Charity group starting literacy program for kids
BAY RIDGE – A charity group that works to address hunger by putting non-perishable food in backpacks and delivering them to schools for kids from underprivileged families to take home is now seeking to expand its mission and is looking to encourage children to become problem-solvers in their communities.
Leaders of Grandma’s Love Inc. are hoping to convince schools in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Coney Island to take part in Kids for Peace, a literacy-advocacy program where kids read books about such topics as bullying or the environment and then work with their teachers, parents and each other to find solutions on a local level.
“Literacy is an important part of growth for children,” Grandma’s Love Founder and Executive Director Theresa Monforte-Caraballo told the Home Reporter in an interview at the group’s 68th Street headquarters.
The advocacy part of the program is equally important for children to become involved in, according to Monforte-Caraballo. “It teaches them they are the future,” she said.
Monforte-Caraballo and Lisa Lynch, program coordinator for Grandma’s Love, plan to visit schools starting in October to talk to principals about Kids for Peace. The two women are hoping to begin the program in January.
Launching Kids for Peace would mark a significant milestone for Grandma’s Love, a charity Monforte-Caraballo founded in 2015 to address hunger in Bay Ridge.
Monforte-Caraballo, a former classroom teacher, started the group four years ago because she wanted to formalize actions she had been taking informally for years. “I’ve been sending care packages to schools forever. I’ve been around the public schools for many years and I’ve seen how many children come to school hungry,” she said.
She thought of the name, Grandma’s Love, she said, “Because there’s nothing better than a grandma.”
Almost immediately, Monforte-Caraballo hit upon the idea of using backpacks to tuck food into to minimize any stigma for kids receiving food donations. The backpacks contain pasta, rice, canned beans and other non-perishable food items for parents or guardians to cook.
Grandma’s Love, which is currently in a handful of schools in Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, will be servicing Coney Island schools this term.
Principals and teachers identify which students could benefit from the food program and work with Grandma’s Love to arrange for discreet food drop-offs at the schools.
“People have no idea the amount of hungry people there are, even in a neighborhood like Bay Ridge,” said Lynch, a former parent coordinator at Fort Hamilton High School who signed up with Grandma’s Love after running into Monforte-Caraballo in the parking lot at Staples one afternoon.
Educators are acutely aware of what’s going on in the lives of their students, Monforte-Caraballo said. “I know teachers who keep little snacks in their desks in case a child comes to school hungry,” she said.
Grandma’s Love, which was granted non-profit, 501-C3 status by the Internal Revenue Service in 2015, subsists on donations and grants from elected officials like Councilmember Justin Brannan and Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus.
The group will be holding its first major fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 27, at Saint Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, 8100 Ridge Blvd., from 6 p.m to 10 p.m. Lynch said the organization is hoping to raise $15,000.
The event will feature a silent auction where guests will have the chance to win gift baskets of food and wine and other items. There will also be chances to win memorabilia associated with the New York Giants, New York Jets and Brooklyn Nets, as well as tickets to the Broadway Comedy Club. Local restaurants have donated gift certificates for dinner.
Appetizers and dessert will be served but guests are encouraged to bring their own food and bottles.
For more information, call Grandma’s Love Inc. at 347-432-2408.