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They give their time from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which can only be described as a labor of love.
From the looks on the faces of the children and their parents or guardians, the happiness from this day will last for months.
When Irene Simicic heard me talking to Larry she quickly told me that her son Franco has been coming to have his hair cut for eight years and would not consider it a proper Christmas unless she came to feel the love found there. She told me that when her son first came to LP he was afraid of cameras, so Larry invited them into the basement of his house where he sat him in a barber chair, played with him, and sang songs with him until Franco became used to flash photos.
The whole room was filled with laughing happy people, holiday music being played, people dressed as a clown, a bunny rabbit, Tweedy Bird (by Larry's son Scan) and Santa Claus (by Anthony Galeotti) who kept walking around saying "Ho, Ho!, Ho!" and "Happy Christmas." The staff and some their families wore dark, green LP shirts as they greeted the children, constantly telling them how nice they looked as they did their hair and nails.
When the children are finished having the treatment, each is given a toy and has a Polaroid photo taken with Santa Claus which is given to the child. The toy is what the child really wants because Larry calls up their house and asks what they want.
The money for the toys, the coffee and boxes of cake come from donations and the customers of LP who buy raffles.
The winners of the raffles receive a free haircut or a basket of hair goodies, but their ticket gives much more to these disabled children who need the attention and praise so much.
Some of the parents of the children who came for the first time cried when they saw how much was being done for their children.
Some of the very young children sit on their parents lap and some of the very severely disabled are in wheel chairs.
The LP employees distract those children who are apprehensive or who are hyperactive. Some of the children and parents of the staff are there to help and entertain the children. Many of the kids come from the Marathon School for the Multiple Handicapped and others come from the Queens Occupational Training Center near the Queens Center Mall in Corona.
The city Board of Education operates this and other centers throughout the city. Larry told me that he specifically invited some of the children back even when they finish schooling.
He told me that one young lady who had started coming when she was 14 and is now 30 and living in a group home, had been there earlier in the day.
One mother told me that her daughter loves the attention. Another said she was happy that Larry had called her to ask what gift her son, now 18 years old, wanted and had bought it for him. I discovered that he and another student at the OTC help serve lunch to the high school students in the cafetorium of the High School For Arts & Business nearby. In this way they do useful work, learn independence and interact with the high school students there.
I was introduced to one of the OTC teachers, Phyllis Sacks, who had come to LP on this Sunday so her students could see her and feel comfortable and to make sure that everything went smoothly.
She had a list of students whose parents had said were going to be present. She felt good about the event but was disappointed that some parents did not bring their children. She even had her boyfriend take videos which she planned to show to the students at OTC and to the parents. She felt it was wonderful that these children had people fussing over them with all the evident love found at LP.
I was actually sad when Phyllis told me she was retiring from the Board of Education the next Friday due to family needs. She'll be very hard to replace.
I discovered that Joan and Stan Geller, who live nearby in my own West Cunningham Park Civic Association area on 195th street, were volunteering at LP. Joan has been doing this for the past five years. She has volunteered for Breast Cancer Week and helped feed the elderly at the Seagram's Building in Manhattan. Stan was taking Polaroid photos of the children with Santa Claus.
It is very nice that so many people, including the staff of LP, give a few hours of their time during the holiday season to give joy to a group of disabled children.
Good News of the Week
It is a relief that the election has finally been settled. Whether one is pleased or annoyed with the results, we must have a stable government, especially considering our status as leader of the free world.
Bad News of the Week
I just read that the landlord of one of the old, single-room-occupancy hotels in Manhattan has been accused by the tenants of harassing them and illegally renovating rooms into high rental apartments.
A landlord representative seemed to feel that city rules permit them to renovate and throw out the low-income SRO tenants. Since government is supposed to be for all people, it should provide decent SRO locations for people and not permit them to be shoved onto the street or into those homeless shelters where dozens of people live in a big room.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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