We don’t know about you, but this year, we feel like a superstar if we put on pants, take a shower and make sure the kid eats some broccoli. But some NYC parents are not only modeling #NYtough and proving “we can do hard things”, they’re out there giving back to their communities and making a difference in all kinds of ways, from feeding the hungry and raising money for businesses impacted by pandemic, to entertaining us and providing a much-needed laugh. Read on for some good news and inspiration!
Helping to Feed New Yorkers: Temecca Seril
Founder of social innovation tech consultancy firm Element 9, Harlem resident and mom to 11-year-old Barack, Tamecca Seril was dismayed at the inequalities of the food and health systems in her community that COVID-19 brought into stark relief. She wanted to reduce the hardships faced by the city’s most vulnerable populations, and zeroed-in on food relief work as a meaningful and immediate intervention. “New Yorkers don’t let New Yorkers go hungry,” she says. Her company now operates a pick and pack operation at Industry City in Brooklyn, preparing shelf-stable food care packages for the GetFood NYC program, a COVID-19 food relief program. As of late September, the Element 9 team has distributed more than 800,000 meals since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.
Rocking Out & Giving Back: Dave Miller & Lisa Schorr, Kids Rock For Kids
Lots of parents' kids are in rock bands. However, most of those parents don't produce live benefit concerts as a way of both supporting their kids' passions and demonstrating how people, even kids, can use their talents for a greater good. That's the origin story of Kids Rock For Kids, founded by Brooklynite parents Dave Miller and Lisa Schorr, an effort that has grown from an altruistic, "let's-put-on-a-show" impulse in 2017 to full-on non-profit with a global reach and impact.
Early KRFK shows featured accomplished Brooklyn and NYC kid bands and raised money for local agencies including the New York Coalition for the Homeless. When the pandemic put the kibosh on the organization's April 2020 benefit, Kids Rock For Kids pivoted to a live-streamed show featuring the kids playing together, separately. (That fundraiser pulled in an impressive $12,000.) The latest effort from Kids Rock For Kids was "Around the World: A Benefit Show for Kids in Crisis", a live-streamed concert featuring 15 hand-picked, incredible teen and tween bands, from 10 countries, including Spain, India, Colombia and the UK that benefitted UNICEF. As part of that production, KRFK even put together their own six-person band, selecting a rock-star kid from every inhabited continent as members. (That effort has raised over $5K, and counting). Bummed you missed it? Don't be: an encore presentation with new material is streaming November 15. The best news? The donation period is still open, so your family still has time to rock out and give back, too!
Portraits for Essential Workers: Karen Haberberg
Like many people, photographer Karen Haberberg found herself with a lot less work when the pandemic hit. While the Chelsea resident (and mom to two kids, ages nine and 13) did continue to do remote photo sessions with families—capturing those fleeting newborn days, for example—she also felt compelled to do something for the people who were keeping the city alive, in every sense of the word.
"I was asked by a friend to photograph a bunch of employees as a 'thank you' for working at the offices of Babylon Dental during the height of Covid. They risked their lives to deal with dental emergencies because treatment was so widely unavailable otherwise," she says. That lead to a larger project of porch photo sessions for essentials workers. She hoped to offer a respite and a moment of normalcy to these first responders, and donated her services to families throughout the city.
You can see the entirely of the project here.
Caring for Community: Nowshin Ali & Anurag Shrivastava, People In Need
It’s difficult to overstate the impact that Nowshin Ali, Brooklyn resident, restaurateur—she owns celebrated Flatbush eatery Jalsa—and parent parent to an 11-year-old boy, has had on her community, both pre- and post-pandemic.
In 2016, the Ditmas Park resident and Anurag Shrivastava co-founded community-based organization People in Need (PIN), which is dedicated to assisting low-income families speaking a variety of languages reach their full potential as residents of New York City. Over the past four years, PIN has run an after-school homework program, summer youth programs, women’s workshops, and warm clothing and back to school supplies drives.
In mid-March PIN launched People In Need - COVID19 Food Insecurity Campaign. With an initial fundraising goal of $3,000 to serve people in the Flatbush community, donations now total over $70,000 and PIN assembles and delivers family-sized food boxes to over 300 families a week throughout Brooklyn, and has served more than 3000 unique families throughout the borough multiple times.
PIN proudly serves Brooklyn’s full diversity: elderly people who live in isolation, people with disabilities and special needs, single mothers, and low-income families who are primarily South-Asian, Latino and Black.
In mid-October, through the People In Need women’s program, the organization will launch multi-lingual workshops in basic computer skills for the female immigrant population of Flatbush. Workshops will provide assistance with navigating the internet, opening email accounts, finding essential help through various government websites and working with Google Classroom for children’s remote learning.
Helping to Keep it Local: Maya Komerov & CinchMarket.nyc
Over the past few years, it's been hard not to notice the number of independent businesses closing up shop around New York City. Rising rents coupled with fast, often free shipping from Amazon and other big box retailers, has meant tough times for the businesses that are key to keeping New York unique and vibrant. About two years ago, tech industry veteran and entrepreneur Maya Komerov (also mom to two kids, ages 7 and 11) decided she wanted to create something to help sustain the small businesses in her home borough of Brooklyn, and CinchMarket was born. (Komerov is seen here, right, with Glam Expressway owner Lindsay Stuart.)
