Tag Archives: Jackson Heights

Star of Queens: Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Following “too many” pedestrian deaths, Furlong and her group, Make Queens Safer, are trying to target reckless driving, one roadway at a time.

“Pedestrians sometimes don’t have the tools they need, they were never educated on the danger,” she said.

Her group is focusing on an education program, reaching out to everyone from the borough’s youth to local elected officials. The program includes a safe driver pledge for drivers to acknowledge patience and eliminate distraction while on the roads.

BACKGROUND

Furlong is a 10-year resident of Queens, currently living in Jackson Heights. She is an avid cycler and works as a tour guide for Bike the Big Apple, which provides bike tours through the five borough.

“As a cyclist, I’ve always been interested in safety. But when Laura [Newman, Make Queens Safer co-founder] posted a boy was killed by a drunk driver and put a call to action, I was 100 percent on board,” Furlong said. “We had to do something.”

FAVORITE MEMORY

“The best thing that’s come out of this is being able to support families who have suffered a lot,” Furlong said. “Mothers whose children were killed [by drivers], they have no place to go.”

After a vigil the group hosted for pedestrian victims, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference in Queens to announce his vision of zero pedestrian fatalities, appropriately titled Vision Zero.

“That was a memorable thing,” Furlong said. “Of all places, he chose Queens, recognizing that we have the highest pedestrian injury rate in the city.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE

For Furlong, the biggest challenge her group faces is getting people to change their consciousness about reckless driving, she said. They frequently stop drivers on the street to relay safe driving tips, and aren’t always warmly welcomed.

“But we need to establish a responsibility behind the wheel,” she said.

INSPIRATION

“I think inspiration comes from the people,” Furlong said, referring to parents, family members and friends who have lost loved ones due to reckless driving.

“They’re always available and working so hard with us. I want them to know, hopefully, we’ll change things,” she said.

 

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Jackson Heights filmmaker celebrates 50th anniversary of Beatles visit with short film


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Celeste Balducci

Just in time for the 50th celebration of The Beatles’ visit to New York, one Jackson Heights filmmaker takes a local look at the Fab Four’s American debut.

Lovely Lily,” a short film created by filmmaker Celeste Balducci, debuted on Sunday, Feb. 9 at the Elmhurst Hospital Center Auditorium during a Beatles Bash party.

The movie takes place in 1964 and surrounds a “has-been” lounge singer at the Cavalier Restaurant in Jackson Heights just hours before The Beatles took the stage on the Ed Sullivan Show, and changed music history.

The story involves social and historical attributes of that day, and includes various props and costumes from that time period. It also includes the concept of love lost and found between five other characters,  Balducci said.

“We forget that The Beatles went toe to toe with The Supremes that year for number one hits, the civil rights movement was building momentum and the United States had just begun its tour in Vietnam, but most importantly, the country was still mourning a great tragedy – the assassination of JFK,” she said. “When we recall The Beatles and all the great music from that time, we remember the good times. That is what I hope the audience will take away from seeing ‘Lovely Lily.’ It is my love song to a bygone era.”

The film, which took 12 years to create, first premiered in 2009 as a full feature film, but after years of editing is now 36 minutes long. It features Jackson Heights actors, musicians and residents.

Balducci hopes to make “Lovely Lily” available for purchase and also enter it in upcoming film festivals.

To contact the filmmaker and be placed on the film’s mailing list to catch future screenings, email lovelylily1964@gmail.com.

 

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Pols call for Northern Boulevard to be included in mayor’s Vision Zero initiative


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Local politicians and residents are saying the time to act is now, before another innocent life is taken on Northern Blvd

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with other elected officials and traffic safety advocates Thursday to call for Northern Blvd. to be added as one of the 50 locations in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative

“We are all committed to Vision Zero, and it is our obligation to speak up and stand up every single time pedestrians are killed or injured as a result of reckless driving,” said Van Bramer, who has developed a list of locations with traffic fatalities. “We’re calling for the administration to include Northern Boulevard, and really all over Northern Boulevard, stretching into Jackson Heights and Corona, deserve this recognition.”

The group gathered at the intersection of Northern Blvd. and 48th St. in Woodside, where four pedestrians were stuck Saturday while they were waiting for the bus. One of the victims was a 7-year-old girl who suffered a skull fracture but survived. 

“Here we go again,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced a bill in the Senate, which would charge drivers who continue to drive without a valid license and are in an accident that causes serious injury or death with vehicular assault.

“Until we begin taking pedestrian safety seriously, we are going to keep standing at more and more press conferences talking about the same issue and we hope we don’t have to do it too many more times,”  he said.

