Volume 81, Number 2 | June 9 - 15, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Rosie Rodriguez, right, with her Lower Eastside Girls Club mentee, Arlenny.

‘Angels’ give to girls, who give to sister clubs

By Muneeza Iqbal

Rosie Rodriguez was once part of the Girl Scouts. She gives it all the credit for building her confidence, team spirit and leadership skills. So when she wanted to give back to her East Village community she looked for an organization that would help her pass on her skills to other girls, the Girl Scout way. Joining the Angel Alliance of the Lower Eastside Girls Club gave her this opportunity.

The Lower Eastside Girls Club was founded in 1996 when the East Village/Lower East Side was the only area in the country where the Boys’ Club had not opened its doors to girls. Unfazed by this discrimination, a group of local women came together to found this organization, which has helped thousands of neighborhood girls flourish.

Consisting of a diverse group of women who raise funds for the program, mentor young girls and take them around the city on trips, the Angel Alliance is a vital part of the Lower Eastside Girls Club. Rodriguez has been an active member since January.

“She is not only a member but also a fundraiser, which makes her very valuable to our club,” said Adriana Newman, director of development at L.E.S.G.C.

Rodriguez mentors a middle school girl, Arlenny, and finds it to be a very rewarding experience.

“Hands down my favorite part of working with the Girls Club is being able to spend the afternoon with Arlenny, a wonderful, bright girl from a local school,” she said.

They are part of Crafty Chicas, a monthly program that brings mentors and mentees together through fun arts-and-crafts classes.

“Arlenny’s genuine enthusiasm and happiness during Crafty Chicas truly touched me and confirmed that the Girls Club is definitely doing great work for the Lower East Side community,” Rodriguez said.

Lower Eastside Girls Club members with guest teaching artist Nicolina Johnson (with hat) in Central City, New Orleans, where the girls did murals.

Arlenny has become close to Rodriguez and really seems to value the time they spend together, according to the mentor. They also interact with the other girls, which fosters an environment of friendship, regardless of age differences.

This fall, Rodriguez is taking her volunteering and fundraising skills a step further by combining a dream with a commitment. Along with 19 other volunteers, she will be running the New York Marathon, and together they plan to raise at least $100,000 for the Girls Club. Some of the runners are part of the Angel Alliance; others are merely interested in running, along with raising money for a good cause.

“The opportunity to aid a charity that is important to me will not only enhance but also sweeten the sense of achievement that accompanies completing my first marathon,” Rodriguez said.

The girls at L.E.S.G.C. come from low-income to no-income families and are considered to be part of the “at risk” population. They are at risk of not only problems such as violence and teen pregnancy, but also lack of opportunities, according to Lyn Pentecost, the club’s executive director. The Girls Club aims to give these young women facing major challenges the opportunities needed to help them succeed.

One way of doing this is by giving the girls exposure to cross-cultural and international experiences. L.E.S.G.C. has sister Girls Clubs in New Orleans, Mexico and Nepal. The girls volunteer at fundraisers to help raise money for these cash-strapped clubs, and have even done trips to New Orleans and Mexico for arts projects. They also work at the La Tiendita Fair Trade and Girl-Made Gift Shop, where, apart from local goods, handicrafts made by the Girls Club in Nepal are sold, with 100 percent of the proceeds sent back to them in their country on the other side of the world.

“The travel is an eye-opener for these teenagers and they start to think about the world around them,” Newman said.

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