This past Saturday, the GlamourGals Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit, hosted its annual Glammy Scholarship Awards at the JW Marriott Essex House in NYC.
GlamourGals encourages young women (and men!) to visit senior homes and provide complimentary manicures and face-to-face interaction to the elderly (many who don’t have families or friends that visit).
The cool thing is that both the teens and the seniors reap serious benefits: it’s a unique opportunity for two generations to interact and bond. The teens gain confidence in their ability to lead, and their communication skills improve as they chat each month with the seniors, which can be challenging (often times residents don’t speak English or they suffer from different types of dementia that affect their memory, mental abilities, and/or general cognizance, such as Alzheimer’s disease). In turn, the elderly women are made to feel important. They have an audience in the GG volunteers; a group of girls who are eager to listen to them, to pay attention to them. And the promise of a GlamourGals visit gives the seniors something extra to look forward to.
“Today is all about honoring our volunteers and the incredible work that they do. It’s about having fun, and celebrating young people who care about the women who came before them,” says Rachel Doyle (above center, with GG volunteers), CEO and founder of GlamourGals.
This year, GlamourGals and its sponsors (like Beauticontrol and The W.H.O. Foundation) provided scholarships to six volunteers (five high school seniors, and one college junior), who submitted essays detailing how they went above and beyond in their service to seniors. The Glammy Scholarship Award winners received $1,000 scholarships; the winner of the Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer Award received $1,000 (provided by GG board member Lou Valerio); and the College Chapter Glammy Award rewarded $500 towards a volunteer, and $500 towards her chapter (provided by the 2015 Inspiration Glammy winner Jenna Segal).
Nearly 200 people squeezed into the Petit Salon at the Marriott Essex House to mingle at the “mocktail” hour and pose for pictures on the hot pink carpet: GG volunteers from North Carolina, Massachusetts, and the New York tri-state area; their parents and advisors (usually teachers); and GlamourGals supporters and board members. The dress code was semi-formal, with an emphasis on hot pink, the GG color. Under glittering chandeliers in the Grand Salon, the ceremony started, with advisory board member Allegra Cohen hosting (she also co-chaired the event with Joshua Wise, who is on the GG board of directors).
As each scholarship winner walked to the stage to speak a few words from her essay and accept her award, a song of her choice was sung live by pop singer/songwriter Kristina Lachaga. Mathis Yaeger chose “Style” by Taylor Swift as her song to walk to and Carly Roman chose “Gloria” by Laura Branigan in memory of one of her favorite residents. Read on for more about the amazing scholarship winners.
Carly Roman, The College Chapter Glammy Award Winner
Carly (aboveleft, with GlamourGals advisory board deputy chair Lindsey Smith) will be a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. She founded her high school GG chapter as well as the chapter at the University of Pennsylvania, where she and her volunteers visit not one, but two senior homes by their school.
“I’m hopefully going into geriatric psychology. It was almost no question that I would continue doing some sort of community service with senior citizens. And why not GlamourGals, since it’s been such a positive experience, and I had all the resources I needed, having done it in high school.”
Jennifer Oberlander, The Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer Award
Jennifer, soon to be a freshman at Quinnipiac University, loves volunteering with seniors so much that she took on roles outside of GlamourGals, volunteering at other seniors homes in her area, including an assisted living center that her grandmother lives in.
“When you’re working with the elderly, some of them can’t walk, so they’re in wheelchairs, and there are some people that don’t always understand what you’re saying. It can take them awhile to process it. I think it’s so important to see that you can sit there and talk to them no matter how long it takes to have a conversation. And they can see that you want to talk to them and you want to be there. Most of the time their nails are done in five mins and then we sit there for a half hour talking. That’s what it’s about, going and being a friend.“
Evan Millican, Glammy Scholarship Award Winner (Chapter Vice President)
Evan came all the way from North Carolina (her flight was covered by GG, thanks to donations from Beauticontrol) to be at the Glammies. She’ll be a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall.
