4111 Broadway, New York, New York 10033 info@christchurchnyc.org 646-368-1117

Message From Monika

A Reflection on This Past Year

One of my initial goals as program director was to create a sense of community at El Nido and to collaborate with other agencies in Washington Heights. I felt it was important for El Nido to become a place where our families felt welcomed, that they belonged, and were heard and acknowledged. These are essential feelings that as human beings we need to thrive, to feel whole, and to feel good about ourselves. I aimed for El Nido to become a community in Christ and be one in him in NYC. As a church community, you have helped my vision become possible.  El Nido has become a place to come together to break bread, learn from one another, and leave mini-blessings behind. In the past year, we have partnered with multiple community agencies, including NYPH/Columbia University Hospital, NYU Silver School of Social Work.

I would like to take a moment to thank you, for your generous financial support, and for your attendance at our outreach benefit! Your support allows us to DREAM BIG!  To the amazing The Reading Corner volunteers, YOU helped us share the gift of reading, awaken a passion for books, and inspire the parents to read to their children. To the volunteers working with the older siblings, mil gracias for channeling your inner child by creating beautiful arts and crafts with them and introducing board games to the children who have never played Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and Guess Who?

To the ESL teacher’s, words cannot begin to describe how much you have impacted the lives of your students. You are helping them overcome a scary barrier – language!

Year one would not have been possible without YOU!
Mil gracias de todo corazón (with a grateful heart)

Mil Gracias!

We are very thankful for our volunteers, particularly during the summer months!   A few special shout-outs:
  • Our English teachers:  Jan Buttram, Sue Bynum, Emily D’Angelica, Anne Ellington, Tracey Gmoser, Nancy Gruver, and Elaine MacKay.  They are leading a 10-week session for 15 students this summer.  You are giving our families a critical tool.
  • Blue Nile Abyssinian Youth Group for coming to spend a day helping us organize our donations and prepare our new classrooms and storage rooms on the second floor.
  • Our steadfast volunteers, Liz Haak and Nancy Gruver.  Your weekly presence makes so much possible.
  • Everyone who supported El Nido with your financial gifts at the Annual Benefit!
  • Our Prayer Warriors. We feel God’s presence every day in that space and our families feel God’s love thanks to your prayers.

El Nido Dads!

From Matt Sink… 

When I first heard about the planned outreach work in Washington Heights, I was interested in doing what I could to help.  As the program began to take shape, I volunteered and got involved with The Reading Corner. Through the process of launching the programming and the information sessions, I heard about how the programming was geared toward moms and their children.  When I volunteered, however, I saw that there were many dads who were involved and coming with the moms and kids.

Over the past year my wife was pregnant and just had our daughter two months ago, and I have come to notice how almost everything that is kid-related is geared toward “mommy, ” but I wish there was more geared toward “daddy.”  Since I was looking for more dad-related things for myself, I looked at the people who were attending The Reading Corner and all of the dads who were involved and thought it would be great to provide an event to celebrate the dads.

I reached out to Holly and Monika and had the idea to do a cookout with burgers and hot dogs because it’s hard to go wrong with grilled meat. The event came together, and Saturday, July 22nd, a group of dads from El Nido and from the Christ Church Park Avenue congregation got together for Dad’s Day following The Reading Corner. It was a great event, and we had fun eating together, playing with bubbles with our kids and throwing the frisbee around.

The event reinforced for me that no matter where you are from or where you live we all want the best for our kids, we enjoy playing with them and like to eat delicious food. I have seen how El Nido has adapted to the needs of the participants and I see the dads’ outreach doing the same thing. In the coming years, I hope that there will be many more opportunities for dads to be involved with El Nido both as participants and volunteers because as a new dad, I can definitely say – the more events for dads the better!

What It Means to Volunteer

From Nancy Gruver… 

My experiences at El Nido over this last year have been a beautiful gift to me. Monika, Holly, and Blanca Lucia have shown such love, acceptance, and kindness to me personally. They are true examples of God’s love.

