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Branch recognized for community workshops after Sandy

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They’ve been lending more than books at the library in Sheepshead Bay — in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the branch also lent a hand to the surrounding community, depite getting flooded itself.

That work has been rewarded with a $10,000 grant to the Sheepshead Bay branch from the Charles Revson Foundation, which cited the book lender’s efforts to ease the suffering of area residents following the turmoil created by the superstorm.

“Last fall I was able to overcome my psychological stress caused by Hurricane Sandy only thanks to Sheepshead Bay Library,” a local resident wrote in a letter to the foundation nominating the branch for the competitive grant. “Those workshops helped me to come back to myself and get back to my daily routines and reality as a human being.”

The Sheepshead Bay branch was inundated in the storm surge, and lost the majority of the non-fiction selection in the flooding, but it reopened soon after the storm passed, offering workshops aimed at psychological healing.

“The workshop was to express your emotions through poetry, writing, and arts and craft,” said branch manager Svetlana Negrimonvskaya. “I knew that we wouldn’t only be an information, recreation, and cultural center, but we had a more important mission to become a lifeboat for the community in times of distress.”

More than 4,300 nominations were received by the foundation, a Manhattan-based fund created by the late founder of Revlon that aids exceptional libraries through its Urban Affairs program. The Sheepshead Bay branch was selected as one of 10 finalists, which were then whittled down by a panel of judges including famed “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine, which selected the E. 14 Street book lender as one of five grant recipients.

The winners were selected based on qualities typically sought in libraries, including the attitude of librarians and the noise levels inside, with points going to those branches with the most subdued ambiance. But in the case of the Sheepshead Bay branch, the foundation gave special consideration to the workshops created there to help Sandy victims after the storm.

Negrimonvskaya, a resident of Sheepshead Bay, suffered losses of her own from Sandy — both property damage and devastation of a more sentimental nature.

“I lost many old pictures of my children when they were young,” said Negrimonvskaya. “I went through this pain and disaster, so when we reopened, I knew what kind of help and service I had to provide for the community.”

Negrimonvskaya created workshops for children and adults aimed at easing the psychological trauma of seeing entire neighborhoods turned upside down. The branch manager recalled that much of her own healing came through her work with local kids.

“It helped me to see the children laugh,” she said.

The $10,000 grant will help restock shelves laid bare by the storm, but Negrimonvskaya said locals should also plan on penciling in a concert on their calendars sometime soon.

“We are so glad to have the money, and we have big plans,” she said. “This money will help us to hire professional entertainers and musicians to perform for the community.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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