Behind every West New York town event, there’s a score of West New York Women’s Club volunteers donating their time and services. From Christmas to Easter, Father’s Day to Mother’s Day, and even on a day-to-day basis, members from the club have made it their mission to help those in need.
Although the reins of its operation now lie within the hands of President Elizabeth Ferrer, the Women’s Club was initially started by West New York Commissioner Michelle Fernandez-Lopez to help the women and children of West New York. Lopez remains an advisor, described as “[the club’s] godmother by Ana Gomez, the club’s event planner. “
“Sometimes it’s just having a conversation.” – Ana Gomez.
The club is noteworthy for its mutually beneficial nature. While West New York and surrounding towns have come to rely on the club for its volunteerism, the women in the club have come to rely on the club itself for empowerment.
Part of the mission, Ferrer elaborates, is to assist its own members, to motivate and empower them through monthly meetings that feature speakers on such topics as domestic violence, education, and women’s health.
The club is a revolving door of approximately 40 to 50 members at each meeting, women who come from all different backgrounds and professions. They come to the meetings armed with insight, donations, business cards from those who can help, and referrals for cases that need their help.
One such referral was for a man with cancer and no insurance last year, for whom the club promptly held a fundraiser to assist with his medical costs.
“We’re not a political group. We have no political agenda,” Gomez clarified, “We [work] for the positive impact.”
A helping hand in the community
December was a busy month for the Women’s Club, with members helping out with the West New York Toy Drive, the town’s Christmas event, and Hudson County organization Winning Angels’ Christmas party.
Every year, Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega holds a fundraiser for his birthday, donating the proceeds to the Women’s Club, which, in turn, purchases toys for their toy drive event for 700 third- and fourth-grade students in the district.
“It’s a joke that [Vega] wants to be a member but we won’t let him,” Gomez said.
The Women’s Club also works closely with Winning Angels, an organization that assists Hispanic families with children with disabilities, especially Down syndrome, in navigating the system.
“The help is there. Yolanda [Quintero] helps them find the help,” Gomez said of the Winning Angels director.
At Winning Angels’ Christmas party, the Women’s Club hosted over 100 children from the organization, putting on a show with Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman, serving them pizza and giving each child a gift as they left the event.
At the start of the New Year, the Women’s Club next looks forward to its Valentine’s Day dance event, its biggest fundraiser since the club’s inception.
In May, the club will again host a walkathon to raise money for Jersey City women’s shelter Women Rising, for whom they have collected a few thousand dollars in the past.
According to Ferrer, who is also a Gifted and Talented Teacher at Harry L. Bain School and PS No. 4, the club has enjoyed a “fantastic” reception by the community.
“Now they recognize us…It’s almost like family,” she said.
According to Gomez, seeing the impact of one’s donation is powerful.
She recalls the “spectacle” she made of herself when she first helped out at the Winning Angels Toy Drive. “The first year, I cried so much they had to put me in a room.”
An employee of Verizon Communications out of Newark, Gomez concurrently runs a toy drive within the building, and says the employees have been very supportive.
She recalls an instance when she showed a co-worker a picture of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome holding a toy she had donated. Recognition and happiness registered on her co-worker’s face.
“Most people have the $10, the $15 dollars to donate,” Gomez said, noting that she herself buys school supplies at the beginning of each year to donate rather than “buying [herself] another pair of shoes.”
The problem, Gomez and the club realize, is that a lot of people want to help, but don’t know where to go. To grow the club’s numbers and increase the impact, Gomez and the club plan to be more aggressive in their outreach.
“Sometimes it’s just having a conversation,” she said.
Future meetings for the West New York Women’s Club’s will be held Jan. 20, Feb. 17, April 7, and May 12 at 6:30 p.m. in Hudson Hall, West New York.
Deanna Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.