Action helps staffer’s family hit hard by Hurricane Maria

Submitted by Mary Babbles

In the days leading up to Hurricane Maria making landfall in Puerto Rico it seemed the whole country was waiting, watching, and worrying but none more so than those at Holy Family School in Syracuse.

You might ask yourself why an elementary school in Upstate New York would be any more concerned this time. Like all of our Catholic schools, Holy Family always keeps those affected by natural disasters in its thoughts and prayers but this time it was different. This time it was personal. It was personal because of one of Holy Family’s longest serving and most beloved staff members, Mrs. Madalyn Figueroa Thomas.

She has worked at Holy Family for almost two decades — first for the Early

Childhood Education program and currently as a teacher’s aide in a Pre-K classroom. Miss Maddy, as she is known to the students, is the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants and has a large family that still lives in Puerto Rico. Her family is from the municipality of Yabucoa, in the eastern region where Hurricane Maria made its landfall.

“When we realized the magnitude of the devastation that Hurricane Maria would bring to Puerto Rico, and specifically to Maddy’s family, we knew we needed to do something for them,” said Liz Infanti, second-grade teacher and founder of the school’s Helping Hands club.

Holy Family’s Helping Hands is a group of students in kindergarten through Grade 6 that meets monthly to perform service projects and acts of kindness. Putting their heads together, faculty members and students came up with ideas of ways to raise money.

Principal Sister Christina Marie Luczynski, CSSF, was all for the group’s first project of the 2017-2018 school year being a benefit for Mrs. Figueroa Thomas’ family. The Helping Hands “Popcorn For Puerto Rico” fundraiser sold cups full of popcorn for $1 apiece during Friday lunch periods for three eeks in October.

The group also accepted donations from the school community toward the cause. During the three weeks the Helping Hands raised $1,600 in popcorn sales and donations.

“The students loved that they could directly be a part of the effort to help Miss Maddy’s family whether it was helping with the sales or by purchasing some popcorn. They all adore her!” Mrs. Infanti said. “Our school community never lets us down and they really proved it this time. Their generosity and support is incredible. I know it may sound clichéd but Maddy is “family” and when your family needs help you help.”

Throughout the “Popcorn For Puerto Rico” project Mrs. Figueroa Thomas repeatedly expressed her appreciation for all that the students and school community were doing on her family’s behalf.

She stated, “ Hurricane Marie has been a terrible disaster for my family, a true hardship for them. They lost their homes and are struggling to get back on their feet. They have been without power and water since the hurricane and they may not get services back until sometime next year. I would like to thank Holy Family School, the families and the staff who have come together with prayers and the financial assistance that helped me to purchase emergency basic needs and food items that were so desperately needed now.

“My family here in Syracuse so very much appreciates all that Holy Family has done for us. A special thanks to Helping Hands, Mrs. Infanti and Mrs. Babbles that have helped make a difference for my family in Puerto Rico.”

Mary Babbles is an art teacher at Holy Family School.

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