‘Branches of Long Island saved my life. It has fueled a fire in my soul that I never knew I needed.’
“I grew up with an abusive alcoholic father. I always felt like I didn’t belong in my family. I hit my teenage years without having a real father figure and that got me involved with a lot of wrong people. I had awful relationships; there was sexual assault and abuse.
“After I got married and was pregnant with my first son, I found out that my father wasn’t my biological father. I found out my biological father had passed when I was young, and his family wanted nothing to do with me. I had finally found a piece that was missing, but my heart broke all over again. I do suffer from PTSD, dealing with everything from my childhood.
“I started Branches Long Island in fall 2019. I was a part of community groups and mom groups and tried to help whoever I could, whenever I could, I collected on Facebook. And I said, ‘I want to start a nonprofit.’ My husband looked at me like I was crazy. We have four kids; we were both working. I put it out to my network, and within a few days, we had a name, and a few hundred people joining us.
I’m super excited about focusing on getting people help. My history fuels my passion, especially for these kids.
“We’re very grassroots. I was collecting items in my house and we eventually moved into my shed. Within six months, we opened our first outreach center in Middle Island, where we’re helping hundreds of families; we’re open seven days a week and we hired a staff.
“There are so many giving people and they just don’t know how to do it — this gives them an avenue. We’re opening a community center close to our current place and we’re hoping to focus on programs, education and the advocacy part of our group; for kids that don’t have anywhere to go after school, moms who need help budgeting, or nutrition, or applying for services. We help women flee domestic violence situations; we make sure the kids are set for back to school.
“I’m super excited about focusing on getting people help. My history fuels my passion, especially for these kids. A lot of them are in a cycle in the system, generation to generation. It just keeps getting passed down. I call them my twigs – I will take care of them because even if their parents are having a hard time, I want it to stop somewhere.
“Branches saved my life. It has fueled a fire in my soul that I never knew I needed.”