Having fun and doing good
'Bad Girls, Good Deeds' help locals in need
JD Photography A picture from this past weekend's event in Lafayette benefiting a West Milford child. Pictured from left: Caryn Christiano, Betsy Hamilton, Michelle Skolnick, Cheryl Connors, Captain America played by Brian Hamilton (Betsy's husband) and the beneficiary of the event Joey Vaspory. JD Photography also raises funds for children on the autism spectrum.
“We're bad girls, we don't wear pearls. We're not formal but we do really good things for people.”
— Founder of "Bad Girls, Good Deeds"
VERNON — A group of high spirited women are using their love of each other to do something for others.
Cheryl Connors founded the group, “Bad Girls, Good Deeds,” because women always seem to put themselves on the back burner.
Bad Girls, Good Deeds
“Everyone is more important than we are, so if the reason for getting together is helping someone else, we might stick to it,” Connors said.
The group of four women including her sister, Michelle Skolnick of Vernon and teacher friends, Betsy Hamilton and Caryn Christiano meet to share wine, gossip and to plot their deeds. “We're bad girls, we don't wear pearls," Connors explains of the concept. "We're not formal but we do really good things for people.”
Connors' sister on the other hand says she doesn't see herself as a bad girl, but she loves the logo.
"I just think it's really catchy," said Skolnick. "We're good girls. We just have fun."
Skolnick says she enjoys spending time with her sister and the other two women. Even though they live in Bergen County, it's not hard for them to keep in touch.
"Because my family is still in Bergen County, we make it work. It's pretty easy and surprisingly we always find time to be together," Skolnick said.
On March 26, the group held a fundraiser in Lafayette for a 3-year-old autistic boy named Joey Vaspory of West Milford. Connors gushes that the event was a success with a Sparta based accounting firm making a huge donation. Carispia, Kulsar and Wade donated $5,000 at Joey's Jamboree. Paige from Pigtails and Pals was also on hand to do some face-painting and dress up like a clown.
Connors is proud that her organization continues to expand with even the beneficiaries staying involved and helping out with the next cause.
“It's almost like a family," said Connors. "We just keep growing.”
The thing that Connors is most proud of though, is the group's ability to get people involved.
“We're giving people an opportunity big or small to see what they can contribute,” Connors said.
At one of the group's first events more than a year ago in March, a yard sale raised more than $1,200 for Autism Speaks.
A small donation of clothing at a clothing drive is just as important as a $5,000 check, Connors explains, because people are giving all that they can.
"Wherever we have an event, we broadcast it and make connections in that area and it spirals from there," Skolnick said. "Seeing the community get together to help others feels good."
Connors need to help others, branched from something that hit close to home.
When she was 19, her father suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side just a week before her sister's Sweet 16. He was the family's breadwinner and that forced Connors and her sister to grow up very quickly.
"It's hard going to high school and paying your parents' bills," Skolnick says.
Connors says it took two years for Social Security and disability benefits to kick in.
“My mother had to take care of my father. It was scary,” Connors said.
That's why her group focuses on people who have assets like a home, because the way the current system is set up, you have to lose everything before you become eligible for government assistance.
That traumatic time when she was still in school watching her mother struggle to keep the family's home in tact and put food on the table inspired both her and her sister to want to do something to help others.
The feeling Connors' gets from helping others is “amazing,” adding, “you can't get this feeling from anything else. You can't get this feeling from making money or going on vacation.”
In the last year, Connors says that she can't even count the number of families that she and her group have helped because it's not always through a formal event. If someone emails her about a family in need, she can make a plea for help on the group's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BadGirlsGoodDeeds) and the results are almost instantaneous.
“I can get someone's oil tank filled in 20 minutes. We did a food drive for a family,” she adds.
The group has also done scholarships and there is a flood of applications for assistance via the group's website www.badgirlsgooddeeds.com.
Connors says they still have to sift through them to plan their next major good deed, but things happen everyday and if someone needs help, Connors says her bad girls are ready to go anywhere in New Jersey to help.
She adds, even if it's down the shore, “we'd just make a day of it."
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