The latest New Yorker of the Week partners with the Department of Homeless Services and other organizations to provide comfort for hundreds of kids living in transition across the five boroughs. NY1's
When you're a kid, there's great joy in the little things. For many children who live in shelters or foster homes, those little things matter.
"What makes me comfortable is my soft monkey," says 9-year-old Gregory Pacheco.
Nicole Russell understands. Her adopted sister, Miracle, grew up in and out of foster homes.
"Because of her past, she used to have nightmares every night, like, seven nights a week, and my mom started introducing these comfort items and giving her pajamas, which she never had, and teddy bears, reading to her before she went to bed," Russell says. "We just saw what a huge impact it made on her and what a difference it made in her sleep."
Today, Russell is protecting the dreams of other kids. Along with her mother, she founded the Precious Dreams Foundation in 2012. The nonprofit provides comfort items to children in foster care and shelters.
"You have a favorite blanket, you don't realize how much it means to you until you lose it or someone takes it away," Russell says. "To think about these kids sleeping in an unfamiliar environment or an unsafe environment, they need these things more than anybody else."
Twice a month, volunteers donate personalized bags filled with stuffed toys, pajamas, books, items that can ease the transition between different homes.
"Toward the end of each visit, they're usually more open and more engaging, and it makes you feel good," says volunteer Que Harrison.
Beyond a better night's rest, the gifts bring hope for a better future. The foundation has already touched the lives of 800 children.
"It helps their imaginations take flight," says Antonio Rodriguez, director of special events for the Department. "It helps them to relax, to feel comfortable and, you know, to wake up in the morning, to feel hopeful, to face a brighter day and to be able to do better in school, and to do better in their lives.”
"I wrote, 'Today, I got from downstairs, this book that I wrote in. Today was the best day ever,'" says 11-year-old Jenny Crespo, a participant in the program.
So, for giving children the comfort to focus on their dreams, Nicole Russell is the latest New Yorker of the Week.
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