Does anyone know how to eat an elephant? Angels do

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$8 million donation check held by Joseph Mattone; Futures In Education Board Member Robert Cattell; Futures In Education Chairman Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn; the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn; Mr. John Loconsolo, Futures In Education Board Member; the Rev. Msgr. Jamie Giganitello, Vicar for Development of the Diocese of Brooklyn

Last week I had dinner with “Angels” at the Citi Field celebration of the many people who have generously donated $8 million to enable thousands of children to attend parochial schools in Queens and Brooklyn.

An Angel helps subsidize the cost of a student’s Catholic grammar school education by providing tuition assistance of $1,500 a year. For the 2012-2013 school year, 602 students at Catholic grammar schools in Brooklyn and Queens were supported by the program.

My friends, Joe and Mary Ann Mattone, had invited me to the celebration to meet the many children who have benefitted by the Angel support.

The Citi Field space was filled with the recipients and their families as well as their Angels. I sat with a woman who shared her journey to the Angel Program, which is run by the gregarious and devoted Msgr. Jamie J. Gigantiello, Vicar for Development for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. His brilliant and persuasive leadership brought together the two groups. It warmed my heart to hear the journey that led one family to their Angel.

Carol Villani was born in Guatemala. She came to New York where she got a college education, and she has two daughters who are her pride and joy. They had been going to a parochial school in Queens Village. But one day, Carol’s boss called her into his office and told her he would have to lay her off because the company had lost a grant. She was devastated!

Now an unemployed single mom, she felt her world had ended, and terror filled her. She didn’t want her daughters’ lives to be upended, but what was she to do? A friend told her about the program Msgr. Jamie runs, Angels in Education. After a few meetings, she was delighted to learn that Angels would pay for her girls’ educations.

She recently shared at a large fundraising event her feeling that her family’s problem was as enormous as an elephant. But the donors are biting the elephant piece by piece, taking the tonnage of weight off her family’s back and the backs of all of the other families that are being helped. Her gratitude knew no bounds and her girls are flourishing — to the delight of the donor Angels.

Joe and Mary Ann Mattone and their “Angel” child


The sun shone on us

It was a gloriously sunny day Saturday as I made my way to Long Island City for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open our second year of the LIC Flea. And what a day it was!

By noon the aisles of vendors selling food, clothing, jewelry, antiques and vintage clothing were packed with people. The word was out.

We were back! Bigger and better than ever!

And so was the community! The difference in the number of residents was obvious to me. Since last year, TF Cornerstone buildings have sold out their luxury rentals.

The market is right on Anable Basin and 46th Avenue, so those residents can see us from their windows — and they came in droves to shop and eat and relish the beautiful day.

I stood at the entrance getting signatures for a petition to the community board to permit us to get a liquor license for the market and a barge in the basin. It was so much fun to meet our neighbors who with big smiles said, “Bring it on!” and “It’s great.” We’re confident that by adding to our offerings, we will be able to enhance the market as they have in the Brooklyn Flea.

As I made my way through the aisles, I found some old vendor friends from last year who made me feel like it was old home week.

So many of them depend on the market to sell their wares. I bought a beautiful scarf made in India that reminded me of my trip there. Then, to my delight, there was a vendor selling food from South Africa. The couple is from Johannesburg and they had brought their delicious recipes with them. I filled my plate with their chicken dish on a bed of lettuce and a barbecued corn-on-the-cob from a team making Jamaican food, and then I went on to another booth where I bought the best grits I’ve ever eaten — covered with shrimp. And I washed it all down with an iced tea from a Korean vendor.

I traveled the culinary world and ate my lunch outdoors while the sun warmed my soul. What a treat to finally feel the warmth of spring. Visit the market — you will love it too!

We celebrated the opening of the LIC Flea with Tracey Schneps, Elizabeth Lusskin, Victoria Schneps, Hudson Schneps, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Josh Schneps, Metin Mangut, Seth Bornstein and Rob MacKay. (THE COURIER/Photo by Dominick Totino)