Hosted by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ), the event is an opportunity for kids to receive free back-to-school supplies and services while enjoying games and activities.
Father Patrick J. Keating, deputy CEO for CCBQ, said the group gave out 800 backpacks, courtesy of partner organization Fidelis Care. Each backpack contained a spiral notebook, pens and pencils.
“It’s getting young people ready for school because education is really the key to their success,” Keating said. “It’s making our services a little bit more accessible.”
The block party started in 2008, when the organization decided to distribute a large donation of school supplies. The staff came up with the idea of a street fair where vendors could give information to families while kids enjoyed youth-friendly activities like face painting, arts and crafts and bean bag toss.
The first year drew about 400 people; now more than 1,000 people attend annually.
Keating said it’s also a good way to tell local community members about CCBQ’s 160 programs in Brooklyn and Queens for children, teens and seniors.
“We try to look at the whole person and their family,” Keating said. “We have programs for people at all age spectrums.”
The organization also provides internships for high school students, a network of food pantries for the hungry, preventive services for families on the edge of losing their homes, and even mental health and affordable housing programs.
All of the programs are available for any Queens or Brooklyn resident. From Brooklyn Heights and Astoria to East New York and Jamaica, Catholic Charities tries to reach any person who has needs, Keating said.
“I think the reality of Brooklyn and Queens is it’s multiethnic and multi-diverse, and we help people regardless of their race or religion,” he said. “We don’t ever want people to feel excluded.”
Key sponsor Fidelis Care, which provides families, seniors and young children with affordable health insurance, is especially important to immigrant families who may not have all the information they need about healthcare.
“They’re a great partner trying to help people navigate the complexity of medical insurance,” Keating said. “Regardless of someone’s immigration status, a person below 18 is eligible for health care. So Fidelis does a wonderful job, particularly helping immigrant communities access it.”
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas stopped by the street fair to thank Catholic Charities for their work and services for the community.
“I love the fact that before the doors opened, there was a line snaking around the block,” Simotas said. “That shows you how important the services that Catholic Charities provides.”