The Brooklyn Paper
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This year, Brooklyn’s Genie Foundation has chosen the non-profit Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE) as the beneficiary of its biannual fundraiser, to be held at Gargiulo’s Restaurant in Coney Island on Aug. 1.

Tempting ticket-buyers with a reception, dinner and dancing to tunes spun by Classie Sounds at the restaurant on West 15th Street, the founders of the Genie Foundation - President Lorraine Tozzo, Vice President Nino Russo, Treasurer Denise Vitale, Secretary Tracey Shankman and Assistant Treasurer Rosanne Macrina - hope to raise a lot of clams in Coney Island.

"We’re five friends who have known each other for 20 years who have a good following of friends who just want to give back to the community," Tozzo explained of the Genie Foundation’s genesis.

"This year, an agency from Canada [LOVE] is coming to New York and needs startup money," said Tozzo. "We felt it was an interesting program and didn’t see anything similar in New York, and we felt we needed it."

According to their mission statement, LOVE is dedicated to "reducing violence in the lives of youth and in our communities by building a team of youth spokespeople who will communicate a message of non-violence. LOVE youth are a multicultural group between the ages of 13 and 18 whose lives have been burdened by violence, either as victims, perpetrators and/or witnesses."

Tozzo was impressed by the organization’s structure.

"LOVE has this three-step program where they get these kids through schools or off the streets and get them to channel anger through photography and writing and those kids then go out and become counselors themselves," she said.

"It’s a very big issue and their program is so different. No one in New York City is doing it."

Tozzo said her 501-C(3) foundation carefully screens the financials and makes site visits to the organizations they fundraise for because she’s not the only one investing in the recipient organization.

"I’m inviting all my friends and family and I’m saying, ’This is a great charity and I want you to support it,’" she explained. In the past, Genie parties have raised funds for Coney Island’s Our Lady of Solace, Heart Share Human Services and families of 9-11 victims.

Dyker Heights native Tozzo, who now lives in Princeton, N.J., said her heart is still in Brooklyn. The seven-year-old Genie Foundation is committed to raising funds for organizations that benefit the New York metropolitan area only. LOVE, founded by President Sheila "Twinkle" Rudberg after her husband was killed while trying to apprehend a 14-year-old purse-snatcher, will begin sponsoring a program in Manhattan’s School of the Future this fall, according to LOVE board member Linda Rudberg Thibodeau.

Tozzo hopes to raise $50,000 net with the gala party.

LOVE programs include photojournalism and broadcast journalism to help teach kids to overcome violence by documenting it, leadership training to teach conflict resolution and public speaking, and school and community outreach programs to raise awareness about the causes of violence. There are also violence-prevention educational tools, such as student photos, poetry and stories published in LOVE’s books, the ’One Love’ newspaper and on its Web site,

Need another reason to go to Coney Island on Aug. 1? Tozzo says, "It’s just a nice summer party."

The Genie Foundation’s gala fundraiser for Leave Out ViolencE will be held Aug. 1 at 7:30 pm at Gargiulo’s Restaurant, 2911 West 15th St. between Mermaid and Surf avenues in Coney Island. Tickets are $100. For more information, contact the Genie Foundation at (212) 303-9442 or visit the Web site at For more information about Leave Out ViolencE, go to the Web site at

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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jessica mercier from greenfeild park says:
Hello Twinkle ,my name is Jessica Mercier i met with you today at centennial and i was so happy to hear your story and i think it changed me as a person. thank you for sharing your story with us.
Feb. 18, 2010, 5:05 pm

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