Queens Temple Corps helps heal with after-school programs

Luna singing
Kids participate in the Queens Temple Corps choir program. (Photo courtesy of Salvation Army)
Salvation Army

As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many after-school activities, the Salvation Army Queens Temple Corps continued providing a much-needed creative outlet for kids of all ages.

The organization goes beyond just providing a creative out, though.

Daniela Baptista said her daughter was able to recover from organ failure and an induced coma because of the Queens Temple Corps’ online conservatory program, where she was able to practice lyrical dance.

“After being in the hospital for three months, she was finally able to socialize with kids [over Zoom],” Baptista said. 

Baptista’s 9-year-old daughter, Luna, was hospitalized as COVID-19 was just beginning to spread throughout the U.S. She nearly lost her life.

“It was the scariest moment of my life. As a mom I asked, ‘Why not me?’” Baptista said. “When the doctors told me to get ready for the worst, I lost myself.”

Throughout Luna’s hospitalization, Baptista would go to the Queens Temple Corps, located at 86-07 35th Ave. in Jackson Heights, every Sunday to pray for her daughter. 

“It was my backbone throughout this whole thing,” Baptista said. “I went there and the songs gave me strength. The energy that you feel in that temple is inexplicable. When I came out of that church, for some reason, I knew that Luna was going to be okay.”

When Luna was released from the rehabilitation center, she was still not fully able to walk since she had been in bed for so long. But after dancing with the Salvation Army’s program, she started to regain mobility. 

“She puts all her energy into [the program]. She wants to be herself again,” Baptista said. “The conservatory camp has helped her be herself again. We’re just really grateful.”’

Luna dances in her home with the virtual conservatory program as she recovers from months of hospitalization. (Photo courtesy of the Salvation Army)

Baptista said after being in medical care for three months, then going straight into quarantine, the virtual dance classes were extremely influential in boosting Luna’s spirits. 

“She was able to socialize [and] see kids her age,” Baptista said. “It distracted her from quarantine and being stuck at home.”

The Salvation Army goes beyond providing meals to families in need; they also provide free or reduced-cost music lessons and dance classes to kids of all ages. 

“We see individuals as a whole,” Salvation Army Lt. Sarai Olmedo-Garcia said. “We know that the need in our community does not end with a plate of food or a box of pantry goods. We serve in the capacity that we can and this does not limit the physical hunger.”

Olmedo-Garcia also said there is a lot of benefit to serving the community in this way. 

“We believe that when we serve our children to learn music it makes a lifetime impact,” Olmedo-Garcia said. “Children develop socially since [when] they’re in groups, they are more likely to stay away from the streets. It creates a sense of responsibility and discipline.”

There are about 50 students participating in the music and arts program. This includes classes in dance, drama, brass and timbral. 

Olmedo-Garcia said that these classes are open to anyone, as the Queens Temple Corps works to preach the gospel and serve their community without discrimination.

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