Assisting a student in a time of need

Lawrence faculty raises money for Contreras family

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A gofundme online site established by Lawrence School District faculty members has raised $7,570, as of press time, to assist the family of Jeffrey Contreras, who was struck by a car as he was crossing the Nassau Expressway with his 13-year-old sister, Gizel, on June 27.
Contreras is in critical condition at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park. He was crossing the expressway, which is also known as Route 878 at 9:15 p.m. when he was hit, police said. Contreras is entering the third grade at the Number Five School.
Adam Berlin, a social studies teacher at Lawrence Middle School, created the donation page on gofundme.com. “We’ve collected [money] so far through the [Lawrence Teachers’ Association] website, lawrenceta.org. I know some donations have been dropped off at the Number Five School as well,” Berlin said.
Berlin’s efforts to raise money for the family, he said, “[are] a product of becoming very attached to the Lawrence community. As teachers, we get to know our students and their families so well it is only natural that we would want to assist them in a time of need.”
Rina Beach, principal of the Number Five School, said Contreras’ injuries included “two broken legs, a broken arm and a displaced clavicle.” She said that he has undergone brain surgery to reduce and relieve swelling, and leg surgery as well.
“When I saw Jeffrey for the first time a few days after the accident, his small body was covered in bandages from his head to his toes,” Beach said. “His mother watched from the bedside in complete shock. [Jeffrey] has a long recovery ahead. We do see slight improvement due to all of our prayers.”
Rosa Contreras, Contreras’s mother, has been staying with her son since the accident, Beach Said. His father, José Contreras, is also at his bedside, when not at work.
Robin Cutler has also been assisting the family by raising funds through Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Inwood to pay their rent and bills. She also purchased supermarket gift cards and retail clothing cards, “to give them cushion to focus on Jeffrey,” Cutler said.
Cutler, one of three social workers who were laid off this year by the school district, said losing her job does not disconnect her from the students and families she has helped over the past 15 years. When she heard about Contreras’s accident, she said, her recent job loss had no effect on her decision to help. “[It] doesn’t change who I am,” she said. “Social worker is who I am. I am a caring professional who’s been in business for a long time.”
Cutler has had a longstanding relationship with the Contreras family and, prior to the accident, has connected the family to important community resources such as the Five Towns Community Center.
Contreras’s condition, as of press time, remains critical but improved. Beach said he has undergone a second surgery to mend his skull and had an arm and leg placed in casts. His doctors are beginning to consider moving him to a rehabilitation facility.
To help the Contreras family go to gofundme.com/helpjeffrey.