Andrene Marie Williams had found her calling to make life better for kids and young adults in her community. So she created LadyDoves Self Enrichment Organization, Inc. in an effort to give back.
The do-gooder, who was voted Queens Person of the Week by NY1, knew she couldn’t change the world, so she decided to make a difference in her own way, in her own backyard. And with a little help from her friends, she and her volunteer members now have a mission and the organization is soaring to new heights under the watchful eye of its founder and CEO.
LadyDoves’ members are united emotionally and spiritually; their mantra is, “dedication, compassion and determination.”
While they have diverse occupations, they all share a passion: to help, give advice and counseling, and serve as role models for the youth in their community, providing the tools that will steer them in a positive direction.
Williams said she wanted to reach out because she saw a need and a void. Kids and young adults needed stability, a safe place to hang out; a place where they would feel secure, surrounded by love. Where they could go to summer camp, get involved with sports and creative activities, get homework help, and enjoy making friends.
“I’m the product of a single-parent home, and I remember the struggles my mother went through to take care of us,” said Williams. “The older siblings had to help the younger ones with their homework. Then, summertime came and we couldn’t afford to go away, so we spent summers home while most kids went on vacation, or to visit family. I vowed to myself that one day I would come up with a way to help kids who grew up like me.”
In March of 2008, Williams decided to call a meeting with her close friends. “I told them about my idea and what I wanted to do; that it was our responsibility to pave the way for our future generation. Thirty of them agreed to join me in this new venture,” she said. “As of today, we have about eight regular members and a few honorary members, and hope to increase our membership pool as we continue to grow.”
LadyDoves is all about self-enrichment, empowerment and a brighter future. The summer program offers trips, arts and crafts, swimming, tennis, track and field, dancing, and free workshops; even self-esteem classes like modeling, and a financial literacy workshop.
Last year, the program was free. This year, due to lack of funds, they had to collaborate with another group and charge a fee for their services.
When summer fun comes to an end, after-school takes place at P.S. 38 in Rosedale; sometimes at a local junior high school. And, workshops will be offered for young adults in job prep skills/career mentoring. This fall, the organization’s goal is to give lectures in schools around the area, from elementary to high school.
“We try our best to work with younger age groups, so we can make a positive impact on them early on,” Williams said.
The organization also provides scholarships for students. Their annual scholarship fundraiser will take place December 10 at Dante's Caterers in Astoria.
Their annual children’s Young, Gifted and Talented show, which will be held in April of 2012, is an event that provides a forum for LadyDoves’ up-and-coming young designers, dancers, models, singers/rappers and entrepreneurs, to display their talents and abilities. Both events are often attended by local elected officials.
Currently working as a real estate agent, the head “Dove” is also studying for her RN license, while looking into growing her Virtual Assistant business. “I am a woman of many talents,” she says. “I was unemployed for nearly two years, but it never stopped me from doing what I had to do for LadyDoves.”
LadyDoves provides a true haven for kids who are left to fend for themselves while their parents are often forced to work two jobs in order to put dinner on the table.
But Williams needed a space to run the programs. So, Latasha Smith-Bondswell, owner of Occasions Banquet and Catering Hall in Springfield Gardens stepped in to save the day by providing free space for workshops twice a week. It was a match made in heaven.
“Today’s youth are our future generation,” said Williams. “We must do our best to help bring forth their full potential, so they can become a valuable asset to their communities.”
Although much needed funding has been provided by Astoria Federal Savings Bank, as well as by Councilman Leroy Comrie, Williams insists that more needs to be done to help her cause.
“Without the building donation, additional funding and volunteers, what is going to happen to our youth?” she asked.
She also hopes that one day soon a building space will be donated so they can service more children in the community. “We can’t do the work by ourselves,” she said. “Let’s work together to make a difference and secure their future.”
For more information, visit Ladydoves.org.