It seemed like the behind-the-scenes makeup room of a reality program. There were eight hair stylists shampooing, cutting and blow-drying, with three makeup artists busy in the center of the room. And seated in the salon chairs all morning were twenty stars.
The conversation between client and clinician was translated from Spanish, everyone involved was a volunteer, and all the stars won.
This was "Day of Beauty," when twenty Hispanic women from Mamaroneck marked the completion of nine months of participation in "Proyecto Madres," a local outreach program to empower and support Hispanic women, by receiving makeovers.
In its third year, the program is run by Mamaroneck Community Action Program in conjunction with Junior League of Westchester on the Sound.
Fittingly, "Day of Beauty" was held on May 10th, Mother's Day in the Hispanic community.
Alida Hernandez, from Guatemala, looked in the mirror and said, "I'm very happy." She is a mother of three who has lived in Mamaroneck for ten years. "Thanks to the program, I'm learning English, which is important for me to speak with my children's teachers, and to improve my life. I'm making friends and I'm gaining confidence."
This is mainly a word-of-mouth program, with info sent home on flyers tucked into children's backpacks at school. Every year the group aims for twenty new members.
The program was initiated in 2007 by Susanne Vasquez, the Junior League Chair of the program (and Judge Judy's daughter-in-law), and Luis Quiros, of Westchester Community Opportunity Program, Inc.
"I wanted to do something for women to become autonomous and independent," explained Quiros. "For nine months they've been working on the inside—on their emotions, and their knowledge. Now they're getting the finishing touch, with their appearance."
Monthly meetings were held at The Three Jalapenos from September to May, organized by Guisela Marroquin, director of Mamaroneck C.A.P. center. "We began with five members. Now we're up to thirty."
The center provides free baby-sitting while the women attend programs held in Spanish on subjects such as navigating their children's schools and learning what community services are available to them. "We're a place for them to enlarge their world and to express their needs," says Marroquín. For the children, there are after-school art and recreation programs, and homework assistance that can continue into high school. The center also provides legal advice, victims assistance and counseling.
One graduate of the program, said Marroquín, is on the board of Padres Unidos por la Educación, at Hommocks, working with the school to increase involvement of Hispanic families. And Susanne Vasquez will be taking the program to New Rochelle next year.
Diane Cermele is owner of Salon Posh, which opened last September. She donated $1500 in services by making her staff available all day. "I'm doing it because these women have drive, and I admire that."
Also volunteering were three local makeup artists: Marroquín's mother, AnnaBella Garcia; Valery Valeriano of New Rochelle, and Lucia Romano of Mamaroneck. Anthony's Deli sent over platters of food.
At the start of the day, "before" photos were taken. Returning to the center to pick up their children, the women received celebratory gifts and took "after" photos to mark their progress.
"My children are realizing it's necessary for me to go into the world to get information," said Monica Guzman, originally from Mexico. "And let's not forget about the husbands. We're educating them that we need to keep learning as a way to better our families."