Alumni Alana Fernandes, Mahorr Levi and Francesca Prainito graduated in May from the Stony Brook School of Health Professions with degrees in occupational therapy, and their final project is leaving a lasting legacy for the communities of the North Fork.
The trio, along with classmate Ashliane Vazquez, helped set up a permanent free toy lending library running out of Greenport’s Floyd Memorial Library, obtaining the toys through donations from their peers.
“It’s a win-win all the way around,” said children’s librarian Vicky Kotula. “The students who put the program together got a lot of real-world, practical experience. We got toys for free to pass on to the community.”
The project supports early childhood development and parent-child relationships. The lending library currently has 16 toys for children with ages ranging from birth to three months, including books, puzzles and stackable toys meant to help strengthen fine motor skills, balance coordination, problem-solving and cognition.
“The toys that we chose are toys that will help parents and kids bond through play,” Prainito said. “They’ll help with building strength and children’s muscles, work on children’s balance, hand dexterity and coordination and problem solving skills. As occupational therapists, we know that play helps brain development, so it’s a population that can really use play for building skills and development.”
Fernandes, Levi and Prainito were all third-year students of Hannah Mercier’s Service-Learning Capstone course in the occupational therapy program. Mercier has her graduate OT students consult with community organizations about various needs in the community and help them meet that need.
The class organized 15 projects altogether this past semester, including a repair café, a free meeting place where community members and expert volunteers can access tools to repair furniture, clothing, appliances and more.
Read the full story in The Suffolk Times.