The Westchester Poverty Symposium was an opportunity for individuals to come together to learn about innovative, community-driven partnerships focused on helping those in need. Elected officials, non-profit organizations and several school districts attended the sold-out event and learned actionable items to help the estimated 10% of Westchester residents living in poverty.
Whether you’re a morning person or a never-ever-before-noon (or at least two cups of coffee) type, this is one Dawn you can’t help but notice! And not just notice, but truly and deeply admire.
Like her daybreak namesake, Dawn Greenberg lights up the New Castle community in many wondrous ways. She is a regular and visible presence in town, as well as the founder and ongoing contributing member of many renowned local organizations. Creative, savvy and hard-working, Dawn is a shining example of how one individual can turn great ideas into actionable realities.
Here, Inside Chappaqua’s top ten salute to Dawn Greenberg:
- Wife: Paul Greenberg is yang to Dawn’s yin, the sometimes frustrated (so many projects in their home!, so much demand on her time!) but always supportive and proud husband!
- Mother: It’s a job/title/hat many proudly wear. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less noteworthy–cheers to the moms in all our incarnations! That said, when your particular incarnation includes a special-needs child, there’s usually some extra sacrifice and work along with the usual growing pains. Dawn has worked tirelessly with both the Chappaqua PTA and Special Education Committees to help enrich the educational experience for her sons,11th grader Jackson who has autism and 8th grader Ben, and their Chappaqua classmates.
- Retailer: From 2011-2014, Aurora, Dawn’s name-derivative boutique was many a shopper’s first and last stop for one-of-a-kind gifts. From moms looking for their gal-pal’s perfect birthday present to dads and kids in search of something unexpected for Mother’s Day, the shop offered a treasure trove of options. Aurora inspired Dawn to become more involved with the town–fellow townspeople and merchants alike. When Dawn closed the shop in 2014, she promised it was going to be much more of a “see you later” than “goodbye”.
- Founder of The Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival: Seven years ago, Dawn heard that one of her favorite seasonal activities, Tarrytown’s Sunnyside children’s book fair, was going to be discontinued. Saddened by what it would mean for her own boys and the countless other young book-lovers, she decided better to embrace this particular closing door by opening an even bigger window. That was in March of 2012 and by September of that very same year, Dawn had put together the inaugural Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival with 60 authors. Although generally very self-effacing, Dawn allows that this was “one of my proudest moments.” This past October 2019, the Festival grew to include some 145 authors, patrons from far and wide and a reputation as one of the pre-eminent book fairs in the country.
- Co-Founder of One Book Westchester: Dawn’s newest book-centric project takes reading, literacy awareness and community to the next level. Working with the Westchester County Executive’s Office, the Westchester Library System and BOCES, she expects the concept to unite people through a shared literary experience; from schools and libraries and bookstores, to bookclubs and dinners and historic re-enactments, every community is invited to put their spin on the theme and share with others. While the concept isn’t new, most places have done it with just a single adult-level book. At Dawn’s suggestion, One Book Westchester is also amping up the idea to include elementary-aged story books by Eric Velasquez, a middle-school-level book, The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani and an adult-level book, Dear George, Dear Mary by Mary Calvi.
- Founder of…: shhhh – you heard it here first – Not one to rest on her laurels, Dawn’s plans include creating a Children’s Book Festival for Manhattan, perhaps as early as next spring!
- National Literacy Award Recipient: As mentioned, Dawn is never one to toot her own horn. So, it is only through word of mouth that this reporter learned of her Daughters of the American Revolution first-place National Literacy Award acknowledging her dedicated years of work. Brava, Dawn!
- Co-Founder of (914) Cares: Originally known as Chappaqua Cares, this grassroots organization has expanded to include a fulltime team of directors and officers. The mission is to provide help throughout Westchester to all those struggling with the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care.
- Feed Me Fresh Award Recipient: Another well-deserved nod of recognition, this time from the Mount Kisco Childcare Center, which honored Dawn at its fall gala for her part in community affairs.
