As the July 4th holiday approaches, Baby Buggy has helped the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) declare independence from Superstorm Sandy! The VNSNY Early Head Start and Father's First programs in Far Rockaway just held an inspiring Grand Re-Opening ceremony at their beautiful new building, the Early Steps Family Center. Baby Buggy was honored to be a part of this special day and participated in a joyous ribbon cutting ceremony on the roof playground.
When Superstorm Sandy hit the Rockaways in October of 2012, the VNSNY program office was completely flooded and destroyed in a matter of hours. In the end, they determined that rebuilding was not a viable option. The teachers, social workers, and administrators found a building nearby on slightly higher ground that they dreamed would become their new family center. Fifteen months later, on a gorgeous summer afternoon with the sandy Rockaway beaches in full view, VNSNY officially opened this incredible new family center.
Since the storm hit, Baby Buggy has been working with our long-time partners at VNSNY to help their families with emergency assistance and long-term rebuilding support. We have provided clothing, furniture, strollers, cribs, food, gift cards, air purifiers, school supplies, and more to meet the ongoing needs of the low-income families whose lives were turned upside down by Sandy. We were thrilled to be able to help out with this Grand Re-Opening celebration too and helped with food, decorations, and donated Baby Buggy Beach Buckets filled with summer goodies for all the children in the programs.
Right before the ribbon cutting, a teacher in the Early Head Start program, Mrs. Hubbard, shared her vivid reflections on how Sandy affected her both personally and professionally. Even though the teachers and other staff members had lost power and homes as well, they all came down to the site immediately following the storm. They banded together to provide support for each other and to identify the immediate needs of the families they work with day in and day out. She said that everyone was overjoyed when Baby Buggy staff showed up in a rented U-Haul truck filled with essential items. Mrs. Hubbard recounted how Baby Buggy helped her personally as well when she received a portable heater for her apartment a few days after the storm. She then joked, though, that while she didn’t actually have any power to plug the heater into at that point, it came in very handy once power was restored!
The silver lining to the very dark clouds of Superstorm Sandy, though, is that the new center is now actually able to serve even more children and families. The old center could serve 75 children and now they have the capacity to serve 185 in their amazing new space! Baby Buggy will continue to support these resilient families and VNSNY staff members to ensure that they are free from the many challenges brought on by Sandy. Happy Independence Day to all!
While Superstorm Sandy is a distant autumn memory for many of us in the New York area, the devastation brought by this storm has had long-term consequences for many of the families that Baby Buggy serves. With your help, Baby Buggy has continued to support these families as they work hard to rebuild their lives over a year after Sandy hit. Many of the families we serve in the Rockaways are still struggling to find steady employment and housing. The rebuilding process has been slow and disheartening, but signs of spring are finally arriving for many families! Baby Buggy has started distributing bright spring clothing to families in need, including beautiful pink tutus just in time for Easter. We have also provided maternity clothing to pregnant moms as they prepare for their newest arrivals. Since so many apartments flooded in the Rockaways, clothing has been an ongoing challenge--many families lost every article of clothing they owned during the storm. As some families finally secure new rental housing, we have also been able to provide much needed household items and furniture for the children as they settle into their new homes.
The Davis family is especially looking forward to starting anew this spring. They have two children who are alums of our Head Start partner in the Rockaways, two who are currently enrolled, and an infant. Superstorm Sandy was truly a nightmare for this family. Before the storm hit, both mom and dad were working regularly in non-salaried positions in Far Rockaway. Their two older children were enrolled in the local elementary school and their two younger children were part of the Head Start program. One of the younger boys has special needs and was receiving enhanced care through the Head Start program. When the storm hit, their apartment flooded and in one fell swoop, they lost their apartment, everything they owned, and soon after, they both lost their jobs since their places of employment were also completely destroyed by the flooding. By working with Head Start staff, they were able to find a shelter in Brooklyn that was supposed to be a temporary housing situation. This family has been commuting for over an hour each way back to Far Rockaway every day with all five children in tow so the children can continue attending their regular schools and the Head Start program. They thought this was especially important for their son with special needs, as maintaining the services he is getting is so important to them. Because they have had ongoing challenges finding employment, they have not been successful in finding new rental housing either. The staff at the Head Start program have been visiting rental properties with the family on a regular basis and they finally have some strong leads for apartments that have been fully repaired that are close to the schools and can fit all seven of them. During their very long time in the shelter, Baby Buggy has been able to provide new sheets and pillows, an air purifier, clothing, food, toiletries, and diapers and wipes for their littlest child.
