2017-04-26 / Front Page

The Joy In Spreading Joy

On Holy Thursday 2017, I was granted the privilege of distributing Easter baskets to the babies and children residing at the Metro Family Shelter on Queens Blvd., as part of the St. John’s Prep United Dance Teams’ Easter Basket Project. As co-Captain of the Spanish dance team, I helped Dance Director, Ms. Befumo, collect empty Easter baskets, books and toys to ensure that children in unfortunate circumstances would not feel forgotten on such a joyous holiday.  Walking into the shelter, I immediately felt uncomfortable as I noticed the extra security personnel present at the front desk. With anticipatory dread, I wondered about the nature of the event for which I had volunteered!  We soon began setting up the various baskets, grouped according to the children’s ages, on tables in the small cafeteria. When I took a step back and realized just how many baskets our generous school community had helped us create, it really warmed my heart. As one family after another came to accept a basket of their choosing, I saw the gratitude in each and every face. I met families with babies just a few months old, families unable to speak a bit of English, and families with multiple children headed by single parents. One young mother brought her 8-month-old daughter, dressed in Easter finery and a big bow, to collect her basket! Surprisingly, many of the families seemed no different from my own. At that point, I truly understood the damaging nature of the gentrification many believe is “improving” New York City neighborhoods.  These families, without a home to call their own, had so little that a simple Easter basket meant the world to them. One 10-year-old boy who shyly entered the room stared, awestruck, at the many baskets, and exclaimed “WOW!” with the biggest smile on his face.  That one word echoed in my heart and has made me want to help the less fortunate now more than ever. My visit to the Metro Family shelter was a life-changing experience.  I’ve come to realize how blessed I am, for not only the roof that I have over my head, but for the family that I have, and the call to faith-filled action that is now in my heart as well.

—Haley Valentin, Senior, St. John’s Prep, Astoria

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