Though the wreckage wrought by Hurricane Sandy last fall happened a thousand miles away, two St. Mary of the Hill Parish, Hubertus, teens knew they wanted to help.
The fruits of their labor: Collections that totaled $500, nine boxes of new and used books and another nine boxes of supplies for two kindergarten classes at Guardian Angel School in Manhattan that were delivered by Amtrack in early March.
“I think we succeeded. We got so much stuff,” said Angealic Kaye, one half of the duo who organized the collection. “It makes me feel great that I know they are getting help.”
Kaye and her partner in giving, Nicole Conforti, are confirmation classmates at St. Mary of the Hill and juniors at Hartford Union High School. They will be confirmed Sunday, June 2 at St. Kilian Parish, Hartford.
“I learned how fortunate I am,” Conforti told your Catholic Herald in an interview earlier this year. “It just means so much to me that we’re collecting all this for them, and I hope it means 100 times more to them.”
“I learned that it feels great to help others out. It feels good to be able to share my faith with others and live Jesus’s words and live out my faith,” Kaye said.
While their faith led them to organize the supply drive that concluded in mid-January, both noted they reached out for donations from the community beyond their parish and were pleased with the response.
“People who are donating – they’re not just Catholic people. We are all coming in as one to help people who really need it,” Conforti said.
Kaye was in her sociology class at Hartford Union High School when she first heard about Hurricane Sandy during the daily current events time.
When she saw the television news later, the devastation astonished her.
“I couldn’t even imagine if it happened to our town – I don’t know how we would pull through it,” said Kaye, the daughter of Lori and Rocky Kaye, Hartford.
Kaye, 17, and the other eight students of this year’s confirmation class at St. Mary of the Hill Parish were deciding what to do for the required 20-hour confirmation service project.
Conforti found out she and Kaye were thinking the same thing: Do something to help people who lost things in the hurricane.
Conforti, 16, heard about the hurricane from her parents, Sue and Dave Conforti of Erin.
“I don’t even know what I was supposed to think – it was so horrible,” she said.
Kaye volunteers as a religious education teacher for the kindergarten level at St. Mary of the Hills, so she knew the teacher for that age group used a lot of hands-on supplies.
“That kind of made me want to help other kindergarteners that were affected by it.” Kaye said.
Tammy Streitmatter, director of religious education at the 500-member parish located at the foot of Holy Hill, learned the 4-year-old and 5-year-old kindergarten rooms at one Manhattan school had been flooded with 14 feet of water.
In fact, the basement of the 101-year-old Guardian Angel School in the Chesea area of Manhattan had been flooded, including the cafeteria that also serves as an auditorium and gym space. The school kitchen, boiler room and storage rooms containing the main hubs for electrical, phone and Internet systems also suffered damage.
Through a lot of hard work, the school reopened on the Monday following the hurricane, but repairs and donations are ongoing, said Christie Perez, assistant principal of Guardian Angel.
“The outreach has been remarkable; it’s been amazing,” she said.
As required by the confirmation program, Conforti and Kaye asked for donations at various Masses. But they also established contacts at area schools and put up fliers explaining their project and soliciting donations of markers, glue, poster board, new and used books, crayons, scissors and teaching supplies such as hands-on activities, posters and classroom decorations.
“They (asked) the community, too, to help. It’s very neat to see how their minds are working. They’ve really thought outside the box on this,” Streitmatter said.
Kaye and Conforti established a contact at each school and had a box set up at St. Vincent de Paul for donations. The girls even called various companies to find out if they had any leftover school supplies from last fall that they would consider donating.
The parish human concerns committee supported their effort with a $200 donation.
The girls considered delivering the supplies themselves, but found it would be hard to get away during the school year. They then tried to hitch a ride for their supplies by contacting companies that might be sending trucks to Manhattan for usual deliveries.
Supplies not needed by Guardian Angel will be given to other schools hit by the hurricane.
“I think it’s an example of two girls practicing their faith in everyday life and making a difference. I think we live somewhat sheltered lives. It makes them kind of go out of their box, out of their comfort zone, ” said Lori Kaye, who also teaches religious education at their parish.
“I think it’s a bigger project, but between the two of them, they’ve handled it,” Sue Conforti said. “I think I just noticed that people are very giving and would like to help.”