Photo fundraiser feeds staff at local rehab center


Peter Pessoni suffered from a stroke caused by a clot in his thigh. The decision was made that his leg had to be amputated in order to save his life. Now, Pessoni is recovering at Our Lady of Consolation Nursing and Rehabilitative Care Center in West Islip. Amid a viral health pandemic, Pessoni tested positive for COVID-19 while at the center.

Jessica Marsh, Pessoni’s granddaughter, took it upon herself to raise funds to feed the 80 health care professionals at Our Lady of Consolation. She commenced a Porch Project donation fund that would provide meals for the staff for one day: Monday, April 27.

Taking photos of families donating to her cause, Marsh managed to raise over $1,200 in about three weeks. Families could choose two photos to have edited and developed of themselves sitting on their front porch, and Marsh charged $5 per additional photo requested.

Marsh, who is a special education teacher at Birchwood Intermediate School in the Huntington School District, said that she began promoting her cause on Instagram beginning with one family, then five, and then said she shot photos of six families in one day.

“It just kind of took off,” Marsh said. “[The families] started posting it [on social media], and then other families in the area wanted it. I have gone from Mattituck to Staten Island.”

Growing up in Sayville, Marsh said that she went to school with individuals involved at Carroll’s Kitchen in Sayville. The nonprofit was founded amidst the COVID-19 pandemic with the mission to serve quality food and donate 100 percent of its profits and supplying jobs to those in need.

“I contacted them, and I gave them all of my money that I raised,” Marsh said. “They made meals for all of the staff at [Our Lady of Consolation].”

Carroll’s Kitchen supplied an additional meal for Marsh’s grandfather upon special request: chicken parmigiana and cannoli for dessert.

“We fed the whole staff, which consists of about 80 health care professionals,” said James Destasio, the director of charity operations at Carroll’s Kitchen. “[Marsh] met us there. She brought some pictures and photos for her grandfather. She told me her grandfather’s favorite meal. We made sure we had that set aside as well as the dessert he wanted.”

Destasio said when Ryan Carroll started Carroll’s Kitchen when the pandemic started, he reached out to him and offered his hand in charity operations, considering his background working with the ALS Hope Foundation, American Foun- dation for Suicide Prevention, and volunteering on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on several occasions.

“We did not realize how fast and how many people we would be able to help in such a short period of time, but that was the brainchild of the operation,” Desta- sio said. “I personally get a lot of enjoy- ment and fulfillment out of doing charity work and helping people. Everybody on the team here at Carroll’s Kitchen is pretty much on that same page.”

Marsh said that the day before the meal donation at Our Lady of Consolation, her grandfather was moved to the first floor so that her family could see him through the window and say hello. “They were great,” said Marsh of the staff at the center, particularly Christine Centrone, director of therapeutic recre- ation. “We sent a bag filled with notes from our whole family, and [Centrone] read every single note out loud to [my grandfather].”

Centrone contributed her appreciation for the donation event set up by Marsh and Destasio.

“Working with [Destasio] and his crew and the family of [Pessoni] was great,” Centrone said. “They are so thoughtful and generous. The coordination by all was a success.”

Centrone added that she and the culinary ambassador hand-delivered the meals to each unit on a cart.

“The employees were so grateful for the donation,” she said. “It put smiles on their faces.”

Speaking on behalf of the center, Centrone expressed thanks to those at Carroll’s Kitchen and Pessoni’s family for the meal donations.

“The staff have been working so hard to ensure the safety of our residents,” Centrone said. “They have gone above and beyond to battle this pandemic and keep everyone healthy. To receive such a donation makes the staff feel very much appreciated. We are truly blessed to have this family in our community.”

Marsh acknowledged her classroom at Birchwood Intermediate School, Room 203, considering school is not in session due to mandates put in place for everyone’s health and safety.

“We miss you!,” Marsh said to her students.


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