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Long Island Breakfast Club returns to West Hempstead

Posted June 10, 2020

Long Island Breakfast Club members Gregg Cajuste and Valentina Janek met at the club’s new home, G’s Dance and Night Club, in West Hempstead, on June 4. COURTESY LONG ISLAND BREAKFAST CLUB
Long Island Breakfast Club members Gregg Cajuste and Valentina Janek met at the club’s new home, G’s Dance and Night Club, in West Hempstead, on June 4.
COURTESY LONG ISLAND BREAKFAST CLUB

By Nakeem Grant

https://www.liherald.com/stories/long-island-breakfast-club-returns-to-west-hempstead,125755

Having held meetings at different venues throughout Nassau County, the Long Island Breakfast Club has longed for a home to run their meetings. Founded in West Hempstead, the group will return home as they plan to host future meetings at G’s Dance and Night Club.

“It’s come full circle and it’s expanded, because for anything to survive, you have to change and adapt, and we have,” said Stephanie Carlino, a co-founder of the Breakfast Club. “I like that it’s back in West Hempstead where it all started and I think it’s a bigger, better venue. I’m so proud to have been a part of it since the beginning.”

The club offers employment and career counseling, workshops, interviewing classes and referrals, among other assistance, to help those seeking employment after losing jobs in middle age. The club also hosts monthly meetings, including sessions featuring motivational speeches and job interview discussions. Carlino said that when the group had formed in 2006, their goal was to support middle-aged residents who struggled to find jobs.

“Now we’re finding ways to help all people who struggle to find work,” Carlino said. “We just want to be there to meet the needs of the community. We hope to be there for people to provide advice and counseling in any way.”

Valentina Janek, another one of the club’s founders, said that since the pandemic began in March, she received several phone calls from residents on how the group could assist them. Supporting others during challenging times, Janek said, is what her group is all about.

“This club has gone too far for us to fail,” Janek said. “The bottom line is, we all need something like this. We have a home now where we can have more regular meetings and we can continue our mission.”

The collaboration with G’s, Janek explained, came when she invited the night club’s owner Gregg Cajuste, of West Hempstead, on the Breakfast Club’s radio show last year. Cajuste was invited to return as a guest for several shows, and he now serves as a member of the club’s advisory board.

“I knew that the Breakfast Club didn’t have a home base,” Cajuste said, “so once we started talking about the idea of having the club here, she jumped on it. It’s amazing to be part of an organization that’s dedicated to helping others. Sometimes in life, people get lost and we’re helping people find their way.”

Communicating with others in-person, Cajuste said, is what he looks forward to the most once the group begins to hold their meetings. “You don’t realize what you miss until you don’t have it anymore,” he said, “and I think a lot people have come to that realization during this pandemic.”

The Breakfast Club will hold their first meeting at G’s at a later date.

Long Island Breakfast Club Show co-hosts Valentina Janek and Gregg Cajuste air their talk show every Monday and Thursday.

By Nakeem GrantFebruary 13, 2020https://www.liherald.com/malverne/stories/long-island-breakfast-club-show-focuses-on-finding-jobs,122196

With hopes of reaching a wider audience, the Long Island Breakfast Club has hit the airwaves with the weekly Long Island Breakfast Club Show, which is syndicated by the  GovsRadio network. The club features middle-aged residents who share their stories of finding work after job loss.

“It’s a [place] for people and businesses on Long Island,” said West Hempstead native Valentina Janek, one of the club’s founders and its president. “It’s a brand new way to help people get the word out about who they are and what they do, and getting clients. It’s all about people helping people.”

The Breakfast Club has broadcast more than 50 shows, which air every Monday and Thursday on GovsRadio.com. The club offers employment and career counseling, workshops, interviewing classes and referrals, among other assistance, to help those seeking employment after losing jobs in middle age. The club also hosts monthly meetings, including sessions featuring motivational speeches and job interview discussions. Janek, along with the co-founders of the club, wanted to find another way to share knowledge with others.

“We’ve come a long way since our club relaunched,” Janek said. “We just want to keep moving forward.”

Janek was encouraged by her friends last year to take part in the show “Knock Em Dead Comedy,” also on GovsRadio. Tony Walker, general manager at GovsRadio.com, said that hearing Janek’s story of job loss and how she bounced back from it drew his interest.

“She takes the time to get to know other people in a similar situation,” Walker said of Janek. “She has so many different connections that it just seemed like an interesting thing to try. It’s really an amazing thing that she’s doing, and it’s very special.”

One of the show’s featured guests, West Hempstead resident Gregg Cajuste, shared his story as a businessman over the years. A U.S. Marine who served in the Gulf War from 1985 to 1991, Cajuste went on to own several establishments on Long Island, including Lucky Bar 13 in Franklin Square and G’s Dance and Night Club in West Hempstead.

