By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kiona Miller, Fleet Week New York Public Affairs
NEW YORK (NNS) -- Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen visited the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, part of Help Bronx Morris Avenue Shelter in the Bronx, for "Project Hope" as part of Fleet Week New York, May 23.
"We look forward to this every year," said Louise Hamilton, supervisor of Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club. "Kips Bay has eight different locations, where three of them are within shelters, three or four are within schools, and the others have their own buildings."
The shelter partnered with Times Square Church Military Ministry to host the event for more than 50 homeless children who are residents of the shelter. This year is the ninth time the organization has provided services with military service members during Fleet Week New York.
"Rather than have the Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Marines paint a classroom or clean a playground, we thought this was a great opportunity to bring them to a homeless shelter where there are children that have never seen any other aspect of life other than living in a homeless shelter," said Dr. Bill Butler, volunteer director for Times Square Church Military Ministry.
During the event, children were paired with a service member, who then spent time discussing military life and the interests of the child. The residents were also entertained by a puppet show, served lunch by military volunteers, sport games, and crafts.
"The kids look forward to doing something positive," said Lashawn Brown, administrative assistant for the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club. "They see the military and think it's fun, and it's something that they may want to do when they grow up even though they are in a shelter. Some here are financially burdened, and some deal with domestic violence, so being here and having positive role models is the best thing that could ever come here."
Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Alfonso Barnes, a New York native assigned to USS San Antonio (LPD 17), felt it was important to participate in the event and give back to his local community.
"I thought it was important to give back to where I'm from," said Barnes. "The opportunity to give back to the kids was a no brainer because you never know who you are inspiring. That one kid that you talk to may say, 'That's what I want to do when I grow up.'"
Butler said he believes the event could have long-term positive effects on the children's lives.
"It's an opportunity to bring someone in uniform and make these children feel extra special," said Butler. "I think this event, with these men and women taking time to get to know (the children), to have fun with them, to play games and do crafts, it could change the course and direction of their life."
Fleet Week New York, now in its 27th year, is the city's time-honored celebration of the sea services. It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.