Last month, de Blasio and his administration launched an interagency working group, together with the NYPD, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Taxi & Limousine Commission, to implement a Vision Zero initiative aiming to reduce traffic fatalities to zero within the next 10 years.

The announcement took place just less than a block from where third-grader Noshat Nahian, who was on his way to school, was fatally struck in December by a tractor trailer on Northern Blvd. and 61st St.

The working group will come together to implement the mayor’s plan by developing a report, due to the mayor by Feb. 15 and released publicly, that will serve as a blueprint for the mayor’s “Vision Zero” plan for safer streets through the city.

“Clearly Northern Blvd. deserves this recognition and we are asking the administration to include this series of intersections on Northern Boulevard so no child is ever killed trying to cross the street going to school,” said Van Bramer. “This is a street. For some, they may think it’s a highway, but the truth is there are people living, working and going to school all along Northern Blvd. and it has to be just as safe as any other street in the city of New York and until it is so, we will not rest.”

 

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Cleats 4 Kids charity raises $9K in Long Island City fundraiser


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Ralph Rodriguez

More than $9,000 was raised for nonprofit Cleats 4 Kids during the 5th annual Dominican Gala at Water’s Edge restaurant in Long Island City Saturday.

Cleats 4 Kids, which collects baseball equipment for disadvantaged children in the Dominican Republic, plans to use the money to cover shipping costs. The fundraiser featured dancing, live music and raffles.

Matt Rodriguez, 19, the organization’s founder, started Cleats 4 Kids when he was 8-years-old after seeing children in the Dominican Republic playing baseball without shoes and gloves. He said the event is a testament to the growth of the organization.

“Seeing what it came from, from when I was in middle school to how it is now, it’s ridiculous,” Rodriguez said. “Now we have to throw parties to fund to ship the equipment out there. I didn’t even think in a million years we’d get enough equipment to even do that.”

Eleven years ago as a young baseball fan, Rodriguez asked his parents, Ralph and Shirley, to donate his cleats, gloves and other equipment. That kicked off the organization with full support from his parents, who were both born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Jackson Heights.

The gala was not only attended by friends and family of the organization, but also by those who donate equipment. Many of them have a shared interest for donating the gear because they hate to see children suffer to play baseball.

“Kids climb trees to get the right limb or branch for a bat, using cardboard for gloves, taking rocks with tape and socks for balls,” said David Fantin, founder of Global Sports Foundation, who flew in from Texas for the event. “When you see kids improvise, because they love to play the game, you have to help them.”

One of the major donors to Cleat 4 Kids is Beechhurst native Scott Green, president of adult baseball league, Play for the Plate.

Green was given an award from the Rodriguez family for nearly a decade of donations to youth baseball players. But to Green just a thank you would be enough.

“My dream would be somewhere down the line, if one of these kids made it to the major leagues and just said thanks to Cleats 4 Kids for giving me my first glove,” Green said. “I would be in heaven.”

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Partly to mostly cloudy. High 36. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph. Tuesday Night: Cloudy with heavy snow developing late. Low around 30. Winds ENE at 10 to 20 mph. Snow accumulating 3 to 5 inches.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Get The Picture

Alan Richards, a professional audiologist, displays his artistic photo manipulations through May 4. Queens Botanical Garden admission is free until April 1, and the exhibit can be viewed Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 8 am to 4 pm. From April 1 through May 4, Tuesdays to Sundays, the exhibit can be seen from 8 am until 5:30pm. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Woman fatally struck by MTA bus in Jackson Heights

A woman was struck and killed by an MTA bus in Jackson Heights Monday evening. Read more: The Queens Courier 

 NY Senate GOP introduces bill for August primary

Republicans in the state Senate have filed a bill to move primary day to late August, highlighting a lingering disagreement with legislative Democrats. Read more: NBC New York

Medical marijuana study should start within year: NY health commish

New York’s health commissioner told lawmakers on Monday that he expects the state trial of medical marijuana to be up and running within a year. Read more: New York Post 

De Blasio makes debut on “The Daily Show”

Bill de Blasio took part in a New York City political rite of passage Monday, appearing on a late night talk show to tout his record and poke fun at a few gaffes that have provided fodder for comics during his first month as mayor. Read more: NBC New York

FDA launches $600 million anti-teen-smoking campaign

The Food and Drug Administration is using ads that depict yellow teeth and wrinkled skin to show the nation’s at-risk youth the costs associated with cigarette smoking. Read more: AP

 

Woman fatally struck by MTA bus in Jackson Heights


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 4, 4:40 p.m.

