When the community comes together, it can accomplish great things. The 101 Precinct’s Far Rockaway Community Engagement Team and House on the Rock Church have exemplified that in recent weeks by supporting weekly activities for local youth.
In the wake of an uptick in shootings last year, particularly around the Beach 41st Houses, Police Officer Michael Conti of the 101 Precinct was tasked with coming up with a solution to curb the shootings and gang violence in the area. “My idea was to engage the community and youth as much as possible,” Officer Conti said. Rather than holding a community event or activity every once in a while, Officer Conti realized more was needed. “Consistency is key—that’s what we have to be—consistent,” he said. So he, along with the Far Rockaway Community Engagement Team, began holding regular events. They started with a job fair at Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, which was a big success. That then led to food pantries in conjunction with Queens Defenders in various housing areas, where the officers would also bring board games to engage with the kids.
Officer Conti realized that what these kids needed was simple—someone to listen. “I think of it like when a baby cries, usually they want your attention or want you to do something, and when you give it to them, they stop crying. I looked at these young teens like that. No one was listening to them,” he said. So he started lending an ear and listening to what the kids in the community wanted. “A lot of the kids came out when we did sports,” he said.
This led to a weekly effort to bring different sports to Far Rockaway youth, mostly those ages 16-21. “We did flag football, basketball, we brought the kids out fishing one day, had a soccer tournament, a softball game…,” Officer Conti said. Every Saturday, he and his team have been inviting the kids out for various activities. And as word spreads, more and more kids are joining. “I really do feel that it makes a difference. There’s always going to be violence, but if we can save even one kid, it makes it all worth it. I really believe things like this mend what’s going on in communities,” Officer Conti said.
On June 5, during a community-wide event called Hope Day at Cardozo Playground, sponsored by Full Gospel Tabernacle Church and House on the Rock Church, House on the Rock’s Pastor Garry Patrylo was introduced to Officer Mike. “He told me that every Saturday for the last couple months, he was coming up with things to do with youth in Rockaway that would broaden their experiences and put some positive role models in their path,” Pastor Garry said. “And when he told me he was paying for it out of pocket, that’s when we knew we had to get involved.” Pastor Garry learned that Officer Mike and his fellow officers were personally funding all of the weekly activities. “I was paying for everything out of pocket. When we went fishing, I brought my own fishing poles and bought the bait. When we played football, I bought the flags and new footballs. Pretty much everything was out of pocket,” Officer Conti said.
That was until Pastor Garry and House on the Rock decided to step in. “That night of Hope Day, it was the same night Justin Wallace was shot and killed and that solidified it for us that we need to do more to reach out to our youth in the community,” Pastor Garry said.
Shortly after, Pastor Garry launched an online fundraising campaign and spread the word through his church and on social media. Within a short time, it became a success. During their Rocksolid Men’s Ministry night on July 6, the church presented Officer Mike with $1,000 worth of brand-new softball equipment and agreed to supply pizza and soda for a softball day. On Saturday, July 10, that softball game went down at O’Donohue Park, and smiles were seen all around as the kids who came out got to play with new equipment and enjoy a post-game pizza party. And the fundraising efforts continue. “We’ve raised, to date, over $3,000 so far,” Pastor Garry said.
Officer Mike could not be more grateful for the funding. “It is very helpful. They stepped in and it’s like a prayer has been answered,” Officer Conti said. For House on the Rock, the effort also helps them network with the families of the children in the program who may need more help, as part of their broad mission of helping those in need across the peninsula. “It feels good to help someone else’s goal and see this vision come to fruition. As a church, we have a lot of things that we do and would like to see happen so it’s great if we can get that overall goal accomplished by partnering with other people with specific talents who want to do good in our community,” Pastor Garry said.
Pastor Garry set out with a goal of raising $10,000 to help Officer Mike continue his efforts at least through the fall. The fundraiser is open through August 1. Anyone interested in donating, can do so at www.fundeasy.com/e/21745 or a direct link can be found on the House on the Rock Church Facebook page.
In the meantime, Officer Conti recently received a grant from the Police Foundation to help cover the costs for his events in the future. Funding from House on the Rock will continue to be used to supply food and drinks for the events.
With a new permanent home on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 112th Street, House on the Rock Church, a nondenominational multicultural church, is also doing more to engage the community. Every Friday at 7 p.m., they host a Café Night with various bands. They’re also just wrapping up their Vacation Bible School week, which they hope to invite Officer Mike to on Friday. And they’re aiming to introduce Spanish-language services starting in September. For more info, check out House on the Rock Church on Facebook or visit: www.HouseOntheRockChurch.com
By Katie McFaddenBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS