14 Apr

NBC4: Immigrant Hunger Pains

April 13, 2017 – Immigrant families from LSA programs spoke with NBC4’s Melissa Russo about their fear of receiving food stamps for their U.S. citizen children in light of a greater fear: deportation.  The NBC4 I Team story shows scenes in LSA’s food pantry and classrooms.

Staff at LSA have been working closely with families concerned about shifting immigration policies, including conducting “Know Your Rights” workshops and connecting families to free legal consultation through partner organizations.  In addition, we are assuring families who are struggling with food insecurity that they can feel safe visiting our food pantry for assistance.

Watch and read the full report below:

NBC4 New York I-Team: Fearing Deportation, Immigrant Families in Tri-State Are Forgoing Needed Food Benefits

“It scares me because I start to think they have all my info and then at any time they can grab you and then what happens to my kids?” one mother of eight says.

By Melissa Russo

Some needy immigrants in the tri-state area are giving up free food from the government and charitable groups, saying they’d rather risk hunger than deportation.

Several local anti-poverty groups tell the I-Team their immigrant clients are asking for help getting off the food stamp rolls because they fear accepting the benefit will expose them to scrutiny from federal immigration officials.

Like many families with mixed immigration status, the parents are undocumented, from Mexico City, but their three young children were born in America. As U.S. citizens, the children are entitled to $345 a month in food stamps; the benefit will run out at the end of April.

Speaking in his tiny kitchen recently as he prepared burritos for his children, the father told the I-Team he works 70 hours a week in below minimum wage jobs. He says the food stamps have helped him feed his children for the past year. The couple doesn’t have the money to buy the food needed to feed their whole family without the help of the food stamps, but the parents say they want to stay off the radar of federal immigration officials.

“I buy food for my kids. Not for us, for my kids,” the father said. “But right now I am scared because I hear a lot of things around New York.”

Several families tell the I-Team they’d rather eat fewer meals than risk being separated from their children if they face deportation.

Another mother without papers who calls herself “Kristina” has eight children, several of whom are U.S. citizens and qualify for food stamps. She says the community-based non-profit LSA Family Health Service talked her out of canceling the benefits, but she remains fearful.

“It scares me because I start to think they have all my info and then at any time they can grab you and then what happens to my kids?” she says.

Local programs for the poor are conflicted about how to advise their needy clients on this subject. Wengler says he’s not comfortable assuring families that accepting benefits won’t harm them down the road.

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says.

Recent statements by President Trump have fueled the fear, including one that said “those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.” A draft of a White House executive order leaked in February called for potentially expanding the list of benefits by which an immigrant could be defined as a public charge and thus be deported.

A spokesman for the NYC Human Resources Administration, the local agency that administers the federal food stamp program, tells the I-Team their data does not reflect a trend of people discontinuing their benefits. According to HRA, the federal government does not possess a list of local food stamp recipients even though it is a federal program. City officials insist they have no plans to turn over any such lists. But such reassurances only go so far. The I-Team has learned some immigrants are afraid to even accept groceries from community-based food pantries that have no connection to government.

At the West Side Campaign against Hunger, housed in the basement of a West 86th Street church, the freezers are full of tilapia, turkey and fresh produce. Spanish-speaking, grateful grandmothers wheel shopping carts and suitcases from all five boroughs to access the free, nutritious staples offered to the low income clientele. But in recent months, Gregory Silverman, a chef who runs the pantry, has noticed what he describes as an alarming trend.

“We have customers calling on a regular basis asking to have their information taken out of our databases,” he said. “They’re not willing to come in because of fear. And translating the message to them to say, ‘It’s okay,’ is not really that easy.”

Silverman says dozens of clients a week have pulled out of the program, despite staff explaining their database is not viewed by immigration officials.

The NY Common Pantry in East Harlem, which doles out enough groceries to provide about seven meals a month to its customers, has also noticed a downturn. Jose Garcia, a retired father from the Dominican Republic, says this pantry “helps his budget.” Garcia says he no longer encounters some of his fellow immigrants on the food line. He says he worries about some of them who are collecting bottles and cans instead to make ends meet.

