For the fourth summer in a row, the Mineo family of Lindenhurst will welcome at least one city-dwelling teenager into their home for a week.
"I have three sons, and I thought it would be nice for them to see how other people live," Joann Mineo said of her decision to host Mohamed, 14, of the Bronx, for the third time. "We like Mohamed, and he fits in well with our family."
The Mineos participate in the Fresh Air Fund's volunteer host family program, Friendly Towns. The independent, not-for-profit agency has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.
In 2014, 184 Long Island families hosted 185 children. Sixty-five percent of all children in the program are reinvited to stay with the same host families year after year.
Each summer, more than 4,000 children visit families in rural, suburban and small-town communities across 13 states and Canada. Children between the ages of 6 and 18 are selected for the program based on financial need.
Joann and Michael Mineo and their three sons aged 13, 14, and 15, first welcomed Mohamed into their home in 2012. The next year, Mohamed and a second boy, Sevan, both visited the Mineos. Last year, Mohamed was unable to visit so another boy named C.J. spent a week with the Lindenhurst family.
The Mineos plan to host Mohamed again the first week of August.
Joann Mineo said accommodating Mohamed helps teach her own children to be grateful for what they have. Mohamed appreciates the "little things," like the family's backyard, including their swimming pool. He also likes riding a bike and walking the family's longhair Chihuahua, Bella, she said.
"Just going to Target was fun to him. You don't realize city kids don't have the stores," she said. "He was interested in seeing all the houses because he's used to seeing all buildings."
In an interview, Mohamed said the program is "a good thing." He said he particularly enjoys playing basketball with the Mineo boys and swimming in their pool.
"I really like the family because I think it's a perfect fit for me," he said, noting that the Mineo brothers are around his age. "We can relate."
Yvonne Patterson-Quirk, chairwoman of Islip Friendly Town, which encompasses the towns of Islip and Babylon, said she was a "Fresh Air child" many years ago. Patterson-Quirk, who grew up in Manhattan, remembers staying with a host family in Pennsylvania.
This will be the fifth year she has hosted a child and her third year as chairwoman.
"I decided it was time for me to give back in any way that I could," she said.
The organization is always looking for volunteer host families, she said.
"We hope that people will consider looking into the program and opening up their heart and their home to a child from the city," she said.
There are no financial requirements for hosting a child and families that house children aren't paid. Those interested in becoming a volunteer host family can visit www.freshair.org.