A Sunset Park-based organization is once again helping to make the holidays brighter for the neighborhood.
Children of the City, a grassroots organization that focuses on family development and helping them overcome poverty, once again brightened the holiday season by giving families turkeys, entertainment, information and more during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
“We’ve been here working in the community for over 30 years now so our programs have evolved to fit the needs of the community,” said Founder and Executive Director Joyce Mattera. “We have monthly community events where we gather a large amount of kids, sometimes up to 600, and in those events we deal with the issues the families face. we’ve seen tremendous transformation in the community over the years. We’ve developed programs since our goal is to break those cycles of poverty and the culture of poverty that has been in the community for a long time.”
On Saturday, November 19, the organization held its annual Thanksgiving weekend, which included music, Muppet shows, and various interactive lessons on thankfulness and how to overcome poverty. “We also do home visits and through those home visits and working in a strong partnership with the schools, we are able to identify the most needy families so we go into homes,” she said. “We have partners that provide us with turkeys and boxes that have all the trimmings,” which go into what the group dubs “boxes of love.”
Not everyone gets boxes, Mattera explained, noting, “We have a strong Asian community as developed and we work with disadvantaged Asian families too and they request not to get a box of love but instead ask us to do a Thanksgiving dinner with them because they wanted to learn the culture of the holiday.
“It brightens up their holiday. Those struggling are able to get the food they need and children are able to experience getting the gifts they ask for,” she went on. “Some families ask for coats, blankets or socks. We find out what their basic needs are and help them as well. It’s a tremendous uplift to those in the community.”
Children of the City isn’t done, with Christmas right around the corner. “We have Winter Wishes projects so we work with New York Cares a lot,” Mattera said. “Children are able to write out their wish lists, then New York Cares sends those wish lists out to corporate sponsors who are able to buy those gifts for those particular children and ship them to us. Good Morning America is coming to bring in gifts for our Christmas gift wrap party, which takes place on Saturday, December 3.”
Thirty of the group’s volunteers are from Sunset Park. “We like to use volunteers from the community because they’re familiar with it and we have many that have grown up through the program and will give back,” said Mattera. “It’s very empowering to know you can make a difference.”
This event was made possible by the support of partners, including CRU NYC, who supplied the boxes of love. The Lacobucci family from Amorisi landscaping, and Rocco Basile from Avo Construction provided the Turkeys to go with the Boxes of Love. Rocco Basile is a former board member who has remained passionate and invested in the work that COC is doing in one of the most underserved communities in Brooklyn.