El Nido has expanded greatly in the past year. Now almost all of the second-floor rooms are used by El Nido, and I am so happy to see all of this expansion. It has been such a great joy to really interact with many mothers and their children. It is delightful when they come in and I am able to talk with them, laugh with them, and play with their children. El Nido is so filled with warmth and happiness!!

I love seeing the arrival of the new deliveries of clothes and food for the children – and now for all family members. I have gotten to be good friends with some of the mothers. I am so pleased to see them and their children. I have had the joy of seeing these tiny babies develop into very animated and active toddlers.

Almost every time I come to El Nido, I help prepare clothing for use. I know these items are going to bring joy to various families. This summer I have helped teach English to some parents. It has brought me real happiness to see their success in this endeavor. It has been wonderful fun.

To close, I  can say that my experiences of El Nido have been a real blessing in my life. This is a place of love and peace. I am grateful to come here.

Opportunities For You to Help

We need your help, and there are so many volunteer opportunities, we’re confident there is one right for you…

  • Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. beginning September 9th – Join the fun at the Reading Corner! No Spanish skills required.  Sign-up here!
  • Donations are what makes Christ Church’s outreach program of El Nido possible. Your support provides these mothers, babies, and children hope for a future. Help us by:
    • Contributing to our baby boutique of necessities freely given to the families in need: Amazon Wish List.
    • Organizing a drive at your school, building, workplace in the fall.  We have a turnkey approach!  Please contact fogleh@gmail.com for details.
    • Giving of your resources, investing in the lives of the families served by El Nido: Give to El Nido

What’s New?

We continue to listen to the needs of our families and adapt accordingly.  We have big dreams!

  • We held two CPR classes where 15 of our moms were trained in CPR/first aid. They were so grateful.
  • We have welcomed 9 new families to our core programming and began a second cohort of Las Orugitas (The Crawling Club) on Thursdays.
  • We launched a pilot English language class this summer with childcare provided.  Thanks to the fantastic response from our congregation we have 7 dedicated teachers and were able to increase our students to 15, including one father.  Our families are so excited to learn English… there were tears when Monika told them.  The goal is forthe families to be able to communicate at a parent/teacher conference when their children go to kindergarten.
  • We have distributed 385 books since January through The Reading Corner.
  • We have formed a new partnership with Columbia Presbyterian where their pediatric residents will visit El Nido every 3-4 weeks and provide a Q&A on an important topic (e.g., vaccines, allergy/asthma, home remedies).

Meet our New Intern

I would like to introduce you to our new second-year MSW intern from NYU Silver School of Social Work, Charlotte Sohr! She will be with us for the Spring Semester. Charlotte was part of the second cohort of MSW student that went to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the Fall semester. We are excited to welcome her to our El Nido family! Welcome!

Charolette, why did you choose El Nido?
The staff at El Nido has fully devoted themselves to improving the social and educational conditions of young children growing up in adverse conditions. Literature and research today have all proven how important healthy attachments and a safe and stable environment are to early child development, and El Nido strives to assist mothers who need assistance in this. From the first day I walked into El Nido, I could see how the physical space alone, with its size and numerous books and toys, could provide a comfortable safe space for mothers and their children. Diapers, formula, clothing, books, all of these things cost money, and by providing mothers with these items, as well as educating them on healthy parenting, they are better able to provide a nurturing environment for their children.

What do you want to learn from El Nido?
From El Nido, I want to learn how to foster a creative and enriching environment that provides children with the tools they need to grow and thrive. El Nido’s focus on literacy, health, and emotional support are factors that many people, due to systems of oppression, are not afforded, and I want to be a part of the movement tackling this nationwide issue. I want El Nido to provide me with the knowledge of early child development and the factors that can nurture or hinder the aging process, as well as how to best support mothers.