“They afraid they getting arrested,” he said.

Some anti-hunger programs in New Jersey describe a similar situation. At the Christ Church Food Pantry in New Brunswick, director Judith Kuldinow says she has lost dozens of immigrant clients.

“It’s sad that in this day in age that people don’t have enough food. That’s exactly why we’re here,” Kuldinow said. “And now we’re one of the people they’re afraid to come to.”

The Trump administration did not respond to a message seeking comment left Thursday morning.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in New York declined comment and referred questions to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). A message was left.


Source: I-Team: Fearing Deportation, Immigrant Families in Tri-State Are Forgoing Needed Food Benefits | NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com/investigations/Immigrant-Identity-Fear-Deportation-New-York-Hunger-Children-Investigation-Food-Stamp-Apply-Benefits-419375124.html#ixzz4eELq9GNU

02 Mar

Associated Press: LSA’s Mental Health Services for Immigrants

Mas alla del miedo

The Associated Press featured LSA in a story on efforts by community groups to expand mental health services to immigrants in the midst of uncertain immigration policies.

Below  is an excerp, followed by the English translation, describing a workshop at LSA called “Más allá del miedo” (Beyond Fear) which included art therapy to help participants process the anxiety they experienced.  The full story can be read here.

Ven aumento de ayuda psicológica a inmigrantes por Trump

Por Claudia Torrens

NUEVA YORK (AP) — El temor a que la deporten y separen de su hija de dos años llevó a la mexicana María Luisa a una sesión de ayuda psicológica.

La terapia llamada “Más allá del miedo” fue organizada por un grupo sin ánimo de lucro de East Harlem, en Manhattan, que busca aliviar el estrés que la política migratoria del presidente Donald Trump ha generado en los inmigrantes.

“Sentí que podía hablar, expresar mis miedos”, dijo la hispana de 34 años que prefirió no dar su apellido. “Pude compartir ideas y me tranquilizó ver a otras madres con el mismo sentir que yo”.

Desde que Trump ganó las elecciones en noviembre la necesidad de asistencia psicológica para los inmigrantes es mayor que nunca, aseguraron activistas y psicólogos, aunque aún no hay datos estadísticos disponibles. Miedo, ansiedad y depresión son los síntomas que han visto en ascenso entre la población inmigrante tras las redadas ocurridas recientemente en todo el país y las órdenes ejecutivas que tienen por objetivo la expulsión de los extranjeros sin autorización.

“La necesidad de ayuda psicológica siempre ha estado ahí, pero tras las elecciones y las acciones ejecutivas de Trump el miedo ha aumentado”, dijo Theo Oshiro, vicedirector de Make The Road New York, un grupo que por primera vez está organizando sesiones grupales para inmigrantes con una psicóloga voluntaria.

Aproximadamente 125 de los 171 miembros de un programa de padres y jóvenes de Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, en East Harlem, han manifestado un aumento en la ansiedad debido a las políticas migratorias de Trump, aseguró la portavoz del grupo. Por ello se iniciaron las sesiones de “Más allá del miedo” de las que participan unas 16 madres y donde se sirve café con panecillos, huele a incienso y se oye música relajante.

“Tengo pacientes que no quieren enviar a sus hijos a la escuela”, dijo Mónica Sánchez, la terapeuta que dirige las sesiones. “Decidimos organizar ‘Más allá del miedo’ porque vimos un aumento de personas que tenían miedo, ansiedad. Queríamos decirles que no están solos”.

En la sesión Sánchez entrega un papel y lápices de colores a las participantes y les pide que expresen sus temores a través de un dibujo. Pueden cerrar los ojos y trazar garabatos o dibujar libremente con todo detalle.

“Algunas pintan un círculo negro y lo rayan y dicen ‘no veo nada*. Otras lo describen como un remolino”, explicó.

