Queens organizer secures Love Takes Action $50,000 award for Astoria’s Variety Boys and Girls Club

Volunteers package items at Queens Together – Boys & Girls Club Pantry
Photo courtesy of Queens Together

The New York Life Foundation awarded Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens a $50,000 Love Takes Action grant, thanks to a designation by Jaime-Faye Bean, the executive director of Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District and co-founder of Queens Together.

“Variety is grateful to the New York Life Foundation and our amazing partner and friend Jaime Faye-Bean for sharing this reward with our organization,” said Andy Rodriguez, executive director of the Variety Boys & Girls Club. “This reward will help us continue serving our community and change the lives of many families in need during these difficult times.”

Bean secured the grant for the youth center after being named one of 35 individuals across the nation as “Love Takes Action” awardees.

The Love Takes Action Award program awards $50,000 to local nonprofit organizations, which are championed by New York Life Foundation (NYL) agents and employees. The 35 individuals who were recognized from across the nation embodying Love Taking Action, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, were able to select a nonprofit to receive the grant from NYL.

NYL agents Veronique Verscheure and Yuka Yamashita chose to nominate Bean because of her role in strengthening local small businesses and in spearheading food relief efforts in western Queens during the pandemic. They have worked with Bean for two years, and cite her work in Sunnyside Shines as reason alone to nominate her.

But it was during the height of COVID-19, when Bean co-founded Queens Together to not only keep restaurants alive but also help feed frontline workers then the most at-risk community members, that they saw how impactful her work is.

“Since mid-March, under Jaime’s leadership, Queens Together has delivered 30,000 meals to families and frontline healthcare workers in Queens. But most importantly, Queens Together has been putting money into the local economy at a time when small businesses are in extreme crisis. The meals funded through Queens Together are giving restaurant partners a lifeline, allowing these businesses to keep employees on the payroll while also rebuilding resilience,” said Yamashita. “While being calm, her passion for the community, creativity to come up with fresh ideas, and acumen in connecting dots has made impossible possible. She has done so much for the community and we were 200 percent sure that she deserves this honor and recognition when we nominated her. And we were right.”

Photo courtesy of Queens Together

Bean, in turn, thought of Variety Boys & Girls Club for their partnership during the pandemic.

“I chose them because they’re a great organization, and I did a lot of my work with them,” Bean told QNS. “They were super responsive and generous, at a time when lots of other centers were closing their doors for other reasons. They were always there.”

Queens Together delivers Fresh Direct pantry boxes to Astoria Houses. (Photo courtesy of Queens Together)

The Variety Boys & Girls Club worked with Bean and other volunteers to deliver prepared meals to residents of Astoria Houses during spring and summer of 2020. In May 2020, the Club expanded their partnership with Bean to allow for launch of the Queens Together Food Pantry at their Teen Center, providing fresh produce and pantry staples to around 500 local families per week.

Sunnyside Small Business Supreme Team Boxing delivers Queens Together first responder meals to Elmhurst. (Photo courtesy of Queens Together)

The grant will support the organization’s programs — including food relief, virtual after-school and more — to empower youth in western Queens during the pandemic.

The Variety Boys & Girls Club, located at 21-12 30th Rd., has been an anchor in the Astoria and Long Island City community for 65 years, offering children a safe space to learn, play and grow into tomorrow’s leaders. Since openings its doors, it has upheld a strong tradition of community leadership to make a different in the lives of young people.

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