- Political Activist: A member of the Democratic Party, Dawn is also a known local activist. She was instrumental in helping to organize the many local Hillary Clinton supporters into a cohesive campaign strategy grassroots group know as Chappaqua Friends of Hillary back in 2016. And, when things didn’t go the way they’d hoped, the group (in keeping with Dawn’s “turn lemons in to lemonade” philosophy”) expanded their platform and rebranded themselves.
Up2Us now has more than 4,000 members and expects to canvass and work tirelessly for the 2020 Democratic nominee. Asked how she became interested in politics, Dawn recounts that her family has always been involved as far back as a grandfather who ran for Governor of Georgia.
More importantly, and coming full circle to her roles as wife/mom/community member, Dawn says that it’s important to model engagement for our kids. They need to see–not just hear lip service to–that “one person CAN make a difference.”
Meet Madeline Finesmith
Like many who move to town, Dawn and Madeline became friends via their children during a Mommy and Meclass, and it is a friendship that has blossomed over time through many mutual interests. It also helps that Madeline, like Dawn, is energy personified. A former Ernst & Young consultant, with a law degree to boot, she knew the rigor and risk-taking aspects of her former corporate life would be a good fit for a start-up festival. So, when Dawn sent an email lamenting the demise of the Tarrytown Fair and suggesting a Chappaqua reboot, Madeline was quick to reply she was “all in” to help make it happen. Her logistics and financial skills were invaluable to the start-up process, and, thanks to those early efforts, more recent festivals have seen sponsors clamoring to participate. Not only did Madeline help to grow the festival, but the festival helped her growth toward a new career path: Volunteer Recruitment and PR Manager for JCY-Westchester Community Partners, one of her early philanthropic research connections for the festival. Sharing “this Book Festival has given me a lot, and I’m very happy to be a part of it.” Madeline, again much like Dawn, is quick to also point out that she’s “just a piece of it, but there are lots of pieces!”
COURTESY OF (914) CARES
Planning on making a New Year’s Resolution to give back to your community? Have a teen who would like to volunteer? We sat down with (914) Cares’ CEO, Jessica Reinmann to put together a list of the top 10 volunteer opportunities in Northern Westchester.
1. Kids’ Kloset – Pack a “Bag of Love” for a child in need.
Kids’ Kloset provides underserved Westchester County children with donated clothing, books and related items. For more information, go to www.914cares.org/kids-kloset.
2. Baby Bank – Stock the shelves with donated baby items.
Baby Bank provides basic necessities and essentials for babies, 0-2. The mission is to help local families in need keep their babies clean, healthy and happy. For more information, go to www.914cares.org/baby-bank.
3. Coachman Family Center – Host a holiday celebration for children.
Located in White Plains, the Coachman Family center has over 60 homeless children in their youth program at any given time. Create a fun-filled afternoon with food, activities and games. For additional information, contact email@example.com.
4. Neighbors Link – Cook dinner for Family Night.
Neighbors Link’s mission is to strengthen the whole community through the healthy integration of immigrants. Every other Friday, an evening workshop is offered to Neighbors Link families and a buffet dinner is needed. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. DonationDrives – Collect urgently needed items.
DonationDrives helps individuals and groups coordinate and manage collection drives for those in need. For more information, go to www.914cares.org/donate-things.
6. JCY-Westchester – Read to a child.
Help kids become life-long readers at one of the 26 programs run by JCY-Westchester Community Partners. Programs are run during the school day, right after school and over the summer. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
7. Ossining Schools – Sort donated books.
The Ossining School District is committed to making sure every student has access to books at home. Sort through donated books so we can help create these home libraries. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. #FilltheVan – Help gather diapers and wipes for babies in need.
#FilltheVan is a community-wide diaper and wipe drive that helps struggling families. Participants will receive flyers, program brochures and collection boxes and on February 14th, we will pick up all of the collected donations. For more information, please go to www.914cares.org.
9. Cottage School – Host a Lunch Bunch.
The Cottage School helps abused, neglected and traumatized children heal physically and emotionally through compassionate, quality care. Lunch bunch occurs once a month, during the week for adults and on the weekends for teens. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
10. Volunteer at your local Food Pantry.
21% of Westchester residents are food insecure and your local food pantry provides essentials to those in need. For more information, please contact your local food pantry or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(914) Cares focuses on helping our Westchester Neighbors who struggle to meet basic human needs: Food, Clothing, Shelter, Education and Medical Care, with the ultimate goal of eradicating poverty throughout the County. To do this, (914) Cares partners with other local non-profits to support placement of volunteers and coordination of donation drives. Its key programs include: Kids’ Kloset, Baby Bank, Empty Bowls Westchester and Donation Drives.
