In short: Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m asking you to help me support the Lower Eastside Girls Club, and I’ll match whatever you donate through this secure form until midnight on September 5th.
Around the start of each new year, I try think of an issue that I want to learn more about and become an advocate for. In past years I’ve spent time learning about issues like criminal justice reform, or clean water and sanitation access.
This year I realized that I wanted to do something that would have real impact right here in my own community. My whole adult life has been defined by my living in the East Village, and so many opportunities have been given to me as a result, and I want to give something back. That’s especially true now that we’re raising my son in this neighborhood. Over the last 2 decades that I’ve lived here, the Lower Eastside has reduced violent crime by about 90% while preserving a racial and economic breadth that makes us one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. But while I am so glad for that progress, those advances haven’t yet translated into a broadening of opportunity for all the young people in our neighborhood, especially young women, particularly in our community where most are girls of color. We have an enormous number of families that are struggling to get by, even as they live in the same city as some of the wealthiest people in the world.
A Freaking Planetarium
When I first heard the name “Lower Eastside Girls Club” a few ears ago, I had imagined a small meeting room where some girls could do arts and crafts projects or something like that. While that’s certainly possible at today’s LESGC facility, most people don’t know that the Club is innovative and indispensable 20,000 square foot facility that serves as a force for giving girls and their families access to an incredible range of resources:
- The 64-seat East Village Planetarium where scientists teach lessons about our latest space discoveries
- The Science and Environmental Education Center is a working green roof garden where girls can grow flowers and herbs
- A full commercial kitchen where the girls can use those herbs to learn not just how to cook, but how to be culinary professionals
- A super cool recording studio (complete with ProTools and Ableton!) located in a customized Airstream trailer that was hoisted onto the second floor of the facility
- La Tiendita, a full retail shop selling fair trade goods made by the girls and by the Club’s sister coops in Chiapas, Sierra Leone and Nepal
- A Media Center that’s not just “teaching girls to code”, but teaching them how to create everything from digital media to understanding the way the web works
- And of course, countless social programs addressing everything from elder care to literacy to fitness to tax preparation—the Girls Club’s Center for Community was where so many in our neighborhood went for a comforting meal in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy while power and other services were still knocked out
There is so much more I can’t even list it all. In short, the Girls Club is both a safety net and a launch pad for kids who might not otherwise get a shot. Getting to see this space, and all the services it enables, was one of the most affecting experiences I’ve had in the past year. And all of it is available to the girls in our community, to support them and their families, with most of these services free of cost. That’s where we come in.
I’m Asking You To Give
I’m fortunate to have access to an incredible network of brilliant, talented, powerful and privileged people. I am surrounded by people who are loving, generous and kind. And I’m never more appreciative of it than the moments when I get to take some time to reflect.
Tomorrow is my 40th birthday. I have an incredible wife, a happy and healthy son and more good fortune and opportunity than I know what to do with. I want for nothing. But being surrounded by generous people means that many want to show me kindness on a milestone birthday.
So here’s what I’m asking for: Give. Give a lot. Whatever you can afford. And I will try to match your gift, dollar for dollar. (I’m a working man with a family to support, so I’m a little nervous that we might end up having to raid the piggy bank to match your generosity. I hope we have that problem!)
What we can do together is open the door for these amazing, creative, endlessly inventive young women who deserve the same shot at seeing their dreams come true that you or I have had.
So please take a moment and give what you can ($40 is a nice way to celebrate my 40 years!) and then email me or tweet at me to let me know what you gave. (If you want me to keep it private, just say so.) At the end of the day tomorrow, my birthday, I’ll add it up and double it.
I’m so, so thankful to everyone who has helped me arrive at a big birthday like this one with my every wish fulfilled. Let’s see what we can do to offer the same kindness to some young women who truly deserve it.