An impromptu community initiative raised $58,757 to help the Manhasset school superintendent, Charles Cardillo, and his wife, Debbie, after a fire razed their Hauppauge home on Dec. 9.
Hours after the fire, a 2016 Manhasset High School graduate, Spencer Tennenbaum, began an online fundraising campaign that brought in 436 donations over the three weeks it remained active.
The crowdfunding page was shared on social media 670 times.
“News travels fast in Manhasset,” said Ben Borgognone, owner of Buttercooky Bakery, who donated $500. “There was a mass email going around.”
On the crowdfunding page, Tennenbaum explained why he felt community members should support the Cardillo family.
“After devoting much of his career to ensure that every Manhasset student is entitled to the best education our system can provide, it is clear that Cardillo has left a huge mark on the entire Manhasset community,” he said. “Cardillo has shown us what he can do for Manhasset; now it’s Manhasset’s turn to show what we can do for the Cardillo family.”
Tim Petras and Nick Magliulo, who both graduated from Manhasset High School in 2016, helped create the crowdfunding page, according to a Facebook post by Tennenbaum.
Tennenbaum, Petras and Magliulo are all freshmen at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.
Donations ranged from $5 to $1,000.
Donors left messages of prayer and well-wishes on the page.
Among them was Regina Rule, the Board of Education president, who gave $250.
“So very thankful that Charlie and Debbie are safe,” she wrote. “Grateful too for the opportunity to show support, love and gratitude.”
Borgognone said he was not surprised by the outpouring of support.
“When any type of tragedy happens, this community comes together to help,” he said. He described Manhasset residents as “busybodies” who “find time to help others in a time of crisis. Wealthy or poor, it doesn’t matter; everyone contributes whatever they can.”
Two of Borgognone’s children have graduated from Manhasset High School, and a third, Alyssa Mia, is a freshman at the school.
“Charles Cardillo is one of the nicest, gentlest people you’re ever going to meet,” Borgognone said. “This guy must have a clone of himself. Wherever I turn, this guy is there. He is involved in every aspect of the school.”
The fire on Dec. 9 was reported at 2:06 a.m. and firefighters arrived at the Joyce Drive home minutes later to find “a fully involved residential fire,” according to the Hauppauge Fire Department’s website.
Officials declared the fire under control at 3:55 a.m. though firefighters remained on the scene until 4:34 a.m., Newsday reported.
The fire is undergoing a routine investigation by the Suffolk County police arson squad but the blaze appears noncriminal, Suffolk County police said.
“My wife, Debbie, and I feel very blessed that we were able to escape, through a small second-floor window, the fire that destroyed our beautiful home of 38 years,” Charles Cardillo said in a statement. “The incredibly heartfelt response from the Manhasset schools and community has been overwhelming, prompting many tears of gratitude from Debbie and me.”