Patricia and I are both licensed social workers as well. The Roosevelt Island Women’s Health Organization (RIWHO) was founded by Patricia Stovall and me because we believed that our combined experiences, as survivors of major illnesses, would encourage and inspire others to take a proactive role in their healthcare and lead to personal empowerment. Patricia and I are both licensed social workers as well.
RIWHO offers quality lectures on both allopathic (conventional medicine targeted toward a specific illness) and holistic (natural medicine for the entire body) health treatments. We offer tools, such as medicine schedules and symptom charts, to inform doctor visits and to encourage better communication between patients and doctors.
Our goals are wellness awareness and prevention. We have offered free wellness seminars for women 18 years and older since 2012. We offer charts comparing “dirty” and “clean” fruits and vegetables, and our members know how to determine water’s pH content. Women learn stress reduction techniques because chronic stress puts your health at risk. Our members participate in meditation, tapping, Reiki, yoga exercises, aromatherapy, and Bach flower remedies. They experience Chakra healing and its association with the endocrine system. Our many seminars cover everything from various cancers, nutrition, and heart attack and stroke prevention to prescription drug abuse and emotional trauma to innovative dental procedures and martial arts safety training.
This past year, RIWHO partnered with Councilmember Kallos’ office to bring the Scan Van to the Island. The Scan Van is a traveling medical van equipped with x-ray machines for breast cancer screenings. Kallos determined the need for these services, especially for women who were uninsured or underinsured. In some cases, women with inadequate coverage were given this service for free via Project Renewal. The women’s group was proud to be a part of that event. About 15 women took advantage of the Van, including me.
RIWHO has recently partnered with Cornell Tech, NYP/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College. Our public relations person, Lynne Shinozaki, Cornell’s Jane Swanson, and I collaborated on possible wellness seminars that would benefit the community. Cornell helped to cosponsor our most recent seminar, on neck and back pain. It was a resounding success. About 50 participants came to hear the lecture and ask questions. Cornell will continue to cosponsor future seminars, with topics including stroke, healthy brain aging, allergy relief, sleep apnea, carpal tunnel, and a panel on nutrition.
Although we offer these seminars primarily for women, men are invited to seminars that don’t specifically pertain to women’s issues. The one time of year that our specific focus on men is June, National Men’s Health Month, when we encourage age-appropriate screenings for things such as prostate cancer, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack prevention, and diabetes.
We aren’t always so serious. As a pre-Mother’s Day celebration, we held a Spa Day that included massages, saunas, steam rooms, pool, and a “swag bag” containing a natural scrub and loofah, scented oil, a face mask, and refreshments. One lucky woman was randomly selected to receive Swarovski crystal earrings. For some, it was their first spa experience, and they found it most enjoyable.
We also recognize women who are important role models for younger women in the community. In March 2014, we celebrated National Women’s Recognition Month by selecting five women over the age of 85 and honoring them with congratulatory letters, certificates, plaques, and a proclamation from Councilmember Kallos. Last year’s honorees were Naomi Silverman, Clarissa McCauley, Rosalind Fernandez, Ina Shinnery, and Ethel Romm. These women have served the community by volunteering at Coler Hospital, feeding the homeless at Good Shepherd Chapel, coordinating Island poetry and music groups, and volunteering with the Red Cross and March of Dimes. They also served as President of the Historical Society, board members of RICLA and on the RIRA Common Council, teachers of Bible classes, and as the founder of Toastmasters. They have truly been inspirational leaders in the community, as well as to their families and friends. On the day of the celebration, their combined ages totaled 451 years – that’s a lot of history!
RIWHO also participated in Family Day, which allowed us to showcase the organization by distributing packets containing our mission statement, purpose, and contact information. The packets also contained information on heart health, breast cancer awareness, pancreatic cancer, domestic violence, dental care, ovarian cancer, nutrition, and weight maintenance. We also held a raffle. That was a great deal of fun.
We have used raffles for fundraising since the inception of the organization. We hold the raffles at our seminars. Initially, our main concern was establishing non-profit status, so the majority of the money went for obtaining this status. Now we use the money to host our free seminars and to provide refreshments.
RIWHO is now a recognized non-profit and can accept tax-deductible contributions. If you are interested in donating or becoming a part of the team, contact me at one of our seminars, held the last Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. (Seminars are at 546 Main St., 12th floor.) Healthy refreshments are provided.