GIRL-TOPIA: A Free Shopping Opportunity for Disadvantaged Teenaged Girls

On Sunday, April 28th, members of the Westchester community came together to make a positive impact on the lives of young women and girls. The Sharing Shelf of FSW partnered with the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s Ladies Philoptochos Society, the Junior League of Central Westchester, Girl Scout Troop 1878 and the mother daughter duo of Mari and Hanna Galvin to bring joy to the lives of nearly 100 girls from families living in financial distress.

These community leaders and volunteers created Girl Topia, a special one-day shopping boutique for girls ages 13 to 18. Organizers displayed thousands of new and gently used donated items in the VFW Hall in Mt. Vernon, while volunteers from Sephora provided free makeovers. Young shoppers from across Westchester, including Mt. Vernon, Yonkers, White Plains, Sleepy Hollow and Croton, received certificates entitling them to choose more than a week’s worth of outfits plus jewelry, shoes and a pocketbook.  Each girl also left with a gift bag full of skincare products donated by Coty Inc. and accessories. “I felt like a queen,” said one excited shopper.  “It makes me feel better and more secure, like I can go outside with pretty clothes and feel good about myself.”

The Sharing Shelf of FSW collects clothing for infants, youth and teens, distributing it free of charge to children county-wide through more than 25 schools, social service agencies, hospitals and community programs. It provides more than 1,000 seasonally appropriate outfits each month from its Port Chester warehouse. “We found that while we were serving so many children and youth, teenage girls were not taking advantage of our program,” commented Deborah Blatt, founder and Program Director. “I decided that we needed to bring the clothing to them to choose what they liked best.”  The Sharing Shelf hosted its first Girl Topia in November 2012, organized with the help of Caroline Stoerger, a Girl Scout who earned her Gold Award based on the success of the project.

Community partners were key to Girl Topia’s success.   According to Mei Morin of the Junior League of Central Westchester, a sponsor of the event, “Our Junior League has been a proud partner with Family Services of Westchester for many years on a variety of programs. Girl Topia is a perfect fit with our mission to provide community services to women and families. For me personally, it is so rewarding to help girls in need and to have my daughter, who also volunteered, experience that same sense of giving and caring.”

Mari Galvin, a regular Sharing Shelf volunteer, was captivated by the experience of giving back. “Hanna, my daughter, and I began volunteering with The Sharing Shelf over a year ago.  We had not given much thought to the pathway of donated clothes and if they ultimately reached youngsters in need. Our eyes were opened to the challenge of linking donations to those who could benefit.  We wanted to do more.  On Sunday at Girl Topia we experienced the joy of seeing teens “shop” for their own clothes.”

Sue Russon, a Board member of the Ladies Philoptochos Society echoed Mari’s sentiments, “Girl Topia was amazing.  One young lady told me it was ‘a girl’s dream come true.’  The girls had a great time; they really felt valued and special and so did we.”  To prepare for Girl Topia, the group collected more than 30 bags of clothes, shoes, jewelry and received hundreds of beauty products from corporations. They also created the 100 gift bags designed to match the event’s black and pink logo.

Jayne Peister’s Girl Scout Troop 1878 from New Rochelle, hopes to earn their Silver Award following their hard work. They collected clothing in the months leading up to Girl Topia and held weekly sorting nights. On the day of the event, the 7th and 8th grade Scouts assisted the shoppers by helping them find the items and sizes needed.  They also helped set up, restock the racks, and break down the event.

 

The Sharing Shelf plans to offer Girl Topia in the Fall, partnering with other community groups. If you would like to get involved with The Sharing Shelf and its Girl Topia program, contact Director, Deborah Blatt at (914) 305-9121 or thesharingshelf@fsw.org