“Yo pinté un círculo rojo porque me da miedo la sangre y la violencia”, dijo María Luisa.

Durante la reunión, que dura dos horas, a algunas se les quiebra la voz al hablar y lloran tímidamente. Sobre el final del encuentro Sánchez destaca la necesidad de estar preparado para una posible deportación en lugar de quedarse paralizado. …

More Mental Health Support for Immigrants Due to Trump

by Claudia Torrens

NEW YORK (AP) – Fear of being deported and separated from her two-year-old daughter led Mexican Maria Luisa to a mental health counseling session.

The “Beyond Fear” therapy was hosted by a nonprofit group in East Harlem, Manhattan, which seeks to alleviate the stress President Donald Trump’s immigration policy has generated on immigrants.

“I felt I could speak, express my fears,” said the 34-year-old Hispanic woman who chose not to give her last name. “I was able to share ideas and I was relieved to see other mothers with the same feeling as me.”

Since Trump won the November election, the need for psychological assistance for immigrants is greater than ever, activists and psychologists say, although statistics are not yet available. Fear, anxiety and depression are the symptoms they have seen rising among the immigrant population following recent raids across the country and executive orders aimed at the expulsion of foreigners without documentation.

“The need for psychological help has always been there, but after the election and executive actions of Trump, the fear has increased,” said Theo Oshiro, deputy director of Make The Road New York, a group that, for the first time, is organizing group sessions for immigrants with a volunteer psychologist.

Approximately 125 of the 171 members of a program of parents and young people at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service in East Harlem have expressed an increase in anxiety due to Trump’s immigration policies, the spokeswoman said. For that reason, the “Beyond Fear” sessions were started, with 16 mothers participating thus far. Coffee and muffins are served; one can smell of incense and hear relaxing music.

“I have patients who do not want to send their children to school,” said Monica Sanchez, the therapist who runs the sessions. “We decided to organize ‘Beyond Fear’ because we saw an increase in people who were afraid, anxious. We wanted to tell them that they are not alone.”

In the session Sánchez gives a paper and colored pencils to the participants and asks them to express their fears through a drawing. Participants can close their eyes and draw intuitively or draw freely in full detail.

“Some paint a black circle and scratch it and say ‘I do not see anything.” Others describe it as a whirlwind,” she said.

“I painted a red circle because I am afraid of blood and violence,” said Maria Luisa.

During the meeting, which lasts two hours, some people’s voices break as they speak and cry timidly. At the end of the meeting Sánchez stresses the need to be prepared for a possible deportation instead of being paralyzed by fear.

20 Jun

Mount Sinai Partner Spotlight

June 20, 2016 — LSA was featured as a “partner Spotlight” in the Mount Sinai  Performing Provider System’s newsletter.  As stated on their website, the Mount Sinai Performing Provider System (MSPPS) “is responsible for developing an organization infrastructure sustainable to support the planning and implementation of ten clinical projects, each tied to the goal of reducing avoidable hospitalizations. … By leveraging DSRIP, this network of providers is organizing into an advanced primary care model that creates patient-centered medical homes throughout regional hubs in our communities, while simultaneously preserving current patient relationships with providers.”

Issue #65: MSPPS Vision; CBO Spotlight: LSA Family Health Service | Monday, June 20, 2016

Partner Spotlight: Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service

LSA Family Health Service (LSA) has a 58-year history in East Harlem, and those who have interacted with the community-based organization are still touched and affected today by the generosity and compassion it shows to the community. Traci Lester,  LSA’s CEO, shared that whether waiting for a subway or attending a conference, she often runs into past employees and clients of the agency who share how impactful the organization has been on their lives. LSA continues to play a significant role in the East Harlem community and beyond. In fact about 2,300 families were  served by LSA in the last year alone.