A woman was struck and killed by an MTA bus in Jackson Heights Monday evening.

The victim, identified as 25-year-old Martha Tibillin-Guamug, of the Bronx, was struck by the city bus at about 5:55 p.m. at the intersection of Broadway and 74th Street, said police. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the scene and her identity has not yet been released.

The NYPD is investigating the accident.

 

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Jackson Heights calls on new owner to rehire terminated Trade Fair workers


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated 6:00 p.m.

Hundreds of residents in the Jackson Heights community have pledged not to shop at one local supermarket unless a change is made.

In December, 50 union workers all lost their jobs just weeks before Christmas when the Trade Fair Supermarket on 37th Avenue abruptly closed its doors.

Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Local 342 UFCW, two unions representing the workers, reached out to the store’s new owner, Mohammed Haque, and after discussions, Haque indicated he would be willing to rehire some of the workers, according to the unions.

However, the new store, now called “Global Supermarket,” opened its doors on Thursday, January 30 — without any of the terminated Trade Fair workers.

Hearing about the opening, members of the two unions gathered with local elected officials and residents on Wednesday, January 29 in front of the store to call on the new owner to do “what is right.”

“We are extremely disappointed that over 50 families are still out in the cold, “said John R. Durso, president of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW. “After discussions with Mr. Haque in December, he had indicated to us that he was willing to rehire many of the terminated workers. This is something we have yet to see happen. His blatant disregard of both the workers and the community that he serves is unacceptable.”

The group also delivered a petition, started by resident Danny Katch, that currently holds 500 signatures from Jackson Heights residents pledging to not shop at the supermarket unless the new owner rehires the workers. Volunteers plan on gathering more signatures.

“What has transpired at the Global Supermarket in Jackson Heights is a disgrace,” said Assemblymember Francisco Moya. “When our fellow hardworking New Yorkers are left out in the cold, we must demand action.”

“It’s disgraceful that the new owner of the old Trade Fair, now called Global Supermarket, has refused to rehire the locked out workers,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “Basic concern for the community would require that the owner help these workers that lost their jobs abruptly before Christmas.”

Haque told The Courier that “sadly, right now” he cannot do anything for the workers because it took a lot of money to repair the supermarket and he still has to see how business does once it opens up.

He has hired workers previously employed by him at his other stores, and he is trying to manage Global Supermarket with fewer employees. 

However, Haque said he would love to sit down with the elected and union officials to discuss the issue and explain his case.
He also said he hopes the community will give him the chance and if business succeeds then eventually he could hire some of the terminated Trade Fair workers.

“Without the community support, without my customers, I cannot do business,” said Haque. “I want to say to the community that I expect them to give me an opportunity to serve them.”

 

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Costa Constantinides sworn in as District 22′s new councilmember


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Costa Constantinides' Office

Councilmember Costa Constantinides is ready to work for his community.

The freshman legislator celebrated his inauguration Sunday at Long Island City High School as the new District 22 councilmember, representing Astoria, and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

Constantinides was sworn in by former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and Councilmember James Gennaro was the emcee of the ceremony. Constantinides previously served as deputy chief of staff for Gennaro.

“Today marks not just a transfer in power, but an inauguration of a new era in our city, an era that will be defined by a revitalized sense of civic participation and engagement,” said Constantinides. “We will ensure that the levers of city government are once again working to lift up our homeowners, tenants, small business owners, and everyone struggling to get by.”

During his inaugural address, Constantinides spoke about his goals for the district, including cleaner and safer streets, better health care, more transportation options. The councilmember also shared his stories on growing up in Astoria, from playing basketball with State Senator Michael Gianaris, back in the day, to meeting his wife on Steinway Street.

The inauguration ceremony also featured the LIC High School JROTC Color Guard, the high school’s marching band, dance class, chamber choir and refreshments by the culinary class and greek restaurant Zenon Taverna. The Greek-Cypriot Dance Pancyprian Association Youth Dance Division also performed.

“All that I have I owe to the combined efforts and the sterling example of our community, without which the course of my life would have been profoundly different,” said Constantinides. “I know that we can accomplish great things when we come together because I have lived it my entire life.”

 

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Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants government to work for his constituents


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants his constituents to know he is here for them and plans on keeping his two campaign promises – to work hard for them and never lie.

It has been almost four weeks since Constantinides began his position as District 22’s newest councilmember representing Astoria and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

From moving into his brand new office, located at 31-09 Newton Ave. in Astoria, to going around meeting his constituents and introducing himself to the community, Constantinides has been busy.

