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Making a Difference in Massapequa: Kathleen O'Connor, Lauren Gerace and Stephanie Hartman

A trio of Massapequa Moms raised thousands of dollars for hurricane victims.

For moms it's a full time job just taking care of children, but three amazing Massapequa Moms seemed to find time to take care of the entire community in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Kathleen O'Connor, Lauren Gerace, and Stephanie Hartman did it all. They raised thousands of dollars in hurricane aid, organized clothing drives, toy drives and opened their homes to those who wanted to donate.

Their efforts led them to be nominated as Massapequans who made a difference in 2012. Patch readers voted in overwhelming numbers to honor the moms for their accomplishments.

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And it all started with a group of moms chatting on Facebook. O'Connor, Gerace and Hartman are members of the Massapequa Moms group, a community started on the social media site about a year ago that has grown, to more than 2,000 members.

"It's a place where moms who have young kids can socialize," Hartman said. "You can interact throughout the day, where normally you'd be on your own."

In a short time, it became a close knit group.

"The women are incredible," Gerace said. "They're funny, they're kind, they're passionate."

And they do more than just interact online. When the storm struck, the moms began to look for ways to help.

It started when they helped a local resident who was dealing with financial difficulty, but it grew quickly.

"I just started posting this thing, 'Helping hands,'" Hartman said, explaining that the two words would be followed by a request for items needed by storm victims.
"We started posting, 'Do you need clothes? What size do you need?' So we started using my house as a collection point."

The outpouring of assistance was incredible.  

"You'd literally come home and your stoop was just overloaded," O'Connor said.

All of the women began collecting donations of supplies and money. 

"It was actually amazing,especially the baby stuff," Gerace said. "I mean hundreds of dollars worth of baby stuff, and new stuff. We had food, lots of blankets, comforters, pillows, toiletries, bottles, electronics, everything."

The three also posted information about services available, shelter information and other resources.

"I'm still posting as people go [back] into their homes," Hartman said. "I'm saying OK, I have this size, Who needs what?"

For Gerace, one donation really stood out."A child lost a specific toy and was so upset over it," she said. "I happened to have one in the house. Someone donated it and I was able to drop it off."

O'Connor said she felt empathy for those she helped. "They would come to us and tell us about their situation and you would put yourself in that situation," she said.

Hartman said it was a "surreal experience" seeing the storm damage, particularly helping the family that now lives in the Nassau Shores home where she grew up.

"It was condemned," she said. "The kitchen was destroyed, there was five feet of water in it."  

All of the moms were humbled to be honored by Massapequa Patch readers.

"I'm very honored and a little embarrassed," O'Connor said. "At the same time it was very rewarding and made a lot of friends."

"I'm very shy about it," Gerace said. "People have sent me the most beautiful notes and thanked me, but I've said you don't really need to thank me. There's no need."

Hartman called it "very humbling."

"We didn't do it for any kind of recognition or acknowledgement," she said. "We never did anything with our names on it. It was always helping hands."

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Linda Nicholson- Santarelli January 28, 2013 at 11:15 PM
This gave me chills..reliving all the wonderful memories of all that you girls have done and continue to do! I've lived here my entire life but I've never felt as much community spirit as I do now. Thanks ladies!!!
Kristen Ferrari January 29, 2013 at 01:13 AM
Well deserved! These moms did an extraordinary thing to help our community! It's what community is supposed to mean!
Mike Imbriano January 29, 2013 at 01:39 AM
I can't thank the Moms of Massapequa enough.Their kindness and thoughtfulness will never be forgotten. When a disaster like Sandy hit they were also affected and they still continued to help the community.God Bless. Mike Imbriano and family.
Patricia Cerda January 29, 2013 at 01:48 AM
I think Massapequa has forgotten Arlene McLoughlin who has done so much for her community and beyond helping people rebuild & repaint. Arlene has collected whet she could and has helped so many. She is my hero and a true humanitarian. She deserves to recognized along with these woman.
arl2667 January 29, 2013 at 11:08 AM
Aww thank you Patty , but these ladies really deserve the recognition. There are just too many people to list who have gone above and beyond to help their neighbors , friends and complete strangers. Our community, Massapequa has made me very, very proud these past few months, and I am proud to know these women. They really made a difference!,
Theresa Gagliardi January 29, 2013 at 02:19 PM
I know Lauren personally- she has a heart of gold!
Jennifer Novelli January 29, 2013 at 02:33 PM
My daughter, Lauren, born and raised in Galveston, Texas, moved to New York, five years ago. She had been so homesick until she met Massapequa Moms. She has begun a journey with a wonderful group of ladies to share her life with. Loved and very missed, mom.
Mark January 31, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Thank you to all these ladies who help one another. Who happen to be the tip of the iceberg. Thank God the majority of Massapequan's are good to lend a helping hand and for doing the right thing.. PLEASE NOTE: It's understood when you mention something good about "Massapequa" it includes Massapequa Park & Vise Versa. Massapequa ROCKS! Mark Marrazzo, Bayview Florist & Montage
Krissy hills February 02, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Kathleen, Lauren and Stephanie get my vote!

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