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.”