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Jubilee Center Kids Hobnob with Morales, McEnroe, Strawberry

Celebrities, sports legends, and TV personalities help BGC Partners raise money for after-school program.

For the third consecutive year, the Jubilee Center participated in BGC Partners' annual Charity Day on Monday. Reprising their roles as "celebrity traders" on behalf of the Jubilee Center were NBC's Today TV show host and Hoboken resident Natalie Morales and CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth.

The event was the sixth annual charity day held by BGC, a leading global intermediary to the wholesale financial markets. BGC is a spinoff of Cantor Fitzgerald, the company that lost the most personnel—658 employees—as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and the charity day is the firm's way of commemorating those who died. BGC donates 100 percent of the day's revenue to a host of charities around the world.

Though the event commemorated a solemn occasion, the mood at BGC's downtown Manhattan offices was light and the stars were in large supply. Big-time athletes, actors, pop stars, and TV personalities roamed the trading floor to volunteer as celebrity traders, schmooze, and pose for pictures. Under the supervision of licensed brokers, the celebrities sell securities to BGC clients, and BGC donates the commissions from those trades to charity.

More than anything, the story of the Jubilee Center's involvement in the annual BGC Charity Day is one of great teamwork. Hoboken residents Leigh Higgins, Donna Garban, Larry Henriques, and Natalie Morales all collaborate to ensure that the Jubilee Center's participation results in a windfall for the nonprofit. Last year, BGC wound up donating $100,000 to the center.

It all began three years ago when Higgins, a broker at BGC whose wife had done some volunteering at the center, managed to get the Jubilee Center accepted into the somewhat exclusive charity event. Higgins and his wife still volunteer at the center and have been helping kids there maintain a community garden for the last two years.

Since Higgins got the Jubilee Center in, Henriques and Garban have secured the center's place in the subsequent events and the celebrities that represent it.

CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth does not live in Hoboken, but that doesn't stop him from pitching in to help the center's cause. Griffeth became involved with the Jubilee Center when his daughter Carlee was working to earn her Gold Award, the highest honor bestowed upon participants in the Girl Scouts of America. Carlee solicited book donations and set up a reading program for the Jubilee Center as her community service project, which Griffeth eventually took part in by reading to children at the Jubilee Center.

"We're given a script to tell about the program we're representing, but I don't need the script because I have been to the Jubilee Center and it's a wonderful program," said Griffeth. "These kids would have no place to go otherwise after school, during the day, and it's such a great program for them educationally and socially."

Seven children from the Jubilee Center traveled to BGC's offices on Water Street yesterday with Craig Mainor, the center's program director. Also on hand were Garban, the chairperson of the center's Board of Trustees, and Henriques, her predecessor who stepped down in July.

"The generosity of BGC is significant to an organization of our size," said Garban. "It is also a great day of fun and education for the kids, who get to see trading desks in action and celebrities giving back to the community."

In addition to getting a day off from school, the kids were treated to lunch at the BGC offices and had the chance to be photographed with several celebrities, including tennis great John McEnroe, Mets and Yankee legend Darryl Strawberry, and actor Tony Sirico, best known for his role as Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri on The Sopranos.

Before Today show host Natalie Morales began her television career, she spent two years working in a management training program at Chemical Bank, where her specialty was securities lending. Morales, who worked the phones and closed trades like a seasoned veteran, appeared able to draw on her far-removed know-how. "To me, it's always interesting to see what might have been had I stayed in banking," she said.

Morales showered the Jubilee Center and BGC with praise and added that the day offered the children from the Jubilee Center more than just charitable donations and fun photo ops with celebrities.

"I think today is an opportunity for them to really kind of learn and appreciate all of the great work these people have put into this effort," said Morales. "It's a great lesson for these kids to see, that no matter where their paths in life take them, it's always important to give back."

Morales even watched as two children from the center, 8-year-old Eohnna Gilyard and 8-year-old Faith Stephans, each took the phone and closed a trade on behalf of the Jubilee Center.

For BGC Chairman and CEO Howard Lutnick, having small charities along with large charities at the event is a key element of the firm's charitable mission. "We pick a broad range of charities, from big to small, national to local, so that we just get everybody involved," he said. "We want as broad a group to feel included and to be part of us helping to rebuild ourselves and the communities around us."

Lutnick added, "Today is a day for us to try to turn a tough day into a positive day."

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