B.R.I.D.G.E. Family Enrichment Center Invites You to ‘Homecoming!’

 B.R.I.D.G.E. Family Enrichment Center  Invites You to ‘Homecoming!’

By The B.R.I.D.G.E. Family Enrichment Center Staff

A new powerful community resource aimed at strengthening families is beckoning community members to come in and add your special sauce to Rockaway’s very own Family Enrichment Center (FEC). Aptly named, The B.R.I.D.G.E.—“Where we Build Relationships, Inspire Development, Growth & Excellence,” the center is housed in a 5,000-square-foot space on Beach 92nd Street, and open to all families residing on the peninsula and sister isle, Broad Channel. And with The B.R.I.D.G.E. gearing up for its grand opening, fittingly dubbed, “The Homecoming,” on February 24, Rockaway, your ideas, creativity and talents are needed now to make this FEC the finest in all the five boroughs.

So, what is an FEC? FECs are unique, homelike spaces where community members of all ages are able to connect, find resources to support one another and contribute to their community. At The B.R.I.D.G.E., our mission is to be the hub bringing community members from all ends of the Rockaways and Broad Channel together, serving as the bridge—unifying the community to achieve common goals. In March of 2022, Rockaway-based, Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC), was amongst nine city-wide awardees selected to run FEC expansion sites. While FECs are funded by Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), staff are not required to collect names or report any cases to the agency.

Located in the former location of CROM Muay Thai Gym, The B.R.I.D.G.E. is centrally located at 217 Beach 92nd Street, an area locals on the peninsula sometimes refer to as midtown. Since securing the space this past June, even before floors and walls were constructed, the staff has steadfastly worked to engage community members with ideas and collaborate with other organizations, on not just how the space should be physically designed, but offerings they want to see.

For example, just this past month, local Pesy Therese, executive director of nonprofit, For The Youth Foundation, and co-owner with her husband, Babajide “Jide” Alao, of West African oceanside restaurant, The Cradle NYC, drummed up holiday event, “Festive Frames.” For an entire day, families were welcome to come into the center to take free holiday, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas photos with Santa by a professional photographer, while enjoying complimentary hot cocoa and pastries, land a holiday gift, and dance to music spun by DJ Peter Vibes. Therese joined The B.R.I.D.G.E. PAAC (Parent/Adult Advisory Committee), and already has submitted proposals for morning offerings for parents looking to do enriching activities with their young children.

Other offerings The B.R.I.D.G.E. hosted this past year include: Parent Cafes (PAAC-led discussion groups for parents to share their experiences and identify ways to promote family-strengthening approaches while providing one another with support); a September Safety Series about water and fire safety, a Narcan training, Latino Heritage Month Festival, Fun ’N’ Flix field day/movie screening event, community harvesting workshops and so much more!

At The B.R.I.D.G.E. soft opening this past November, former CROM owners, Sarah and Chris Romulo paid a special visit to Rockaway just to see the space and expressed their excitement about seeing its transformation into a community hub.

Sarah Romulo said, “Instead of just being another restaurant, we’re happy to see that the space is going to be a hub connecting locals across the peninsula and Broad Channel with offerings that will help boost residents’ quality of life.”

And community members, we are passing the baton to you to drum up ideas you would like to see at the center. Whether it’s Zumba, nutrition, cooking, mental health therapy, activities for special needs—whatever your idea is—come in and tell us, and together we’ll make it happen.

So, what makes The B.R.I.D.G.E. a game-changer for Rockaway? Community members—you direct us, instead of the other way around. Just this past year, it has been amazing to see how community members have stepped up to take ownership in the design process. In fact, the center’s physical space—from the floors to the walls—was designed by locals. As you walk into the center, there is a wide-open lounge space and play area for children, then there’s the conference area, a multi-purpose room that also houses a mirrored fitness studio, arcade room, sound recording/social media creation studio, kitchen, food pantry, clothing boutique and more!

According to The B.R.I.D.G.E. Director Curtis Turney-Rentas, a longtime local community organizer well known on the peninsula for his passion to pay it forward to others—with community input—the goal of the center is to help strengthen families of all ages and all backgrounds in Rockaway.

He said, “The B.R.I.D.G.E. is driven by the principle that nothing is more important to a community than building strong, healthy families through our seven Protective Factors—parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and childhood development, concrete support in times of need, social and emotional competence of children, economic mobility, and community.

“The B.R.I.D.G.E. will continue to adapt to the ever-evolving needs of the neighborhood. Whatever you want it to be, that’s what it’s going to be. This is why we are so excited for the community to get on board with not just attending The B.R.I.D.G.E. Homecoming ribbon-cutting grand opening in February,” but getting involved in the planning. The community will be at the helm, whether through joining the PAAC or Teen and Young Adults Advisory Committee (TYAAC), or just walking in with an idea. This center is designed to be a home away from home for all ages, and our “Homecoming” is going to emote the “welcome home” experience.”

For Turney-Rentas, choosing the theme of “Homecoming,” was centric to the center’s role in Rockaway.

“On a high school or collegiate level, what are your memories of Homecoming? Meeting new people, networking, showing your school pride, cheering on athletes, supporting a cause, reconnecting with old friends, and of course—having fun! And when the community comes to The B.R.I.D.G.E. Homecoming, we are going to replicate that same experience with live music, swag giveaways, dancing and more. Also, homecoming is not just about returning to a place, but about feeling the embrace of the community,” Turney-Rentas said.

Additional staff on the The B.R.I.D.G.E. team include Community Liaison Brooke Smith and Family Advocates, Arly Ramos and Kami-Leigh Agard.

The B.R.I.D.G.E. Family Enrichment Center is open Mondays to Fridays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and occasional Saturdays. The Homecoming ribbon-cutting grand opening will on Saturday, February 24, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, including a calendar of offerings and how to join the PAAC or TYAAC, get involved with planning the Homecoming, or even just to present what offerings you would like to see at the center, follow Instagram page: FECTheBRIDGE or simply stop by: 217 Beach 92nd Street.

Related post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *