Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Comes Early

By Patricia Adams

Christmas came early this year for one South Ozone Park family, thanks to the Howard Beach Columbus Day Foundation and state Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach). Like so many other small business owners facing today’s economic difficulties, Susan DiLuca and her husband Giuseppe were devastated when they recently had to close Frank’s Pizzeria, the family business they owned and operated for 25 years on Sutphin Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue.

“We had a wonderful business. Our customers were like family after all this time,” said Susan DiLuca. But despite the fact they owned the building, the pizzeria was unable to cover the mounting bills. “Business started to drop because people were bringing their own lunch to work.”

In addition, she says there were many layoffs at the LIRR and things just continued to spiral downhill.

Beside the struggles at their business, the DiLuca family found themselves faced with yet another troublesome situation— the youngest of their four children, Emilia, just starting her freshman year at Adelphi, was going to have to leave college. The family tried everything to arrange for her tuition payments—parent loans for students, refinancing their home, applying for personal loans, even trying to get a job with the school for a discounted tuition—but nothing they tried proved successful. “We were at our wits end with no where to go. We put our other three children through college and we were heartbroken that Emilia would not have the same chance,” said Susan DiLuca.

But a phone call from the school to Senator Addabbo started the wheels in motion. After learning about the situation, the senator made a call to the Howard Beach Columbus Day Foundation to inquire about the groups scholarship program, which offers opportunities to disadvantaged students of Italian descent.

The DiLuca’s were asked to submit a formal request to the Foundation board for review and within a few days they got the good news. “Our scholarship program has helped many students who have financial difficulty,” said Mario Faulisi, president of the organization. “It was a pleasure to secure this year’s tuition for Emilia. She is a good student from a hard working family who deserves this opportunity.”

“There is no way to express what we feel about the way the Senator and the Foundation have helped us. My daughter is so relieved and happy that we just can’t believe it,” said Susan DiLuca. “We will never be able to express our gratitude to the Howard Beach Columbus Day Foundation for the help that they gave us. They made a dream come true. God bless them.”

“I am always so grateful to be a part of anything that helps out families in need, especially when it involves students and education,” said Sen. Addabbo. “We are all thankful for the help and good work that the Howard Beach Columbus Day Foundation does. They have stepped up here and provided a much deserved opportunity for this bright student who has a great future ahead of her.”

For Emilia DiLuca, her dream of becoming a teacher is now very much alive. “This is one of the best Christmas presents I could ever get,” says the 18-year-old. “I will be forever thankful to the Foundation and to Sen. Addabbo for all their help. My education will not be interrupted because of money and I can pursue my teaching career.”

And on Monday, when Emilia DiLuca went online to check her balance, the funds had been transferred into her student tuition account. She was going to keep her place in school. The date may have only been December 13, but to Emilia DiLuca it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

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