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Queens assemblywoman teams up with charitable organization to distribute laptops to Richmond Hill families displaced by fire

After losing their possessions in a six-alarm fire in Richmond Hill in December 2020, children received new laptops provided by Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and Zara Realty Charitable Foundation of Queens. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN

On Friday, Feb. 12, State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and Zara Realty Charitable Foundation of Queens distributed 13 Samsung Chromebooks to children of the families displaced by a six-alarm fire that destroyed six buildings at 109-25 Jamaica Ave., in Richmond Hill on Dec. 10, 2020.

Outside her office on Woodhaven Boulevard in Woodhaven, Rajkumar said that she was proud to partner with Zara Realty Charitable Foundation and provide the students with the necessary technological tools for their education. She also underlined that it was her top priority to make sure that Richmond Hill, which has been underserved for decades, receives all the resources it needs.

Rajkumar said that a plan is in the works to bring a vaccination program to get all residents of south Queens, which has one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the city.

“We are working every day to help the community through the pandemic, and that includes making sure that the education of children is not interrupted,” she said. “So the Chromebooks today will ensure that they can continue to learn through remote learning. A tool like that can open up a whole new world to a child.”

Rajkumar and her office stepped into action after the blaze, turning her office into a donation site, which soon was filled with coats, clothes, food, and gift cards to help the families get through this difficult time. Rajkumar and her staff worked with the Red Cross, ensuring that the displaced families were doing well in their emergency shelter.

“We then began working to help people interact with HPD to move into temporary shelters. Our office was here to provide support at every step,” Rajkumar explained, stressing that it was a community effort to help out the families.

Scaffolding supports the buildings that were destroyed in a six-alarm fire at Jamaica Avenue and 110th Street in Richmond Hill on Dec. 10, 2020. (Photo by Gabrielle Holtermann)

Arleen Burgos and her family couldn’t thank Rajkumar and the community enough for all the support they received after the fire.

“It’s been very traumatic for us and the children. Now with these laptops, it is amazing. Now my children can continue with their education. This is perfect for us. Anything helps right now.”

The Queens native explained that they are currently staying with her mom but are moving to a new home in North Carolina next week.

“It is a little difficult to find anything out here because everything is overpriced. So, I’m hoping for the best,” the mother of four said.

Sherry Algredo, a longtime leader on education issues in south Queens and vice-chair of Community Board 9, played an instrumental part in the donation effort. She learned about Tony Subraj and Zara Realty Charitable Foundation through another educator and thought it would be great if his foundation could donate laptops to the children. She connected him with Assemblywoman Rajkumar, who brought the donation effort together.

“There is so much we can do as a community, but you have to have a good community leader. You can’t do it without great leadership,” Algredo said, referring to the Assemblywoman.

Nafisa, a 16-year-old high school junior, was relieved to receive a new Chromebook.

“I now can get my work done on time, and I don’t have to keep getting extensions from my teachers,” she said.

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Even though the fire uprooted her and her family — they are currently staying in a temporary shelter in the Bronx — she was grateful that everyone got out of the situation unscathed.

“Leaving someone behind would have been very painful, but I’m grateful that nobody was lost in the fire,” Nafisa added.

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