Two hundred guests—dressed mostly in hot pink—filled the Grand Salon of the JW Marriott Essex House in New York City on Saturday, May 21, to celebrate GlamourGals volunteers: young men and women who provide makeovers and companionship to the elderly living in senior homes across the U.S.
Sometimes a senior home visit (called a makeover) consists of chatting with many seniors, or simply sitting with one, just being present with him or her. Sometimes it's listening to a senior's advice or a story they have to tell. The best part? The makeovers bring two generations together and they both reap huge benefits. The seniors feel pampered and important (and a little bit less lonely) and the teens have a renewed level of respect for the elderly and gain invaluable life advice. The volunteers also hone their leadership skills by, say, running the GlamourGals chapter at their school, organizing visits with senior homes, and rallying up friends and fellow students to get involved.
At the "mocktail" hour at the Glammys, guests sipped rose-colored drinks (can you tell the GG color is hot pink?!) and munched on mini sandwiches and pink sweets (like the cake pops and macarons, above). Volunteers got glammed up even more with free makeovers from CHICstudios School of Makeup. (The makeup pictured above is from the event headline sponsor, Beauticontrol.)
The award ceremony is special for GlamourGals because it's the opportunity each year for the staff, helmed by founder and CEO Rachel Doyle, to celebrate and showcase the wonderful work that the volunteers do. (Some travel from states away—as far as Ohio this year—to attend the Glammys.)
This year, GlamourGals (with help from sponsors like The Women Helping Others Foundation) provided scholarships to five volunteers (you'll meet them below), who submitted essays detailing their efforts to support seniors. Four Glammy Scholarship Award winners received $1,000 scholarships and one winner received the Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer Award, also a $1,000 scholarship (provided by GG board member Louis Valerio; read more about him, below, too!).
"These young leaders could be doing anything else in their spare time in high school, and they have chosen to stand up and support a cause they believe in. GlamourGals has given me even more compassion for the elderly, knowing that no matter how old you are, you still want to feel like you are helping and contributing to the world. And will be heard."
–Allegra Cohen, co-chair of the Glammys, a GlamourGals advisory board member, and an actor and film producer
"Rachel and I connected in Los Angeles about eight years ago. I’m inspired by her mission and her hustle—we have that in common. We both will go to the ends of the earth to get things done, get our brands out there, and help positively impact the lives of others. We both support young people and help them develop into strong leaders."
–Lauren Berger, Inspiration Glammy Winner, and CEO of InternQueen.com
"With GlamourGals, I realized it wasn't just about community service. Well after I had my 100 hours, I stayed with it. I've always been very academically driven, obsessed with my grades, and I realized through GlamourGals that there are other important things you have to focus on, like making an elderly person's day better. GlamourGals helped me to focus my interests on helping people rather than just focusing on myself."
–Pamela Smoller, Chapter Vice President Glammy Scholarship Award recipient (she's starting a five-year physician's assistant program at King's College in the fall)
"Before GlamourGals, I stayed in my comfort zone, only leading by example, but as a leader, I had to be more vocal. It has really forced me to improve my interpersonal and people skills. I have learned so many valuable lessons and gained so much insight from the residents we give makeovers to. Multiple residents tell us our visits make their days or weeks. For example, Carol is a resident who we consider a regular because she always waits for us at the elevator. She told us 'I don’t know what I’m going to do without you girls over the summer. I look forward to seeing you the minute you leave.' That means so much to my chapter and I."
–Micayla Gammon, Chapter PR Officer Glammy Scholarship Award recipient (she'll be attending the University of Indianapolis to study nursing in the fall)
"During a makeover in April, I had the pleasure of meeting a lady that was 100 years old. She was in good health and had the prettiest smile on her face. At this particular makeover, the volunteers and I had brought pink balloons with white polka dots on them to give out to the senior residents. Each one of us was told to write a message on the balloon and give it to anyone we wanted to. I wrote 'You are AMAZING!' and gave it to the women that was 100 years old. She loved it so much that she wanted me to tie the balloon on her wrist so she could wear it for the rest of the day. Not only did I make her smile, but she made me smile when she kept my balloon in her room. It’s extraordinary how such a small gesture made such a positive impact on both her and me. I hope to live as long as her, and to be as happy."