“I understand the work the people in this district have sent me to City Hall to do and I’m making sure their voice is continually heard at City Hall and that’s my job,” he said during an interview with The Courier.

The freshman legislator refers to his new office as the “people’s house” and encourages his constituents to stop by.

“It’s real easy to hear how I’m doing,” he said. “I take a lot of cues from my constituents on the ground as to how things are really working out in the district.”

His plans for the district include working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to bring ferry service to western Queens and also create what he calls a “multi-module transportation system,” including bike lanes and increased bus service.

Constantinides also plans to work on improving schools in the district, whether it be helping reduce subway noise congestion at P.S. 85 or discussing with the Department of Education technological upgrades to bring schools to the 21st century.

Constantinides also wants to introduce a bill requiring corner garbage pickup at the end of every business day, and bring The Doe Fund to the area to help keep the community clean.

Constantinides will hold his inauguration ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 26 at Long Island City High School, located at 14-30 Broadway, starting at 3 p.m.

“I think we have a great staff,” he said. “We’re really excited to get out to the neighborhood. We’re really going to be out in the community, hearing concerns that our neighbors have and finding ways to address those concerns. We’re going to be active in being out in the community and being a resource for them to make government better.”

 

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Suspect wanted for groping teen on No. 7 train


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A 16-year-old riding a Queens subway train Thursday was inappropriately touched by a man who then fled after groping her.

The incident occurred about 8 a.m. on a Manhattan-bound No. 7 train at the 74 Street-Broadway/Roosevelt Avenue station in Jackson Heights.

The suspect touched the teen over her clothing in her groin and buttocks area then escaped on foot, police said. The victim did not sustain any physical injuries.

Police describe the suspect as a Hispanic male, 30 to 35 years old and 5 feet 9 inches tall. He was last seen wearing a tan baseball cap, a black hooded sweatshirt with a red turtleneck underneath and sunglasses.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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DOE proposes rezoning plan to ease overcrowding at Jackson Heights school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Map Courtesy of the Department of Education

One middle school in Jackson Heights may soon be less crowded.

The Department of Education (DOE) announced proposed rezoning changes to move the boundaries for I.S. 145, at 33-34 80th St., and I.S. 230, at 73-10 34th Ave. in Jackson Heights. The changes would take effect for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Under the rezoning, the boundaries for I.S. 230 would expand to serve a new annex located at 74-03 34th Ave., slated to open in September. The new building is expected to accommodate 420 middle school students.

After the rezoning, about 120 incoming sixth graders from I.S. 145 would be zoned to I.S. 230 in the 2015-2016 school year. No current students will be affected.

According to the DOE, the plan was developed through working with Community Education Council 30 in addressing the needs of the community.

“This rezoning plan reflects a year-long collaboration between the Department and the CEC to create a proposal that best addresses the needs of the entire community,” said  DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield. “Any final approval of the plan will be decided by the CEC for District 30.”

Isaac Carmignani, co-president and chair of the zoning committee of CEC 30, said the rezoning would bring some relief to the overcrowding of I.S. 145, which together with I.S. 230, is part of School District 30 which suffers from a chronic overcrowding problem.

Currently I.S. 145’s sixth grade is 948 seats and after the rezoning, the number would drop to between 815 and 835. I.S. 230’s size would increase from 350 seats to between 460 to 480.

“It doesn’t change the fact that they are going to still be tightly packed schools,” said Carmignani. “We all are looking at the bigger picture.”

Other schools that might be affected by the rezoning include P.S. 69, P.S. 149, P.S. 212 and P.S. 222 in Jackson Heights, P.S. 228 and P.S. 148 in East Elmhurst, and P.S. 152 in Woodside.

A public meeting to discuss the proposed rezoning changes and learn more information on how it will affect students will be held on Monday, Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. at I.S. 145.

“What we are trying to do is have as much community engagement as possible,” said Carmignani. “We’re looking forward to continue working on this issue as the months and years go by.”

For more information, contact CEC 30 at 718-391-8380 or email cec30@schools.nyc.gov.

 

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82nd Street Partnership unveils restoration of historic Jackson Heights building


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of the 82nd Street Partnership

Together with the Jackson Heights Historic District, the 82nd Street Partnership has unveiled a restoration which marks the beginning of bringing a new look to the diverse area.

The 82nd Street Partnership gathered with representatives from the City’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS), Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), community leaders, groups and merchants to unveil the restoration of a historic building at 82-01 Roosevelt Avenue.

The Tuesday unveiling was the beginning of the “Storefront Restoration Program” which will restore building façades and enhance the district’s sense of place by the end of the year.

