Westporters pride ourselves on being aware. We’re aware of world events and local issues. We’re aware we need to reach out to others in need, whether far away or right in our own little bubble.
Some Westport women, though, are really AWARE.
That’s the acronym of a group started in New York, to support women’s causes. Each year they partner with a local non-profit, by volunteering, organizing an educational event and hosting a fundraiser.
AWARE — the acronym stands for Assisting Women with Action, Resources and Education — came to Fairfield County in 2013 via transplants from the city. Amy Saperstein, a founding member in New York, was instrumental in opening a local chapter in her new home here.
AWARE CT has already aided the International Institute of Connecticut (human trafficking), Mercy Learning Center (education) and Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes (veterans).
This year’s partnership is particularly powerful.
Malta House is a Norwalk-based organization offering a nurturing home environment, support services and independent living skills to pregnant and new mothers. It’s low-key — and life-changing.
AWARE members are all in. Nicole Gerber — a mother of 2 young children, who last year became AWARE CT’s chief operating officer, then returned to school for a degree in non-profit fundraising — is also a professional caterer. She’ll teach healthy cooking techniques at Malta House next month.
Galia Gichon Clements — another mother of 2, with a background in finance — volunteers in the nursery, and teaches the young moms about money management.
Dr. Nikki Gorman is a mother of 3, and a pediatrician. She attended AWARE dinners at Malta House in the fall, and quickly took on several newborns as patients.
Other AWARE members host events, including small monthly dinners and larger panel discussions on topics like homelessness in Fairfield County (with representatives from Project Return and Homes With Hope).
AWARE members also serve monthly dinners at Malta House. They include get-to-know-each other activities, great dishes, and activities like decorating t-shirts for the residents’ children.
It’s important for AWARE to be aware of what their partner organizations truly need. Malta’s program director Claudia Nixon says that many residents never experienced female friendships. So AWARE members model support for each other.
They also involve their own children, through a special AWARE KIDS program. Youngsters have organized bake and book sales, and made blankets for the Malta House moms.
Next up: a fundraiser.
Next Saturday (June 3, 6 p.m., Wells Hill Farm, Weston), there’s a “Party in the Pasture.” The sustainable farm is the home of AWARE member Michelle Fracasso.
A DJ is donating his time; local chefs are contributing food, and vendors are offering prizes.
Proceeds help women like Autumn Corley. Five months ago the 20-year-old and her ill mother were evicted from their Stamford apartment. She had never heard of Malta House. But it was a godsend.
Autumn ticks off what she’s learned: “Self-respect. Budgeting — I’m saving money now! And how to be a better woman, for myself and my daughter.”
She appreciates Malta House’s many resources, like speakers on child development, cooking and gardening.
And, she says, “the AWARE ladies are awesome. They all have different backgrounds, but they all motivate me. They love talking with us. There’s never a dull moment.”
“Dr. Nikki” is her infant Ameerah’s pediatrician. But she’s more than just a doctor.
She made 5-week-old Ameerah a onesie, with her name on it. Earlier — before the baby was born — Gorman helped Autumn write a note for Ameerah to read when she’s older.
In September Autumn will go to school, to become a dental assistant. Until then, she’ll stay at Malta House — “breastfeeding, and saving money.”
(For tickets and more information on AWARE’s June 3 “Party in the Pasture” fundraiser, click here.)