“I never even thought that I’d get into something like a talk show,” Cajuste said. “I just knew that the show was all about helping people in general, so I decided to give it a shot.”

Cajuste was invited to return as a guest for several shows, and he now serves as a member of the club’s advisory board. He recently joined Janek as one of the show’s co-host and helps to bring in new guests.

“We each have our own platform, but now we’re putting that all together,” Cajuste said. “We really don’t know much about the guests before the show, but that style and approach seems to work.”

Janek and Cajuste both agreed that their show was meant to provide networking opportunities. Janek said she encourages middle-aged residents to take that “leap of faith.”

“It all happened by stepping out of our comfort zone,” Janek recalled. “That’s what we try to teach our club members. We’re very fortunate and lucky to have this as another way to help others in the community.”

By Paul DiSclafani – February 10, 2020 https://www.massapequaobserver.com/when-life-gives-you-lemons/

Being out of work during your adult life is traumatic. But being out of work after you reach a certain age is life-changing.
People on the other side of 50 comprise the most experienced workforce in this country, yet they are vulnerable to being permanently unemployed due to several factors. Most frequently, they are considered “overqualified.” Some employers are concerned that experienced workers accepting lower positions will leave when (if) a better opportunity presents itself.

Working all your life at a successful career, only to have the rug pulled out from under you through no fault of your own, is a helpless feeling. Companies close suddenly, or management changes direction, downsizing your position because it is “no longer needed.” Life doesn’t stop when you’re out of work. In a time when couples should be looking forward to the next stage of life, you are faced with how to even get there. I was out of work for a few months at the end of 2000 (after the Y2K nonsense) when I had two young children, a wife, a dog and a mortgage. It was frightening to know that at 43, I might have to start over. I was downsized before there was even a term called “downsizing.”

Attending a seminar led by a job coach, he recommended we not take the first job offer presented and, instead, use this as a chance to explore a life’s dream. I responded that although I always wanted to play shortstop for the Mets, I intended to take the first job I was offered to feed and protect my family. The bank doesn’t allow me to pay bills with dreams. I was lucky to get another position as an IT manager at Brunswick Hospital.
But 20 years later, if the same thing happened, I don’t expect to even get a job offer.

That’s where the Long Island Breakfast Club (LIBC) comes in. Formed back in 2006, the LIBC began as a small group of like-minded people helping others find employment and has developed into a networking group, hundreds of people strong.

One of the co-founders, Valentina Janek, published a book called From Fired to Freedom—How Life After the Big, Bad Boot Gave Me Wings (available on Amazon) that details 79 stories, written by older Long Islanders about their experiences and struggles to get back into the job force. It’s an eye-opening glimpse of similar experiences across different types of professions.

The members of the LIBC help each other get back on their feet, and into careers they always had a passion for. I attended the January meeting, becoming acquainted with people who achieved recent success in different jobs after many years in the same profession. There was Dayna who, along with her husband, bought the limo company she worked many years for after showing up for work one morning and finding the doors locked. Janice, a former jockey who’s riding career was ended due to injury, has since authored two books. Margaret, Noreen and Carrie also became authors late in life. Erik found he had a knack for marketing while Doreen is a performer with a golden voice. Millie went into real estate and Patricia is considering a run for office in the local government. Success stories, every single one.

Author Donna Cariello recently published Ambassadors of HOPE (Help One Person Every Day), a collection of stories inspiring you to make a difference in other people’s lives. That’s what the LIBC is all about, people helping people achieve goals in life they might otherwise think were out of reach.
Although I doubt they can help me achieve my dream of being the Mets shortstop, I bet they can help me write a book about it.

By Frank Rizzo – September 30, 2019 https://longislandweekly.com/downsized-but-not-down-and-out/

Nicholas Drossos accepts a certificate of appreciation from Valentina Janek after hosting the Long Island Writers Club meeting at Frank’s Steak, where he is a principal owner and general manager. At left is Donna Cariello, founder and president, Long Island Way. At right is Stephanie Larkin, founder and publisher of Red Penguin Books. (Contributed Photo)

Forget the historically low unemployment numbers; any number of economists can point out what is misleading about them.

One of the sad realities is that millions of white collar workers have been laid off and have never recaptured their earning power. They’ve dropped out of the labor force, settled for hourly employment or have become part of the so-called gig economy.

Valentina Janek, a Floral Park native and longtime resident of West Hempstead who recently moved to North Valley Stream, is one victim of this downsizing. In 2004, she lost her job as operations manager for CMP Media in Mahasset. Even including a period of employment with Nassau County, she has not held a post worthy of her experience and talent set since.

She’s also has had to overcome personal loss in this interval, as both her husband Ronald and sister, Maria, died within a short span.

