Mike Cote’s Business Editor’s Notebook: Building the future with life skills and a band saw

WANTED: A BUS BIG enough to contain a woodworking shop and some volunteers to help build it.

Mel Gosselin poses with inspirational messages written on the walls by former students in the workshop of Girls at Work, where she was recently named CEO. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)Mel Gosselin poses with inspirational messages written on the walls by former students in the workshop of Girls at Work, where she was recently named CEO. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Girls at Work, a Manchester nonprofit that teaches girls and women how to make things with power tools and empower themselves in the process, wants to go mobile so it can expand its reach statewide.

Think of it as a food truck that smells like sawdust.

That’s a familiar scent to the girls ages 8 to 12 who participate in the eight-week after-school sessions at Girls at Work’s headquarters at 4 Elm St., in an old school building also home to the American-Canadian Genealogical Society.

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GIRLS AT WORK HIRES CEO MEL GOSSELIN

New CEO Mell GosselinManchester, NH – The Board of Directors of Girls At Work is honored to announce the recent hire of Mel Gosselin as Chief Executive Officer.

Gosselin brings 25 years of dynamic leadership in the for-profit and non-profit worlds, including 13 years as Executive Director of the New Hampshire Food Bank.   During her tenure food distribution grew from 1.5 million to over 12 million pounds.  She was also recognized at a national level chairing and serving on a number of advocacy and research committees such as Hunger Action Month and the Feeding America National Advisory Council.

“Mel has a proven strategic track record, extensive knowledge of the New Hampshire non-profit world, and a wonderful, sincere connection with our mission of empowering girls with confidence and competence. Her experience in fundraising, program development, and capacity building are exactly what Girls At Work needs as we are poised to grow and expand our programs to reach more girls,” said Samantha Luker, chairman of the board of directors.

“I’m so excited to see Mel put her considerable experience building relationships with diverse stakeholders to work for our little builders,” said Founder and Program Director Elaine Hamel.

“From my professional experience, and as a woodworker myself, I know the empowering feeling of completing a project you weren’t sure you could do. Girls At Work puts that power in the hands of girls from our city who are told by music, movies and TV that women and girls are weak. In our classes and camps, they learn how strong they really are,” Gosselin said. “I can’t wait to share this incredible program with more girls in Manchester and beyond.”

Girls At Work is a not-for-profit organization that empowers girls through woodworking. For more than 15 years, Girls at Work has shown girls their own inner strength, resilience, and problem-solving skills, in direct contrast to a world that tells them they aren’t strong, smart or powerful. Through woodworking with power tools, we believe girls can show us all – and themselves – what they’re really made of.

Thanks to our volunteers, Girls at Work, Inc.’s new Elm Street location blossoms just in time for first summer camp

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Thanks to some dedicated volunteers from Timberland and the UNH Master Gardeners club, when our first set of summer builders arrive for our first camps in our new Elm Street shop, they’ll be welcomed by a lush garden landscape in the middle of downtown Manchester.

Every year for one day in May, Timberland shuts down to allow every employee of the Streatham-Based company to volunteer for a non-profit that benefits the community.

This year, 35 Timberland employees chose to work with our founder Elaine Hamel to build a maze of raised garden beds outside our shop.

The day before the installation of the raised beds, volunteers from the Master Gardeners tilled and prepared the area.

What had been a trampled city lawn was made ready to blossom — just like the transformation our builders undergo after working with power tools.

Girls At Work Inc provides after-school and summer camp opportunities for girls from low-income or other disadvantaged families to build wood furniture and other crafts with power tools, unlocking the power within themselves.

This year, our first in at a new shop at 4 Elm Street, the girls from our after school programs in Manchester will be able to attend a one-week summer camp at no cost.

The gardens will allow Girls At Work, Inc., to incorporate an additional layer to our summer camp curriculum: talking about gardening and healthy foods.

The eventual yield from the garden will be sent to the nearby Local Moose Cafe, whose staff will be part of the lessons about healthy food.

