The space included an abandoned convent, a decrepit garage, and a ramshackle bingo hall just a little more than a year ago. Today, it is the Franciscan Community Development Center of Fairview, complete with a medical clinic, social work offices, computer lab, food bank, kids’ play area, and more, thanks to Sue Colacurcio, a 53-year-old West New York science teacher with a strong calling to help the less fortunate.
“I saw a lot of the forgotten, vulnerable populations—the senior citizens who are in a throwaway society, the single moms who fell between the cracks of our bureaucratic institutions, the immigrants,” says Colacurcio, who used Saint Francis as her guide as she helped build the mission. “Those are the people we felt humbled to help the best we could.”
Colacurcio, with help from a group of nuns, was the backbone of the operation as the community center went up. Now, she serves as volunteer executive director. But she shuns the spotlight, instead crediting the volunteers and corporations who came together to build the mission. “It’s really not me at all,” she says. “It’s the people who came here and had faith and believed in what we were doing.”
Gina Plotino, president of GMP Consulting, a development, fundraising, and training firm that helped the community center with the start-up logistics, says that humbleness is in Colacurcio’s nature. “With a quiet strength, Sue has taken a significant community issue and, without attention, has engineered a solution to a problem that has defied reasonable response for some time. She is changing lives.”
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