“Most teachers gave the kids a moment to catch up,” DiGiovanni said. “It’s amazing how a tragic event can bring everyone together.”
DiGiovanni and his colleagues Malori Steinhauer and Sarah Cullen prepared food for the dinner, making penne a la vodka with roasted chicken and Caesar salad. Students had baked apple pies, which were available to attendees to take home.
While some food was prepared at the school, other dishes were donated by parents. The local business community also contributed, said Jesse Richheimer, a senior and the vice president of the student government. The school received donations from Piccolo Ristorante, Zorn’s, Bagel Boss and Suburbia Prime Meats. PTA Co-President Elaine Coluccio played an instrumental role in getting vendors to contribute to the dinner, DiGiovanni added.
While helping spread trays of food and drinks before the dinner, Richheimer said that he and other students were looking forward to spending the evening together and thinking about something besides rebuilding their broken homes.
“I like being able to help out the community and get my mind off of what’s going on at my house,” he said. “Everyone is going through a really hard time.”
Steinhauer, a family and consumer science teacher, said she thinks students feel comfortable talking about the hard times after the storm because faculty members have similar stories to tell. She explained that when teachers acknowledged that they were staying with relatives or that their cars were destroyed, students knew they weren’t alone.
Hosting a dinner was a great way to reinforce unity, Steinhauer added. “Kitchens are usually on the first floor, and that was often the area of the home that was destroyed,” she said. “Doing the dinner this way makes your home down the hallway.”