Victoria Sammartino

Chhaya Chhoum

Anne E. Delaney With Holly Block And Ana L. Oliveira

The New York Women’s Foundation® (NYWF) and the Circle of Sisters for Social Change celebrated their annual Neighborhood Dinner, honoring outstanding women community leaders in the Bronx recently at the Bronx Municipal Building with a featured performance by Annette A. Aguilar & her Latin Brazilian Jazz Quartet.

The New York Women’s Foundation® presented Mekong Founder & Executive Director Chhaya Chhoum and Voices Unbroken Founder & Executive Director Victoria Sammartino with the Neighborhood Leadership Award, honoring two exemplary women leaders and community activists from the Bronx. D’Mary Beauty Salon Owner Maricelis Zucco, received the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award as a woman entrepreneur and business owner whose presence enriches and demonstrates a commitment to the Bronx community. Bronx Museum of the Arts Executive Director Holly Block was honored with the Special Recognition Award for amplifying the voice of the Bronx community through the arts. Others in attendance included NYWF President & CEO Ana L. Oliveira, NYWF Board of Directors Chair Anne E. Delaney, NYWF Board of Directors Alumna & Neighborhood Dinner Emcee Marjorie A. Cadogan, NYWF Director of Community Philanthropy Madeline Lamour Holder, and Carol A. Robles-Roman, Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs and Counsel to NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

In 1994, The New York Women’s Foundation® inaugurated the Neighborhood Leadership Award. Moving from borough to borough each year, NYWF established the Neighborhood Dinner to award women leaders of both not-for-profits and for-profit businesses who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their community in neighborhood-based work on behalf of women and girls.

NYWF President & CEO Ana L. Oliveira welcomed guests to the Neighborhood Dinner on behalf of The New York Women’s Foundation® and the Circle of Sisters for Social Change and thanked them for coming to honor and celebrate women leaders and entrepreneurs who strive to make a difference in the Bronx community. Oliveira spoke about NYWF’s mission as a cross-cultural alliance of women catalyzing partnerships and leveraging human and financial capital to achieve sustained economic security and justice for women and girls, which mobilizes hearts, minds and resources with fierce determination, to create an equitable and just future for women, families and communities in New York City. She then introduced NYWF Director of Community Philanthropy Madeline Lamour Holder, who thanked all who contributed their time and efforts to the Neighborhood Dinner and NYWF overall, including a number of local artists connected to the Bronx Museum, who donated pieces which were displayed on each table.

Madeline Lamour Holder reinforced The New York Women’s Foundation®’s mission as voice for women and a force for change before presenting the Neighborhood Leadership Award to Mekong Founder & Executive Director Chhaya Chhoum, whose work in the Bronx community exemplifies the foundation’s mission. In 2012, Chhoum helped co-found and launch Mekong, a community based organization that aims to improve the quality of life of the Southeast Asian community in the Bronx and throughout New York City by achieving equity through community organizing and healing, promoting arts, culture and language, and creating a safety net by improving access to essential social services. Chhoum thanked NYWF for recognizing the Bronx community and her work within it.

After a brief introduction by Madeline Lamour Holder, Voices UnBroken Founder & Executive Director Victoria Sammartino took the stage to accept the Neighborhood Leadership Award for her contribution to the Bronx community through Voices UnBroken, a Bronx-based non-profit organization that makes high-quality creative writing workshops accessible to vulnerable youth, with a focus on working with girls and young women in the juvenile/adult justice system and in the foster care system. Sammartino thanked NYWF for the honor, telling guests that the Bronx is the only home she has ever known, before sharing two moving poems written by Bronx girls in one of Voices UnBroken’s writing workshops.

D’Mary Beauty Salon Owner Maricelis Zucco, was next to take the stage to receive the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. Zucco found economic opportunity in entrepreneurship after moving to the United States from the Dominican Republic seven years ago with her 10-year-old daughter in hand, seeking a better life for her family. Although Zucco was a successful agronomic engineer in the D.R., she struggled to translate her skill set in the United States without being able to speak English. Changing career paths, Zucco took courses on hairstyling and after five years learning the trade at various beauty salons, saved enough money and acquired the experience needed to open D’Mary Salon. No stranger to NYWF’s programs, Zucco was able to realize her dream of entrepreneurship and economic success with support from NYWF grantee partner Accion, which provided her with access the financial education and capital to invest in growing her business. Today, Zucco rents five booths in her salon to other women in the Bronx community for affordable prices so they too can support themselves and their families.

Finally, Bronx Museum of the Arts Executive Director Holly Block was presented with the Special Recognition Award for her dedication and support of artistic development and culture in the Bronx. During her tenure as Executive Director, Block oversaw the launch of smARTpower, a fellowship program managed by The Bronx Museum of the Arts and made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which enabled American artists to work with youth and local artists in sites around the world. Prior to joining the Bronx Museum, Block served as Executive Director of Art in General, a leading nonprofit arts organization in lower Manhattan dedicated to commissioning and presenting contemporary art.

Over the past twenty-five years, the NYWF has invested over $33 million in funding to over 280 women-led, nonprofit organizations, improving the lives of 5.4 million women and girls in New York City; 81% of those nonprofits have succeeded and are still thriving today. In 2009, the NYWF responded to the economic crisis by launching RISE-NYC!, a 5-year partnership initiative that increased its grant-making by more than 20% in focused areas including economic security, anti-violence and safety, and health.

ABOUT NYWF: The New York Women’s Foundation® is a cross-cultural alliance of women, serving as a voice for women and a force for change. The Foundation identifies innovative organizations that are effecting change for women in the communities they serve. NYWF strategically funds organizations and programs that move women, girls and families toward long-term economic security through individual transformation and systemic change, mobilizing leaders and community partners as philanthropists and change agents. NYWF funds programs that promote economic security and justice, anti-violence and safety, health, and sexual rights and reproductive justice for women and girls in New York City.

For further information about The New York Women’s Foundation®, please visit www.nywf.org.