ELMHURST — St. Bartholomew Catholic Academy has young students, but the children who were in the school gym on Thursday, Oct. 12, were far too young for class. After all, they were just babies and toddlers and their first day of school is still a long way off. However, the little ones and their parents were there for an important purpose.
The NYPD hosted a Community Baby Shower for Elmhurst, and the academy, located in that neighborhood, agreed to be the setting for the big party.
Hundreds of moms, moms-to-be, and dads, many who lined the sidewalk on Judge Street outside before the doors opened, streamed into the building all morning and were greeted by a gym festooned with balloons, pink and blue bunting, and pulsating music thanks to a DJ.
The shower featured raffles where ticket holders had the chance to win strollers, bassinets, and baby blankets. The gym was lined with information tables manned by representatives from health care agencies and city departments who were eager to answer questions.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity to help the community,” said Father Andrew Tsui, the parochial vicar for St. Bartholomew Church.
The FDNY had a team that used dolls to demonstrate how to save a baby from choking. At another table, EmblemHealth was handing out onesies. Still another table had experts offering information on childcare.
Maria Bermeo, holding her two-month-old son Mattias, said she came to learn about daycare options. “You have to know who you can trust with your child. I work 9-to-5. I have to be sure my son is safe,” she said.
Daycare was also top of mind for Erika Cardi, who brought her 9-month-old son, Jayden. “You hear so much about bad daycare places today. I think people here can help us make good choices,” she said.
Det. Fred Washington of the NYPD Community Affairs Unit, who organized the event, said police are always eager to help communities in need and that a shower is a great way to accomplish that goal.
“We started doing this in 2021 because we asked, ‘How can we make a difference in a community?’ We’ve had a few of these showers since then in different communities. They’ve gotten bigger in size,” he explained.
He estimated that since 2021, more than 4,000 people have attended the showers.
Thursday’s shower gave a boost to Elmhurst, a community where many residents live under financial strain.
According to a 2018 Community Profile study by the New York City Department of Health, 27% of residents in the Elmhurst-Corona area (the study combined the two neighborhoods) live in poverty. That’s higher than New York City as a whole (20%).
The area is home to many immigrants, according to the Community Profile, which found that 63% of residents were born outside the U.S. and 51% have limited English proficiency.
The fact that women at the shower chose life for their babies contrasts sharply with the abortion rate in Queens, which is the second highest among the five boroughs — topped only by Brooklyn.
According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life research organization, approximately 23% of all the abortions in New York City in 2020 were performed on Queens women. Brooklyn women accounted for approximately 28%. Here are the figures for the other three boroughs: the Bronx, 22%; Manhattan, 15%; and Staten Island, 3%.
Bermeo never considered abortion. “When I first found out that I was pregnant, people told me a baby would ruin my life. But I feel like my baby came to save my life,” she said.
The community baby shower, she added, was proof that “there are people there to help you if you ask for help.”