The line with an estimated 3,000 people began to form hours before the official starting time, extending from 98th Place, curving around to 57th Avenue, and making its way over to 99th Street in Corona on Saturday morning with nary a rock star in sight!
The excitement was over the annual backpack and school supplies giveaway organized by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).
As stores begin to inundate the public with back-to-school advertisements for notebooks, calculators and crayons, excited kids and their parents waited — mostly patiently — for their chance to receive one of the 1,800 free supplies-filled book bags.
Adelina Isidro, who lives in the area, was on line with three of her five children “to take advantage of this. We don’t have a lot of money now.” Her daughter, Arisleyda Aguilar, 13, who is about to enter the eighth grade, was hoping to score a binder and a few notebooks, while her son, Rafael Carino, 8, a fourth-grader-to-be who loves writing and coloring, just wanted some pencils.
Isidro was one of many in attendance who complained about the high cost of purchasing school supplies these days.
Juana Garcia of Jamaica said she spent about $100 last year on her son’s school supplies, and he was still a year away from kindergarten! She was happy to take advantage of the giveaways. “It helps us to not spend a lot of money,” she said.
Woodside’s Del Johnson, on line with her two daughters, said she spent $200 last year on their school supplies. As a single parent, she said she felt great about being able to cut down on expenses this year.
Even Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the mother of two including one school-aged son, acknowledged that buying school supplies can be “unbelievably expensive. And it was a lot of work!
“It’s a great thing the senator is doing,” Katz said. “It highlights the fact that people are in need.”
She said that beginning next year she’d like to see an expanded distribution of free school supplies around the borough. “It makes me very concerned that children need more supplies to make sure they’re learning. It’s something parents shouldn’t have to worry about,” she said.
Peralta’s office has been organizing the event for several years.
“We do this year after year,” Peralta said. “These supplies are sometimes very costly. We need to give back. What better way to give back?” Eyeing the crowd around midday, he predicted, “We’re going to run out of backpacks.”
The event was scheduled to get underway at 11 a.m., but the line reportedly started forming around 6:30 a.m.
“We were getting lots and lots of calls from folks all over Queens,” said Peralta’s director of communications, Frank Sobrino.
In addition to picking up their supplies, youngsters had the chance to have some fun as long lines formed for face painting, a bounce house, a rock-climbing wall and other attractions.
Sponsors for the event included Woodside on the Move, Costco, Time Warner Cable, Midtown Office Supplies, Emblem Health, Fidelis Care, Metro Plus, Queens Center, North Queens Homeowners and Civic Organization and the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau.