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Nonprofit looks to bring people to area parks

A pair of northeast Queens women has banded together to bring life back to the area’s parks.

Baysider Barbara Gillespie, 37, and Oakland Gardens resident AnnMarie DiNenno, 31, said they have always wanted to do something for the community but never had the time in the past.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Gillespie and DiNenno, who met while volunteering for the Queens Women’s Center, have given up their busy jobs as information technology project managers and chosen to refocus their time.

“There is an element after Sept. 11 of having a feeling of wanting to give back and wanting to be connected” to the community, said Gillespie, who now works as a real estate appraiser in Whitestone.

DiNenno, who attends law school on Long Island, said “it’s a re-evaluation.”

The desire to improve life in the community led the pair to create a new nonprofit group called Q4U to help bring community events into northeast Queens’ parks.

After seeing an online report from the nonprofit The Parks Council describing the lack of resources available for parks in the outer boroughs, Gillespie and DiNenno said they knew helping to bring community involvement and interest to the parks was their goal.

Although Q4U is in its infancy, the pair has already established an “Indian Summer Adult Fitness Series,” bringing free in-line skating to Fort Totten and yoga and karate lessons to Crocheron Park in Bayside. The fitness series is in its fourth week.

“We’re not in this for anything other than fun,” Gillespie said. She and DiNenno said Q4U acts as a middleman between the public and a cash-strapped city Parks Department, providing publicity and organizing community events in Queens parks.

DiNenno said “it’s about getting people out into the fresh air and enjoying the parks ... so we can have events where the community can come and be social.”

Always on the lookout for volunteers, Gillespie and DiNenno said they have been concentrating on Bayside parks until more people get involved with Q4U.

“We want to eventually cover northeast Queens,” Gillespie said. “We’re blessed that we’ve got a lot of parkland.”

But the two are not just seeking to hold recreational activities — a community park clean-up was slated for the Cross Island Parkway bike path later this month.

To ratchet up the fun-quotient, Q4U has arranged for the daylong community cleanup to end with a disc jockey and picnic.

“Hopefully, we can bring the people into the parks and they can start to care about their parks,” Gillespie said.

Q4U’s upcoming events include a free 10-mile bike ride through northeast Queens from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The event will begin at the Fort Totten parking lot, and interested participants should bring a bicycle, water and a bike helmet.

The park cleanup was scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning at the Fort Totten parking lot. Those interested should bring their own food, non-alcoholic beverages and picnic materials.

Anyone interested in volunteering for Q4U, whether in a Web site, public relations or law capacity, should call 518-4898.

For more information about Q4U, go on-line to www.q4u.org.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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