Police commissioner pays a surprise visit to southeast Queens homeless family shelter during Family Safety Day

Photo by Homes for the Homeless

Residents of the Saratoga Family Residence in Springfield Gardens had a memorable surprise recently when Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Queens Borough Fire Commander Ed Baggott stopped by for a few hours during the shelter’s third-annual Family Safety Event.

The block party 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 and face painting.

Bringing together the NYPD, FDNY, families and staff along with summertime entertainment and family safety tips is one way the shelter, operated by Homes for the Homeless, works to build and sustain community for the 255 families with children who are temporarily residing there. Informational booths on the shelter’s free after-school, recreation, child care and early education programs were also set up so families could learn more about the resources that are available to them.

“The clients and their children all had a great time,” Saratoga Assistant Administrator for Security Anthony Cesarano said, adding he was thankful for how the staff “all chipped in to make Safety Day a huge success.”

Fire safety and prevention are the major topics during Family Safety Day and young residents had the chance to learn important fire safety tips from the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit.

Joshua, a 7-year-old resident of the facility 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 it’s a fire,” he said.

Alenell, a 10-year-old resident of the Saratoga Family Residence said, “You can’t play with matches.”

The children were especially eager to experience the FDNY’s Fire Safety Experience “Smoke House” trailer, which simulates a house fore 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.”

Other popular attractions included McGruff the Police Crime Dog, who talked to some of the children about crime prevention, as well as a game truck with a Nintendo SwitchBoth the Police Commissioner and the Fire Commander interacted with everyone at the event taking time to speak with families about safety and community.

“Thank you for Family Safety Day. It’s really great,” Saratoga resident Jova said. “You have to teach the kids about safety, about fire, and everything. That’s how you make it to the next day.”

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