Feb. 20, 2016 Staff Report
Parents and guardians who like to spend time with their children may soon get an opportunity to get out of the house and socialize with other residents in a family-friendly environment five days a week.
The Sunnyside Family Network, a “Mommy and Me” style daycare program where children up to 6-years old and their guardians are invited to read, play, and socialize, is looking to expand its services that are held in a large downstairs room that is part of the Sunnyside Reformed Church at 48-03 Skillman Ave.
Currently, the program is only able to operate four days out of the week because of fluctuating demand.
Director Irene Franqui, who has been with the Sunnyside Family Network for almost 27 years, has run the program with the blessing of Pastor Neil Margetson, and church leaders who served before him.
“My husband was the sexton of the church, and Pastor Judith at the time called me and said they were interested in doing a daycare program like this. I lived right across the street, so I said why not?,” explained Irene.
Every morning at 9:00 am, the program begins with Arts & Crafts with individual sections and tables dedicated for collages, legos, or coloring. Shortly after 10:00 am, families and their children listen to music and sing together, followed by snack time and free play. The program ends at 11:30 AM, giving families time during the day for other appointments or activities.
In addition to its normal schedule of activities, Irene says they celebrate children’s birthdays, holidays, and this past week, parents and guardians had made Valentine’s Day cards with their children.
“All the children who come here get to make new friends, and parents get to meet neighbors whom they have maybe never had a chance to meet before,” said Franqui. “In over the 20 years that I have been here, I’ve met so many parents that have become lifelong friends because of this program, and children who have grown up and now come back with their own sons or daughters.”
The play equipment, reading material, and art supplies are all purchased by or owned by the church, but families and caregivers are allowed to bring their children’s own favorite toys. There are between 15 and 18 children and adults per day, with room up to 20 families.
“We’ve only had it run on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and we would like to add Wednesdays this Spring, so we hope to get enrollment up,” said Irene of the program.
Registration for Spring sessions is currently open, and parents or expecting parents can call (718) 426-5997 to fill out an application in person, or contact the church through their website here. Once a parent registers a child, they do not have to enroll again for siblings or any future children.
“In terms of enrollment, we consider ourselves a per-family playground, not per-child. That’s because we do everything together as a family. We eat together, we play together, we even clean up together, and you get the sense of belonging to a bigger family after just your first day here,” explained Franqui.
Pastor Neil Magetson added, “This emphasis on the family is in keeping with the church’s focus on community. Too many of our churches seem to become closed circles that can be very hard on newcomers, so virtually all of our programs and events are designed with that in mind. We want everyone to feel welcome, whether they have money or not, and while we do charge a modest fee for the Sunnyside Family Network, the idea is the same.”
The Sunnyside Reformed Church holds Sunday services at 11:00 AM, and is an advertiser with the Sunnyside Post.