Kids Kloset provides under-served children donated clothing and related items. Eligible children receive Bags of Love with clothing packed into properly sized and well-coordinated outfits free of rips, stains and missing buttons.
Baby Bank provides basic necessities and essentials for babies, 0-2. The mission is to help local families in need keep their babies clean, happy and healthy.
Empty Bowls raises both money and awareness in the fight to end food insecurity with the ultimate goal of eradicating hunger throughout Westchester County.
Donation Drives helps individuals and groups coordinate and manage collection items for those in need.The goal is to have new or gently used items quickly and efficiently get into the hands of those who can most use them.
(914) Cares is proud to offer “one-stop shopping” for those members of any community who want to help those in need. To volunteer your time, donate funds or goods or otherwise find a way to incorporate philanthropy within your family, visit 914cares.org.
Courtesy of (914) Cares
There they were sashaying down the red carpet clad runway–a nattily dressed toddler strutting his stuff in a stylish sweater, a tween decked out in a tulle skirt with on trend sunglasses. A DJ played the latest hits as these mini models advanced on the catwalk while Lindsay Brooke Weiss from Coco in Cashmere, an Armonk stylist and fashion blogger gave quick bios of the models.
Only this fashion show held last month in Harrison at the Willow Ridge Country Club had a higher purpose than just showcasing the latest spring styles for kids. All of the 80+ child models representing towns from across the county were donating their clothing immediately after the show to Kids’ Kloset, a nonprofit that provides under-served Westchester County children with donated clothing and related items.
Since Kids’ Kloset was created in 2011, the volunteer run organization has provided more than 17,000 “Bags of Love” containing clothing, footwear, diapers and other baby essentials to local children. Formerly under the auspices of Westchester Jewish Community Services, Kids’ Kloset recently became a division of (914) Cares and opened up new headquarters in North White Plains this past fall. Michael Slomsky, a Vice Chairman of (914) Cares and Chappaqua resident whose daughter Megan was in the show, said the new North White Plains spot is an ideal location with ample space to showcase the clothing with low overhead.
Although Kids’ Kloset has held fashion shows in previous years, this year’s event was the largest turn out to date, according to Jessica Reinmann, chairperson of (914) Cares and a resident of Chappaqua. “I really think the partnership between (914) Cares and Kids’ Kloset is what made this year’s event such a success,” said Reinmann. The event raised more than $100K as of press time and Reinmann hopes that next year’s event will have attendees from every zip code of Westchester.
The event honored Diane Katz, a longtime Kids’ Kloset supporter and White Plains resident. During the show, attendees also learned of the dire need for essentials that some 51,000 families in Westchester face with annual incomes of less than $24,000. An attendee from Armonk, Michele Zipper was happy to have her daughter, Emery participate as a model in the show. “It’s great that she can do something with fashion that helps others,” said Zipper.
Viola Regis, a Mount Vernon resident was an attendee and her daughters, Lily and Izzy, who also graced the runway have been the recipient of Kids’ Kloset’s “Bags of Love”. She donated $100 to the organization at the gala as a way to show her appreciation for Kids’ Kloset. For several summers, her daughters have attended sleep away camps on scholarships and Kids’ Kloset has outfitted them for the experience. One attendee remarked that many children who receive camp scholarships actually turn them down because the families can’t afford the many camp essentials. “My children always have a smile on their face when they go to Kids’ Kloset and I know they help not just my family but so many others,” said Regis.
Kids’ Kloset founder Stephanie Roth was also excited at the gala to announce the launch of a “Baby Bank” this spring which will provide not only essentials like supplies of diapers for six months but also other items such as pack and plays. This “Baby Bank” and the evening’s gala illustrates just how much progress the organization has made since Roth decided to start the organization after a young mom in her community who couldn’t afford a stroller showed up at Roth’s doorstep a decade ago.
For more information about Kids’ Kloset, visit 914cares.org.