“It’s really important to have well rounded girls,” Hamel said. “Some of these kids, growing up in the city, they don’t know where vegetables come from.”

But, not every inch of every garden bed is given over to veggies. Hamel planted a few beautiful flowers, just because.

“When they arrive, I wanted to them to see the plants, the flowers, to feel good, to know this is a space that is all about them, and that it’s a beautiful space,” Hamel said. “From the time they walk into the parking lot, I want everything to say, ‘we care about you.’”

It costs $450 per girl to run our summer camps, but the effect on our girls is priceless. Some of the cost is offset by support from the local school district, but the rest comes from our supporters. Click here to make a gift to Girls at Work and send a girl to camp! Help our girls unlock the power within.

Girls at Work Diva Comedy Night

2016 Diva Comedy Night Recap

Girls at Work’s 2016 Diva Comedy Night was a total success! We had a packed house, hilarious talent, and a group of hard working volunteers that made this event our most successful one ever!

The comedians were Kevin Gallagher, Sue Schmidt, and Cindy Pierce. Their comic storytelling had the crowd of 200+ people engaged, enthralled, and laughing uncontrollably. We’d like to extend a HUGE thank you to all three of these performers!

During the intermission, it was an incredible treat to have The Endless Tricks perform a few songs acapella. The lead vocalist, Ana Liponis built with Girls at Work a few years back. She had said back then that she really wanted to be a singer. While she was getting started with singing, remembering her time with Girls at Work helped give her the courage to get up on stage and start her journey. Her story is another reminder of how powerful our girls are, and the amazing things they can do. The crowd’s jaws were on the floor as they watched this group of 14-year-olds sing so beautifully.

The unsung heroes of the night were our volunteers. City Year New Hampshire stepped up and provided over a dozen incredible volunteers to help us set up, break down, and tend to our attendees in between. This group of people selflessly provided help when we needed it, and made the night a complete success. We really could not have pulled it off without them!

We’d also like to thank our amazing sponsors, St. Mary’s Bank, Granite State Candy Shoppe, Redfin, Van Otis, Berry Dunn, Trayce Gregoire Photography, and NAWIC NH,.

And finally, the attendees of the event were just so wonderful. So many of you opened up your hearts and minds to listen to our story and our mission, and provided some great feedback. We also had a vast majority of attendees donate to our cause, which was just incredible to see. The result of the many donation envelopes we collected is that we are able to offer all of the little girls in our after school workshops a chance to participated in a two week ‘Build You’ Up’ series of workshops this summer. These workshops will be held in our shop in Manchester, and if you would like to stop in for a visit to see the impact of your donation, please let us know.

Girls at Work Bench

Girls at Work Diva Night NHIA

Girls at Work Diva Night

Diva Comedy Night – March 19, 2016

diva comedy night 2016The second annual Girls at Work, Inc. Diva Night will be an evening of hilarious comedic storytelling with top-billed comedians, including New Hampshire Magazine’s “Remarkable Women of the Arts” award winner Cindy Pierce, Moth and Extempo Story Slam winner Kevin Gallagher, and Sue Schmidt, 2015 winner of the New England Public Radio Valley Voices Grand Slam.

Doors will be at 5:30 pm, with the show starting at 6 pm. There will be lots of delicious chocolate on hand, plus a wine cash bar. Get a general admission ticket for $25 online ($30 at the door), a VIP ticket for early entry and a seat upfront for $50, or buy a reserved table that seats 8 for you and your friends for $400!

Diva Night allows us to bring afterschool programs to our inner city girls and helps to make our Girls at Work mission part of girls’ experiences, all over New England.

If you’re interested in sponsoring this event, view the sponsorship levels, here.

This year’s featured comedians

Cindy Pierce is a leading social sexuality educator and comic storyteller who has been performing her one-woman comedic show and providing educational program around healthy sexual behavior and choices since 2004. Cindy has been honored as one of 14 Remarkable Women of the Arts in New Hampshire magazine and a Pioneer with three others in the category. Cindy is the author of SEXPLOITATION: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn Driven World and is co-author of Finding the Doorbell. With three kids storming into their teens, Cindy is a bit of a social liability for them, but her husband, Bruce, keeps the family grounded. Cindy and Bruce live in Etna, N.H., where they own and run Pierce’s Inn.

