Pre-Corvid, you could find many 18-year old’s hanging out with friends at a movie theater, local restaurant, or even a skating rink. For Janine, what began as a regular night at Skate Key Roller Rink in the Bronx, NY; ended up altering her future in more ways than one. On that fateful night, a stray 357 bullet bypassed her group of friends and grazed Janine’s chest.
While the bullet missed its intended recipient, Janine believes it was meant for her as a wake-up call from God, which ultimately gave her a second chance at life. Admittedly, she had been venturing down the wrong path in life and began following a different; Christ-led route after her brush with death. “Yes. It started there. But growing up in Harlem in the 1990s, where there were lots of drugs, crime, and poverty, I was traveling down a path of self-destruction with not a lot of positive role models.”
Out of that experience, came her non-profit organization; Share for Life, Inc. which targets residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) with goals of providing hope for the future.
Some people are inspired to act when they discover an external need to fulfill something, others react to the need to fulfill something internally. Janine’s motivation stemmed from the latter.
“When I look back, I know there were organizations that provided programming similar to my organization like; P.A.L (Police Athletic League), and the YMCA. I just did not know about them or I was not a part of them, and I think that is still an issue. Many people are not aware of the services offered in their community. One of the biggest issues we faced in getting people involved in our programs was “How would they find out”? Therefore, we work very closely with resident association leaders for each Housing Authority because they help in promoting the programs by hanging flyers in buildings and recruiting people”.
Share for Life focuses on helping at-risk youth, teenagers, adults, and seniors in public housing communities. One program offered is Arts Education. When asked of the importance to provide this and specifically the STEAM program, Janine replies; “I think people are visually stimulated. In turn, we create programs that often have accompanying videos so people can better grasp concepts. Our arts program allows young people to write, produce, create music, and perform. This program is important because it allows young people to find their talent. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) remains a field where minorities are underrepresented. Minorities of course are highly intelligent; they just need to be provided with the opportunity”.
2020 introduced an unprecedented shift in life with the onset of Covid-19. Many businesses were negatively impacted but Share for Life was able to thrive and continue to serve the community it was founded on. “I spent a lot of time praying and asking God; “How Share for Life could make a difference?”. At that point, miracle after miracle began appearing. We started the program; “500K Masks for NYCHA”; and the next day Governor Cuomo introduced a similar initiative, so I called his office. We partnered with them because they had masks and we had experience working with resident leaders throughout the 5 Boroughs.” Another COVID-19-relief effort that Share for Life embarked on was a feeding program. “We began a feeding program because pantries throughout the city were running out of food. A friend introduced me to a chef by the name of Millie Peartree, from the South Bronx. She had a restaurant that closed before COVID-19 and wanted to give back to her community. Another divine intervention from God. Chef Millie had already raised money, had kitchen space donated by Amazon and had Audi as a delivery partner.
Now Chef Millie sponsors 3 housing developments that Share for Life feeding programs service; providing 200 meals a day which has allowed us to provide over 70,000 hot meals to these communities thus far. The program was recently approved to continue through March 2021.”
Share for Life Foundation, Inc. takes pride in providing the community with resources and alternatives, so the rise of gang violence in 2020 is something they would like to bring attention to. “There’s been a surge of gang violence in NYC and it’s overly concerning. We have started a gang violence prevention program and have had former gang members talk to the young people which has been extraordinarily successful. However, with COVID-19, it is harder to do and we do not want the youth to be forgotten about. We are looking to figure out how we can make a difference in helping people through this”. You can find out more about Janine Saulsbury and Share for Life Foundation, Inc. at Shareforlife.org.