A day with the dinos

Inner-city kids get science, history, and thrills

Thirteen local children got the thrill of their summer when a North Hudson social services agency arranged a trip for them to Field Station: Dinosaurs in Secaucus.
Palisades Emergency Residence Corporation (PERC) runs a homeless shelter based in Union City and also gets minimal funding for a Summer Activities Program and a Kids Homework Club to help children in area low-income families have a summer camp-like experience during summer and get help with schoolwork in the fall. For these families, the programs are free.

“They were happy just to be there.” – Michele Irimia
Teachers John Puma and Michele Irimia, program director, and Community Relations Manager Patricia Belenski chaperoned the children from North Bergen, Weehawken, West New York, and Union City during the three-hour outing.

Enjoying the park

“They really enjoyed walking through the park. They stopped at every exhibit,” said Irimia. “They were happy just to be there.”
The excursion was important for the children in a couple of ways, according to Irimia.
“It puts them in the situation where the dinosaurs were,” she said. “It teaches them history.”
But even more important was the social aspect of the foray.
“It takes them out of their daily environment and routine,” Irimia said. “They got to interact with a lot of people. They participated in the (park) shows. They met kids from other places.
“They were able to do a lot in three hours,” she said. “And we were glad we had the opportunity to take them. All of these little steps make a difference in a child’s life.”

Trip sponsors

The trip was made possible by Field Station: Dinosaur. The tickets were donated by Guy Gsell, Field Station creator, president, and executive producer; and Jayme Powers, the vice president and chief operating officer. Union City Mayor Brian Stack provided the transportation.
The children sent thank you cards to the Field Station officials and to Mayor Stack.

Need donations for Summer Program & Homework Club

The six-year-old Summer Activities Program teaches literacy, math, science, and recreation. Its attendees are granted program entry based on financial eligibility.
The Summer Program was in jeopardy this year due to federal budget cuts, with nearly two thirds of money going to Hudson County community programs slashed, Belenski said. PERC’s budget was itself was cut by more than a third.
This year’s Summer Program was saved thanks to last-minute funding from Public Service Electric & Gas and private donations.
The PERC Homework Club operates 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, in donated space at Grove Reformed Church on 46th Street in North Bergen. It assists children with a language barrier with their studies, giving them the capability to complete their out-of-school assignments.
It is PERC’s “desire to give our children the support they need now so they can succeed in life, rather than needing PERC’s food or shelter services as adults,” Belenski said. Her organization is therefore seeking any additional donations it can receive for the Homework Club.
“We are expecting 50 children to register for our after-school homework program,” she said. “However, because of budget cuts from the county, this program will be running on a donation basis.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the PERC Kids Program should call Belenski at (201) 351-5243 or email her at patricia@percshelter.org.

PERC’s mission

PERC is a nonprofit organization based in Union City that offers emergency shelter to individuals and families, a soup kitchen, a food pantry, permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals, and other community services.
In 2012, PERC provided nearly 20,000 nights of shelter to men, women, and families; more than 80,000 meals through their soup kitchen, and groceries for 12,000 people through its weekly food pantry.
PERC, originally a collection of Hudson County churches banding together to help the needy, celebrated its 32nd anniversary on Aug. 1.

How you can help

Those interested in the assisting the organization’s mission can do so by making a contribution. They can go to the group’s website, www.percshelter.org. All money raised will go directly toward PERC’s mission to provide food, shelter, and services for low-income families.
They can also volunteer, by calling the office at (201) 348-8150. Even with 7,000 volunteer hours, PERC could use more. Serving dinner and working at the food pantry are among the options.
Other ways to reach PERC are by email, info@percshelter.org, or in person, 108 36th St., Union City, NJ 07087.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.

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