Students from two Queens schools pack Easter baskets for children in homeless shelters

St. John’s Prep Dancers Ariana Scalici (l. to r.), Francesca Alaimo and Lilly Alaimo were among the volunteers who packed 161 Easter baskets for children living in shelters.
Courtesy Debra Befumo
By Bill Parry

Students from St. John’s Prep in Astoria and St. Leo’s Catholic Academy in Corona donated their time and efforts to brighten the Easter holiday for children living in two shelters for homeless families Sunday.

The youngsters prepared 161 brightly decorated Easter baskets filled with candy, small toys, craft and hygiene items and delivered them to the Boulevard Family Residence at the former Pan American Hotel in Elmhurst and the Metro Family Shelter in Woodside as part of a project spearheaded by St. John’s Prep dance director Debra Befumo.

“As a child, I couldn’t wait to receive an Easter basket filled with toys from my parents, but for children living in shelters, such gifts are usually not possible,” Befumo said. “Our project allows these children to forget any struggles they might be facing and enjoy their childhood doing what all kids love to do: play!”

The students who volunteered for the St. John’s Prep Easter Basket Project enjoyed participating.

“Perhaps the kids receiving these baskets will remember this always, and this memory will cause them to reflect upon the real celebration of this Easter holiday,” St. John’s Prep Junior Georgia Patronas said. St. Leo’s first grader Javion Halbert added, “There were a lot of baskets and the kids looked so happy. I liked helping.”

It was the second year in a row Befumo organized the effort.

“Unfortunately, almost every New Yorker sees the visible homeless as they go about their day, but we seek to serve the invisible homeless — those children tucked away in shelters, having had to give up most of their treasured possessions, fighting to keep their classmates from knowing where they live, often being too ashamed to explain to their friends why they suddenly had to change schools,” Befumo said. “It is these invisible homeless children who most need our kindness and generosity.”

The Department of Homeless Services encourages New Yorkers who are interested in volunteering at a homeless shelter or to assist with delivering homeless services, to visit www.nycservice.org/search#s and search by interest using the category Homelessness and Housing.

“As the mayor has said, New Yorkers experiencing homelessness come from literally every community in this city — and we are encouraged by New Yorkers who want to do more to support our homeless neighbors as they get back on their feet, especially during the holiday season,” DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said. “Whether by volunteering or donating, we welcome communities that want to give back and are committed to working with interested community members to ensure their efforts and energies are most effectively directed to improve quality of life for New Yorkers in need.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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