Coladas for a Cause

 Coladas for a Cause

By Katie McFadden

What pairs better with a pina colada than a night of supporting great community programming? Friday, May 17 made for a perfect evening for a sneak peak pina colada ahead of Connolly’s Memorial Day weekend opening, as the summer bar rose to the occasion and opened its doors to support RISE (Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity) on their FUNdraiser!

For a $20 donation, guests received a free drink, and were treated to live music, DJ music, food from Crustinos and Meat Up Grill,  and a chance to enter a 50/50 raffle and raffles for Patagonia swag and more, all in an effort to support RISE and the great programming they offer for the community, especially for local youth.

Before pulling the raffle winners, RISE founder and executive director Jeanne DuPont, spoke a bit about RISE.  “I started RISE 18 years ago. Someone asked me earlier why I wanted to start this. We have this amazing waterfront and most of the kids that live here have never been to it. And it hit me,” DuPont said. “In this country, it is very rare that you find a public beach, so that spurred me on to really start working with a lot of the people in this room to do programs, to partner with organizations, to partner with anyone from Skudin to Connolly’s to others, to get some programs to go into our school, and encourage kids and encourage teachers.”

Speaking of some of the programming they offer, DuPont said, “We host a program called Shore Corps. We hire 100 high school kids every year for a paid internship and really work with them, and many of them have been in the program for four years, all through high school, and they come back and work with us while going through college. We also serve about 2,000 kids in the public schools, K-6th grade through our living classroom program.”

And RISE couldn’t do it without support. “We’re a really small nonprofit. We have five full time people. We’re doing a lot with very little,” DuPoint said. “I hate asking the public for money, but a very small portion comes from the community. Most of the funding comes from grants and applying for funding. But this is one of those nights where we’re going to thank you for being here and buying tickets because it really goes a long way and we really want to build on those connections, so thank you for being here and supporting us.”

As an example of where their funding goes, DuPont introduced Yerandy Pacheco, a RISE alum who was in the program 10 years ago and is now a successful urban planner who will soon continue her education, going for her master’s at Columbia. Pacheco, RISE’s first alumni board member, spoke of the influence RISE had on her life. “I started 10 years ago, and it was a small group of interns working in the basement of an apartment before we got the firehouse, and it’s grown so much these past 10 years. I’m equally as proud of RISE as they are of me. It’s been a great experience,” Pacheco said.

“The first time I ever traveled to another continent was with RISE in 2014, when we were rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. We got funding to go to Amsterdam and Rotterdam and got to consult with urban planners there about how they manage floodwater mitigation and that was the first time I got experience with urban planning and how it operates in a city outside of NY, which was really cool,” Pacheco shared. “It really influenced me in a lot of ways. I’m currently an urban planner working on rebuilding and always making the city better, so I want to thank you all for coming. I hope I’m an example of your donations going a long way because with your donations, we’re able to continue the youth programs that have helped many in Rockaway, including myself.”

RISE is located at 58-03 Rockaway Beach Blvd. For more information or to donate, see:

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