By: Sarah Ellen Rindsberg
When Dawn Greenberg was looking for a retail concept to open in Chappaqua, she sought a model which would incorporate her spirit of giving and provide a positive addition to the existing retail mix. She visited several fair trade shops–which proffer only items created in a safe and equitable environment–and decided that going in this direction was the viable vehicle for her and the town.
One of the factors in her strong belief in fair trade stems from the finding that most of those employed in this capacity are moms. “A lot of the fair trade artists are moms; this spoke directly to me, she observed.
A popular item at Aurora is a beaded bracelet crafted by women in Guatemala. At least $8 of the retail price goes directly “into the hands of the artist,” Greenberg mentioned. In addition, Dunitz and Company (the firm which distributes the product) also contributes funds to the hospital and library in the area where its workers reside.
About 75% of the products on display at Aurora are classified as fair trade. A significant portion of the remaining 25% are created by craftswomen in the hamlet. Laurie Berg’s bracelets and Buddah necklaces are prominently displayed. Leslie Weissman’s abstract paintings adorn the walls. Charitable donations are often tied in to sales from both Berg and Weissman’s works.
Greenberg’s sensibility toward giving is strongly rooted in her desire to help those who are less fortunate. Her family sponsors a child in Guatemala, through an organization called Mayan Families which covers the cost of school fees, supplies, uniforms, shoes and backpacks. Affection from the Greenberg household is sent long distance to Pedro Fernando.
In her personal life, the caring begins at home. Greenberg is the proud mother of two sons, Jackson, 10 and Ben, 4. Jackson’s Asperger’s is another motivating factor in her character. “Something very special to my identity is being a special needs mom,” Greenberg related. The support systems offered in the schools were a major factor in her decision to move to the community.
Spearheading the October 5th Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival
One of Greenberg’’s largest endeavors to date is the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. When she heard about the demise of its predecessor, the festival at Sunnyside, her reaction was quick and effective. Greenberg saw the opportunity to continue the idea in downtown Chappaqua and proceeded to assemble a team of volunteers. “She certainly is a visionary in terms of coming up with new ideas and trying to attract business to the town,” fellow merchant Erik Nicolaysen noted. On October 5, over 55 authors will come to the festival. The roster includes several illustrious authors from the hamlet: Barbara Dee, Mara Van Fleet, Matt Van Fleet and Jean Van Leeuwen.
A recent post by Greenberg on the Chappaqua Moms Facebook page: another brainchild–exhorted members to bring in bras. She laughed and said: “I call myself the Robin Hood of Chappaqua. I gather things to give to others.” The idea brought a smile to many faces and over 300 bras were donated. The bras will be sent to Free The Girls, an organization which gives used clothing to women who in turn sell it to support themselves. Bras are particularly valuable because they command a superior price. A previous post by Greenberg on Facebook (after Hurricane Sandy) brought in over $11,000 in gift cards for the residents of Barnegat, New Jersey, Long Beach Island and the Rockaways.
When tropical storm Hurricane Irene flooded the town, Greenberg knew that small businesses were going to suffer irrevocably unless someone stepped in to help. As a small business owner herself, she knew the potentially damaging effect of having to close for several days. Greenberg rallied the town and organized an event to bring residents in to provide emotional and financial support. Refreshments were donated and local art teacher Quincy Eggenton set up an arts and craft table.
Town Administrator Penny Paderewski has had the opportunity to work with Greenberg on several projects–including the festival–and is thoroughly impressed with her intelligence. She had stopped by Aurora recently to purchase a ticket for a fundraising tea for the festival and to wish the proprietor a very happy birthday. Plenty of patrons were browsing and chatting. “She’s got the pulse of the town,” Paderewski said. “I like being associated with her,” she continued.
Sarah Ellen Rindsberg pops into Aurora regularly and is always rewarded with a warm greeting and a smile.