LSA’s programs focus on low-income families, especially those with young children. Today, the organization has grown significantly since it was first established in 1958,  and offers a range of  diverse programs. These include  an advocacy and food pantry program, environmental health services, education and youth services, preventive services, parenting and child development workshops and early intervention supports, and nursing. There is also a thrift store – the Sharing Place — which provides clothing and household items to those in need.

LSA is excited to engage in DSRIP. According to Lester, “LSA is ramping up to be an active participant in DSRIP. We are going through our own internal review and strategy planning to get our programs up to speed on DSRIP, so when this goes live we are ready.” LSA wants others to be aware that they are “in it to win it” and are prepared to be successful with this endeavor.

Participation in 2.b.viii

LSA participates in Project 2.b.viii, Hospital Home Care Collaboration Solutions, with their Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA), which focuses on pre-natal, post-partum, newborn, and pediatric assessments. The agency is integral to the East Harlem Community, providing nursing for 100 patients at a time, about 2,500 home visits per year. The CHHA is operated primarily through a referral process and physicians from Mount Sinai have utilized LSA’s services by referring their patients. Patients are also eligible through fax and phone-in referrals as well as walk-ins.

Shevon Skinner, Director of Patient Services, has identified some gaps within the referral process that she’s hoping DSRIP will help alleviate. One major issue deals with the delayed communication between the primary physician and inpatient medical team surrounding the hospitalization and discharge plans of the patient. For example, often times the inpatient physician refers the patient to home care service, while  the primary care physician is unaware. This can create potential challenges when the nurse needs to provide updates to the provider regarding the patient’s status.

At the moment, LSA has created a temporary fix to the problem. During the first visit, the nurse provides the patient with a brief notification letter to be given to the doctor on the patient’s first follow-up appointment following hospital discharge. This notification letter allows the physician to be informed of the referral to LSA’s home care and of services being provided by the nurses. It also allows the community provider to alert the nurses of any changes in care needed or any updates to treatment orders. According to Skinner,[This method] does present its own challenges as it depends on the patient remembering to take the notification letter to the outpatient doctor.” However in most cases she has found it to be a helpful addition to the process.”

LSA’s Involvement with DSRIP

Employees of LSA are hopeful that DSRIP will allow them to transform and provide the community based organizations with great opportunities for which they would otherwise not be eligible. Russell Nobles, Chief of Program Operations, said of DSRIP, “LSA’s DSRIP Connection with Mount Sinai is extremely important to us as a CBO. Several of our programs are directly funded by Medicaid. We consider  the restructuring of Medicaid and the delivery of services to be of paramount importance, from our economic stability to the way we function and organize ourselves. We want to be as much of a part of this process as we can possibly be.”

LSA is also hoping to gain better connectivity among other CBOs with DSRIP. Being located in East Harlem allows LSA the opportunity to integrate with other CBOs in close proximity. Lester said of this integration, “We each have our own special area we focus on, and together it makes for a  great collaboration among the agencies. It is really important to collaborate and to keep our fingers on the pulse of these changes as they’re occurring.”

LSA Family Health Service Inc. actively participates in projects 2bviii and 2ci.

Read the full article on the MSPPS website.

12 Apr

LSA Parent joins GOOD+ on Good Morning America

LSA and Good+ on Good Morning America

LSA parent Maricarmen Reyes joined Jessica Seinfeld of the GOOD+ Foundation on Good Morning America.

GOOD+ Foundation pairs tangible goods (like strollers, diapers, and cribs) with transformational services, like those offered by LSA.  After 15 years working under the name Baby Buggy, the organization has changed its name to Good+ Foundation, in recognition of the expanded scope of its services.

Through our Nursing and Parenting programs — and thanks to GOOD+ — LSA parent Maricarmen Reyes received a number of items to help her care for her children. She joined Good+ founder Jessica Seinfeld to talk about how their services made a difference for her.

We thank GOOD+ Foundation for their invaluable contributions to LSA families!

Watch the video 

19 Jan

A Lively Little Girl Needs a Kidney Donor: New York Times

The New York Times featured the Campos family as part of their Neediest Cases campaign. Below is an excerpt of the original story.  A follow-up story with New Yorkers profiled in the campaign, including the Campos family, can be seen here.

