Pearly Gates Park will be playing host to a Saturday children’s play program thanks to local support and a group of dedicated volunteers.
For the fourth summer, the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization’s Mini-Summer Program for children between the ages of three to ten will be taking place on four consecutive Saturdays in July and August at the community playground in Zerega.
The fun begins on Saturday, July 25 from noon to 4 p.m. and runs every weekend until Saturday, August 15 at the park.
Metro Optics sponsors it, with additional funding provided by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto’s office.
Sandi Lusk and Woody Brundage of the non-profit WSZIO volunteer to supervise playground associates hired to make sure the games and everything else for the children is full of fun and wholesome enjoyment.
“The program is free,” said Lusk, but she added “Parents, or a responsible party, must be present for each child while they are in the park.”
The program was put in place in the playground, located on St. Peters Avenue off Westchester Square to give children constructive activities.
Those activities may include table hockey, arts and crafts, horseshoes, board games, jump rope, ball games and face painting, among others.
While this is the fourth consecutive year for this program, WSZIO ran programing in Pearly Gates Park years ago, and has been an active force for a quarter-century in making sure that it remains a community asset.
Supporters of the Pearly Gates Mini-Summer Progam said that Lusk and WSZIO volunteers often reach into their own pockets to pay for activities at the Pearly Gates and elsewhere.
Speaking on behalf of Metro Optics, an optical retailer with four locations including one in Westchester Square, co-owner John Bonizio said that the company decided to support the endeavor because it affords families the opportunity to experience their community in a positive way.
“It is an opportunity to give back to the community that gives to us,” he said.
Assemblyman Benedetto indicated that he appreciated WSZIO’s volunteerism.
“They are good community-minded people who realize that kids need activities during the summer,” said Benedetto of WSZIO. “The children need good outdoor activities and oftentimes the community just does not have that to offer.”
Lusk and others at WSZIO are providing a fullfilling recreational program, said Benedetto, adding that Zerega often does not get these types of services.
“We have good people working with the kids, and the children really enjoy it,” said the assemblyman, adding that he has gone out of his way over several years to support the program.
The final session, this year on Saturday, August 15, usually includes a celebration, which in past years has featured magic and puppet shows, said Lusk.
As in previous years, the program’s coordinators plan to raffle off for free much of the play equipment used during the Saturday programs after the final weekend.