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Queens Chronicle

Saratoga Family Residence’s 3rd Annual Family Safety Day

Police Commissioner O’Neill and Queens Borough Fire Commander Baggott visit with homeless families

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Posted: Monday, July 29, 2019 4:34 pm

Residents of the Saratoga Family Residence experienced a memorable surprise during the shelter’s 3rd Annual Family Safety Day event on July 11 when NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill and Queens Borough Fire Commander Ed Baggott stopped by for a few hours as families enjoyed the beautiful weather and family bonding time. The annual event features carnival food and games, the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau’s mobile rock-climbing wall, a dunk tank, a bouncy house obstacle course, an FDNY fire experience trailer, face painting and more. Bringing together the NYPD, FDNY, families, and staff along with summertime entertainment and family safety tips is one way the Jamaica shelter operated by Homes for the Homeless works to build and sustain community for the 255 families with children who are temporarily residing there.

This “block party”-type event was started by staff with a little help from partners like the NYPD and FDNY, who are dedicated to sparking a dialogue about fire safety, security, and community. Informational booths on the shelter’s free afterschool, recreation, child care, and early education programs were also set up so families could learn more about these helpful resources.

Anthony Cesarano, Assistant Administrator for Security at Saratoga, stated that “the clients and their children all had a great time.” He is thankful for how the staff “all chipped in to make the Safety Day a huge success.” A special shout-out to Jodi Daniels, Director of Early Childhood Education at Saratoga and Michael Serra, Administrative Assistant, who took turns sitting in the dunk tank as the kids had fun trying to hit the lever to drop them into the water below.

Fire safety and prevention was a hot topic at Family Safety Day and young residents had the chance to learn important fire safety tips from the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit. 7-year-old Joshua learned the first steps of recognizing a fire: “When you hear the fire alarm come on and when you feel your door and it’s hot, then you should know there’s a fire.” 10-year-old Alenell shared what he took away from the event: “You can’t play with matches.”

The kids were especially eager to experience the FDNY’s Fire Safety Experience “Smoke House” trailer, which simulates a house fire and helps kids go through the motions of how to exit a house when there are hot doors and smoke. Cesarano said it was “a great learning experience for the children.”

Homes for the Homeless was pleased to have Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill and Queens Borough Fire Commander Ed Baggott join in the festivities at Saratoga, its largest shelter. They interacted with everyone at the event while cheering on the kids climbing the rock-wall. Both took the time to speak with families about safety and community.

Several other popular attractions included McGruff the Police Crime Dog, who talked to some of the kids about crime prevention, as well as a game truck with a Nintendo Switch. 9-year-old Emma and 8-year-old Sophie had a great time playing Mario Kart, though both claimed that they came in first place.

Jova, a parent at Saratoga, expressed her gratitude and the importance of safety: “Thank you guys for this [Family Safety Day], it’s really great. You have to teach the kids about safety, about fire, and everything. That’s how you make it to the next day.”

To learn more about Homes for the Homeless, go to hfhnyc.org.

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