Inwood resident and 2004 Lawrence High School graduate Nicole Russell has been dedicated to providing comfort to children and young teens in foster care and poor communities since she and her mother, Angie John, founded the Precious Dreams Foundation three years ago.
The nonprofit organization assembles and delivers gift bags with bedtime items to children of all ages to promote pleasant dreams as well as the confidence to set goals and follow their aspirations.
Precious Dreams has grown tremendously since its inception. It began when a 4-year-old girl, Miracle, now 10, was adopted by Angie John. Miracle had nightmares every night. She had been abused and lived with multiple foster families prior to the adoption. The Russells saw how pajamas, a stuffed animal and a little bit of love can go a long way, and they were inspired to help more children like Miracle.
“I’m so proud of this organization because we’re making a significant impact on New York’s most vulnerable youth.” Russell said. “As we grow, we save more dreams and it not only makes an impact on each child but it inevitably makes a difference in our communities.”
The Precious Dreams Foundation now has a board of directors, is run solely by volunteers, and partners with other nonprofit organizations to extend their reach. One hundred percent of their donations benefits their mission, and they have provided more than 1,500 comfort bags to children in New York and New Jersey.
“Our goal is to expand throughout the U.S. and secure bigger grants that will enable us to fulfill our mission on a larger scale.” Russell said. “There are thousands of children in the foster and homeless systems that are in desperate need of comfort and they don’t deserve to sleep in their street clothes.”
The comfort bags are personally handed to the children during a “comfort drop.” They are tailored based on age and gender, and contain a variety of brand-new items such as pajamas, plush items, books, journals, stress balls, eye mask, socks and blankets.
In addition to delivering packages during a “comfort drop,” a guest speaker is chosen to share encouraging words about the children’s futures. On July 23, the foundation delivered 200 newborn comfort bags to their newest partner, Room to Grow, and on the following day, they coordinated a “comfort drop” with pop-icon and star of Broadway’s Chicago, Brandy Norwood, at the DHS Headquarters in Manhattan.
“We try to pick a speaker who the children can relate to and look up to,” said Martine Cauthen, a close friend of Russell and long time volunteer of the Precious Dreams Foundation. Many of the guest speakers, she explained, are from the music/entertainment industry because they pursued their dreams and became successful despite their hardships and backgrounds.
“Nicole makes sure that every individual child or teen is made to feel like an extraordinary individual.” said Antonio Rodriguez, who is in charge of events for the Department of Homeless Services and has worked hand in hand with Russell for almost two years. “I’m fortunate to work with many wonderful volunteers who are generous and care and work hard, but Nicole stands head and shoulders above because she combines an a big heart and a meticulous mind. She has the ability to see great things and make them happen, and to make others see it and do it, too,” Rodriguez added.