SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Last week, TAPinto South Plainfield published an article about the Simmonds family and their need for help during what has been a difficult time. The article (https://www.tapinto.net/articles/simmonds-family-of-south-plainfield-needs-communi-1) went live the morning of Nov. 30 and almost immediately support for Mary ‘Katie’ and Margaret Simmonds of South Plainfield starting pouring in from near and far.
“The overwhelming amount of support and love that my family has felt since the first article was published is amazing,” Katie Simmonds said. “My heart feels so warm. My mom and I are so extraordinarily happy that everyone has surrounded us so much lately.”
“Since the article ran my phone has exploded. It’s been crazy, but in such a good way,” said Renee Eggert, a friend of the Simmonds family who since October has been dedicated to garnering support for Katie and Margaret. “From 8 a.m. that morning until nearly 10 p.m. that night and throughout the whole week my phone has been ringing. It’s so heartwarming and awesome.”
In February, Margaret Simmonds was diagnosed with Stage 3-breast cancer and, in June, underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. Then, in late October, her husband Robert became extremely ill and was hospitalized. He passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 17. It was around this same time that doctors confirmed that Margaret’s cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and on Dec. 1, she began the first of 30 aggressive radiation treatments. She will have to go every day – Monday through Friday – for the next six weeks.
An only child with not much family close by, Katie – who is just 18 years old – has been handling much of the responsibilities – medically, emotionally and financially – on her own. For the past eight months, she has been responsible for getting her mother to and from doctors’ appointments and then handling all of her father’s hospitalization and funeral arrangements. In the midst of it all, Katie has also been juggling classes at Middlesex Community College and working three part-time jobs to pay for school and help offset household expenses.
“I don't like to ask for help. I would rather try to take on the world myself but when you need help you need help and I need help. Sometimes, you do not have any other choice,” Katie told TAPinto South Plainfield earlier this month.
According to Eggert, donations of home-cooked meals have been streaming in as have monetary donations through a GoFundMe page, gift cards to grocery stores and local restaurants, and offers to provide free landscaping services. Additionally, individuals have volunteered to go to the Simmonds’ home and put up Christmas lights.
“If it’s not an item to donate it’s someone wanting to go over to help,” said Eggert. “People just want to be able to give them something to smile about.”
On Dec. 5, the family was presented with a $2,000 donation from Sal Esposito and Global Associates Insurance. “I read the article about the family and just wanted to help,” said Esposito of South Plainfield. “I have kids Katie’s age myself and feel they shouldn't have to go through hard times, especially this time of year.”
In an effort to help alleviate some of the burden placed on Katie, Margaret’s sister plans to come and live with the family for two months this winter. Additionally, Margaret’s mother – who Katie also takes care of throughout the month – will be staying with them on holidays and special occasions.
In order to accommodate them, the Simmonds’ needed to make some improvements to a small bedroom in their home and members of the South Plainfield community stepped in to help.
Resident Scott Waters has offered to paint and Eggert’s husband Eddie is performing various projects around the house. Additionally, Gary Columbus and Paul Ignoscia – owners of Floor America in the Middlesex Mall – donated not just new carpet but padding, materials and installation as well.
According to Ignoscia, he and Columbus became aware of the situation through a post on Lori Feick Zielinski’s ‘You Know You’re from *South Plainfield* When … ‘ “We’ve been doing business in South Plainfield for 25 years and even though I do not live here, this is still our community. We will always try to help out in anyway we can,” Ignoscia. “Someone was in need of help and we are just happy to be able to do something.”
Along with businesses and residents, several local churches, community groups and even the schools have also been offering help. The Tabernacle Church plans to provide a Christmas dinner to the Simmonds family; Sacred Heart Church is holding a canned food drive; and Hometown Heroes is donating a meal every Monday in December, beginning Dec. 7.
The South Plainfield School District will hold a district-wide Jeans Day on Dec. 19 -- all teachers and staff who wish to wear denim that day will donate $5, which will go directly to Katie and her mom. In November, the South Plainfield Middle School Cancer Awareness Club presented Katie with a check for $300 and, just last week, proceeds from the school’s No-Shave November fundraiser were donated to the family. The middle school plans to hold an additional fundraiser on Dec. 21; at this time, students will have the opportunity to raise money at a pie-in-the-face event.
Additionally, members of the church community are also offering to come over and pray. “We appreciate the prayers and everything everyone has been doing and offering,” said Eggert.
“We have had so many home cooked delicious meals from so many amazing families and have also received an immense amount of GoFundMe donations and many private donations,” said Katie, adding, “Flooring America of South Plainfield provided my family with an extremely generous donation of carpet and installation for a room in my home …. Global Associates Insurance of Metuchen gave a very large donation to my mom and I as well.”
And support isn’t just pouring in from South Plainfield. Residents and groups from surrounding towns and even people have relocated out-of-state are also reaching out. “Everyone in South Plainfield has been so responsive as have people from North Plainfield and even other states like Virginia and New York who used to live here. They read the story and it touched their hearts and brought tears to their eyes,” said Eggert. “Once you’ve lived in South Plainfield you are always from South Plainfield and they want to do anything they can to help this family out.”
Former South Plainfield resident Linda Dashuta has also pledged to donate 20-percent of commission earned through her Scentsy and Younique businesses to the Simmonds family. To donate to the Simmonds family through Scentsy, order online at https://Ldashuta.Scentsy.us, click on ‘Open Parties’ and then ‘Kisses for Katie.” For Younique, the link https://www.youniqueproducts.com/LindaDashuta/…/2936879/view will take you directly to the ‘Lashes for Katie’ page.
After reading the article about the Simmonds family, the North Plainfield-based Car Nutz Car Club voted to make a donation. “That night we voted to write the family a check,” said Dan Battista, noting that the club donated $300 to the family, with monies coming directly from members as well as from funds that would have been used toward an annual holiday party. “We scaled it down and put the money toward the donation.”
Additionally, the club plans to provide the Simmonds family with a holiday meal and will also continue to support them in 2016. “They will be one of the recipients we support and should receive a couple of checks from us throughout the year,” said Battista.
The Car Nutz Car Club is comprised of car enthusiasts who hail from South Plainfield and the surrounding communities, including Battista who personally knew Katie’s father. “We grew up together and went to school together. I heard he had passed but I didn't know about his wife and all that was going on until I read the article,” Battista said. “When you hear about someone you grew up with, who’s around the same age and whose family has these kind of problems and there is a kid left wondering ‘what is going to happen to me’ you want to do anything you can to make it better. We knew we had to do something.”
Those near or far looking to make a financial donation to the family can also do so through the GoFundMe page established by Katie’s close friend Rosambra Passalacqua. Donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/bn8ucuus.
Additionally, anyone looking to donate services or items – meals, gift cards, monetary donations – to the Simmonds family can also contact Eggert directly at (908) 917-9967 and she will make arrangements to get the items to Katie and her mom.
“There have been many organizations, restaurants, families, and companies who have gone above and beyond to help my family during this extremely trying time,” said Katie. “This town has all joined together so much for my family. Even people that have moved away but are from South Plainfield have called to help support us.”