Forts Ferry kindergartners have come together to help children from Downstate stay busy on their bus ride into fresh air and open spaces.
The children recently held a drive to collect coloring books, crayons and playing cards for participants in the Fresh Air Fund program to keep them occupied on their bus ride Upstate from New York City.
“If it weren’t for this program (Fresh Air Fund) many of the kids would be stuck inside because the streets aren’t safe for them to play in,” said teacher’s aide and Fresh Air host Cindy Mangione, who organized the drive.
The Fresh Air Fund is not-for-profit agency that was started in 1877 by the Rev. Willard Parsons of Sherman, Pa. At the time, New York City was a crowded dirty place, and tuberculosis was a big problem for inner city youth that were often in close quarters. “Fresh air” was considered a cure for the disease, so Parsons asked families in the country to host low-income children from the city.
“It’s an opportunity for children to be children and for them to play in a safe place. If you ask the kids what their favorite part is, they all say swimming and making new friends,” said Executive Director of the Fresh Air Fund Jenny Morgenthau.
Now in its third year, the collection ran for two weeks before Christmas, and the students gathered around 150 items to be supplied at the port authority where the kids in the program get on the bus.
Morgenthau said the collection benefits the kids in the program and is also a good way for Mangione to spread the word about the Fresh Air fund and attract more volunteers.
Mangione has been participating in the program for 24 years as a host, and she is also the volunteer leader for the Albany area. She said she got involved because a neighbor of hers was a stay-at-home dad and was hosting a child in the program. The kids can start participating in the program as early as 6 years old and continue until they are 18.