During this season of a giving, a local violence prevention group gave back to at-risk Bronx youth.
Sponsored by Stand Up to Violence, a Tuesday, December 22 holiday toy drive was held at Stratford House for children and their families.
Erika Mendelsohn, SUV program director, said this was the Jacobi Medical Violence Interruption Program’s first time hosting an event at this location.
In the same vein as SUV-sponsored holiday events at the Gun Hill Houses, Soundview Houses and Bronx River Houses in previous years, Stratford House’s residents enjoyed a festive celebration complete with music, delicious food and many gifts donated to SUV by local community members.
The holiday festivities began with the children and staff performing a jovial rendition of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ before eager guests.
Santa Claus met with the residence’s youngsters to distribute play mats, magic sets, dolls, mini basketballs and basketball hoops and bracelet crafting kits.
Spreading holiday cheer to all, jolly old Saint Nick also presented Stratford House teenagers with AMC movie theatre gift cards.
Mendelsohn said this successful celebration attracted nearly 100 people, young and old alike.
“This holiday event is a way for Stand Up to Violence to gain the community’s trust and build a much stronger relationship with everyone we are working with,” said Mendelsohn. “We want them to know that our program doesn’t just show up in their community after a shooting takes place. The reason for events such as last month’s toy drive is to let everyone know that we are always there for them and their families.”
In addition to community shooting response rallies, SUV lends their support to local areas with high concentration of gun violence through monthly events such as holiday toy drives while raising residents’ awareness and promoting neighborhood safety.
Located at 1168 Stratford Avenue, Stratford House functions as a supportive housing program serving 60 formerly homeless families.
Robert Pruit, Stratford House program director, stated the residence is home to 76 children under age 18 and nearly 20 youth over 18-years old.
Due to Stratford House’s location in a high crime area, Pruit said SUV’s work is vital for their at-risk teens’ future.
According to Pruit, Stratford House shared in the season by raffling 13 donated Dell desktop computers that were less than six months old.
While Stratford House has held holiday events before, Pruit said last month’s celebration was the first to feature music performed by an on-site deejay which had children and their parents moving to the beat.
SUV met with the teen’s parents on Thursday, January 7 to discuss how SUV can help mentor their young.
“Stand Up to Violence’s staff are sincere and generously caring people,” said Pruit. “By them coming back here, everyone at Stratford House gained a sense that they really do care about our residents and their children’s futures. We are incredibly grateful to be working with SUV and look forward to continue doing so.”
Pruit would like to thank Mendelsohn and the SUV staff; Jacobi Medical Center; Donna Colonna, SUS CEO and her staff; Wanda Cruz Lopez, Behavioral Health senior vice president; the 43rd Precinct’s Lt. Coleman, community affairs officer Hernandez and Domestic Violence Unit officer Daley; Judith Jackson, Stratford House chief of staff and Stratford House’s staff members, teens and parents for making this event successful.