Sunday, September 7, 2008

Public Service

Dr. Thom Romo

Dr. Thom Romo is a world renowned innovator in surgical techniques involving reconstruction of the nose, ear and face. In 2003 he co-founded the Little Babyface Foundation. He currently serves as the organization's President. Dr. Romo and his team understand that the isolation and ridicule that a child who is born with a facial abnormality may face could be painful and emotionally scarring. The Foundation aims to provide corrective surgery so a child in need in order to give them the chance to live a more normal and happy life.

The Foundation brings together a team of highly-trained and respected surgeons to provide surgery, all which is done for free. Travel is also provided to and from New York where the children undergo treatment.

The Foundation provides families with corrective surgery and treatment alternatives as well as connection to services and support groups.

The Organization to date has helped over 100 children who range in age from 4-18 years old and have come from seven states and seven countries.

Read more about the Foundation

Read more about Dr. Romo


Sarumathi Jayamaran

Sarumathi Jayaraman 32, co-founded Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) with Fekkak Mamdouh to provide support to displaced Windows of the World employees after the events of 9/11. Since the founding, ROC-NY has grown to support restaurant workers throughout New York City, advocating for improved working conditions. They have won eight campaigns against exploitative restaurant companies, obtaining $580,000 in back pay as well as improved workplace policies for workers. ROC-NY has trained over 1000 restaurant workers and organized 40 restaurant workers to open their own cooperatively-owned restaurant. ROC-NY currently has a membership of over 2,300 restaurant workers.

Based on calls for support around the country, Ms. Jayaraman, a Harvard and Yale educated lawyer and her partner also recently co-founded Restaurant Opportunities Center-United which will now branch out around the country.

Called a visionary, Ms. Jayaraman was inspired by the struggles of her parents, immigrants from India as well as her Mexican American high school friends.

When in college at UCLA, Ms. Jayaraman established a mentoring program for women of color which won praise from President Bill Clinton. That program is now in 11 cities across the country

Read more about Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York


Joseph M. Weilgus

When Joseph M. Weilgus began volunteering in New York hospitals he realized that there was little sunshine for both the patient and their families. He was greatly inspired and founded Project Sunshine. He started by encouraging companies and executives to volunteer some of their time at hospitals.  His mission was to provide social, educational and recreational programs to children and families faced with medical challenges. 

Now about 10 years old, there are 12,000 volunteers annually in 150 chapters in 33 states and 75 cities throughout the US, Canada, China, Israel, Kenya and Puerto Rico. Volunteers provide tutoring, reading, arts & crafts, nutritional cooking and special events for pediatric patients and their families, helping to keep spirits up and the will to stay strong as they fight their medical battles.

Read more about Project Sunshine

Project Sunshine in the Press:
Project Sunshine on Charity Happenings website

Project Sunshine on Origins Natural Resources' website

Project Sunshine on Helen Ficalora's website


Alexie Torres-Fleming

In 1992 when drug dealing and violence plagued her South Bronx neighborhood, Alexie Torres-Fleming help lead a march through the streets against these actions. In retaliation, the drug dealers burned the marcher's headquarters, her parish church. Ms. Torres Fleming became even more inspired to help her neighborhood that day and founded Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ).

Torres-Fleming now 43 has help shape the lives of a generation of Bronx children. She inspires young people to believe that they can rebuild their neighborhood. Her organization has armed and trained children to play an active role in the community through community organizing, journalism, environmentalism and the arts.

Ms. Torres-Fleming just recently was the recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation's Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism. She is also co-founder of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. A true believer in the Bronx, Ms. Torres-Fleming moved back to her old neighborhood where she now lives with her husband and two children.

Read more about Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.


Arlene Sullivan

Arlene Sullivan was struck with the idea for Changing Images when her two week old son was hospitalized for two months. Noticing the bleak surroundings, she decided the patients deserved a much more cheerful environment! It was just all too depressing.

In 1997, Arlene Sullivan co-founded the Changing Images Art Foundation with Mary Anne Martello. Their mission was to bring "comfort to persons, both young and old, who are in traditional institutional settings by providing a supervised interactive art activity."

Arlene and her volunteers do this "one wall at a time" by painting directly on walls, banner cloth, ceiling tiles, and even window shades. They bring the outside in on many occasions and everyone chips in, no matter what their art level is.

The Foundation's work has garnered the attention of a number of celebrities. Autographed paintings have been donated by Luciano Pavarotti, Jay Leno and Rosie O'Donnell to name a few. Ms. Sullivan has even written a book, The Journey of Hanna Heart, that includes illustrations of many of their paintings. The proceeds from the book go to the Foundation

Read more about Changing Images.