Homeless shelter receives Merlin’s Magic Spaces

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MIDDLETOWN – HONOR, a non-profit that has been serving Orange County for approximately 50 years providing shelter and services to homeless families, runaway youths, as well as others in need, was the recipient of the 10th Merlin’s Magic Space in the country, courtesy of Legoland New York and parent company Merlin.

Across the world, there are a total of 50 Merlin’s Magic Spaces. These spaces provide elaborate Lego play areas for children and HONOR’s space also acts as a movie theatre in the evening.

It represents an estimated $80,000 in construction services, materials and Lego bricks.

During the grand opening of the space on Friday at the HONOR facility in the Orange County-owned building neighboring Cornell Cooperative extension, HONOR Executive Director Chris Molinelli, said this space is a large asset and source of joy at a place where many of those they serve are facing very difficult situations.

“To receive the 50th Legoland room, Merlin’s Magic Space, in the world; now, we’re world ranked here,” said Molinelli. “The 10th in the United States is a gift that I never thought that I would ever see happen,” he said.

Sam Labranche and his son Max were of the very first HONOR clients to experience the Merlin Magic Space Friday and we’re pleasantly surprised.

Sam Labranche and his son, Maxc, were the first to check out the new fum

“It was amazing. I was surprised that they put so much money and effort into making a nice place for the kids. It’s a theatre. It’s an interactive playground. It’s really, really cool and [he loved it] Max loved it,” said Labranche.

Legoland New York has faced its fair share of controversy in the county as the theme park is being building Goshen; but, County Executive Steve Neuhaus said he believes their contribution of this space to HONOR shows their dedication to the community and that they are committed to being good neighbors and stewards for the county.

“I’m really impressed. I haven’t seen a company give back as much as they have. They’ve done, already, dinners and big events and fund raisers for groups like HONOR. I think it’s fantastic,” said Neuhaus. “They came here and asked the Orange County community who do you want us to take care of and HONOR was one of the first ones and they embraced them. It’s been the perfect marriage. They just constantly give back to these organizations and to the people that really need it the most,” he said.

HONOR currently provides 15 programs and said they will be announcing two new ones very soon. They served 17,000 people at their food pantry in 2020 and they house up to 130 people per night. They have currently been running their housing at an average 75 percent capacity, but HONOR representatives could not say for certain if this increase was a direct result of COVID.

The Merlin Magic Space is open now this weekend.