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Sharon Ferrari, right, is Shamika Jenkins' host mother for the two weeks Shamika is in central New York as a Fresh Air Fund child. Sharon and her husband, Paul, have hosted Shamika for the past four years. Shamika plays with Sharon as they visit the home of David Kirk in King Ferry to see a treehouse Sharon's son Jonathan is building.

July 10, 1999

POPLAR RIDGE — For Shamika Jenkins and the Ferrari family, it's not altogether unlike the fabled city mouse who meets the country mouse.

Fields in place of skyscrapers, ponds in place of fountains and fishing in lieu of watching television are but a few juxtapositions this shy, young girl from Queens has had the opportunity to experience thanks to an inner-city assistance program called the Fresh Air Fund.

"She thinks the country smells, and I think the city smells. So it's kind of funny that way," said host sister Michaela Ferrari, 13, of Poplar Ridge. 

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"And I hate bugs," Jenkins added, cringing with even the thought of the moths host mother Sharon Ferrari swatted out of her bedroom that morning around 4 a.m.

It's these kinds of experiences that the Fresh Air Fund, an independent, nonprofit agency serving New York City youths, aims to provide for disadvantaged children like Shamika. Close to 6,000 children in 1999 will visit volunteer host families in rural and suburban areas across 13 states.

"Many of (the kids) have never left the city," said Jeanine Birchenough, co-chairwoman of the Fresh Air Fund. 

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— Compiled by David Wilcox

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