A Newark teacher offers a Thanksgiving lesson

Susan Palmucci and her daughter, Madison Cogdell, 12.
Susan Palmucci and her daughter, Madison Cogdell, 12.

Susan Palmucci is a Newark teacher. First grade at the Cleveland School. In the city’s schools for 24 years. But forget her job for a moment. Think of her in a way many people don’t think of teachers–as a woman, as a person who saw an immediate, emergency need and did what she could to help another person–another woman who happened to be the mother of nine, including one of Palmucci’s  students.

“I knew the family had been living in a shelter and then I learned they had finally found a home in public housing,” says Palmucci.

The name of the family won’t be published here, but the teacher says that, despite the work involved in taking care of nine children, the mother is a conscientious parent who is active at the school and its PTA. The youngest of her children is eight months old, the oldest in the 8th grade.

They had found housing just days before Thanksgiving. But that’s all they received–the housing, walls with no furniture.

Susan Palmucci explained, “I was happy they finally were no longer homeless. I picked up a few things and brought them to the housing development where they live. What I saw made me very sad. The kids were so happy to finally have a home but they were sleeping on  blankets. No furniture. No kitchen appliances. Little food.”

Palmucci, a mom herself and a West Orange resident, posted a story Nov. 14 about the family on the Facebook group West Orange 411. She asked whether anyone could donate furniture, bathroom items, appliances–whatever people had that they could spare.

In just a week, she was overwhelmed with offers–so many she didn’t know how she could collect all the donations and deliver them to the family. She called the U-Haul franchise in East Orange and spoke with the manager, Talika Barber. Barber contacted her supervisors and the company agreed–it would donate a truck.

A week later, Susan Palmucci, her daughter Madison Cogdell, 12, and her niece, Simone Wilson, 19,  drove to 43 homes in West Orange to pick up donated items. They filled the truck and ran out of time and muscle to get to all the town’s residents who had offered to make donations.

“I was definitely not expecting such a huge response,” says Palmucci.

When she pulled the truck up in front of the housing development, one of the family’s daughters cried out, “Oooh–look! We have beds.”

Beds and dressers and mirrors and televisions and strollers and food and clothing and everything else that could turn an empty shell into a livable home.

Even a large bag of new toys and, inside the bag were four $100 gift cards at a local supermarket.

” I was so proud and happy of my neighbors in West Orange,” says Palmucci. “It shows what people can do for others, working together. It’s not something I did–but something many people did.”

Some of the household goods, appliances, toys and other donations collected by Susan Palmucci for Thanksgiving.
Some of the household goods, appliances, toys and other donations collected by Susan Palmucci for Thanksgiving.








  1. Lovely story. Thanks Susan….

  2. Kudos!

  3. Susan, what a wonderful, selfless act of kindness and heartwarming how the community responded – God Bless you!
    Nora – a friend of Lou’s

  4. Sue is an amazing teacher, mother and person. She goes above and beyond for her students and Cleveland is very lucky to have her. She is setting such a wonderful example for the children in her family, her students and her community. Love you Sue!

  5. Susan, you rock! God bless you for your love, compassion and kindness. If only the world had more people like you!

  6. What a blessing. Nothing but God.

  7. Hey Sue,
    you are definitely one of the last. That’s what teaching used to be about! Showing genuine love,compassion support,to our children, families, and community! Kudos and hats off to you! However I’m not surprised to hear of such a wonderful generous act of kindness from an awesome daughter,sister,wife,friend,& teacher,whom I am proud to say “hey that’s my colleague, and that’s what we do”! Those of you with 20 yrs. or more know ???
    Sue you rock, continue to be the great person that you are!

  8. Yes Susan Palmucci you definitely rock. She is one of many great teachers at Cleveland Elementary School in Newark. We appreciate everything that you do or have done for our children. You are truly blessed and I thank you.

  9. Being kinder than necessary…that is how Susan Palmucci put such a brilliant plan in place. And the people that responded, also kinder than necessary. I am so happy to call these people my neighbors. West Orange has become more than a town to me, it is my community. Thank you for posting this story. Happy Holidays, everyone.

  10. Just an example of what true Newark teachers are and have always been. WE CARE abiut the students we teach. And yes we love them too! Fantastic story! Let those idiots in Trenton see what NPS teachers are really like.

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