One of the most exciting days for The Smile Project was receiving a grant from The Pollination Project. Beyond the financial implications, the idea that there were people who believed in this mission of every day joy was humbling. Since then, I have had the amazing opportunity to meet and work with many other grantees from the organization.
I met Jennilie Brewster, the founder of Open Doors earlier this year and was immediately taken by her and the mission of her organization. She connected me to Andres “Jay” Molina and Ramon “Tito” Cruz, two members of Open Doors who helped with this week’s Service Spotlight. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Open Doors through the eyes of Jay and Tito.
Liz: Let's start in traditional Smile Project fashion - give me a "Happiness is.."
-Happiness is love. When you have love for life and others, you become happy
-Happiness is family. Being in harmony with your family & loved ones will bring you happiness.
Liz: Tell me a little bit about the organization?
-We’re a young nonprofit initiative that helps people that have been affected by gun violence, whose members reside at Coler Nursing Facility on Roosevelt Island NY
-We speak against gun violence and about the trials and tribulations of being in a wheelchair. We also do spoken word and written poetry, hip-hop music and visual art.
-OPEN DOORS is a group with six “core group” members, and another six active member that participate at any given time.
-Our director Jennilie Brewster (who was a hospital volunteer at the time), noticed that the programs that were being offered to residents were aimed toward an older crowd and decided to create a group with activities and opportunities aimed toward the younger population.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
-Protecting the youth. We don’t want people to go through what we went through.
-We would also love to see more financial and physical help for people in wheelchairs.
Liz: What does "service" mean to you?
-It means help the next person without wanting something in return; to provide care and attention for somebody even if you are not getting paid for it.
Liz: How can people get involved?
-People can get involved by coming to our events, visiting our Facebook page, following us and donating money through our website.
Whoever is interested can come visit us at Coler Nursing Facility, 900 Main St. New York, NY 10044, or you can contact us at the website here. You can also follow along on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Liz: Anything else you'd like to add?
-We had a big poetry event on May 22nd at the RIVVA gallery in Roosevelt Island, which was covered by The Trace and picked up by the Huffington post. It was a great success. People can get a taste of what we do by taking a look at the video here.
Liz: Do you have a last piece of advice?
-Don’t ever put yourself in a position you can’t get out of.