The last several weeks have featured a bevy of local non profit workshops and presentations.
Two of which happened last Wednesday night— the second in the Yes! Empowerment Series from the YWCA of Bethlehem and a panel on Quality of Life Women’s Issues hosted by American Association of University Women Easton Branch featuring Megan Lago (who coincidentally is my neighbor), the communications director for Lisa Boscola; Janice Thomas, homeless services director for Third Street Alliance for Women and Children; and my former colleague Antoinette Cavaliere (pictured below), program director for ProJeCt of Easton.
It’s energizing that local non profits can interact with each other and the public so fluidly and easily through social media and video conferencing platforms.
The focus of the AAUW panel was the problems facing families during the pandemic, which many of them seemed to revert to age old problems like lack of education and domestic violence.
This week’s YWCA session was on giving and receiving feedback, another interesting reflection on how we communicate and interact with others.
Then I opened my LinkedIn to discover that the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley featured a photo of me, my colleagues and one of our Women United supporters on their LinkedIn post to promote their upcoming Women United event.
It’s been an exciting week for Aspire to Autonomy, Inc., and an even more exciting Friday night!
As early as Monday, the communications team at Aspire will be sending out a press release talking about all of this excitement. If you are reading this, you are getting a taste of what the media will learn Monday.
On Monday, our new team of 6+ social work interns from the graduate programs of Kutztown and Marywood universities started work with Aspire. So it’s great to have new people with new energy and new voices.
In the middle of the week, as Darnell and I were trying to put the finishing touches on the organization’s 2019-2020 Annual Report, Amber let us know that Northampton County had approved Aspire’s grant application for more than $8,000 to provide masks and hand sanitizer to the underserved and unsheltered.
Today, Aspire learned that Just Born has awarded the Community Intervention Service pilot program a $2,500 grant.
On top of all of this, Aspire had the opportunity to host a hot meal distribution of quality vegetarian Indian food from Aman’s Artisanal Indian Cuisine on Northampton Street in downtown Easton.
Aman’s worked with Lehigh Valley Sikhs to pay for and prepare these generous meals that Aspire distributed to the elderly, disabled and other underserved individuals identified as part of the Communities Impacting Communities program, primarily in West Ward, Easton, but also in Wilson borough.
Bulk meal distributions happened at Third Street Alliance for Women and Children and other Lehigh Valley non-profits. I helped distribute some meals at Third Street, with teenager in tow, and delivered others to families in my own neighborhood who I know have been furloughed since the beginning of the pandemic.
As I was leaving, Darnell gave me one of the single person bags to give to my blind, senior citizen friend, Nan.
I hadn’t even thought about her— her fixed income, her disability, her reliance on friends for what she needs, and her age. To me, she’s just my good friend and partner in crime. I was touched that Darnell remembered Nan and wanted the outreach to help her too.
This is why I Aspire—the Lehigh Valley is one of the most populated regions in the state. Its transportation infrastructure makes every other region of the country super accessible. It has proximity to New York City, Philadelphia and the New Jersey shipping ports.
Human trafficking happens here and it may not look like what you expect it to look like.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery.
Aspire to Autonomy wants to find trafficking victims and give them the tools and support they need to rebuild an independent life. But they are forward-thinking and broad-reaching and grassroots in their vision.
They celebrated their second anniversary in July and they are gaining momentum every day.
Their anti-trafficking vision also helps strengthen our communities and forges partnerships and connections that hopefully will improve life for every underserved citizen. Because traffickers prey on the vulnerable, and if we strengthen our bonds in our neighborhoods, traffickers won’t have a place to hide. Or a place to hunt.
This is Why I Aspire. Anti-trafficking may sound like a niche, but helping our neighbors is not.
So, as I wrote this, Nan finished her first meal of the goodies from Aman’s that I brought her. As a blind person, she couldn’t quite recall what everything was but she offered strong reviews of the deliciousness.
She had some of the “cross between vegetable soup and vegetarian chili” (lentil and black bean curry) and loved the “cucumber salad” (cucumber salad with chickpeas) and had to dip a spoon in the “fruity pudding” (sweet pudding). She reports that the individual bag is at least two meals, but the cucumber salad probably won’t last the night.
She confirmed that she has never had Indian food before and that she is now a fan.
And she asked me—after making me promise to thank Darnell, “is it okay to have Indian food for breakfast?”