With the help of roughly 30 paid employees and 30 volunteers from the community, children are able to spend their afternoons in a supervised daily routine at the computer technology lab, education program, and fitness program in the facility’s second floor gymnasium.
For phase one of the expansion project, the club received nearly $4 million from Borough President Helen Marshall’s office and an upwards of $1.5 million from Senator Joseph Addabbo to provide more than three-quarters the amount of activity space for their growing needs.
While an expansion project is currently underway, the club’s new director of operations, Lorenzo Sistrunk, went before the Queens Borough Board’s budget hearing last week in search of additional funding to assist in the refurbishment of the current building.
“It has been my goal since I’ve been here,” Sistrunk said. “Once we’re done with this and we have all the education, the physical education done on that side, I want to make sure we can serve the community even more on this side.”
In addition to the expansion of their current Head Start program, plans for phase two are expected to convert the outdated building into a revitalized community action center.
Sistrunk expects a groundbreaking for the additional renovations for January 2014, explaining the project will focus on adults in the neighborhood with community service programs, social work opportunities and the integration of programs like City Harvest, a program designed to feed the homeless.
“As the new building will provide a full gym with more activities, additional space for children and more activities, the old building will still be in need of attention,” he explained.
As there is already plenty of help from the community, the new additions and space will call for even more.
“We’re going to need twice as many volunteers since we’re going to be service twice as many kids,” he said. “Now we’re also talking about social workers, so we will need a bigger staff.”
Many of the volunteers come from area colleges like Queensborough Community College (QCC), Queens College, and Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC)
Naiyima Severe, a volunteer from BMCC, not only volunteers her time in teaching the younger children at SQBGC, but like the others who help in the program, she is an active role model for many children who are in need of some form of guidance.
“I always think parents should be the number one role model, but if they’re taking that place I would love to be there for them,” Severe said. “I want them to feel like they have me as a reference to go to when they need someone.”
Severe, 19, was raised in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, and like many of the volunteers at the center, she serves as a mentor, a friend and in many cases a testament of what can be accomplished.
“I protect these children,” she said. “Everyone needs a helping hand, and even though they don’t think they want it or not, it’s good to take a chance to really help that child to really make them feel like they are worth something in the world.”
As phase one has an expected completion date set for December of this year, Sistrunk and the SQBGC are looking forward to the upcoming MLB All-Star game at Citi Field, as they are welcoming the MLB commissioner to the facility.
“Our kids are the kids being honored because our kids are from Queens and in Citi Field territory,” Sistrunk said. “We want to make sure most of phase one is completed by that time, because when they come for the photo op, they’re going to want to see that things have changed and progress.”