Ribbon-Cutting Marks Opening of Catholic Charities Sunset Park Early Childhood Development Center
Robin Hood Foundation and ACS funding creates five new classrooms, serving another 114 Children
The opening of five additional classrooms at the Sunset Park Early Childhood Development Center was celebrated on March 11th at a commemorative ribbon cutting by Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens. The 4,000 square-feet of new space was made possible through a $1.2 million grant from the Robin Hood Foundation and funding provided by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services.
Gloria Arroyo, Program Manager at the center and student Luz Manelly Torres, cut the ribbon to the new classrooms at the Sunset Park Early Childhood Development Center. Others are from left, Maria Benejan, Robert Siebel, Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, Fr. Kevin Sweeney, Sr. Ellen Patricia Finn, Monsignor Steven A. Ferrari, and Laura Martinez.
The five new classrooms resulting from the expansion now enable the center to meet the educational needs of an additional 114 children. In addition, this expansion allows Catholic Charities to serve over 400 low-income families in Sunset Park.
“The NYC Administration for Children’s Services is very pleased to have been part of this collaboration with Catholic Charities and the Robin Hood Foundation to support the expansion of much needed early care and education services to children and families in the Sunset Park community. We applaud Catholic Charities and the Robin Hood Foundation for helping to bring these crucial services to some of our City’s most vulnerable children,” said Maria Benejan, ACS Associate Commissioner for Program Development in the Division of Child Care and Head Start.
“Families cannot afford to choose between educating their children and feeding them,” said Robert Siebel, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. “Over half of the early childhood centers in the area are private and too costly for its major population. This expansion allows us to continue providing quality child care to hundreds of families who are struggling to make ends meet.”
The Sunset Park Early Childhood Development Center is crucial to the families of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where 56% of the population earns less than $35,000 a year, and 27% earns less than $15,000 a year. The center’s multicultural staff reflects the diversity of the Sunset Park neighborhood, which comprises families from Latino, Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds. The Montessori Method is used to offer preschoolers age-appropriate educational experiences for their social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. All classrooms are equipped with libraries, computers and other learning tools. On-site occupational, physical or speech therapy is also offered to children in need in conjunction with the New York City Department of Education.
Families make the most of extended services offered at the Center, which include nutrition and health education, housing assistance, ESL and GED classes, emergency crisis intervention as well as domestic violence, child support assistance, and mental health services. Fatherhood initiatives are offered to give fathers the opportunity to get involved in their children’s lives.
Catholic Charities has sponsored and operated the Sunset Park Early Childhood Development Center for the past nine years. It is located in what had been one of two buildings of a Catholic elementary school that closed. St. Michael’s School had been built in two stages, so that it was two adjacent buildings, connected on the top floors by an open bridge. To better serve the growing Sunset Park community, expanding the Sunset Park Early Childhood Development Center required using the second building, as well as rehabilitating and enclosing the bridge connecting the two structures.
The first day of the newly opened classrooms was February 9th, 2010. The center enrolls children ages 3 to 4 years old; morning and afternoon sessions are offered as well. Due to the popularity of the center, enrollment must be made up to a year in advance.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Carol Merryshapiro, ACS Director of Facilities; Robert Marquez, Vice President of Early Childhood Services, Catholic Charities Neighborhood Services, Inc; Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, Vicar for Human Services, Diocese of Brooklyn; Fr. Kevin Sweeney, Pastor, St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Sunset Park, Brooklyn; Sr. Ellen Patricia Finn, Deputy Executive Director, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens; Monsignor Steven A. Ferrari, Brooklyn Territorial Vicar, Diocese of Brooklyn; Laura Martinez, Chairperson of the Parent Committee at Sunset Park Early Childhood Development Center, and others.