EDGEWATER, N.J. — Drugs, poverty, violence and death – Janine Saulsbury of Edgewater has seen it all.
The Harlem native knew which drug dealers worked which corner, and which gangs lurked behind which abandoned building.
That was until the day came when she didn't want to know it anymore.
“You know the girls who have gang fights in McDonalds?” Saulsbury said. “I was just like that — but now I create programs that speak directly to that same young person I used to be.”
“I’m still a work in progress but I’ve found my purpose — ‘Share For Life.’”
Share4Life is a nonprofit organization founded by Saulsbury in 2002 that partners with community-based organizations and government agencies to serve at-risk youth and families in all five New York City boroughs.
The organization provides the necessary resources, education and information to enable people living at or below poverty levels to become self-sufficient, Saulsbury said.
Saulsbury — also a filmmaker and founder of a consulting firm — offers dozens of programs including leadership development, gang violence awareness and prevention, performing arts, women’s empowerment and more.
Share4Life provides food at every event. Many guests otherwise would not get a meal that day.
The positive thinking program is among the most important, she said.
“I spoke to a young man in the Bronx who asked me, ‘how can I be hopeful for the future when I have roaches crawling across my window sill? When I’m eating bread with nothing on it for dinner? When I’m crossing the street to avoid territorial gang wars?’ Saulsbury said.
“I use my own life as an example to help people change their negative thoughts to positive ones.”
Saulsbury hopes to obtain more funding so that Share4Life can offer programs for years at a time — instead of months — and eventually expand to New Jersey.
“We try to give people hope,” she said. “Sometimes, that’s all they need.”
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