Janek started the Long Island Breakfast Club to gather people who faced similar midlife, middle class employment challenges. Unlike the classic John Hughes comedy, which featured high school teens, this club featured older citizens who were trying to land suitable employment. According to Janek, the club got The Breakfast Club actor Anthony Michael Hall to come to a meeting once.

“I started the club as a joke, having been on so many interviews and being told I was too experienced, had an income that they would not consider, and [was] too old—without them saying it,” Janek said.

It was at the interviews that she met up with Stephanie Carlino, Chris Fidis, Patricia Locurcio, and JoAnn Fiorentino Lucas, who were cofounders of the club.

“We kept running into each other going for the same interviews and realizing that at 50, we would no be getting considered for the big corporate jobs any longer,” Janek said.

The five started meeting at different  diners to help each other, and the club now has grown to about 50 members. According to its Facebook page, the club “has provided career counseling, support and advocacy for experienced, in-transition professionals on Long Island. LIBC’s goal is to assist with providing referrals, companionship, business networking, contacts for interviewing and mentors for each individual’s success.”

Janek estimates that club members collectively have been on more than 3,000 interviews, but the corporate world was no longer open to them.

“We all convinced ourselves to become entrepreneurial and we now do gigs. Part-time freelance opportunities are easier to come by through networking and speaking to other people in the community,” she said.

In this interim, Janek put out a novel, In Love and Friendship, and last year published From Fired to Freedom: How Life After the Big, Bad Boot Gave Me Wings. According to her website, “This book is a compilation of inspirational, engaging, and even funny stories from people who have received the proverbial ‘pink slip’ and come out alive on the other side, better and brighter for it.”

Much of the material came from stories people told at the Breakfast Club meetings.

Along with her publisher, Stephanie Larkin of Red Penguin Books, and Donna Cariello from Long Island Way—whose motto is “Linking Businesses with Non-Profits for Good”—Janek started the Long Island Writers Club (LIWC) earlier this year. Its aims are to “provide instruction, support, encouragement and community to Long Island’s budding authors.”

Because she hoped to “upgrade” the meeting space for their monthly gatherings, Janek convinced Nicholas Drossos of Frank’s Steaks in Jericho to donate the space and offer discounts on the dinners.

The September meeting of the LIWC drew about 50 people, and Janek called Drossos, “our hero.”

“Valentina came in one afternoon and started talking about her group, and their program,” Drossos related. “She’s a well-spoken woman and had some nice things to say. I wanted to help her out [because her group is all about] helping people out.”

Drossos said he’s 62 and remarried, and has a 6-year-old kid.

“I always think of what would happen to me if I was out of work at my age,” he reflected. “The last couple of years have been tough in this business and I can’t afford to retire.”

Frank’s has been a fixture in Jericho for 31 years, while he and a partner have operated a Frank’s in Rockville Center for 17 years.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, Frank’s will host the LIWC at 6:30 p.m. Janek will speak on the various publishing options available to authors.

On Tuesday, Nov. 19 at the same time and venue, author Linda Springer will talk about “strategies for managing every author’s two biggest issues—writers’ block and time management.”

The last meeting will be on Dec. 10. Cariello, LIWC founding member from Levittown and author of Ambassadors of Hope, will discuss “exploring character types and development in various genres, including fiction and memoir writing.”

Janek is also active on GovsRadio.com, associated with Governor’s Comedy Club in Levittown. She appears on Mondays and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m.

Visit www.longislanbreakfastclub.org for more information or email Janek at vjanek@optonline.net.

Memoirists who are part of the Long Island Breakfast Writers Club hold their books at a recent meeting in West Hempstead. Back row, from left, Valentina Janek, Susan Capurso, Linda Springer and Christine Ruggieri, and seated, from left, Donna Cariello, Gaetane Martin and Stephanie Larkin. Credit: Howard Simmons

Long Island seniors take up memoir writing – for themselves, families

https://www.newsday.com/lifestyle/retirement/long-island-breakfast-club-memoir-writing-group-1.34729574

By Claude Solnik, Newsday

August 23, 2019

After Valentina Janek was downsized in 2004 from CMP Media in Manhasset, she founded the Long Island Breakfast Club for people seeking jobs and support. The club, with a catchy name, met over breakfast as people shared struggles, successes and experiences.

But after Janek began writing a book — “From Fired to Freedom” — about her downsized life, she noticed others in the group were interested not only in talking, but in writing, about their own life stories. Janek met with Donna Cariello, 58, of Levittown, who leads Long Island Way, a networking group, and decided to do something different.

“We wanted to help people tell their story, their legacy,” Cariello said.

They invited Stephanie Larkin, a publisher and writing coach, to lead meetings for a very different book group — where people work on stories typically based on their life. The first meeting in May 2016 had 18 people.