–Meline Seecharan, Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer Award recipient (she'll be studying graphic design at the New York Institute of Technology this fall)
"I got involved with GlamourGals through Allegra Cohen. She's a very good friend of mine, she's very special to me. I actually got to go to a makeover. There's no better way to learn about an organization than experiencing it for yourself. For me, that was incredible. My grandmother is 99. Now I want to start a chapter where she lives. I can't get down there, I can't see her a lot. She's in Philadelphia. If I knew that she had young teen women coming and talking to her... It's not about the nails and makeovers so much as the connection. It's about the heart to heart, soul to soul that each person is giving the other."
–Cadden Jones, Glammys hot pink correspondent, and New York stage and screen actor
"As a freshman, I was really shy. By joining GlamourGals, it really helped me to learn to open up to people and to listen. I've found that as a chapter treasurer, the most important thing is communication, listening to everybody's opinion and putting that together to come up with better makeovers. When everybody's voice is heard, they feel more involved in the club, so it's not just the leaders that are leading the club. GlamourGals helped me to develop into a more open-minded person. I never judge a person by their actions, I have to listen to their story."
–Suin Jung, Chapter Treasurer Glammy Scholarship Award recipient (she'll be studying engineering at Cornell University in the fall)
"My freshman year of high school, my mom heard about GlamourGals from one of her friends. She looked it up and loved it so much she became a board member, and she told me all about it, so I started a chapter that year. Since then, I learned very quickly how to be a good leader, how to keep people motivated and to find what motivates each individual, because it is different. Not everyone is motivated by the same thing. It also taught me a lot about working with others, contacting the nursing home, speaking with people that aren't just my friends, speaking to adults and professionals. GlamourGals shows me and all the volunteers that little acts of kindness can go a long way. It's really helped me in ways I couldn't even imagine."
–Juliet Yeomans, Chapter President Glammy Scholarship Award recipient (she's attending Stevens Institute of Technology in the fall to study engineering)
"We created the [Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer] award when I got onto the executive board to honor my parents, who were still alive at the time. When [the GlamourGals team] brought the essays to me to select, the first year my mother got to do it with me. But then after that, she wasn't really able to, so we picked a group of ladies in the nursing home to do it. Then they passed away, so I'm doing it. This year's winner, Meline, just wrote a beautiful essay. But you gotta understand, they're all beautiful. It's not clear-cut, it never has been. At first, I saw GlamourGals as a way for older, lonely seniors to get a little help and be pampered. My parents were in a home and I saw all these women that never had a visit. I had no idea that it would change the girls. Then I started to see. I used to say GlamourGals is bi-generational. Now I say it's tri-generational, because there's my generation."
–Louis Valerio, GlamourGals executive board member, and chairman and CEO of Progressive Financial Services
"The volunteer speeches are my favorite moments. I am always inspired that these girls, who may not know who I am or have not met me, feel so driven for this cause. I am also humbled by how much they have accomplished and hope to accomplish with their scholarships. Usually I am so busy recruiting, working, sharing, training, mentoring, planning, explaining, asking, typing, listening, and brainstorming to think that all of those things can be added up to a greater "movement." When I heard Allegra share during her introduction how I built this from two people to thousands, it always amazes me how many lives the GlamourGals program has touched. I am thankful for my volunteers, team, supporters, and board members."
–Rachel Doyle, GlamourGals founder and CEO
"Taking care of somebody's grandmother, somebody's mom, learning from their experience, it may change a volunteer's mind about where they want to go to college or what they want to study. Sometimes just expanding one's experiences really changes the course of their life. I've watched the stories of many of the volunteers take that path and grow and go on to become biologists, scientists, and all kinds of wonderful jobs that we need. To the GlamourGals volunteers: Don't be afraid to talk to that stranger, don't be afraid to put yourself out of your comfort zone. See where that takes you."
–Joshua Wise, co-chair of the Glammys, a board member on the GlamourGals board of directors, and manager of STEM strategy at Walmart
"I first became involved with GlamourGals back in April 2015 when I met Rachel at an event in Baltimore with Girls' Life magazine. I introduced myself and told her that I'm a pop singer-songwriter. She told me about the Glammys coming up and she invited me to perform, literally on the spot. Then this past fall, I was at the GlamourGals Leadership Training Institute, where I presented and also interviewed guests on the hot pink carpet. Earlier this month, I became the ambassador for GlamourGals. I'm going to encourage my fans to get involved, start GG chapters, and when I'm out on the road, talk about GlamourGals, and spread the word about the GG movement."
—Kristina Lachaga, musical guest of the Glammys, ambassador for GlamourGals, and pop singer-songwriter
Photographs by Tom Schelling.