Advocates Host Holiday Party for Former Inmates, Families in LIC

One Queens nonprofit is connecting formerly-incarcerated individuals with their loved ones this holiday season and beyond. NY1's Reena Diamante has the story.

Barbara Biscaino and her daughter spend every holiday at the Fortune Society.

They capture precious moments in a few snapshots, decorate holiday stockings, and create positive memories.

"If it wasn't for the Fortune Society, we still would be in a homeless shelter," said Biscaino, a client at the nonprofit. "They took us out and they welcomed up into the Fortune Society with open arms."

Biscaino is among dozens of Fortune clients and loved ones who spent a pre-Christmas celebration in Long Island City on Saturday.

The nonprofit's mission is to ease re-entry for New Yorkers with a history in the criminal justice system by providing housing, employment opportunities, and family services.

"Our organization is a family onto to itself, and because we're family onto ourselves, when we see people that are in need, we automatically reach out," said Virginia Lasoski-Nepa, the senior director of Family Services & Admissions at the Fortune Society.

The nonprofit reaches out to those who may be starting to rebuild relationships with their families or may not have their own place to celebrate the holiday season.

"To see all these kids playing around and receiving gifts, some families don't have it to receive, and so this is beautiful thing that Fortune Society does," said Julio Mendoza, another client at the Fortune Society.

"This doesn’t really happen most often. Like some people don’t get to do this. People don’t really have money for it,” said one 11-year-old who attended the event. “So like when things like this happen you have to use the opportunity."

The party is just one of many events held at the Fortune Society year-round.

Families are able to bond in a safe and supportive environment, and staff members said it gives some a second chance.

"Whether you've been incarcerated or not, it's a mistake and after you go back and you do better the second time or a third time. Whatever it takes," Lasoski-Nepa said. "Some people don't get it right away. Other people do. So we're here for every single step of that way."

"Sometimes I get a little funk and I may feel a down and depressed, but through the Fortune Society they bring me out of that they always have something for us to do," Biscaino said.

It also gives them something to look forward to every holiday season.

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