'The community always seems to come through"

300 backpacks donated to local students


Elmont and Franklin Square students received more than 300 backpacks filled with school supplies last week as part of a school supply drive organized by Gateway Youth Outreach, a local organization that runs programs that serve the youth of Elmont and nearby communities.

The school supply giveaway was held earlier this month during registration for GYO’s 2021-22 after-school program, said Pat Boyle, the GYO executive director. Registration for students who attend Covert Avenue Elementary School, Gotham Avenue School, Dutch Broadway School and Clara H. Carlson Elementary School ran from Sept. 13 to 15.

Elmont real estate office EXIT Realty United helped GYO donate the backpacks to students from local schools. “How could I not be happy?” Boyle said about the level of donations provided by EXIT. “The kids loved the backpacks,” he added, including custom bags bearing GYO’s name. “They thought they were bigtime members of GYO.”

“The children can always use new stuff,” JoAnn Seeno, of EXIT, said. She added that donating to the students makes the community happy and also provides a great feeling. EXIT donated backpacks as well as crayons, pencils, pens, erasers, glue sticks, notebooks and other school supplies for the giveaway. Everyone at EXIT worked for months to gather the supplies, Seeno said.

Seeno, whose grandchildren once took part in GYO’s programs, emphasized that she supports the organization and its mission to help local students. “It’s a wonderful program,” Seeno said, adding that it is especially helpful for teens from local communities.

She said that the partnership between GYO and EXIT is only beginning and that she hopes it will continue to bring “recognition for the children and the ability to go to programs by GYO.”
Boyle said GYO has worked with EXIT on past projects, and that this was the fourth year the two organizations teamed up for the school supply drive. The backpacks, he said, were largely donated by EXIT staff members and their family and friends. “They’ve been very helpful,” Boyle said.

Registration for the acter-school program, Boyle said, was lower than usual for the 2021-22 school year, adding that this was likely the result of fears about rising cases of coronavirus during the school year. “I’d be careful too if I was a parent… You have to be cautious,” Boyle said about the ongoing pandemic and the prospect of an uptick in cases across Long Island.

Boyle said the giveaway and program registration were still successful. GYO registered 125 students at Covert Avenue Elementary School, as well as 160 students at the Gotham Avenue School and the Dutch Broadway School and the Clara H. Carlson School, Boyle said. This, he added, is lower than in the past, when the total number was as high as 800 students.

Boyle said he believed the school system is doing well to prevent a return to virtual learning. He noted that GYO is committed to safety precautions as it returns to in-person after-school programming. “We’re going to be overly cautious… We’re doing the best we can,” Boyle said.

Boyle praised the school district for helping local students, but stressed that there is room for improvement — and this, he said, is where GYO steps in. “There’s always shortfalls, always somebody we can’t have enough for,” Boyle said. Through working with community members, GYO is able to help provide for students in need, he said.

“The community always seems to come through,” Boyle said. “Our community is a great community.” This fall, Boyle said, GYO’s goal is to reintroduce its programs safely amid the ongoing pandemic and continue to help students with homework and socialization opportunities.