Coronavirus News: Paraprofessional fundraises to feed families at Queens school

CORONA, Queens (WABC) -- Families waiting in line to pick up free food is an all too familiar scene in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic, so when one Queens resident saw it happening at a local church, it motivated her to do something special.

Josephine Tola-Dimarco, a paraprofessional, is fundraising to give free pizzas to families at her school P.S. 92 in Corona.

"6 months ago, I was struggling," she said. "And I feel for everybody, but I'm here."

This was not a one-time occurrence for Tola-Dimarco, because nearly a year ago, she did the same deed but at a hospital.

Her husband Leonardo was getting cancer treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and the team there became family. She showed her appreciation by raising money and feeding the nurses and doctors, who right now -- like so many others -- are treating COVID-19 patients.

"They don't know how to thank me, so they wave through the windows," Tola-Dimarco said. "It's beautiful."

At the church in Queens, she figured some of those people lined up were parents of her students or families who are struggling, like she had.

"I feel blessed that I have a home and food on my plate, even though what I'm going through," she said. "But these kids didn't, and it's the saddest thing ever."

On Friday, she was at it again, fundraising this time to feed her students. In just two days, she collected more than $3,000, but wanted to buy something that would resonate with every child.

Tola-Dimarco said kids don't really understand getting a bag of rice or beans.

"They understand pizza," she said. "It makes them happy."

That's how Pizza Fridays was born, just like during the regular school year at the end of the week. Families now can get a much needed slice of normalcy.

"I don't know how I'm doing all of this," Tola-Dimarco said. "I have so much going on, but I have to thank everyone that's contributing to this. It's just so touching."

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