Originally an app, Cinch Market is now also an online destination that facilitates, through tech and operations, shopping independent local businesses throughout Brooklyn. (In October, the company expands to Manhattan's Upper West Side, with plans to ultimately serve the entire borough.) Of course, when the pandemic hit, the need for Cinch Market—for both stores and residents—surged. Cinch Market sells across more than 12 categories, including gifts, toys, wine, jewelry, essentials, and if you order by 10 a.m., you can get your delivery the same day; if your order is over $60, delivery is free. Note: goods from multiple stores arrive in a single box thanks to a central processing center in Brooklyn. "We create an infrastructure to get back the power of community," she says. "People want to shop local." (Take that, Amazon!)
Dancing in the Streets: Dance Rising Collective
On October 1 and 3, scores of professional dancers took to the streets as part of Dance Rising: NYC, a hyper-local dance out across all five boroughs. NYC professional dancers took to the parks, windows, streets, and rooftops to dance. The event was held in an effort to focus public attention on an industry that has been economically devastated by the pandemic, with an estimated 90 percent of the dance professionals out of work. Organizers, members of the Dance Rising Collective, include Lucy Sexton, mom to two teenagers, and Maura Nguyen Donohue, parent of two sons.
“[My children] have struggled through their Zoom dance classes, but long to be moving with others—outside their bedrooms!,” Sexton says. “Dance Rising is a balm for the souls of our city's dance artists. Letting them move publicly and amplifying their artistry every way we can. Our city is a great city because it celebrates dance and culture and art. We need to let professional dancers know they are valued and inspire our young dancers who have been alone and inside for too long!”
Later this fall, large-scale videos of the dances filmed as part of project will be projected in public spaces throughout the city.
Cool to Be Kind: Rob Stone & Jon Cohen With #SaveOurStages & NIVA
If you met your partner at Mercury Lounge, S.O.B.'s, Baby's All Right or some other seminal NYC indie music venue, you have no excuse not to get your wallet out right now, because we found your new favorite T-shirt.
Rob Stone and Jon Cohen, co-founders of THE FADER, built a magazine and media company based on their love of music—especially live music. And let's face it: NYC is where incredible live music happens, particularly in small, independent spaces like the ones mentioned above.
"There is no more enjoyable moment for a music fan in NYC than seeing your favorite artists [play] live, early in their career in a small club, and following that ascension through the years to see them play Madison Square Garden. But It all starts in that small independent venue," says Cohen. "What the music fan does not realize is how many people and lives are tied into that independent music venue ecosystem. From ownership to the crew, to the sound people to the bartender, merch person, security, so many livelihoods were instantly put on hold from the pandemic. When all of this started, one of the first things we thought of at FADER is 'How can we use our platform to help support those in music being affected?'."
One part of the answer: A T-shirt made in collaboration with popular relief platform This T-Shirt, building on the National Independent Venue Association’s (NIVA) #SaveOurStages campaign, spotlighting independent venues across New York and the impact they have on their communities. All proceeds made from the sale of the shirt will benefit NIVA.
"My first concert was RUN DMC at Madison Square Garden in 1986 and it was mind-blowing, but so many monumental shows have been at small venues—like seeing Alicia Keys for the first time at Joe’s Pub when she was 17, to the only time I saw Prince live in Chelsea, to seeing The Notorious B.I.G.’s very first show at The Muse in 1993," says Stone. "I want my twin boys to grow up and see shows and experience the creativity and culture, be in that moment that only independent New York venues can provide."
(Disclaimer: there's some not-so-kid-friendly language on the shirt, but hey, that's rock and roll.)
Get the shirt here: thist-shirt.com
Offering a Comedic Break: The Pop Ups
Half of the kindie rock sensation The Pop Ups, spouse to a frontline healthcare worker, and dad to two daughters, ages eight and six, Jason Rabinowitz reports, “humor and levity are essentially how my family has survived the pandemic, emotionally speaking.” Part of that was creating a silly video as a family project one weekend, and that morphed into an entire web series dubbed, "This Joke's For You.” (Installments were sent around to friends and family as a little pick-me-up during trying times.) Then Rabinowitz’s bandmate Jacob Stein suggested tackling some of the current challenges for parents in song. “It's dire. But it's also absurd,” says Rabinowitz. “And our belief is that if you can't laugh you'll cry. So The Pop Ups wrote 'Dad You're Not A Teacher. Primed from the family web series experience, Rabinowitz’s kids stepped in to speak for all kids in the video for the song. Coming soon, just in time for Halloween, is “ZOOMbies.” Which of course is about “How Zoom turns you into a zombie…”
Stay up to date here: thepopups.com
Taking It To the Streets: Allison Eden
Allison Eden identifies herself as "the least likely person to patrol", but the Upper West Side resident and mom to two teen boys has been hitting the streets every week since July as a volunteer for neighborhood safety patrol organization the Guardian Angels. (She's seen here, in glasses, with some of her fellow GAs.) The impetus for Eden's involvement was the much-publicized relocation of more than 280 homeless men into her neighborhood, and reports of some dealing and doing drugs, public urination and other undesirable behavior. "These are human beings. They need services," she says. But she also didn't feel safe. "I said, 'If nobody's going to do anything, I'm going to do something'." And now, on some nights when she'd typically be in bed with a book, she heads out from 8 p.m. to midnight to patrol the Upper West Side with other neighborhood volunteers to help keep the streets safe. "I've met the greatest group of people, who love New York City like I do," she says. "It's not political. These are people who love New York City."