Move over Spice Girls! Girl power isn’t just for pop stars.
“Every administration before this one had a women’s club,” said West New York’s Parks Commissioner Michelle Fernandez-Lopez.
Last May, Commissioner Fernandez-Lopez made history when she became the first woman elected to the Board of Commissioners. Now, she wants to make history again by bringing back the Women’s Club.
According to Fernandez-Lopez, she suggested to newly elected Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega that the town should bring back the Women’s Club, to which the mayor said, “Why not?”
“We wanted to bring [the club] back,” said Fernandez-Lopez.
Fernandez-Lopez, who spearheaded the West New York’s Women’s Club the following month, recently noted that a women’s club had been in place under the administrations of former mayors Albio Sires and Anthony DeFino.
After winning the slate in May, Fernandez-Lopez organized the first meeting for the Women’s Club in June 2007. The club started off with seven members, many of whom are teachers by profession and also executive position-holders in the Women’s Club, including Chairperson Fernandez-Lopez, Vice Chairperson Angie Jimenez, Treasurer Sonya Blane, Recording Secretary Xiomara Vera, Corresponding Secretary Lucille Mattessich, Event Planning Manager Elizabeth Ferrer, and Event Planning Assistant Martha Gonzalez.
Throughout its short career (eight months), the original seven members have stayed on, holding executive seats while the total number of members has grown to over 150.
Because the Women’s Club is constantly searching for causes to work on, a monthly meeting is held at Hudson Hall at 6018 Hudson Ave. on the second Monday of every month in order to discuss these possible upcoming events.
Said Fernandez-Lopez, “Anybody [ladies only] interested in joining can attend the meetings. Many people that come [to our meetings] for the first time, end up staying with us. Even the mayor’s mother is a member!”
In the Women’s Club, there is diverse cross-section of women from all ages, professions, and personalities. “We have women of all ages; [we have some] from their early 20s to their late 70s,” said Mattessich.
The variety of the women is also reflected by some of the perks members enjoy.
“Occasionally, we have guest speakers that come in and talk about the things affecting women today,” said Mattessich, adding that past lecturers have discussed issues such as domestic violence, health, and single parenthood.
The Women’s Club has been behind many of West New York’s fund-raising events.
Recently, the club held their Valentine’s Day Dance at Schuetzen Park in North Bergen, an event that brought in over 700 people.
Not including the Valentine’s Day Dance, the group has raised nearly $20,000 for members of the community, many of which were women, children, and terminally ill residents.
The club also participated in a Thanksgiving food drive and a coat and clothing drive, along with other fund raisers, such as car washes, for disadvantaged residents of the community.
For the children’s district-wide Christmas party last December, the club was responsible for acquiring 20 bicycles, in addition to other party favorites and toys, for distribution to 600 children.
Most of these events, as Mattessich points out, are done with the help of other community institutions.
“We’re very grateful to the [West New York] police department, the Board of Education, and the mayor,” said Mattessich, together with Fernandez-Lopez.
“We’re doing the best we can to help the people in need in our community, especially women and children,” said the commissioner.
When asked what the benefits of the club are, Fernandez-Lopez said there is never a resting moment.
“[Residents] can get more help through us. In a town like West New York, there’s always somebody we know [who] needs something.”
Mattessich noted their favorite group to help includes children’s groups.
The group is currently planning a springtime event catering specifically to the children of West New York, though no definitive details have been released.
In addition, the Women’s Club has applied for non-profit status and is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization.
However, this may not be all that the club and community have to look forward to.
As Blane notes, “The best is yet to come.”
For more information on the West New York’s Women’s Club or to sign up for their newsletter e-mail email@example.com
Nicolas Millan can be reached at NMillan@hudsonreporter.com.