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Queens Chronicle

Helping hand for Saratoga students

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Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019 10:30 am

Children at the Saratoga Family Residence in Jamaica got in the back-to-school spirit during a backpack and school supplies giveaway on Sept. 4.

Saratoga is a family homeless shelter operated by Homes for the Homeless. It provides temporary housing, social services, in-house childcare and afterschool and recreational programs for over 250 New York City families, including over 200 school-aged children.

The back-to-school giveaway was made possible by a series of donations from several HFH partners, ranging from employees at multinational companies to local grassroots organizations.

Employees at BollorÈ, a French transportation company, were inspired to create an employee service project benefiting Saratoga after repeatedly passing by the shelter on their way to work at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Back-to-school is one of the busiest times of year for HFH with the need for new backpacks, school supplies and new and gently used clothing. New partners like MyFineMind.org, an organization started by students to ensure that all kids get a quality education, provided teaching materials like microscopes and STEM games. Longtime partners like Volunteers of America and the Brooke Jackman Foundation gave backpacks that included everything from pens and paper to fiction and nonfiction books.

VanRyne Somme III, president of Second Chance at Life with Enthusiasm, a Queens-based community nonprofit, first became involved at Saratoga while researching local partners to whom SCALE could donate clothing and toiletries.

“I was delivering toiletries at Saratoga and I saw a few kids there,” said Somme, recalling his initial idea for a back-to-school drive.

The results of those effortswere on full display at Saratoga on Wednesday, as parents and kids gathered to choose from a diverse array of backpacks—all packed with notebooks, pencil cases and other school supplies that students will need for their first day of class.

The back-to-school giveaway featured size and supplies options intended for children of all ages, from preschool to high school. However, that caused some confusion among younger attendees.

“What’s this?” asked J, 4 years old, pointing to a large black backpack filled with his weight in binders, spiral notebooks and other secondary-school supplies.

Like J, many children in attendance were set to begin class the following day at the Saratoga Early Childhood Education Center, which provides childcare to the shelter’s youngest residents.

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