For the Conte family, of Massapequa, like so many others, the holidays are a time to gather, share their love for one another, and reflect on all there is to be thankful for. And, like so many others, the Contes are reminded at this time of year of family members who once filled the room with their vibrant energy but who are no longer around.
In June 2018, Francis Conte’s cousin, 63-year-old Patricia De Maria, died suddenly after accidentally falling down stairs. Her family described her as loving, devoted, and dedicated to her family and her job as a nurse.
“She was a very nice, giving person,” said Frank Conte Jr., Francis Conte’s son. De Maria was one of the nurses in the delivery room when Frank Jr. was born in 1983.
Her love of all things Christmas, and her compassion for children, inspired her family to create a nonprofit organization in her name in 2021 called Tricia’s Kids.
“They get a lot of toys, and they donate them to kids in need,” Conte said.
The Conte family owns Mr. Hand Wash, a full-service car wash on Linden Boulevard, in Elmont, which opened in 2009. They have used their public profile to give back to the community, especially during the holiday season.
“We care a lot about Elmont,” Conte said. “We’ve been here 15 years. We try to give back as much as we can.”
At the car wash, there is a box where customers can donate toys to kids in need through Tricia’s Kids, which is based in Floral Park.
“With everybody’s involvement, it becomes very successful,” Mimi Perullo, an employee at Mr. Hand Wash, said.
There are other donation boxes for the toy drive in Floral Park, Franklin Square and Garden City. The location in Franklin Square is Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy, on New Hyde Park Road. To find other donation sites, go to bit.ly/TriciasKids.
Can’t stop by in person? Tricia’s Kids has links online to purchase toys from Amazon, Target and Walmart, which can be shipped to the organization to fulfill needy children’s wish lists. There are also options for monetary donations, such as Venmo@TriciasKids or through PayPal and Zelle.
In April 2019, Frank Jr.’s sister, Nicole Toussaint, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After 16 rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and some 30 rounds of radiation treatment, Toussaint was in remission for her wedding in 2021. Later that year however, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread, and diagnosed her with Stage 4 metastatic cancer. Toussaint died this past March.
“She was a very strong girl, a lot of fun, life of the party,” Conte said. “It was pretty sad when she passed. At her funeral there was a line out the door. She had a lot of friends, college friends, high school friends. She touched a lot of lives.”
Conte described Toussaint as a dedicated mother and teacher. She taught first grade at Gribbin Elementary School in Glen Cove.
Throughout her life, she raised money for metastatic breast cancer research, support and awareness. She took part in breast cancer walks, the Conte family sold sweatshirts to raise money for the cause, and community members donated money to her team page, “NikStrong,” on Metavivor.org, raising nearly $37,000.
With their philanthropic efforts, the Contes have contributed to causes such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and local nonprofit efforts such as a Thanksgiving dinner at Elmont Memorial High School, hosted by Universal Interactions.