Susanne Schmidt is a standup comic and comedic storyteller. She is a Moth Story Slam winner, host, and regional producer. In 2015, Susanne was voted the winner of both the New England Public Radio Valley Voices Grand Slam and Vermont’s Extempo Tell Off. She has appeared in the Green Mountain Comedy Festival, the Boston Women in Comedy Festival and the Toronto SheDot Festival, as well as in venues from Maine to Alaska. Susanne is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health and a faculty member for the graduate program in clinical mental health at Southern New Hampshire University.
Kevin Gallagher is a mental health therapist by day and hilarious storyteller by night. A Moth and Extempo Story Slam winner, Kevin has appeared in shows throughout the country. Kevin is an international speaker in the areas of team building, working collaboratively and using stories as a way to engage people in meaningful interactions.

 

 
Thank you to our sponsors!
 
St Marys Bank

Chatting with Gina Dobson of Sunrise Girl – Inspiring Clothing for Girls

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During the first 2 weeks of November, $3 of every Sunrise Girl shirt sale will benefit Girls at Work, Inc. Click here to see the designs!

Gina Dobson launched Sunrise Girl in December of 2014. I spoke with her recently about what prompted her to start this new venture and what she hopes to achieve.

S: How did you first get involved in creating Sunrise Girl?

G: I have two daughters and I was feeling frustrated about the messages in the clothing for young girls that I saw. A lot of the common themes seemed to be peace, love, cupcakes, butterflies and the need to sparkle! There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it didn’t match my girls. And I think there’s a lot more to being a girl than those things. I couldn’t figure out why there weren’t any clothes highlighting the other things girls like to do.

S: For your girls, what types of things were you looking for?

G: One thing was sports clothing that matched and supported their interests. My daughters are 8 and 6 and my older daughter played basketball at the time. There weren’t many girls in her league and I remember dropping her off at practice one day and hearing her say she wished she had a basketball shirt to wear. I went home and did a quick search and couldn’t find anything. In kids clothing stores, it was rare to see a sports-themed shirt for girls and if there was one, it was always “cutesified.” Again, it didn’t match how I saw my girls, and other girls, play sports.

S: Tell me about the girls you feature on your shirts.

G: The inspiration from the shirts come from real girls. The Love Bugs design is my younger daughter. I have mined my friends with daughters and they have been kind enough to let me feature their girls on the shirts. I start by asking the girls what they’d like to see on the shirt and I work with a designer out in California. I give her my vision and she comes up with the drawing, then I take that drawing back to the parents and the kids until we come up with something that everybody really likes.

S: What do you hope these shirts will do for other girls?

G: I really just want to send confident messages to girls.

It’s so meaningful to get it right. I recently got an email from a woman who thought it was so perfect for her daughter that she cried.

For me, Sunrise Girl is a labor of love. It’s about creating something I passionately hope will benefit young girls.

There was a time when my youngest daughter hated being different from others. She hated that she was the only one in our family with blue eyes. (My husband, myself, and my other daughter have brown eyes.) She even hated it when she wanted pepperoni on her pizza and everyone else wanted cheese! She didn’t like standing out or being different from others in any way. I think it made her feel alone. But now, she embraces it! And she got there through understanding the messages I’m trying to send through my shirts. She wears my Different is Good shirt with pride, and I’ve heard her use the phrase when she needs to remind herself that doing something differently than others is okay.

The fact that she absorbed this message by watching, participating, and understanding what Sunrise Girl is about, is a huge source of pride for me.  I hope to do the same for other girls.  What makes a Sunrise Girl shirt different from others is that our shirt designs will always:

  • • depict girls as competent, capable, strong and intelligent
    • feature girls actively engaging in a wide range of activities
    • show girls with realistic and age-appropriate bodies
    • feature girls of all ethnicities and abilities
    • send a positive message

S: What has helped you get your brand out there?

