Bay Ridge youngsters host virtual performances to feed the hungry

Jolie Wasserman, left and Scarlett Diviney, right, host virtual cabarets each month to raise money to feed the hungry.
Colette Samman

A pair of best friends from Bay Ridge are taking on the city’s hunger crisis by hosting monthly performances that have already raised enough money to feed thousands of needy New Yorkers.

Nine-year-old Scarlett Diviney and 13-year-old Jolie Wasserman have each been performing since they were six years old — but now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated needs across the city, the two have taken their talents to Facebook Live to fund different initiatives designed to help other children who are less fortunate.

“We started ‘Voices to End Hunger’ because the hunger problem was so bad,” said Scarlett of their online performance series. “COVID increased the hunger problem by 40 percent.”

Jolie agreed, adding that she was particularly alarmed by the high rate of food insecurity across the city.

“People were desperately in need for food and other supplies, so I thought we could do something to make a change,” she said.

The girls hosted their first virtual “cabaret” in August, during which they showcased their own singing as well as the talents of other performing friends they enlisted for the bill.

“Scarlett and I are performers in New York City, so we made a bunch of connections and friends over time,” said Jolie. “All of our friends love to sing also…and we thought it would be most efficient to start cabarets using all of our talents and friends’ talents.”

Scarlett and Jolie have hosted four cabarets to date — and have raised enough funds to provide 45,000 meals to hungry New Yorkers, give hundreds of Thanksgiving meals to patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and fulfill the needs of two schools with high populations of students experiencing homelessness.

For their fifth cabaret — a Valentine’s Day special on Feb. 12 — the duo plans to fundraise to provide meals for a La Jornada Food Pantry in Queens, which they chose based on its outsized need for support and because of their plans to benefit organizations in all of the city’s five boroughs.

“All the money is going to a food pantry in Queens, they feed 10,000 New Yorkers a week,” Scarlett said.

The young philanthropists said pitching in at a time of crisis has been fulfilling — a feeling they said hits home whenever they deliver a meal or donation, and see first-hand how much their work is appreciated.

“Scarlett and I feel really good that we are doing this because it makes us very happy to know that we are helping others in need,” said Jolie.

Voices to End Hunger will stream their Valentine’s Day Special Cabaret on Feb. 12 at 7 pm here.

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