Donate to support LSA programs for families

A Lively Little Girl Needs a Kidney Donor

The Neediest Cases
by Jonathan Wolfe.  December 30, 2015

The day that Edgar Campos brought his wife and newborn girl home from the hospital was bittersweet.

Mr. Campos was overjoyed to have his family under the same roof for the first time, especially his wife, Amalia, 24, who spent almost a week in the hospital with pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and potential organ damage.

“But that moment of happiness was very brief,” Mr. Campos, 29, said.

An hour after his wife arrived, he left to take his older daughter, Maria Guadalupe, 4, to the hospital for a medical procedure. “It was hard to leave those few minutes of happiness,” he said. “It was really very painful.”

Maria learned in April that she had kidney failure. There is no cure. The only remedies are dialysis, a temporary solution, or a kidney transplant. The trip to the hospital that day was to put in a catheter that would be used for her dialysis.

Mr. Campos graduated in June with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from New York City College of Technology, but he has had a difficult time finding employment.

“You have to be completely dedicated to your job, and sometimes I have to drop everything and take Maria Guadalupe to the hospital,” said Mr. Campos, who receives help with his job search from theCatholic Guild for the Blind. “It’s difficult because now we’re having economic problems.”

Mr. Campos and Maria each receive $750 a month in Supplemental Security Income, and the family receives $250 a month in food stamps. Their rent is $550 a month, and Mr. and Mrs. Campos share a cellphone.

Medicaid pays for most of the family’s medical expenses, and they receive nonfinancial support from the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, which provides social services for vulnerable East Harlem residents.

“I’m asking the public to help me,” Mrs. Campos added, shifting her newborn across her lap to wipe tears from her eyes. “Have pity on me as a mother. I don’t want to see my daughter suffer. Have pity on my daughter. One kidney can completely change her life.”

Read the full story at nytimes.com

Donate to support LSA programs for families

11 Dec

NY1 Noticias: Asma en NYC

NY1Noticias with Ray Lopez

La comunidad latina es la que más acude al hospital por el asma en NY

In NY, the Latino community has the highest rate of asthma-related hospital visits

Thursday, December 10, 2015 – NY1 Noticias reporter Jessica Cruz-Gharnit inteviewed Ray Lopez, our Director of Environmental Health Services, about the high rates of asthma in the Latino community and what families can do.

2015-12-11 NY1Noticias

La comunidad latina es la que más acude al hospital por el asma en NY

30 Oct

Environmental Justice: Reducing Asthma Triggers

LSA’s Ray López and Amanda López are co-authors of a recent article on reducing childhood asthma triggers in public housing.  As reported in the journal Environmental Justice, children with asthma living in low-income, urban public housing had significantly fewer visits to the emergency department (ED), less use of rescue medication, and less disrupted sleep with a program that combines home repairs to reduce asthma triggers, training, and comprehensive care, called Controlling Asthma Through Home Remediation.

Reducing Childhood Asthma Triggers in Public Housing: Implementation and Outcomes from an East Harlem Community Health Worker Program

López Ray, Chantarat Tongtan, Bozack Anne, López Amanda, and Weiss Linda. Environmental Justice. October 2015, 8(5): 185-191. doi:10.1089/env.2015.0017.