Explained Janek, “We read passages. We meet, we eat, we seek. We help each other. What’s stuck? Why can’t you go to the next page?”

So while the Long Island Breakfast Club meets the second Saturday of every month to help people turn a new page, the Long Island Breakfast Writers Club meets monthly, typically the third Tuesday, to help people put their lives on the page.

“This is a new niche,” Janek, a Stony Brook resident, said of the group, which attracted more than 30 people to the May meeting. “We’re here to help each other.”

By: Taryn Schofield – March 10, 2019 http://longislandweekly.com/local-author-gives-voice-to-middle-income-midlife-residents/

For many years, Floral Park native Valentina Janek has championed for the middle-income, midlife residents on Long Island as the president and founder of the Long Island Breakfast Club, which provides positivity, advocacy, support and career counseling for these residents after they come out of the corporate world. Janek has continued her impact on the community with the publication of her novel From Fired to Freedom—How Life After the Big, Bad Boot Gave Me Wings, a compilation of stories from those who have turned the struggles of being laid off in the middle of their lives into positive outcomes.

“The book is separate from the club, but it was derived because of the club,” said Janek.

Janek herself has experience coming out of the corporate world and attempting to re-enter the workforce with too much experience, education and a cost of living that is not appealing to hiring companies. After being let go from her job as an administrative operations manager at CMP Media, Janek realized the challenges middle class, midlife individuals face if let go from their jobs. The creation of the Long Island Breakfast Club and the publication of this novel were the result.

“We help people who come on hard times and I was one of those people,” said Janek, who has funneled this passion into the growth of the club, which also provides networking, social-preneuring, mentoring and advocacy tips for its members.

Six years in the making, the novel From Fired to Freedom, is a collective compilation of accounts from individuals, members and friends of the Long Island Breakfast Club, who have received what Janek calls the “proverbial pink slip.” Aside from Janek, the 377-page novel is made up of accounts from 77 separate individuals and divided into sections comprised of funny interviews, positivity, facing reality, figuring out options, retirement, and experiences with former employers.

“I finished this book because of the treasured people that came on board with me,” explained Janek. “Even though you did get that boot, you can survive and you will.”
Janek hopes the accounts in the book will do more to spread awareness about the crisis faced by midlife residents in the middle class and the help the Long Island Breakfast Club can provide.

“This is a combination of people that get it,” said Janek. “You’re not alone, which is how you feel when you lose a job. The worst things in life are a job loss, personal loss and moving. Most of the stories in this book are very positive and everything has a silver lining.”

Janek’s biggest goal is to invoke motivation and inspiration.

“My biggest mantra is to tell people to get up, get dressed and show up, and that is what I will write in every book that I sign,” said Janek.

The novel will be for sale on Janek’s website and on Amazon. Moving forward, Janek looks to expand the Long Island Breakfast Club by commissioning a class on how to write a book, CPR training and continued networking and counseling.

“I want to be that person people want to hear to be positive and help others,” she said. “I want to explain to employees to be ready for the boot when it happens.”

Just four years after West Hempstead resident Valentina Janek helped launch the job-networking Long Island Breakfast Club in 2006, she was inspired to share the stories of people seeking employment after losing their jobs in middle age. Eventually, she started to take notes and compile those tales into a book. The Breakfast Club will have a special networking party for the book on Feb. 26.

Like many members of the Breakfast Club, Janek was laid off from her job. Thirteen years ago, she worked as an operations manager and chief morale officer for CMP Media. Janek realized that she was not alone, and that middle-aged people have a difficult time finding work

The new book, “From Fired to Freedom — How Life After the Big Bad Boot Gave Me Wings,” is a compilation of stories about middle-aged people who faced the struggles of losing their jobs, and how they moved forward from those experiences.

“The bottom line is this: The middle-aged are overlooked on Nassau County,” Janek said. “I’ve met with local politicians on this, but it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed.”

The organization provides employment and career counseling, workshops, interviewing classes and referrals, among other assistance, to help those seeking employment after losing jobs in middle age. The club also hosts meetings each month, which include sessions at which attendees can discuss job interviews and listen to motivational speeches. At their meeting in December, the club featured former Snapple spokeswoman Wendy Kaufman, once known as the Snapple Lady.

Now the club has roughly 50 members, including residents of both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Janek, who wrote her first book, “In Love and Friendship,” in 2008, said that it brought her a new life. She said she hopes that through her book and her personal experiences, she can bring more awareness to middle-aged people who are looking for jobs.

“This is a very exciting for myself and the club,” Janek said. “I can’t wait to see how everything turns out.”

The event will take place at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, at 38 Old Country Road in Garden City. There is a $20 fee per person.

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