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Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
From left: Councilman Daniel Dromm, Larry Grubler, Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein

Since 2010, the Turn the Page Again bookstore on Bayside‘s Bell Boulevard has been challenging the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

On Feb. 6, the affirmative bookstore celebrated its 10th anniversary with a luncheon hosted by its founding organization, Transitional Services for New York Inc. (TSINY). Since its inception, Turn the Page Again has employed adults with mental illnesses while teaching them transferable skills including punctuality and customer service.

“This is a celebration of success. It’s not a destination; it’s a journey,” said TSINY CEO and Bayside resident Larry Grubler. “I’ve never been as accepted in a community as I was in the Bayside community when we opened up the bookstore.”

TSINY first approached the city two decades ago about the possibility of opening a business that employed people with psychiatric disorders. The organization aimed to hire and train these individuals, many of whom had never been employed, and help them transition to other employment opportunities.

Founded in 1975, TSINY is nonprofit, multifaceted mental health agency that provides integrated services and housing for adults with psychiatric disabilities and others in need.

It opened Arts and Crafts Cafe in Jamaica but learned that many of its employees were not transitioning to other jobs. So Grubler proposed his idea for Turn the Page Again and opened up shop at 39-15 Bell Blvd., with annual funding provided by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and New York state.

Turn the Page Again’s transitional model allows people 18 and older to work at the store for six to nine months. A job developer then works with each person to set career goals, write a resume and move on to another job. According to Grubler, 39 percent of the people who have worked at the bookstore are employed part time or full time currently.

“Not only does it provide a great opportunity for people to learn the skills to go back out into the workforce, but it’s an important part of our community,” said Assemblyman Edward Braunstein. “We’re losing a lot of brick-and-mortar bookstores in our neighborhoods and a lot of people miss that.”

In the beginning, Grubler and his wife supplied books from their personal collection as the store took off. But now, the store gets donations largely from the Queens Public Library and local residents. Patrons can purchase books for $1 to $5 apiece.

“Without Queens Library and all the books that they give us and supply us, we definitely wouldn’t have a bookstore,” said bookstore manager Elle Fliegel.

During the luncheon, Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee declared Feb. 6 to be “Turn the Page Again Day.”

“Here in Queens, we think of ourselves as the borough of families and the work that [TSINY] does truly uplifts, strengthens and empowers so many families,” said Lee.

For more information, visit turnthepageagain.com.

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