Superstorm Sandy is far from a distant memory for the Davis family and we haven't forgotten either. When they finally secure their new apartment this spring, Baby Buggy will be there to help them with the household items they need to get back to some semblance of the busy but more secure life they had before the storm completely uprooted them. We know that spring is just around the corner for this family and we will continue to work with families like the Davis' as they rebuild their lives and families.
With your help, Baby Buggy has been able to bring some holiday cheer to families in the Rockaways who are still struggling to return to normalcy after SuperStorm Sandy. On Wednesday, we headed out to a wonderful holiday celebration for families who are anxiously awaiting the grand re-opening of a family support center where they are participants in Early Head Start and Fatherhood programs. The staff have been doing regular home visits and holding group "socialization" activities for the past year since their center was completely flooded and destroyed last October. The new center recently opened for staff and they are now holding occasional play groups and fatherhood workshops onsite until the classrooms are fully ready to be back up and running early next year. Many families and staff members are still not back in their severly damaged homes and apartments, so the nearly completed family support center has been a wonderful calm amid the ongoing storm.
The turnout at the holiday party was incredible and the day started with puzzles, legos, books, and other engaging play activities for the families. There was a fun holiday craft corner where moms, dads, and grandparents could help their children create adorable little snowmen and holiday scenes with stickers and markers. The staff decorated a wall of one of the classrooms with twinkling lights, wrapping paper, and a Christmas tree and took family portraits for everyone who attended. We then moved to another large classroom for a wonderful lunch and hot cocoa, funded by Baby Buggy's Sandy Family Assistance Fund. After lunch, the staff invited parents to come and pick-up large bags of holiday toys provided by Baby Buggy that were developmentally-appropriate for their specific children. Rather than having the children rip open the presents that day, we wanted the parents to be able to take these presents home so that "Santa" would be able to deliver presents on Christmas morning. The moms and dads were so grateful that they would be able to provide a holiday filled with fun and toys despite the ongoing economic challenges they are facing.
Baby Buggy is also supporting holiday gatherings for both children and staff at another long-time community partner in the Rockaways, Community & Family Head Start. We know that our wonderful partner, Angelina Alvarez-Davis, will be leading the carols and donning a fabulous Santa hat! Angelina is one of those inspiring, selfless, creative, passionate community leaders that Baby Buggy is especially lucky to be working with. We are delighted to share that Oprah Winfrey's O Magazine team agrees with us and featured Angelina in this month's holiday issue as someone who is beautiful on the inside and out!
Angelina grew up in the Rockaways and was devastated to see her mother's home damaged by the storm and by the unbelievable challenges faced by the families in her Head Start program and by her staff. She has been a true hero during the rebuilding process and leads by example. Angelina has faced even tougher battles in her life already, as she is a survivor of brain cancer and has even created her own nonprofit for families facing brain cancer as a side project! Angelina's e-mail address includes the word "mariposa," which is Spanish for butterfly. When I asked her about this during the thick of the Sandy recovery process, she told me that the butterfly has truly become her guiding metaphor in life and at work. She has helped her Head Start program transform into a beautiful butterfly that helps low-income children learn to fly as well. And, as you can see in her impressive O Magazine photo spread, (she received a day of pampering and a full makeover as a small thank you for being such a selfless community leader), you will agree that she is indeed a beautiful butterfly!
Thank you for your generosity and for helping bring a little holiday cheer to the wonderful families, children, and staff members of the community partners we serve in the Rockaways!
