TMI performance at Bearsville this Friday to benefit HOPE’s Fund

Photo of TMI’s Eva Tenuto and Sari Botton at last week’s Woodstock Writers’ Festival by Dion Ogust

Those TMI divas of Starling Productions, who encourage people to share their deepest feelings with a crowd of eager listeners, have come up with another evening of thought-provoking entertainment and raucous fun. “Starlings for HOPE” is a gala fundraiser and dance party scheduled to take place at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on Friday, April 27. The co-beneficiary is HOPE’s Fund, an organization started in 2007 to support women in Ulster County on their individual paths to fulfillment.

If you’ve never experienced TMI (Too Much Information), you should clear your calendar for Friday night’s event. The premiere performance will feature Julie Novak, Martha Frankel, Verna Gillis and Valerie Eagle doing original, true-to-life monologues, directed by Eva Tenuto. “TMI has developed a great following, as has HOPE’s Fund; and with so much synergy between the two organizations – both sharing the mission of helping and empowering women – working together just made sense,” said Tenuto.

Mapping the needs of women from all walks of life, HOPE’s Fund has developed target programs for the various ways in which we can extend such support. Business HOPE is a small-business program for local-area women who want to start their own small businesses, who need advice, guidance, mentoring, technical support and financial assistance. Scholarship HOPE is a one-time award paid directly to a two- or four-year college on behalf of individual female students to offset their tuition, administrative and books fees. HOPE’s Fund has a special relationship with A Second Glance, Kingston’s premier resale shop on Albany Avenue, where women in need can “buy” clothing, shoes and small household items by charging them against a HOPE’s Fund account, created from items donated by its membership.

Project HOPE, a program launched in January 2009 with funding support from the Dyson Foundation, is woman-to-woman mentoring designed to help women overcome adversity and transition to financial independence. Mentors work directly with associates, assisting them in developing the skills and confidence to become self-sufficient. The mentoring relationship is unique to each pair of women, depending on what an associate needs.

Takiesha Swift was an associate three years ago, whose goal was to attend cosmetology school. “It’s about making your goals come true,” she says. “So many people have dreams and goals, but it’s hard when you’re alone and you don’t want to ask for help. They’ve helped me far beyond my expectations. I graduated from school, and still it’s hard to make it. You need something to lean back on.”

Coordinator Judith Bromley interviews both mentors and associates to determine who works with whom, creating accountable relationships through a working-styles survey. Associates need to be free of drugs, alcohol and domestic violence for a specific time period before participating in the program. “Currently, our youngest associate is 20 and our oldest is 71. We now have 18 working pairs who commit to working together for an hour per week for a year. People are very busy, and we wanted to make it doable.”

“Difficulties impact everybody,” adds Bromley, “and people feel frustrated, powerless. But we are incredibly powerful one-to-one.”

Help Starling Productions fill the coffers for all of HOPE’s Fund’s programs. The party starts at 6 p.m. with gourmet hors d’oeuvres and silent auction bidding. Following the 8 p.m. monologue performances, there will be dancing from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. to the sounds of deejays Michael Wilcock and Ali Gruber. Tickets cost $35 in advance, $40 at the door and $10 for the dance only. They can be purchased through United Way at (845) 331-4199.


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