Queens Community House Breaks Ground on Renovation of Forest Hills Community Center
Queens Community House (QCH) held a groundbreaking ceremony on July 29 to inaugurate the renovation of the Forest Hills Community Center, its original and largest program site. 
Elected officials in attendance included NYC Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz and Daniel Dromm, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and NYS Assemblymembers Daniel Rosenthal and Catalina Cruz. QCH Executive Director Ben Thomases thanked those officials present, as well as Assemblymembers Andrew Hevesi and Jeffrion Aubry, for collectively helping QCH secure more than $9 million of public funding for the project to date.  

“For decades, QCH has served the people of Queens with hundreds of unique programs for all ages and communities,” tweeted Assemblymember Rosenthal after the event. “So proud to support this organization and join in the groundbreaking ceremony for their new community center.”  
The Forest Hills Community Center will be modernized with state-of-the-art technology; an elevator and other accessories to make the building fully accessible; new community spaces that create opportunities for great cross-cultural and cross-generational interaction; an expanded pantry area to accommodate the expansion of QCH’s food programs; reimagined activity rooms for classes and meetings; and an outdoor green space open to the neighborhood. In addition, QCH will be opening a new 8000 square foot annex down the block, further increasing its ability to serve the more than 500 children, teens, adults and older adults who use the Center on a daily basis.  
“I always feel confident that with any type of funding that we give them, [QCH] uses it for the best purposes possible for the community,” said Councilmember Dromm. “As an elected official, that to me is very comforting and it’s great to know that we have QCH here, not only in Forest Hills, but in many neighborhoods across the borough of Queens.” 
Several of the speakers noted the poignancy of the renovation, coming at a time when many of the central Queens families served by the Center are still reeling from the pandemic and its aftermath. 
“COVID exacerbated many of the issues that impact our communities” said Queens Borough President Richards, “around healthcare, around safety, around education -- we saw all of these disparities. But coming out of this pandemic we are not going back to ‘normal’, but to a ‘new normal’ where every facility in Queens is first-class, where everybody has access to the same things, where quality is something that is not foreign to us.” 
The grand reopening of the Forest Hills Community Center is set for summer 2022. “The improvement of and addition to these program spaces is critical to meet the growing needs of the communities QCH serves throughout the borough of Queens,” said Thomases, “and QCH eagerly looks forward to welcoming our neighbors back to a transformed and truly dignified space.”

Photography of QCH Young Women’s Program on Display at Center at Maple Grove Cemetery 
QCH partnered with the nonprofit Friends of Maple Grove to host QCH’s Summer Video and Photography (SVP) program exhibition at the Center at Maple Grove in Kew Gardens.
The SVP program provides young women ages 13-18 with basic photography skills and offers opportunities to take photographs while exploring different neighborhoods in Queens. This year, the program collaborated with the Josephine Herrick Project and welcomed a professional photographer to teach enhanced photography skills to the participants.  
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the SVP program and learned a lot about photography techniques, such as ‘frame within a frame’ and using leading lines,” said Isabella Chow, an SVP program participant.  
This summer, the 5-week-long program had 22 participants, and each participant was able to display three of their own photographs at the exhibition. Their work will be displayed for public viewing until September 20 at the Center at Maple Grove.
“I was so proud to see my daughter’s photographs on display at Maple Grove,” said Meghan Geraci, parent of SVP program participant Lauren Ramirez. “She looked forward to seeing her friends and counselors each week for SVP and came home with a story every time.” 
At the start of the program each year, the young women get to choose the theme for their summer work. This year’s theme was “Rooted in Colors”, which explores the process of self-awareness by learning composition and lighting through the lens of a digital camera.  
“Through these photographs, the young women build an appreciation of their world and who they are and how they contribute to society,” said JHP Photography Instructor Wendy Correa. “These images have become pieces of who these individuals are, and these pieces come together to bring their roots of colors into their lives.” 
“The SVP program gives young women another avenue for creative expression,” said Ben Thomases, QCH Executive Director. “Having their photographs on display for the public at Maple Grove is a great way to acknowledge everything they learned this summer about photography, the Queens community, and most importantly, themselves.” 

QCH Collaborates with Queens Museum for Oral History Workshop for Older Adults
This month, QCH collaborated with the Queens Museum to encourage QCH's older adult participants to share their stories through a two-part bilingual oral history workshop.

Neighbors from our older adult centers learned about discovering, researching, and creating audio-based content. Participants were prompted to write short stories in either Spanish or English. Afterward, they were given the opportunity to have their perspectives recorded using standard podcasting equipment at the Queens Museum!
QCH SYEP Participants Develop QCH's Virtual Closet to Help Those In Need Dress for Success

Youth-led from start to finish! This summer, our Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) participants developed QCH's Virtual Closet, an online store that provides those in need with free professional clothing and workforce readiness support services. 

QCH Board Member Hosts YouthBuild at Construction Site Near JFK Airport

QCH Board Member Joshua Weingarten hosted QCH's YouthBuild program at one of his construction sites near JFK Airport. Joshua, who leads the development group of investors, had a team of construction staff onsite give a walkthrough of this massive $135M project and explain how the entire operation works. QCH's YouthBuild members learned a lot and really enjoyed the experience!
Queens Community House provides individuals and families with the tools to enrich their lives and build healthy, inclusive communities.