JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Jazmin Carrillo, a Riverhead High School graduate whose family moved to the U.S. 10 years ago from Guatemala, is hoping to raise $7,000 for impoverished students from that country.
Love Lane Kitchen manager Jazmin Carrillo has found a way to share her Guatemalan heritage with the community while raising funds to help needy children in her native country.
Those multicolored bracelets you see tied to glass bottles on the counter at the Mattituck restaurant are handmade by local Guatemalan immigrants and are for sale to benefit poor students living in a rural area about an hour from Guatemala City.
Ms. Carrillo, 24, is a 2007 Riverhead High School graduate whose family moved to the United States 10 years ago from San Antonio el Angel in Guatemala. She said she’s worn the bracelets for years and came up with the fundraising idea after recently establishing a nonprofit group called Programa Suenos.
Ms. Carrillo is trying to raise $7,000 through bracelet sales to purchase backpacks, shoes, uniforms and school supplies for 150 students. While her suggested donation is between $2 and $5 per bracelet, she said some customers have been extremely generous, making donations of $10 and $20.
“A dollar goes a long way in Guatemala,” Ms. Carrillo said. “A ton of stress will be taken off their shoulders if they don’t have to worry about going to work to have money to buy shoes and simple things like that.”
Ms. Carrillo first went back to Guatemala to visit family after receiving her green card last November. During her trip, she said, she became emotional after finding many of the children there were unable to attend school because they couldn’t afford shoes and books.
She then traveled to Europe and said she felt very grateful for everything she had and for all the opportunities she’d received, describing the experience as “overwhelming, in a good way.” Ms. Carrillo is studying business at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead in hopes of opening her own restaurant.
“I decided I wanted to do something to help others with their dreams,” Ms. Carrillo said, adding that she came up with the name Programa Suenos, which means Dreams Program, during her trip.
After asking her family for ideas on how to help needy Guatemalan students, Ms. Carrillo created a scholarship program. In January, she gave $200 scholarships to 10 students in Guatemala, using her own money.
As for future projects, Ms. Carrillo said she wants to raise $75,000 to renovate and expand the school.
Love Lane Kitchen owner Carolyn Iannone said she’s proud of Ms. Carrillo’s charity effort and happy to see the community rally behind her.
“I think people at first weren’t sure, but once they realized Jazmin was behind it they got excited,” Ms. Iannone said. “It’s nice to know that, over a cup of coffee, we can make a difference.”
For more information about Ms. Carrillo’s organization, visit programasuenos.org.