Updates -January 2017

We are grateful and encouraged to report:
  • We finished our first session of the Reading Corner this past December. We gave out 112 books to our 0-3. To older siblings, we have distributed 55 books. We also began a lending library for the older siblings.
  • Our Reading Corner families received a $25.00 gift certificate to use at two of the local super markets on our last TRC.
  • Our El Nido mothers visited the El Nido Baby Boutique for the second time before the holiday break. They went home with winter gear: foot muffs, hats, mittens, winter coats, warm pajamas, blankets, diapers, formula, bilingual books developmental toys and pack and plays. Our mothers were also able to take home winter clothing for their older children. Thank you for kind donations!
  • El Nido welcomed Baby JC who was born on December 18th. Please keep his family in your prayers!


In the last month, we have been blessed with an outpouring of support from our congregation, our friends, and our families.  A few special shout outs:
  • To our volunteers that make the program hum…. from our 14 person decorating crew that transformed the space into a special Christmas wonderland to our core group of volunteers for The Reading Corner to our steadfast Monday and Thursday volunteers that organize and sort clothes/books/ and toys behind the scenes
  • To the Christ Church Youth for running a toy drive
  • To our Christ Church congregation members. Just last month you organized a PJ drive at your girls’ preschool, you rallied your Block Association for donations, you asked a children’s store that was going out of business for their leftover inventory, you picked up and transported all of these goods, you shared your knitting talents resulting in keepsake blankets and hats for our families, you responded to our urgent need for footmuffs by not only sending them but expediting the shipping, you responded to our families’ need for Pack’n Plays by sending 10 new ones, and the list goes on.
  • To our Prayer Warriors. We feel God’s presence every day in that space and our families feel God’s love thanks to your prayers.
  • A special shout out to NYC Mammas Give Back for providing diapers, formula, baby food, clothes, and so many other necessities. You have put smiles on many faces (including ours)!
In summary: You rock! You are bringing so many talents and gifts to our families. Thank you for your creativity and passion.

A Message from our Program Director

Happy New Year- Feliz Año Nuevo from El Nido!

As we begin the new year, we have new hopes, dreams, and goals. Many of our mothers hope for a safe, warm, and welcoming place for their little ones to be able to thrive and flourish. Many of our families are living on a single income and are forced to share an apartment with multiple family members, friends, and sometimes, or often, strangers. Our families are living within ONE room.

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario:

You, your husband, and six-month child are living in a room. In your room are your personal belongings, baby’s belongings, a full-size bed, a dresser, your child’s crib, a small fridge, and perhaps a microwave. Your baby is about to begin to start crawling but doesn’t have the space to do so. What do you do? One of our moms recounts a similar story…

When she first came to El Nido, she was taken aback by all the space. On her second visit, her six-month-old baby girl enjoyed the freedom to crawl and explore. She asked if she could be allowed to come to El Nido outside of her one-on-ones with me. The mother offered to work and organize in return. My heart was filled with both sadness and joy. In her way, she had affirmed the beauty of the place and felt all the love the February 2016 Christ Church work crew had poured into our space. At the same time, she pointed out the need for free open spaces needed in the community.

Later that week, a second first-time mom said the same. She is the mother of a very active seven-month-old baby boy. She was happy to see him move around and to play peek-a-boo with him. I asked when her baby began to crawl, and she said not long ago. Then shyly proceeded to say, “He could have started sooner. I didn’t have the space for him to do so in my room.” My heart ached once again. Space is a luxury and a need for anyone living in NYC. We seek a place to call our own. It’s one of our physiological and basic needs as human beings, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

El Nido has become a place of freedom, wonder, and peace. Our mothers come with their babies three times a week for individual parenting classes, our Thursday group “Las Orugitas,” and on Saturdays for The Reading Corner. For our mothers, it has become a safe place to be in community, create a family and sisterhood, learn new parenting tips, and enjoy a cup of coffee and to be!

I encourage you to come up on February 4th and take part of the work day! We will welcome you with open arms and a warm cup of cafésito!

Monika Estrada-Guzman