Celebration by Avon and Big Brothers Big Sisters lets mothers shine
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Maritza Aguilar, 26, is a mother of five.
A year and a half ago, she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a condition that causes body functioning to slow down.
After her diagnosis, Aguilar was told by her doctor that she would have to quit her job as an inspector at a fruit packing plant.
Additionally, she would have to receive transfusions every three weeks. “When the doctor told me, it was a shock,” recalled Aguilar.
Rather than give into her diagnosis, however, she decided to join the ranks of the few, the proud, the purveying: six months ago, she became an Avon representative.
The job appealed to her because of its flexible hours.
“I can do my work and do what I need to do with my children,” said Aguilar, who lives in the Bronx.
She creates her own hours, so she can work her schedule around her children, and the demands of her illness.
“And I don’t have to put my kids in daycare,” she added.
In the six months that she’s worked as an Avon representative, Aguilar herself has recruited another 120 new representatives, earning the accolades of her higher-ups.
“She’s been able to grow her business incredibly. She’s really a role model,” said Carmen Conklin, the division sales manager for the Bronx.
Conklin has been working for Avon for 11 years.
It is a job she loves, she says, because beyond empower her financially, the work affords her the opportunity to travel.
“I have been to every state in the country, except two,” she said.
Nikki Newmark, who lives in Throggs Neck, has worked for Avon for 16 years.
She has traveled to the Bahamas on an Avon incentive trip.
“That was the best trip ever,” she said, smiling at the recollection.
Later this year, she is looking forward to a trip to Hawaii—all expenses covered by Avon.
In a world of erratic schedules and unpleasant workplaces, Avon has sought to provide its workers, who are predominantly female, with benefits that allow for greater flexibility and independence – and economic opportunities that might otherwise not exist.
It was fitting then, that on Sat., May 11th, Avon hosted a gathering for mothers from across the city at the headquarters of Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS) of New York City at 223 East 30th Street.
It was a good match between organizations – and their respective missions.
In its work affording children mentoring and recreational activities, BBBS provides for children, and for many mothers, creating a little more time in their busy schedules.
On Saturday, mothers with children enrolled in the program were treated to a make-up tutorial by celebrity makeup artist Paul Innis, followed by a Zumba class and lunch. One lucky participant, Latarsha Foxworth, was treated to a make-over.
“It uplifted my spirits,” said Foxworth afterwards, as she sported violet eye shadow.
“Every woman loves a makeover.”
Her daughter, Kayla, 8, appraised Innis’s masterful work: “It’s gorgeous.”
Kayla admitted that one day she, too, would like to have a make-over.
“But I’ll wait until I’m 20.”
Her mother concurred. If Foxworth is not careful, however, there might soon be a large makeup supply for Kayla to plunder. That day, Foxworth ended up being recruited by Newmark to become an Avon representative.
“I grew up using Avon—my mom used to sell it,” she laughed. “It’s a little extra money in your pocket, and it won’t hurt to try out.”
Carol McNair, whose 12-year-old adopted daughter, Annunkha Dixon-McNair, is enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters, used to be an Avon representative.
McNair, 66, raised her own children and adopted Annunkha when she was four.
“I love kids, and I have the time to take care of her,” said McNair, who is now retired.
McNair thought Big Brothers and Big Sisters would be good for herself and her daughter.
“It gives me a few hours of rest, and I wanted someone to take her places.”
So far, Annunkha has been to the movies, several museums, and Central Park, among other places.
Annunkha said her favorite activity with her big sisters has been ice-skating, though there are other perks to the program.
“I made some new friends,” she said, “and I like getting to know my big sister.”
Listhuania Cedeno has been in Big Brothers Big Sisters since she was eight.
“My big sister is a role model to me,” she smiled.
And the program is a help to her mother, Ana López.
López.said she would like to be able to treat her daughter to the cultural and social activities New York City has to offer, but it difficult.
“I am a single mother, and it’s very expensive,” said the East Harlem mother.
Typically, Big Brothers Big Sisters offers fun for kids, and respite for mothers.
Saturday’s event offered fun for everyone.
Children played games and made cards together as mothers chose between relaxing and invigoration activities meant just for them.
“I enjoyed everything today,” said Lopez.
Putting a smile on the mothers’ faces was a key objective of the day.
“Mothers are the staple of the family,” explained Anna Bossa. “They are the leaders. The energy that every parent has within them, we wanted to bring that out today.”