Boro residents raise $16K for mental health

By Courtney Dentch

What’s a little rain?

That was the sentiment of the more than 75 people who came out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park April 28 to raise money for Transitional Services for New York in their annual Mental Health Walk.

Equipped with ponchos and umbrellas, the walkers who braved the rain raised $16,000, and Transitional Services was still counting, said William McDermott, director of development and public affairs. McDermott said he hopes to reach $19,000 once all the donations are in, plus matching grants from companies, he said.

Although turnout was low, considering 400 people pre-registered, McDermott was pleased people came out.

“To have that kind of crowd was really nice,” he said. “Just the fact that people showed up in teeming, pouring rain is wonderful.”

The walk was supposed to have followed a course throughout the park, starting and ending at the Unisphere, and was to last until 4 p.m., McDermott said. Due to the weather, however, walkers took a shorter route around the Unisphere and the event ended about 11 a.m.

Transitional Services also was hoping to get people who were in the park to join in, but the rain made park-goers scarce. The day was supposed to have included a barbecue lunch, face-painting, clowns, a deejay, and more.

“We wanted to share our message,” said Mark Bernstein, deputy director of Transitional Services. “We were expecting to get people in the park who smelled the barbecue and came over.”

New York Mets General Manager Bobby Valentine was the walk chairman, and he too faced the rain to welcome the participants.

“In spite of the weather, we have people here who came out to make it successful,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of people here, but we do have a lot of spirit.”

City Council members Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), Tony Avella (D-Bayside), David Weprin (D-Hollis) and Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) also attended.

“There are a lot of people up here on this stage, and a lot of people who aren’t here who are thanking you every day,” Valentine said.

Michelle Lindo, who represented a group from the Creedmoor Center deserved special thanks for raising $700 in just two weeks.

“We were inspired because we work with mental illness,” she said. “We’re donating for the love.”

Transitional Services for New York, based in Whitestone, was founded 27 years ago as a comprehensive community-based mental health organization. It provides rehabilitative services to allow patients to reach increasing levels of independence. The group has more than 2,500 clients in both its outpatient and residential facilities, and employs more than 200 care givers.

The organization has 11 facilities throughout Queens, including Far Rockaway, Jamaica, Corona and Queens Village, McDermott said. The facilities are aimed at vocationally training mentally ill adults or recovering citizens, he said. One program trains patients to work at a café in Jamaica that is fully staffed by mentally ill people, McDermott said.

“We’re proud of the work we do,” he said. “We’re known for creating innovative programs and giving quality care.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.