The programs in JCCA’s Prevention Division work with at-risk families in the child-welfare system, building on their strengths and developing skills to ensure kids remain safely and happily in their own homes. Recently, Rani Smith, Senior Social Worker, organized a Mother’s Day Symposium at JCCA’s Bronx office aimed at celebrating and empowering mothers. The core of the event centered on makeovers by Shameicka Simmons, a professional makeup artist, who generously donated her time and expertise to help 30 women recognize and affirm their inner and outer beauty. A JCCA social worker, Holly Freidman, made the day even more special with donated goodie bags of Estee Lauder makeup products for the moms who attended.

In addition to the makeovers, the event offered lunch and speakers. One of the speakers, Jesenia Martin, a WIC (Women, Infants and Children) parent counselor, came to JCCA’s prevention services to learn better co-parenting and communication skills with her 12-year-old daughter’s father during a difficult custody situation. “Jesenia’s self-esteem had been low since having child welfare intervention. In our sessions, as I listened to her speak about her job at WIC, I realized how excited she was to share the love for her work,” explains Rani. The event was the perfect venue for Jesenia to speak passionately about her work with women needing breastfeeding guidance and other help throughout their child’s infancy. “It was wonderful to spend time with other mothers,” Jesenia added. “We talked with each other and it became quite emotional at moments. I really felt that we made up a sort of sisterhood that day.”

As Rani explains, “This event was meant to bring out the strengths of our clients and to remind them how beautiful they are inside and out, despite the odds they are faced with.” Although Shameika works primarily with high-profile clients, she donates much of her time to such events in the community. In fact, she was so moved by these mothers that she stayed all day to ensure that each and every mother who wanted one had a makeover. She hopes to make her participation an annual event. “My mission was to make sure every mother felt special that day, to help them feel recognized and important. I told them that on this day, they were my celebrities!” Jesenia agrees: “So many moms forget about themselves with all the stress and obligations of family and children. There are many mothers who work hard and neglect themselves and don’t get enough affirmation. It was wonderful to take a few hours out of the day to feel good about ourselves.”