Members of the Andy Club, including Eleni Andromidas, helped paint a library at the De LaSalle charter school
What Jill Palmeri and a group of diligent volunteers have done is successfully turn tragedy into triumph.
When 11-year-old Andrew Palmeri died in 2003, his friends wanted badly to hold a charity fundraiser in his memory and Jill, still grieving the loss of her child, was all for it. It started with a football clinic and roller hockey tournament, then in 2004, a yard sale.
The show of support from the Garden City community was so great, and the outpouring so effusive, the yard sale became an annual event, drawing about 100 volunteers each year, Palmeri said. And the sales totaled close to $100,000 in six years.
“It became such a big thing,” Palmeri said, “people would call throughout the year saying, 'I have stuff to donate.'”
That groundswell, along with a large collection of donated items, eventually led to the December opening of the High Top Shop (essentially a year-round, indoor yard sale), proceeds of which go to a multitude of causes.
“We've already had about 1,000 pieces come in and out of the store,” said Betsy Andromidas, a volunteer. Her daughter, Eleni, a former Garden City field hockey star, was a friend of Andrew's.
The 500-sq. foot store is crammed with products for the home that have been donated by friends and neighbors. It's gotten to the point where they've run short on space and have to hold some larger items in their houses. The store's allure? The sale of high-end items for bargain prices. Waterford glasses, Tiffany crystals, lamps, artwork, etc. - mostly in the $20 range.
“Someone bought a fur coat for $150 and we recently sold an unused couch for $200,” Andromidas said. “About a quarter of the store is stuff that costs over $100, and the rest is much less expensive.”
The least costly items – small tchotchkes – can be had for $2 and the most expensive item was a Persian rug that went for $1,200.
The money goes to charities that promote the social and mental development of children. In addition, The Andy Club – a “for kids, by kids” group founded at Garden City High School – holds fundraisers throughout the year, including a large spring carnival. Past initiatives included the refurbishment of a room to serve as a library in the De LaSalle charter school in Freeport, and the Club teamed with NSSA and KaBoom! to help build a playground at the Martin Burell School for Children with Autism in Commack. Recently, they bought furniture and equipment for the Safe Horizon's Lilly House.
The Andy Foundation's website (http://www.theandyfund.com/) was created and maintained by former Garden City students – Matt LoSardo, now at Duke, Kate Castronovo, now at USC, and is currently run by Chris Rudkin, now a student at Rochester.
Andrew's death in September 2003, five days after being hit by a car, "was surreal," Jill said. Naturally, a parent can never fully overcome such a loss, but the Foundation, the store, and it's residual effect in helping bring the community together for a good cause, is somewhat therapeutic.
"It helps," Jill said. "I think it was a big help for his friends, knowing they're doing something in his honor, and I like that I'm able to keep in contact with them for something positive."
The High Top Shop is located at 671 Franklin Avenue (just south of 7th Street) in Garden City and is open seven days a week. For questions about the store, you can call 516-747-1317.