Published in Volume: 8 Issue 5: October 22, 2015


There are significant disparities in asthma prevalence and management in New York City (NYC). Children living in the low income, largely minority neighborhood of East Harlem are almost 13 times more likely to have an asthma related emergency department visit compared to children on the Upper East Side, an adjacent high income neighborhood. The disparities in asthma prevalence and control are in part attributable to environmental conditions, including housing, which in low-income communities is often poorly maintained, resulting in mold, pests, and other asthma triggers. Controlling Asthma through Home Remediation (CAHR), a program of LSA Family Health Service (LSAFHS), offers remediation and repair, training, and comprehensive case management to East Harlem families that have children with severe and/or persistent asthma and live in NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) public housing. Preliminary findings, based on pre-post assessments of 60 CAHR children, include statistically significant reductions in nighttime awakenings, emergency department visits, and rescue medication use. There were reductions in daytime asthma symptoms and improvements in household conditions; however, they were not statistically significant. Recognizing the limited reach of individual level services, LSAFHS also advocates for system-wide changes across NYCHA. Citing the Americans with Disabilities Act and its relevance to individuals with asthma, LSAFHS, in partnership with other community-based organizations and public interest attorneys, reached a settlement with NYCHA in 2013 that resulted in policy changes mandating expedited repairs of leaks, mold, and related issues. Monitoring the impact of these changes is ongoing. A hope is for replication of advocacy efforts in other cities.

Read the full article on Environmental Justice

Download a PDF

20 Oct

Wall Street Journal Ad

2015-10-17 Wall Street Journal Ad
October 18-19, 2015 – The Wall Street Journal ran a full page ad, probono, in its weekend edition to advertise our 2015 Spirit of East Harlem gala.

25 Sep

NYPost: Heeding Pope Francis’ call to alms

A New York Post story on Catholic charities and fundraising in context of Pope Francis’ US tour includes a quote from Reada Edelstein, LSA Family Health Services’ Director of Development and Communications.


Heeding his call to alms

Published online as: Pope Francis’ visit to America has been a God-send for charities
By Georgett Roberts, Nicolas Fernandes and Laura Italiano

September 25, 2015 | 1:50am

Donors across New York and the rest of the country are heeding Pope Francis’ call to help the poor.

“We’ve seen an incredible spike in our traffic, and we’re just so excited right now,” said Marshall Connelly, spokesman for the Catholic Online news service.

“People are coming to us to read about the pope, and the giving from people does pick up,” said Connelly, whose Web site is a portal to Catholic charities around the world devoted to alleviating poverty.

The pontiff has called on Catholics to fight global hunger, illiteracy and homelessness, saying this past October that prayers alone are not enough.

It was a theme he picked up again in his speech to Congress Thursday, when he urged the faithful and the government to “keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty.”

It appears to be working.

One in four Catholics across the country say they have increased their charitable giving, according to a recent survey by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, a nonprofit that promotes philanthropy.

Of those, one in four, or a full 77 percent, say Francis is the reason they are digging deeper, the survey found.

At Habitat for Humanity, an anonymous donor provided $60,000 specifically for the construction of a series of “Pope Francis Houses” across the country, organizers told The Post.

Local Catholic charities were hope for a blessing, as well.

“We fully expect that the pope’s message about caring for the poor will absolutely resonate with our donors and lead to greater giving,” said Reada Edelstein, spokeswoman for Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service in East Harlem.

Her group is a neighbor to Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic School, where the pope will visit Friday. Many of the group’s client families have kids at the school.

“Our clients pretty much all live below the poverty level. They’re really struggling,” she said. “So the work we do is very much what the pope is calling for.”
Businesses, too, are joining in.

Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the country, has donated 150,000 pounds of food in Francis’ honor, to be split evenly for food pantries and shelters in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia, the three cities he is visiting.

“Pope Francis’ visit calls all of us to help those less fortunate, said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic charities in the New York Archdiocese, which is working with Goya.

The “Pope Effect” hasn’t quite reached street level, though.

Panhandlers at busy begging spots along 125th Street, 14th Street and near Penn Station and the Port Authority on Thursday were saying, “Pope? Nope.”

“Please!” said Milwilda Vansquez, 49, rolling her eyes as she begged at 125th Street and Park Avenue. “Nobody offers me s- -t.”

Additional reporting by Megan McGibney, Gillian Kleiman

Read the story online at NYPost.com

25 Sep

NY Daily News: Pope Francis’ visit to East Harlem

NY Daily News coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to East Harlem includes references to LSA Family Health Service and quotes from Sr. Susanne Lachapelle and an LSA family.