G: The biggest boost for my business is the connection I’ve made with other similar business owners. I started introducing myself to a few of these businesses that were approaching the same issue, and I was invited to join them in a campaign we’ve called “Clothes Without Limits.

It’s been phenomenal as someone who is new in this industry. I’m learning a lot from the women who have been doing this for many years. They’re great mentors and it’s very uplifting. Through this campaign we’ve gotten some great press and my business has gotten the publicity it needed. Cooperating with other businesses instead of competing has worked the best for me.

Sunrise Girl

Our Exciting Partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

SNHU LogoGirls at Work, Inc. is thrilled to announce Southern New Hampshire University as our newest partner. This spring we were lucky enough to work with two different SNHU marketing classes. Our website was designed by their advanced web design class, and we worked with a social media class as they created a complete social media plan for our organization.

Our communication with the university continues and now there is even more happening between Girls at Work, Inc. and SNHU. There are three professors who are excited to get their students involved with our organization.

We are excited to have SNHU students helping us as interns in our mission. They’ll be getting involved in our after school program and grant research, as well as the planning process for our events. This is a great opportunity for the students to learn about the non-profit world, and a great opportunity for us to have energetic individuals helping with our mission.

Girls at Work Open House

Girls at Work, Inc. Opens new Manchester Headquarters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Girls at Work, Inc., the NH based non-profit organization is opening their first ever, local headquarters in downtown Manchester, NH. An open house was held to celebrate and to kick off a crowd-funding campaign. The funds from the campaign will allow the organization to renovate their space.

On June 11, Girls at Work, Inc. held an open house at their new location at 4 Elm Street in Manchester. Mayor Gatsas was in attendance as well as mayoral candidates Patrick Arnold and Joyce Craig, Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw, Manchester School Superintendent and Manchester’s 21st Century Program Director, John Hasenfuss.

The organization also kicked off their online fundraising campaign to raise funds needed to renovate their new space. Their Indiegogo campaign can be viewed at http://igg.me/at/girlsatwork. They have a 3-tier goal:

• $10,000 will allow them to renovate the space.
• $15,000 will buy all the tools and equipment for the new wood shop area.
• $20,000 will equip the new office space with office supplies for their operations staff.

Girls at Work has been working with young and at-risk girls throughout New Hampshire and New England for the last fifteen years, and was recently approved to work with the Manchester School Department’s 21st Century Program. Girls at Work will be launching their after school program in select Manchester schools this fall.

Girls at Work is an organization dedicated to empowering girls by teaching them woodworking skills and how to safely use power tools to build with a team of girls. The organization helps them discover their inner power tools of strength and courage, tools that many will need. Their mission statement is, “Through woodworking, we challenge girls to discover their inner power tools of strength and courage, empowering them to overcome adversity in their lives.”

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Photos from the event by Matthew Lommano Photography

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Girls at Work Board

 

 

 

New space, yet to be outfitted.

Giving campaign: Help us outfit our new headquarters now!

With our expanding programs and increased demand, we have grown into needing a facility of

New space, yet to be outfitted.

New space, yet to be outfitted.

our own in the heart of Manchester, NH where our builders live.

We have obtained a safe, secure space and together, this Summer we will renovate this abandoned classroom  to build out our new wood shop, an office space, and buy all the equipment and supplies for our builders to have a great experience – please help us now!

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Artist’s rendering of what our space will look like, fully outfitted!

Raising our goal of $20,000 will allow us to renovate our raw space, build an office, and outfit the workshop with tools and equipment!

The project has 3 phases:

  • $10,000 will allow us to renovate the space, sectioning off the classroom into an office and a workshop.
  • $15,000 will buy all the tools and equipment for the new workshop.
  • $20,000 will equip the new office space with supplies for our operations staff.

Our fundraising campaign runs until June 25th, so please act now to help us reach our goal! Our girls are grateful for your support!