Denise: Portraits of 14th Street Y


My community is people in all ages and walks of life. I’m blessed to make people smile. It’s a blessing to see that thing that might be dark in some people’s eyes – and I just get past that at all times. There is no one that I can’t make smile, even just for that moment. That’s the sunshine that I give.

I’m the person that will call everyone “sweetie” because everyone’s sweet to me. Just to hear people call my name and tell me how I made their day. It’s not about boasting, it’s about being. It’s about being there for them. I love to listen and hear things that people need to be heard. That’s what makes the 14th Street Y home, because if you have something to tell me I’m going to listen to you. We’re going to solve it the best way we can and you’re going to leave with a smile. So home will always be here, because everyone here is joyful. They come here to be stress-less, because they’re loved.

I used to have weird hours, and people would ask me, “why don’t you work here more?” and I was like “hey, that’s a good idea!” So, before I knew it, I was here more often, saying hello and loving people!

I love seeing the kids because I become a kid, and I love that about life! I was brought up with a big family and I always sang and danced–and now I sing and dance with the kids. When you live life freely and you have love in your heart, you don’t have to worry about what anybody says–it doesn’t matter because the kids love it and we’re all having fun. To see laughter on children is the best thing. Just to hear their laughter in the air makes you laugh and makes you smile, so whatever bothered you at any point in the day just dissolves, because children are our future.

Honestly, my favorite memory was the Gala this past year. I always hang out with the kids, but for the first time at the Gala I got to hang out with my coworkers, and we had the whole dance floor. We were just boogying to the music, having fun, and coming together. When we can just have fun, that’s the best thing anybody can ask for. That’s what life is about: fun.

I’ve worked in a number of places, but the 14Y has a variety of everything. It’s explosive with happiness and different people talking. Everybody’s happy. I call this my home. It’s bittersweet that I’m leaving, but it’s all good–I’m leaving with an impression that’s going to be left on to my coworkers and the people I work with. The people that come here are still going to have that joy. I think they know that the 14Y is the place to let go and let it be, and just have fun and be yourself. Don’t be afraid, because everyone’s out there to blossom. The 14Y will blossom. Everyone loves that doorway–when that door is open, just walk right in, because it’s going to be open for you because that’s the 14th Street Y. Welcome all!


Portraits of the 14th Street Y is a photography project by Bridget Badore that tells the stories behind the many faces of the 14th Street Y community, including members, staff, teachers, trainers, artists, caregivers, families, and local business owners. Each year, the unique stories of more than 20,000 New Yorkers is woven into the fabric that makes the 14th Street Y a Downtown home for all.

Learn more about this exciting photography series here. You can also follow along and support the Downtown Stories on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.