David Stone
New Sewing Machines, thanks to L.S. Power, at the CBN/RI Senior Center Sewing Studio
New Sewing Machines, thanks to L.S. Power, at the CBN/RI Senior Center Sewing Studio

“One of the things we promised was an increase in robust programming," Carter Burden Network CEO Bill Dionne told me, "and we’re thrilled we were able to get this funding.” A great new opportunity is coming to the Roosevelt Island Senior Center. How they landed that funding and other significant support makes a story in itself.

Serendipity and goodwill joined hands to bring a new Sewing Studio to the CBN/RI Senior Center at 546 Main Street. Having Lisa Fernandez, who pioneered a sewing program at CBN's Covello Center in East Harlem, was no more than dumb luck until others stepped in to make an empowering idea blossom.

As Fernandez explains, the Sewing Studio would still be a dream waiting to happen had Island Kids Executive Director Nikki Leopold not helped out. From Leopold, it was the kind of generosity that, over the years, has knit Roosevelt Island nonprofits with completely different missions into powerful patterns of support.

(Coincidentally, both Leopold and Fernandez were honored by State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright as Women of Distinction, last week.)

L.S. Power, managers of the Ravenswood Generating Station on the Queens side of the East River, Leopold knew, wanted to contribute financially to initiatives on Roosevelt Island.

Not much later, Fernandez, seeing a golden opportunity, was on the phone with L.S. Power's Dominic DiBari. He didn't disappoint, to say the least.

"Their $10,000 gift allowed us to not only pay for the equipment, but for electric upgrades and also for the instructor for 25 weeks."

The instructor, Davida Highland, is a familiar hand who does the same work for all CBN centers with sewing studios.

On Roosevelt Island, the classes will be held on Thursdays from 1:00 to 4:00.

"We’ve had a lot of excitement," Fernandez reflected on the eve of opening the studio.

She now has her eye on a local fashion show, next year, where Sewing Studio graduates present their work, but for Executive Director Dionne, the immediate prospects resonate most.

“As with all our programs, it (the Sewing Studio) brings a level of dignity for those who learn how to use the machines. People feel better when they look better. They learn new skills and improve old ones."

The machines are also new, thanks to L.S. Power and Nikki Leopold's serendipitous suggestion to Fernandez, the person most likely to make a Sewing Studio happen here.

And there's more credit to share. 

The Sewing Studio will rely on Material for the Arts, an operation in Long Island City that's "a great source for fabrics, ribbons, buttons, supplies, all free to nonprofits." Dionne adds, “They give us supplies for all our centers.”

Dionne, Fernandez, L.S. Power and all the others who make the Sewing Studio a reality invite you to join them for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Senior Center, 546 Main Street, from 2:00 to 3:30 on Tuesday, March 13th. 

Light refreshments will be served.

If you have a moment, email Yulisa Santana (santanay@carterburdennetwork.org) and let her know you'll be coming.