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Queens Chronicle

Students document Woodhaven history

St. Thomas pupils put together film about neighborhood they call home

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Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:25 am, Thu May 23, 2013.

Queens neighborhoods are all ripe with history. There’s a seemingly never-ending parade of people, places and events that define the borough’s 350-year existence and have given birth to hundreds of books and films. From the Flushing Remonstrance through Hurricane Sandy, the myriad of stories can take a lifetime to tell.

Woodhaven’s rich history is not well-known to people outside the neighborhood, but with the help of some tech-savvy and devoted young teenagers, the community’s past will be put on film for all to see.

A group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Thomas the Apostle School are producing a film about Woodhaven’s history.

Titled “Woodhaven: Diverse Backgrounds United in One History” — a title St. Thomas teacher Patty Eggers said the students thought of themselves — the documentary features interviews with local leaders, residents and elected officials.

The students put it together with the help of Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Historical Society and Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.

“They told me they wanted to do a film about Woodhaven’s history and I thought that was great,” Wendell said. “They already mapped it out real good, they just needed a little help getting people to interview.”

The students sat with the owners of renowned Woodhaven businesses like Schmidt’s Candy Store and Neir’s Tavern. They met with Maria Thomson, executive director of the Woodhaven Economic Development Corporation, and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who represents part of the neighborhood in City Hall.

Wendell also assisted in getting the children a place to premiere their movie — the Cinemart theater on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills.

The kids will attend the premiere of their film at the theater on Friday, June 10 and will even walk a red carpet outside. “I want it to be really kind of special for the kids,” Wendell explained.

Eggers said she was impressed with the students’ work. “I really took an advisory role, it was all them,” she said.

She expects the film will run 30 to 45 minutes when complete; and editing will begin next week. Students are in the process of conducting the finishing interviews.

Eggers added that she and her fellow teachers at St. Thomas always try to instill community spirit in the kids. “We really do try to build this sense of community in them, and they respond,” Eggers explained. “They want to know how to fit in Woodhaven now and in the future.”

She noted that the students have often stepped in when residents are in need, shoveling driveways during snowstorms and last year, collecting supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Wendell wants the film to lead to a renewed interest in the neighborhood’s history. “I’m kind of hopeful this will be kind of an ongoing thing,” he said.

To defray some of the costs of the project, Wendell’s website, Project Woodhaven, has a link for donations to help the students finance their project.

Donors who help sponsor the movie soon can receive tickets to the June 10 premiere. A link to donate can be found at projectwoodhaven.com/2013/May/woodhaven-sta-project.html

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