Aiding an aide in need

Malvernites, Valley Streamers raise money for PTA, SEPTA mom

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Malvernite Bettina “Tina” Castelluzzo dislikes asking for help, even with little money to pay for her impending divorce, a new home and college and vocational school expenses. But when she realized that she couldn’t afford everything, she accepted her friend Caroline Bormann’s aid.

“The more I look at my situation, the more I realize that I should take you up on your offer to try to get help,” Castelluzzo wrote in an email to Bormann last month. “As much as I hate the idea, I have to suck it up because it’s not just helping me but it will also help my kids, and you know I’ll do anything to help my kids.”

Bormann had told Castelluzzo that she didn’t need to face her financial difficulties alone, Castelluzzo said, and added, “There was a whole community of people that would be willing to help.”

Bormann created a fundraiser on GoFundMe explaining Castelluzo’s situation on May 19, and as of May 31, it had raised more than $9,600 for Castelluzzo’s first and last month’s rent at her new home, a security deposit and moving expenses. Anything left over, she said, would be used to buy a vehicle for her son and car insurance for her son and daughter.

“Knowing that money will be there when we need it is a huge relief,” she said.

The donations came from more than 100 Valley Stream and Malverne residents, who wrote on the page about everything Castelluzzo has done for the Valley Stream Central High School District community.

“Tina is always present in every school fundraiser . . . and is always advocating for the best interests of all of our children, especially the special-needs community,” wrote Maribel Padin, a mother in Valley Stream District 13. “I have never seen a community member so selfless and devoted about serving others as I have with Tina.”

Valley Stream Mayor Ed Fare also wrote that Castelluzzo is “part of the fabric of our community.”

To help the children in District 13, she has served as an officer for the Valley Stream 13 Educational Foundation Inc. for the past 10 years. “She’s really a behind-the-scenes kind of person,” Board of Education Trustee Toni Pomerantz said of Castelluzzo, who she said helped organize a variety of fundraisers over the years to benefit the students.

At the high-school level, Castelluzzo works as a one-to-one aide to a student with special needs in the Central High School, and has been a member of both the Special Education Parent Teacher Association and the Central/Memorial and Willow Road School’s PTA for 18 years. “She basically lives at the school,” Bormann said, adding that Castelluzzo started working at the school to be closer to her children.

Last year, she also served on the Central High School District’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee to discuss the district’s school choice policy, and received a New York State PTA Community Service Award. “Tina’s been helping people as long as I’ve known her,” Bormann said. “She’s always donating her time.”

Bormann added that she was impressed by how much the community members raised for Castelluzzo, saying, “People are so amazing.”

To donate to the GoFundMe account, visit https://bit.ly/2HM2uPD.