More than three dozen children attended the event, which Ariola promised would be the first of many to come across her district, and eventually bringing the tradition to other boroughs.
The program offered an alternative to Drag Story Hour (DSH) events which have been marred by clashes between right-wing protestors and DSH supporters in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst as well as other library branches across the city.
“This event is so important, especially today because it gave local kids a chance to interact with those who protect them each and every day,” Ariola said. “By getting to actually meet with firefighters, police officers, and members of the justice system, kids are able to build bridges and make connections that they might not otherwise have.”
Firefighter Paul Schweit donned his bunker gear as he explained how the FDNY protects the Howard Beach community. Retired NYPD Detective Robert Heedles let the youngsters inspect his shield. Several of the heroes read to the children and their parents.
“There is a lot of confusing, and often negative rhetoric about our protectors, and hopefully this event will help to dispel some of that negativity,” Ariola said.
The next Hero Story Time is set for May 20 at the Seaside Library, located at 116-15 Rockaway Beach Blvd. in Rockaway Park at 11 a.m.
Days earlier, Ariola partnered with the Glennon family of Rockaway Beach, bringing in more than 2,000 pounds of fresh produce to support the family’s community refrigerator and help fight food insecurity on the peninsula. The food was provided through the Met Council, an organization she supports with funding.
“Food insecurity has no place in Rockaway, or anywhere else in New York City,” Ariola said. “It was an honor to work with this family and to provide food to dozens of local families who might otherwise have struggled to secure fresh food options.”
The refrigerator is located on Beach 92nd Street between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Holland Avenue and has been in service since 2020. The 2,000 pound Met Council donation was the largest in three years, according to Becky Glennon, who regularly maintains the community fridge outside her home. The delivery included pallets of peppers, potatoes, onions, eggplant, basil, and mushrooms.
“This is amazing,” Glennon said. “I’m so happy with the amount of people who were able to come by and get food, and I’m grateful and looking forward to the next one.”