Three local women are among the honorees being feted Saturday by the Butterfly Effect Project, a nonprofit group founded by a Riverhead native which focuses on empowering young girls. The organization will host its second annual “Pass the Torch” fundraiser Saturday, where six women will be recognized as role models for the group’s “butterflies.”
“We want to showcase women who have reached a certain point in their life who can pass on their words of wisdom to our butterflies,” explained BEP founder Tijuana Fulford. “We want to give the girls someone to look up to, to follow their footsteps and push them to go a little further and do a little better.”
Chris Kempner, Juanita Trent and Bernice Taylor are three local women whose names are among those to be honored at the annual event for their outstanding work, both in their careers and their communities.
Kempner, who is the Riverhead Town community development director more than exemplifies these qualities, according to Fulford.
“She has a very passionate heart,” Fulford said. “She’s a great advocate for people who can’t stand up for themselves.”
Fulford described “one-of-many” interactions with Kempner that left her feeling incredibly grateful last December, when Kempner was a driving force in getting Teacher’s Federal Credit Union involved in BEP’s annual Christmas toy drive.
According to Fulford, Kempner met someone from TCFU at an event and told them about the Butterfly Effect Project and its work. When they expressed interest in getting involved, Kempner volunteered her office space so Fulford could meet with them.
“She helped make sure every one of our girls had a Christmas,” Fulford said. “It wouldn’t have happened without her. She even drove out to Deer Park to pick up the presents herself.”
Fulford says Kempner is constantly looking to help the group in anyway she can. “All the time I get emails from her saying, ‘What can I do now? How can I help?’
“She’s a headstrong, motivated and generous woman,” Fulford said.
Another woman Fulford admires for her incredible strength is Trent. Trent’s 21-year-old son, Demitri Hampton, was killed in a home invasion in 2013, when armed robbers shot him as he was trying to protect his family.
“I can never imagine raising a child, having something like that happen and being strong enough to take that and turn it into a positive thing,” Fulford said.
The “positive thing” Fulford is describing is a scholarship Trent started in her son’s name, called the Demitri Q. Hampton Scholarship Fund. In May 2013, just four months after her son’s tragic death, Trent held the first fundraiser for the scholarship in Ludlam Park, where hundreds turned out to not only remember Demitri, but to celebrate him. The fundraiser included a picnic and a basketball tournament.
“The kids leaving the fundraiser, they didn’t walk away crying and feeling sorry for Demitri, they come back thinking that they can’t wait to come back next year,” Fulford said. “It’s empowering, motivating, moving to them. That strength and fortitude is wonderful for kids to see.”
Taylor’s story has a much different beginning.
“She used to be a drug addict,” Fulford explains. “She had hit bottom. But even at a point in her life when she was too sick to do what she needed to do for herself, she was strong enough to still help others.”
Taylor took several young men who were getting involved with the wrong crowd under her wing.
“There were young boys who lived around her who were trying to get in the streets, selling and doing drugs, and she helped them turn their lives around.”
By the time she left Riverhead, Taylor had helped upwards of 15 young men get their lives back on track.
“They came back years later and said to her ‘thank you, you changed my life,’” Fulford said. “And through empowering these kids she found the strength to help herself.”
Taylor, who currently resides in North Carolina, is now clean, sober and happily surrounded by family. She will be traveling back to New York to attend the event, which will be held on May 14 in East Patchogue.
Other honorees will include Tess Nopper, a social worker with Peconic Bay Medical Center who works with BEP; Franctzchesca Decade, a woman who put herself through nursing school as a young mother and is now a nurse practitioner at Stony Brook and Nichole Martin, a domestic abuse survivor who speaks to women in shelters.
Tickets for the event $15, with proceeds used to sponsor summer camps, purchase school supplies and help fund field trips. For more information, visit BEP’s website.
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