By Jessica Lyons
The Queens Courier – Healthwise section
Windows of Opportunity (WOO), the Barbara Harmon Institute, is encouraging high school girls to believe in themselves while also raising money for charity through their Shortstack Program and 2nd Annual Charity Fashion Show.
WOO was founded in 2002 and gained non-profit status in 2005. Its founder and Executive Director Hal Eisenberg had been working with parents and children in the community for many years. “From being active in the community and talking to families and parents, I started to get a feel that there were additional services needed,” said Eisenberg, a resident of Bayside.
The 2002 death of Eisenberg’s aunt, Barbra Harmon, also motivated him to form the organization. She was a nurse who had worked at ground zero and became ill from it.
The Shortstack Program was created in 2006. Eisenberg was helping at a local fashion show where Bayside resident Olivia Mignone, now 17, was a participant. He suggested that she do modeling professionally, but she said she was too short to do so. Eisenberg suggested they created a program for short models. “I honestly thought it couldn’t be done,” said Mignone, the founder and Program Director of Shortstack. “I wasn’t too sure because I know how the fashion industry is very strict about their standards.”
After giving the idea more consideration, Mignone thought it was a good idea and decided they could give it a try. In its second year the program has already doubled in size. This year 25 high school models will take part in the 2nd Annual Charity Fashion Show on Saturday, June 21, which will benefit WOO’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Program.
“I’ve been working with other charities … since I was 14 years old,” said program co-director Tanya Rios. ‘Shortstack [being] involved with charity is just so amazing. It’s not just helping us; it’s helping other people who really need it as well.”
Yvonne Gim, a 17-year-old resident of Whitestone, joined Shortstack two years ago. She said that she has learned a lot about the industry and how modeling works, and has also had fun wearing the clothing provided by various designers. “I gained a lot of new friends and the experience is great,” Gim said. Bayside resident, Nicole Credidio, 18, is participating in Shortstack for the first time this year. She is friends with Eisenberg and Mignone and thought the program sounded interesting when she heard them talking about it. She also liked the idea of raising money for HIV/AIDS and helping people.
Along with learning a great deal about the modeling industry, Credidio said that she has learned a lot about HIV/AIDS. She said that she believes that her biggest benefit
that’s he has gotten from her involvement with Shortstack is being more cautious while making choices in life. She said that she feels she is now making smarter choices.
“The big thing I want them to walk away with, whether it’s Shortstack or one of my other programs I do, is to believe in themselves,” Eisenberg said. “I just want them to know that they can do anything they set their minds to. The whole agency is about empowerment.”