An Ozone Park woman who lives by the “do the right thing” credo is at it again.
The Child Center of NY board of directors unanimously elected Giselle Burgess as its newest member.
Burgess, 34, is best known for co-founding Girl Scout Troop 6000, the first-unit ever in New York City designated for homeless girls, and managing the expansion, under the Girl Scouts of Greater NY, to more than 18 shelters citywide serving more than 600 girls and women volunteers.
“I am thrilled and honored to be part of The Child Center of NY family and grateful to all the board members for their support and trust,” Burgess said. “It is exciting to begin work together on behalf of the more than 35,000 clients the agency serves. As a former client myself, I do not take the position lightly and look forward to an opportunity to give something back for the help I received during a dark period.”
It was 2016 when the single mother of five found herself homeless when the home her family rented in Flushing was sold to make way for a condominium. The Child Center of NY helped guide her before the eviction and during a hectic aftermath that landed Burgess and her children right in the city’s homeless crisis.
“Giselle has been a part of our community for years and has stayed in touch and shared her journey with us, even after no longer needing our services,” Child Center CEO Traci Donnelly said. “She will be an exceptional advocate for our clients, and are truly blessed to have her join our amazing board.”
Burgess said she would take a public relations position to “spread the word about the great things The Child Center does. She called the Forest Hills-based nonprofit a “hidden gem that nobody knows about until they need their help” like she did.
“We are in awe of Giselle’s resilience and courage,” Child Center Board of Directors President Richard Jay said. “As survivors of domestic violence and abuse, Giselle and her children know firsthand the importance of the support provided by The Child Center of NY. Giselle’s insight, experience, and ideas will be invaluable to our work, and we are delighted to welcome her.”
Burgess will remain as the program manager of Troop 6000. She was a community engagement specialist for the Girl Scouts of Greater New York when she and her children found themselves living in a single room at the Sleep Inn hotel in Long Island City, just north of the Queensbridge Houses.
“Trying to find a home with five children is nearly impossible,” Burgess said. “My kids felt ashamed of it and when you see your children like that it makes you feel helpless. I wanted to make sure no other girls felt like what my daughters were feeling like.”
Burgess, who was raised in Woodside, together with Sunnyside resident Meredith Maskara, the chief operating officer of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer created Troop 6000 for 22 girls living in the shelter at the Sleep Inn hotel in 2017.
“Having a Girl Scout troop in a shelter brings joy to young girls, but more than that, it helps prepare them for success in school, in their communities and for the future,” Burgess said. “But this program is also for the women of the shelter. It gives them a place to feel empowered through their otherwise stressful lives. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Burgess and her children were in the shelter system for nearly a year before finding a home in Ozone Park where everyone had their own space as well as a backyard. Burgess recently returned to work at the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, after maternity leave, and looks forward to the additional work of making the borough aware of The Child Center of NY, which has made a difference in the lives of 35,000 children and their families since 1953.
Burgess has another challenge as well.
“With my newborn son I now have two boys and four girls,” Burgess said with a laugh. “Yes, they love their spaces, but now we’re looking for a bigger home.”