The 82nd Street Partnership was one of the seven Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which won SBS’ 2013 “Neighborhood Challenge” initiative with the goal to encourage innovation and creativity in local economic development programming.

Investing in the $50,000 award it received from the “challenge,” the BID set out to support property owners and merchants in Jackson Heights by assisting them with free design assistance and offering a matching construction grant as part of the new restoration program.

By the end of the year the program will have renovated seven ground floor and three upper floor storefronts at three properties on 82nd Street between 37th and Roosevelt Avenue enhancing the “look and feel” of the area by making the businesses more attractive and inviting to a larger group of customers.

Before

After

The overall restorations will help bring improvements to the area’s quality of life, help preserve retail diversity and improve business conditions, according to the 82nd Street Partnership.

Along with the restorations, the program will also remove 20 LPC violations from three properties.

 

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Workers left unemployed for Christmas after Trade Fair abruptly closes


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of RWDSU Communications

Rafael Polanco might have to tell his two children that this Christmas will come without presents.

The East Elmhurst resident, along with 49 other union workers, all lost their jobs on Dec. 10 when the Trade Fair Supermarket, on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, closed its doors abruptly without giving the workers any notice.

The workers claimed they turned up on Tuesday morning and management told them the store had been sold and they had to go home because they no longer had jobs.

“They didn’t give us an explanation. They didn’t give us a number to call. They didn’t say anything about the new owner. No one gave us an explanation,” said Polanco, who has been a deli worker at Trade Fair for 14 years. “They treat their workers like animals. We are human, they should give us explanations.

Members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Local 342 UFCW, unions representing the Trade Fair workers, gathered with local elected officials and community members in front of the supermarket on Dec. 13 to protest Trade Fair’s actions and to call on the new owner, Amana Key Food LLC, to hire the terminated workers.

According to the unions, Trade Fair’s closing and termination of the worker violates the collective bargaining agreements held with the owner, which demands the company give the union and workers two weeks notice of either sale or closure.

Amana Key Food LLC filed an application or a liquor license with the State Liquor Authority for the site on November 14, showing the sale has been in the works for more than a month, according to the unions.

In March, meat department workers in all nine Queens Trade Fair locations went on an Unfair Labor Practice strike fighting for a fair contract and against unfair labor practices. During the strike the owner was accused of treating workers with disrespect and putting their live in danger with exits being blocked most of the time.

“For far too long he [Farid Jaber] has been a bad neighbor,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “This is a clear violation of his contractual obligation and labor law. He has betrayed his employees and the community of Jackson Heights.”

Last week’s termination happened just weeks before Christmas, leaving workers like Polanco looking for jobs and wondering where they will get money to give gifts to their kids.

“Us older people we understand the situation but the children don’t understand,” Polanco said.

According to a union representative, days after the rally Amana Key Food LLC handed out job applications to the terminated workers, but none have been hired yet.

Amana Key Food LLC could not be reached for comment and Trade Fair did not respond.



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Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights lights up for the holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Councilmember Daniel Dromm's Office

Councilmember Daniel Dromm gathered with State Senator Jose Peralta, the nonprofit SUKHI NY, Moin Choudhury of Association for Justice Inc., Friends of Diversity Plaza and local residents at Diversity Plaza, located at 37th Road between 73rd and 74th Streets in Jackson Heights on Sunday to light the plaza’s 16-foot holiday tree.

The Friends of Diversity Plaza includes members from the office of Councilmember Daniel Dromm, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership and the Birchwood House.

“I want to thank everyone for pulling together to make this space better each year,” said Dromm. “The second annual tree lighting was a success.”

 

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Jackson Heights Girl Scouts give back for the holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Sylvia Cho-Yu

It’s never too young to start giving back.

Members from the Junior Girl Scouts Troop 4208 in Jackson Heights, ages 10 and 11,  got together on Saturday at St. Marks Church, at 33-50 82nd Street, to distribute handmade holiday food baskets. The girls also restocked the church’s food pantry with food collected by seven other Girl Scouts troops from their family, friends, and supporters, which will help the needy during the holiday season.

Working towards their Bronze Award, with the focus on fighting hunger in their community, 10 girls from Troop 4208 distributed the food baskets.

One week before Saturday’s event the group hosted a food drive event for all the Girl Scouts in the neighborhood, including six other troops, at the Community Methodist Church at 81-10 35th Avenue. About 75 girls attended the food drive which hoped to fill up the food pantry in time for the holidays.

The food collected was mostly donated by Girl Scouts and their friends and families, as well as from people in their buildings. The event collected six shopping carts full of food and made up 35 holiday baskets to give to families.

 

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