Jamaica family shelter unveils new library for nearly 200 families

Samaritan CEO Mitchell Netburn helps cut the ribbon on The Bookmark, a library for the 199 families living at its Boulevard shelter in Jamaica.
Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

The residents at the Samaritan Daytop Village’s Boulevard family shelter on Queens Boulevard in Jamaica now have a new amenity with the opening of The Bookmark, a new library that gives the 199 families access to an onsite space that features hundreds of children’s books, reading spaces and computers for older children and parents.

The library was created thanks to a $10,000 grant from the United Way of New York City as part of the organization’s larger effort to bolster access to books and literacy-based activities in marginalized communities.

Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

“Thanks to the generosity of United Way and the partnership with the New York City Department of Homeless Services, our families have a space where children and their parents can spend quiet time, research, read, and engage in activities, Samaritan CEO Mitchell Netburn said following Wednesday’s ribbon cutting. “This new library adds to our Afterschool Zone initiative at the Boulevard shelter, which gives children a leg up academically, promotes intellectual learning and expands their social and emotional learning opportunities.”

Samaritan CEO Mitchell Netburn. Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

The Bookmark is part of a larger effort by the United Way of New York City to ensure that every child in the shelter has access to the resources they need to flourish and reach their full potential.

Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

“Reading is fundamental. Reading is one of [the] things that can take you to a place of fantasy, where you can just relax and hear stories,” Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter said. “That’s the opportunity that we need to give to children and families, and here it is, the chance to do just that in this beautiful space. As soon as I walked through this door, my spirits were lifted. We could not have done this without the generosity of the United Way of New York City – thank you.”

Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

During the grand opening, Netburn and Carter joined United Way of Greater New York City President and CEO Grace Bonilla to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to the children in their new space that provides a safe and relaxed atmosphere for families to decompress during difficult times.

Photo courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

“Together, this library and the Afterschool Zone serve as a model for other family residences in New York City,” Netburn said. “We are grateful to United Way for making this possible.”

Before taking over the leadership of the United Way of New York City in the summer of 2022, Bonilla served in several key senior positions in New York City government, most recently as the Founding Executive Director of the NYC COVID-19 Racial Inclusion and Equity Task Force, stepping into that role after leading the city’s Human Resources Administration. Bonilla also played key roles in the city’s philanthropic community.

“We are grateful to partner with trusted organizations to advance education equity and empower all children and adults with increased access to the world of literature and books,” Bonilla said. “These community libraries are foundational for ensuring that all New Yorkers can thrive as the libraries are planting seeds for future economic mobility.”