through Chelsea Market. I love everything about the space from its origins as a Nabisco factory to the live webcam catching glimpses of visitors as they pass the waterfall to the myriad of vendors who now call the space home. I can’t fathom how anyone can wander through the market without buying a little something along the way.
Anyway, on that afternoon as I perused the bacon fat slicked brussels sprouts in Dickson’s Farmstand Meats’ window, I received a telephone call. Harlem RBI was hosting their 5th annual “A League of Our Own” event on the evening of Thursday, March 7, at Radio City Music Hall, and they were wondering if Alecia Bakery NYC would be interested in participating.
Two years after we opened our doors to East Harlem boys in 1991, a group of girls marched into Harlem RBI offices and demanded a league of their own. Since then, girls have enjoyed a place to play, learn and grow at Harlem RBI. Today, Harlem RBI and DREAM Charter School annually serve more than 600 girls and young women and will continue to support them as they become our leaders and change makers in the community and beyond.
A League of Our Own is our fifth annual wine and chocolate tasting event set at the historic Radio City Music Hall. The elegant affair includes exquisite wines, chocolates and heavy hors d’oeuvres from premiere New York restaurants and dessert shops. A silent auction will support our programs in East Harlem. Join us as we celebrate the strength and perseverance of the girls and women at Harlem RBI and DREAM.
Interested? Very little could have pulled me away from ogling the gorgeous green orbs, but this proposition made my heart soar! After a bit more discussion, it was agreed that an assortment of our caramels would be most fitting for the event’s expected 300 guests. And with that simple decision, the smile returned to my face, all of the “garbage” that had been weighing on me began to fall away from my shoulders and I felt reenergized.
Its quite simple. Nothing makes me feel as good as when I’m helping others. And it was an honor and a privilege to be given the opportunity to help such an amazing organization.
I rarely have time to go out socially these days and even rarer still are the occasions that allow me to get “all dolled up,” as a dear friend commented recently. But, on the wet, blustery winter evening of the event, I walked into the glittering Grand Foyer of Radio City Music Hall feeling like a modern day Cinderella. Dessert stations presented attendees with such an array of chocolate desserts that even the most fanatical chocolate lover would have been dizzied by the amount of cacao on display. Wine glasses sparkled and clinked. And wooden trays of delectable savory morsels floated by on the arms of servers dressed in Harlem RBI tees.
It was an evening I will always remember, but perhaps not for the reasons you may think. You see, many years ago I was a public school teacher in two extremely challenging school districts (Flint, MI and Jersey City, NJ). I gravitated towards the students who were at most risk, who had the least hope, who needed the most encouragement. I found joy in being their personal cheerleader. So while all of the luxe accoutrements of the evening’s event were spectacular, it was the three women who spoke and the stories they told that captured my heart and made me a Harlem RBI and DREAM Charter School supporter for life.
A beautiful young lady spoke of her “a-ha” moment when she realized what it was like to be a part of a team at Harlem RBI. One of the four highest ranking female executives at Delta Airlines shared her most terrifying professional moment — when she had to explain why she was qualified to continue to do the job she had successfully earned and loved, but due to a torrent of bad luck had failed miserably. And the effervescent Principal of DREAM Charter School recounted one of her most challenging cases — an 8 year old boy who when asked by his mother in the presence of the Principal, “Why did you say you aren’t going to college?” answered plainly, “You didn’t.”
All of the stories shared that evening served to remind me that every obstacle can be overcome and every goal can be reached with perseverance and the help and support from others. Oh, one more thing, and my favorite quote from the evening, “There’s a special place in hell for women in business who don’t help one another.”