Three friends from Staten Island have stepped up in the fight against breast cancer.
Lisa Vega, Kelly Vargas, and Lorraine Perez are no strangers to struggles, especially during the economic crisis that ensued with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, instead of simply wallowing in their own misfortunes, they opted to create a business venture that uplifts Staten Island entrepreneurs and support locals fighting for cancer cures in the process. While cultivating their organization, Three Amigas, the women simultaneously raised funds for breast cancer research in honor of their friend Lisa Vega—a breast cancer survivor.
The Lo’Kel-Li is a business located at Empire Outlets New York City—in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island—that will allow vendors to rent the space in order to sell their wares without fear of inclement weather causing booths to be closed or events to be canceled. While promoting this concept over the summer, they also gathered donations for the American Cancer Society, raising $543.
On Oct. 17 the group of friends took part in the annual Staten Island Breast Cancer walk at the Midland Beach Boardwalk, where they proudly spread the word about the importance of self-breast exams for both men and women.
“We are using our platform to help gather backup for such an important cause,” said Perez, who previously worked with an oncologist years prior, sharing that breast cancer is more than an issue that affects woman.
While Vega celebrated her 12th year cancer free, it is still a fight all three women are passionate about.
“People usually think breast cancer is just a woman thing, it’s not, men get it too. Men don’t get it at a high percentage, but men do get it,” Perez affirmed. “Don’t want to wait ‘till it happens to you because by the time it happens to you, it is already too late. Always remember there are hard times, someone will be there to help you. When times are getting tough, you’d be surprised when other people step up. That’s what we consist of, we are here to help step up.”
The tight niche of friends believe that their purpose is to help their fellow community through volunteerism and advocacy, especially after witnessing the financial hardships their neighbors were facing over the course of the past 19 months, so they developed a way to assist while also creating a business for themselves.
“All of us were pretty much dead in the water because of what happened with COVID. With these vendor markets outside, a lot of people have turned to crafts as their second or even their main income for that matter. What happens if you don’t have a job? Somethings gotta give. A lot of people turned to artisan markets and making stuff at home and selling it at these little markets that popup around Staten Island,” Perez said.
The storefront will be open seven days a week and only shut on holidays when Empire Outlets are closed.
“For Kelly, Lisa, and myself we are very moved that we were able to give back to the community in any way possible. It’s always been about helping others. We’ve seen many trials and tribulations,” Perez said.
The Lo’Kel-Li will have a grand opening on Nov. 6 at 9 a.m. in the storefront located on 55 Richmond Terrace, and it will feature items from 20 vendors.