The Greater Ridgewood Youth Council (GRYC), a local non-profit organization, organized its first Commemoration Day event on Tuesday, 24 May, at the newly renovated Serphin R. Maltese Community Center on 776 Fairview Ave.
GRYC bought the building, formerly home to U.S. Legion Joseph B. Garity, for $ 1.7 million with city and state funding in 2009. The space was abandoned for many years but is now housed as a veterans monument and a community programming space.
“We want this to be a sacred space,” said GRYC President Robert Monahan. “We will put up benches so that people can sit and reflect on the sacrifices of those before and those who come after us.”
The building was named after the former Maltese state senator, who served in the Korean War and was instrumental in getting the GRYC building available for public use. The Maltese appropriated $ 1 million to buy the building, then Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and former Assemblyman Mike Miller also helped raise money for renovations.
GRYC offers many after-school and adult education programs. Monahan said the new space gives GRYC the opportunity to teach children about the history of building and veteran sacrifices.
“It’s community service at its best and we’re teaching kids about the history of our neighborhood and our nation,” Monahan said.
Evelyn Cruz, who represents Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, attended the event on Tuesday and said that this space has a lot of value and meaning as the former office of Garity veterans.
“It reminds us when we move in the neighborhood that we are a free country because men and women have served to make it happen for us,” Cruz said. “It’s a beautiful space for reflection on what it means to serve the nation.”
The event was attended by Councilor Robert Holden, who was recently appointed chairman of the Veterans Committee.
“We bring back Remembrance Day in full, with all the parades – we’ve been sailing for the last few years but Remembrance Day has always meant a lot to me and my family.”
Holden said his father served in the Philippines for four years during World War II and his mother wrote to foreign soldiers. For many years after the war, Holden’s mother also volunteered at Maspeth Veterans Hospital.
“It is so important that we continue to tell the stories of all the men and women who have served our country and fought for our freedom. We have a lot of respect for them, “said Holden. “As a veteran president, I will dedicate the rest of my life to helping veterans as my mother did.”
The event featured the Promise of Loyalty by children at the Kiwanis Ridgewood, a dedication of the monument to Vietnam veterans and a performance of taps.