One year ago, Super Storm Sandy swept through New York, devastating the homes, apartments, offices, stores, and day centers of thousands of families who were already struggling to survive. The message we keep hearing over and over again from the families Baby Buggy serve in the Rockaways, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and New Jersey who bore the brunt of this disaster is: "We are stronger than the storm." The families from the Head Start programs, Fatherhood programs, and Nurse-Family Partnership programs we serve are deeply grateful for the help they have received and are working hard to continue rebuilding their lives.
Over the past year, with your support, Baby Buggy has distributed 160,251 essential items to struggling low-income families affected by the storm. Baby Buggy has provided thousands of diapers and wipes, food, cribs, furniture, strollers, car seats, toys, clothing, books, back-to-school supplies and backpacks, gift cards for groceries and other needed household items, and air purifiers for families living in moldy, water-logged housing situations.
We recently received this letter from a mother from Far Rockaway whose child is a participant in an Early Head Start program Baby Buggy supports. We think it perfectly sums up how much we have accomplished this past year and how much more we need to do, together, to make this a lasting recovery:
"Dear Baby Buggy,
I am writing you this letter to inform you on how much you have helped my family and I. Since Super Storm Sandy I lost a lot of things due to the water and rusted pipes that busted. All of my bedrooms have mold where I had to throw away most of the clothes and the dressers as well as the beds. Giving my family and I these things such as clothes, food, lamp, diapers, wipes, and a dresser meant more then the world to me. Trying to get these things back and pay rent as well as supply things that my family needed was very overwhelming. When the baby buggy team supplied me with the thing that was truly needed it made me feel like someone still cares about us...being that I'm still going through hardship and still living in an apartment with mold and dealing with housing court.
Seeing the face my daughter has when being able to go to the market with the Stop and Shop card meant so much to me instead of us standing on line for hours for free food. Also noticing how happy she was when she saw the clothes, dresser, lamp, and toys was priceless. Her birthday is on October 31 so last year she was unable to have one being that we had no lights, heat, nor hot water...due to Sandy she spent her birthday in the dark as well as being cold. This year she won't be able to have the birthday I would like to give her since I’m still going through hardship, but she WILL have a bed as well as a dresser, clothes, and toys that was given to her by baby buggy. I don’t know how I can show how much we really appreciate your help except with this letter...thank you so much. Just knowing that there are people out there who still care means everything to me as I’m crying writing this letter thanking everyone again for all their help...it’s truly appreciated."
In the Rockaways, Brighton Beach, and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn flooded by Superstorm Sandy, hundreds of children returned to their Head Start programs and schools fully equipped to learn thanks to your generous support! Baby Buggy was able to provide over 600 backpacks and 600 early education school supply kits to the children we serve in these Sandy-affected areas.
On a recent visit to one of our Head Start programs in Far Rockaway, we saw cubbies newly filled with clothing, backpacks, and school supplies, along with shelves teeming with books and educational toys. As children and parents arrived, they expressed relief to be gradually returning to the normalcy of the back-to-school rush. Because of the extensive flooding caused by Sandy to many classrooms, houses, and apartments, most of their backpacks and school supplies were completely ruined. These expensive supplies are hard for the low-income parents we serve to come by during the best of times. With the ongoing economic challenges of the rebuilding process, parents were finding it especially difficult to equip their children with the tools they need to succeed in school. We were thrilled to step in and provide beautiful new backpacks and lunchboxes, along with crayons, paper, notebooks, glue sticks, pencils, markers, and all the other supplies children in early education and elementary school need to learn and thrive.
And most importantly, we know that these beautiful backpacks and supplies helped the children feel some of the excitement that the start of a new school year can bring--every child deserves the thrill of flipping through a set of brightly colored new folders or running their fingers along the tops of a new set of rainbow markers! These much-needed school supplies are a vivid reminder to these children and their parents that we have not forgotten about the struggles they have faced and continue to face in rebuilding their homes and lives after Sandy. Thanks for making this week's back-to-school transition so positive for so many of New York's most vulnerable children!
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