Forestdale to organize backpack drive
by Michael Perlman
Apr 19, 2016 | 6049 views | 0 0 comments | 128 128 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bill Weisberg, Executive Director of Forestdale
Bill Weisberg, Executive Director of Forestdale
Forestdale's 2015 Back To School Drive
Forestdale's 2015 Back To School Drive
Around the corner from Forest Hills High School sits a five-building, three-acre park-like campus known as Forestdale.

With roots dating back 162 years, Forestdale benefits over 1,000 families annually including more than 400 children in foster care.

Forestdale is partnering with High Water Women (HWW) to launch the 2016 HWW Backpack Drive in Queens. HWW hopes to raise over $500,000 and provide over 20,000 backpacks citywide, with over 1,000 backpacks for Queens youth with Forestdale raises an estimated $25,000 to $50,000.

Since 2005, the drive has provided 86,500 children with backpacks filled with school supplies, including notebooks and crayons to dictionaries and early readers, for students in kindergarten through high school.

On average, a filled backpack costs $85. The public can donate at, and because of the partnership a $25 donation will fund a complete backpack. A fundraiser for the backpack drive will be held next month at Forestdale.

“This position symbolizes an opportunity to work with individual young people in distress and low-income families in Queens to make sure their basic needs are met so they can thrive,” said Forestdale executive director Bill Weisberg.

The campus at 67-35 112th Street, as well as an office in Hollis, accommodates Forestdale’s core programs for families in the foster care system, including a comfortable location for supervised visits, basketball court, and playground.

“Through a partnership with NYU Dental and Nursing School, Forestdale provides dental and medical services for children and youth in foster care, and soon with City Council and borough president support, Forestdale will be home to a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen,” said Weisberg. “This will further enable families to bond, adopt career skills, and reap the benefits of good nutrition.

“We plan to bolster offerings in workforce development, mental health, housing and education to further improve outcomes for young people in communities with high rates of poverty,” he added.

Forestdale is home to a number of inspirational stories, such as the case of a 22-year-old girl who outgrew foster care last year, but continues to be a part of the Forestdale family.

“She entered foster care at 16, fighting trauma and depression, but with the support and love of her case worker and foster mother, she succeeded in school and will become a nurse,” Weisberg said. “She is working in a New York City hospital and serves as a youth ambassador, promoting policies that will help improve the foster care system.”

In 1854, the organization was based in Brooklyn and consisted of the Brooklyn Industrial School Association and Home for Destitute Children, which was founded by a group of women.

“The goal was to teach poor children basic trade skills, but shifting immigration patterns and the emergence of the public school system would contribute to the closing of the industrial schools,” Wesiberg explained.

In 1927, the organization was renamed the Brooklyn Home for Children and offered residential care for abused and abandoned youth. The organization expanded and reopened in Forest Hills in 1941.

Orphan closures were on the rise during the second half of the 20th century, and were gradually replaced with community-based foster homes.

“In 1980, the agency retired its residential program to focus on foster care and adoption, and in 1988 we officially changed our name at our children’s request,” said Weisberg.

Forestdale has close relationships in the Forest Hills community, including with PS 101, PS 144, West Side Tennis Club, New York Life, and FoHi Wellness. A community-led holiday toy drive in 2015 raised over $60,000.

“Children need so much more in life than a bicycle for the holidays, but when you see a child who has experienced violence and hardship light up after winning a shiny new bike, it is clearly what that child needs,” said Weisberg.

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