“I’ve become a better speaker. My confidence in talking to people and my interpersonal skills have improved a lot. I used to be very shy. Getting one on one time with the ladies [at the senior home] and having to initiate conversation has definitely helped me to break out of my shell.”
Sarah Sandler, Glammy Scholarship Award Winner (Chapter President)
Sarah (above left, with Christina Sookhoo, the 2014 Glammy Scholarship Award Winner Chapter President), who will be a freshman at Clemson University later this year, founded the GlamourGals chapter at her high school when she was a junior. She put in a lot of work her sophomore year though, just to get the club started. She says she didn’t have a car, and her parents both work, so she had to bike to school over the summer to talk to the principal about starting a GlamourGals chapter. By the time she was a senior, her chapter had grown to 40 girls.
“This year, we wanted to connect the residents more to their families that live far away. My grandma moved to Florida this year because she’s sick, so she’s living with my aunt. We Facetimed with her a couple of times and it made me think of getting the residents to FaceTime with their family members far away. So we raised enough money to buy an iPad mini for the seniors. We were showing them how to use it, the games and stuff. It was really cool.”
Janice Hur, Glammy Scholarship Award Winner (Chapter Treasurer)
Janice (above left, pictured with Shiwanghni Manisha Doebri, the 2014 Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer Award winner) is going to study nursing and business at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. She plays the piano and used that to connect with the seniors that her chapter visits.
“I’m very passionate about music, and I incorporated that into the GG [visits] at the nursing home. I would paint their nails and talk to them, and then during any spare time I would play the piano for them. They love it so much… I feel a responsibility to take care of the elderly. If I was older, I would want someone to come visit me once a month, so I could just talk to them.”
Mathis Yaeger, Glammy Scholarship Award Winner (Chapter Public Relations Officer)
Mathis helped to grow her GlamourGals chapter from 14 to 50 volunteers in a year. She’s heading to University of Connecticut in the fall to study biology.
“My life would be very different without GlamourGals. I spend many of my Saturdays at the nursing home. A lot of the elderly feel really alone, so I’ve learned to make connections with the residents and with all the members of my chapter.”
The Inspiration Glammy Award is bestowed upon an influential individual who works in entertainment or business and who is making a a positive impact with communities in need.
Allegra Cohen, host of the event (left), was thrilled to see her friend Jenna Segal (right), the lead producer of Gigi on Broadway, win the 2015 Inspiration Glammy Award. “When we were walking out of the event,” Allegra says, “she shared with me how much it meant for her to offer the volunteers a perspective on keeping the seniors’ stories alive through their interaction at the makeovers. The volunteers have the chance to pass on inspiring life lessons they learned from listening to the seniors’ stories and providing them with a comfortable, safe, judgement-free outlet for the women. ”
Kristina Lachaga (above) worked closely with her vocal coach to learn the songs that the scholarship winners had chosen so she could perform clips of them live at the Glammys. She also performed Demi Lovato’s “Gift of a Friend.” “I wanted the girls to walk up to the stage to receive their award to the best part of the song, so I had to choose that and find the right key for the different tracks. It took about three weeks to get everything together and we were still tweaking the timing of some of the songs minutes before the the GSA started! And I’m so glad I was finally able to sing “Gift Of A Friend"—I’ve loved the song ever since it came out and this was the perfect opportunity to perform it. The song depicts the gift of friendship that the girls are giving to the elderly women (and receiving) through their involvement with GlamourGals!” she says.
This year, GlamourGals made a partnership with Beauticontrol and the W.H.O. Foundation to create almost 30 new chapters around the country. Gary Jones (above), vice president of research and development at Beauticontrol, and a member of the board of directors for the W.H.O. Foundation says, “Getting younger women involved in volunteerism is so important, to start it at a young age, especially when [GG is targeting] one of the most overlooked populations in our community.“
You can learn more about GlamourGals here.
Photographs by Tom Schelling.