It’s National Volunteer Week! Service Takes Many Forms here at the Library, and this year we want to highlight the winners of the Friends of QPL Shining Star Award.
The Shining Star Award is given to individual Friends members that demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities that inspire and motivate others to action; and groups that exemplify a collaborative spirit and strive to work together to provide ideas, resources, and opportunities that uplift their community.
Here's our conversation with Shining Star Group Award recipient the Friends of Cambria Heights Library. Learn about their beginnings, their experiences, and what lies ahead for them.
When did you first become involved with the Friends of QPL?
I have been a member since 2008. The Education Committee of the Cambria Heights Civic Association started the Friends group. We saw a need for a teen center located in the basement of the new library building, which was being used for storage. We spoke to politicians, our councilman, and our assemblywoman about our wish to have the space in the basement of Cambria Heights Library turned into a teen center. Thus, our Friends group helped get the teen center created. The cost of the project was over $2 million. The Friends continued to lobby in Albany and advocate for the library. – Angelia Sinclair, President
Why are the Friends of QPL an asset to your community or neighborhood?
Cambria Heights is a diverse neighborhood of all ages, ethnicities, and creeds. With that being said, we all get connected through the Friends of QPL. Our outreach resources include tabling during street fairs to attract people and engage them in a discussion about the Friends' functions. For over two years of the pandemic, the Cambria Heights Friends have been able to come into our neighbors’ homes through virtual programs on various topics. Children learned about the environment and how to grow plants from seeds in their own living space. Adults loved the mental health program that helped them cope with any type of anxiety. Langston Hughes, the American writer and social activist, said "What happens to a dream deferred?" How about a Broadway actor conducting a Dream Coaching program, which was a motivational session to help people identify the next steps in their life plan? Other presentations focused on domestic violence and songwriting therapy and affirmation. And Wow! How could I forget our Open Mic Celebration during National Poetry Month? – Barbara Woodford, Member-at-Large
What have been your proudest moments to date during your time as a Friend of QPL?
During the pandemic, the Friends of Cambria Heights provided virtual children’s programs on topics like math and kitchen gardening. Children’s author Ama Karikari Yawson held a dramatic interactive reading of her book Sunne’s Gift. Prior to the pandemic, the Friends funded an after-school kids' program in the library about creating your own terrarium; the Queens Botanical Garden supplied a teacher and all the necessary materials. We had adult painting programs before and (virtually) during the pandemic. These programs were taught by our Vice President, Wanda Best. Ms. Best also hosts programs (both in person and virtually) each October about domestic violence awareness. We used the funding from a Citizen’s Gardening Grant for a variety of informational and entertaining virtual programs during the pandemic. Our April 2021 National Poetry Month Open Mic was very popular. It was our second virtual poetry program. We invited community members and our library staff to share their original poems, or ones by their favorite poets. We even had a young poet perform his spoken word poetry. – Angela Sinclair, President
Why was it important for you to remain actively involved with the Friends throughout the past two years during the height of the pandemic?
It was an opportunity to communicate with others virtually and provide a wellness check. – Aletta Seales, Secretary
What are the benefits of working alongside other members to accomplish your goals as a Friend of QPL?
There is an African saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, take others with you.” My wish for the Friends is to go far into the future. Therefore, members need to work alongside each other. – Aletta Seales, Secretary
For more information about joining an existing Friends group or starting your own chapter for your neighborhood library, visit https://volunteer.queenslibrary.org/qplfriends.
If you're interested in other ways of volunteering at Queens Public Library, you can visit https://volunteer.queenslibrary.org.