2013-03-15 / Letters

High Praise For Two

Dear Editor:

I would like to acknowledge Irene Dougherty and Maud Smith for the phenomenal job they have done as co- PTA presidents of PS 114Q. I know many parents in our community would agree with me and I hope they in one way or another are able to share their appreciation to them. I started by sharing the below post with several sites and programs in an effort to have them nominated for awards based on community contributions.

As Co-PTA presidents of PS/MS 114 in Belle Harbor, Queens, Irene Dougherty and Maud Smith thought their biggest dilemma would be planning the school fundraiser or attempting to get more parents involved in the school. Little did they know that all would change on October 29th, when Hurricane Sandy hit the Rockaway community. Overnight, almost every school family became homeless. Most houses were flooded and many burned to the ground. PS 114 was inundated with sewage-filled waters from the massive storm surge and had to close down. The School Administration and the Board of Education had not attempted to contact any of the families for over a week following Hurricane Sandy. After they relocated their families, Irene and Maud were the first to reach out to the school families after the storm. They immediately began to help by:

Trying to reach school families through the school Facebook page and mass phone texts in an attempt to gain as many cell phone numbers of displaced families as possible.

Fought to ensure the safety of the children when PS 114 was reopened on November 27. When they realized that the school auditorium was still filthy, water damaged and reeked of mold and moisture, Irene and Maud rallied hundreds of parents to contest the condition of the school. They worked tirelessly by alerting the media and local government officialsanyone that might be able to help. As a result, one whole wing of the school was closed down when subsequent tests found both mold and contaminants were still present and deemed unsafe until March 2013!

Solicited and organized several donations from large corporations for the school, displaced school children, and their families.

Compiled a list of the 215 students that have yet returned to the school in an effort to have those families help them fight for beloved teachers, many victims of the storm themselves, that may now find themselves out of jobs due to decreased enrollment in the school.

Irene and Maud accomplished all this while working; trying to rebuild their own homes; raising their young traumatized children; and caring for their elderly parents whose homes also suffered severe damage due to Hurricane Sandy.

Technically, while the school is closed, PTA Volunteers are not required to serve the families; however, Irene and Maud did not use this as an excuse to take a break from their volunteerism. They put the needs of many families above their own, to help the families of close to 800 students.

Irene Dougherty and Maud Smith are examples of people who have gone above and beyond for others during this storm. They should be recognized for their time, generosity, and commitment to serving our community and most of all- our children.

This is one of the programs where others can nominate these dedicated women to win an award towards their favorite charity: http://ladygodivaprogram.com/nomine es/submit (Irene’s email addressrequired to complete nomination formis: irened320@gmail.com)

Attached is a photo of Irene and Maud with Nickelodeon’s, Nick Cannon, when he and Walmart distributed instruments and iPod Nano’s to the school.

CYNTHIA CLIFFORD

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