Huge crowd greeted Pope Francis at East Harlem school, where he offered blessing to immigrants



Updated: Friday, September 25, 2015, 5:33 PM

A massive crowd of excited kids waving yellow papal flags greeted Pope Francis outside the East Harlem school he visited Friday afternoon.

The exuberant students clamored for the attention of the smiling Pope, who spent seven minutes laughing and touching hands with them as they took endless cell phone pictures.

Accompanied by a bevy of Catholic charity officials and local politicians, the pope entered the school as kids sang “When the Saints Go Marching In,” although they changed the words for his final steps to “When the pope goes marching in.”

Nearly two dozen schoolkids waited inside to show him their science projects, most of which were about the environment and climate change — one of several causes dear to Pope Francis.

Many addressed him in his native Spanish, others in English, as he moved through the room, taking time with each student.

He also stopped for a moment to give a blessing to New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, to shake hands with Dante DeBlasio and exchange a few words in Spanish with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito.

Before he began his prepared remarks, he got a welcome from some soccer team members who put on a brief display for him.

Then a group of immigrant construction workers gifted him with a hard hat.

“We are the workers, we welcome you, we are immigrants, many from your country,” said one of the workers in Spanish.

“We are proud to receive you in this moment as your family,” he said, to the beaming pontiff.

Among the lucky few able to meet the pope was sister Sister Susanne Lachapelle, a nun who works in East Harlem at a health center run by Little Sisters of the Assumption.

She said his decision to visit the section of Harlem known as “El Barrio” wasn’t a coincidence.

Catholic nuns with the Little Sisters of the Assumption branch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, came to stay with Pope Francis’ mother when he was born 78 years ago, Lachapelle said.

“He (Pope Francis) never forgot that,” Lachapelle said of the sisters who stayed with Francis’ mother through childbirth and for two weeks after.

“When (Pope Francis’) sister was born, they did the same thing,” the nun added.

Lachapelle, who is in regular contact with representatives from the Argentinian branch of LSA, also said that Pope Francis has an LSA crucifix on his bedside table and that he has regularly been celebrating jubilees together with the sisterhood in Buenos Aires.

Lachapelle launched a letter-writing campaign to the Pope when she found out he was coming to New York.

She had children using LSA’s services write 295 letters to him asking him to at least pass by the clinic in his motorcade.

“When we found it that he was actually coming here I couldn’t believe it. It was like a miracle,” Lachapelle said.

Pope Francis, whose progressive views have captured the world’s attention, offered a special blessing in East Harlem to refugees and immigrants — including those living here illegally.

It’s a message that resonated with Martina Juarez, a Mexican immigrant who lives in El Barrio and has relied on LSA’s various services for the past decade.

She and her family were chosen by LSA to meet Pope Francis along with Lachapelle — and they were thrilled they’ll be able to speak directly to him in Spanish.

Juarez’ daughter, Fabiola Garcia, 12, the only family member who knew English, said they were “amazed” by this whole experience.

“I was watching TV and then my mom got a phone call,” said Fabiola, who has attended LSA programs all her life. “I was curious about what the call was about but she wouldn’t tell us. She kept writing things down in the calendar.”

Fabiola said that her mom didn’t tell her that they were going to meet the pope until two days later.

“I was amazed and curious and just kept asking questions,” she said.

Thousands of others who hoped for at least a glimpse of Pope Francis were waiting outside Our Lady Queen of Angels School when he exited.

Sofia Ramos, 7, her mother Adriana Vidal and her cousin Abigail Lopez arrived before noon. Sofia wore a shirt with the Pope’s picture on it.

It also carried a handwritten message — “I love you” — next to a heart.

She said she wanted to tell the pope he was “a nice man.”

Her mother, who has a sister and brother-in-law who were forced to return to Mexico — leaving behind their children — also hoped the pope could do something to help the immigrant community.

Read the story online at NYDailyNews.com

Download PDF