Parent Fundraises for Edison School Teachers Who Helped Her Family After House Fire

Erin Pedrini
Web Production Assistant

Stefanie Arozamena and her family. Photo courtesy of Stefanie Arozamena.

Stefanie Arozamena is raising money for the teachers at James Monroe Elementary School in Edison to help them rebuild their classrooms after the school burned down from a fire March 22 that officials say was caused by a janitor’s cigarette.

Arozamena, her brother and her sister attended the elementary school as children. Arozamena also has a daughter that graduated from the elementary school last year and currently has another daughter who is in the fourth grade at the elementary school. She said that she is helping to raise money for the teachers because she has never been able to find a way to help pay back the teachers at the school for how they helped her family after they lost their house and everything in it in a 2011 fire. She said that nobody was hurt in the fire at her home but is is hard to recover after losing everything. She said it was horrific and devastating.

“The teachers, parents and students did not hesitate to help us get back on our feet,” said Arozamena. She said that the principal sent flyers home with the students explaining what had happened to the family and the school did clothing and toy drives for the family, as well as raised money for them. She said that some of the teachers even took her daughters shopping for new clothes, which they paid for out of their own pockets.

“The support and love that came out of the school to help our family was the most amazing and heartwarming experience that I have ever felt in my entire life. I always wanted to be able to repay it somehow but nothing feels like enough to repay them. When the fire happened, I could not sit back and do nothing. The teachers, principal and staff at the school do so much for the kids and everyone there really is a family. They have each other’s backs and they step up when needed and do not hesitate,” said Arozamena.

Teachers often use their own money to putting together their classrooms, to make them a home for the children. Arozamena said that the teachers lost everything that they worked to build, just like she did with her house fire, and she understands how they must be feeling because it is horrible.

“To bring together money to give back to those teachers so that they can make their classrooms home again for those kids is the most important thing to me. I want those teachers to know that they were not forgotten about in all of this,” said Arozamena. “It is not only about the kids, it is about the teachers too. The money is going to helping the teachers personalize their classrooms again to make them homes again for the kids to go to every day.”

Stefanie Arozamena’s daughters Emily and Kayla cutting the ribbon of a new James Monroe Elementary School sign with the principal Lynda Zapoticzny and Mayor Ricigliano in 2011. Photo courtesy of Stefanie Arozamena.

Arozamena set up a fundraising web page that anyone can visit and donate money and 100 percent will go directly to the teachers. The original goal was $2,000 and was raised to $5,000. That goal has been met and the goal has now been raised to $10,000. She said that her ultimate goal is to raise as much money as possible for the teachers. She said that the responses from the community and people throughout New Jersey and even outside of the state have been amazing.

The most rewarding part of fundraising for Arozamena is being able to help the teachers. “I am looking forward to presenting the money to the teachers and just being able to say thank you for everything that they did for us and for everything that they continue to do for the children. They are the most amazing teachers that I have ever encountered. They are so loving and caring and to be able to do this for them is all of the thanks that I really need,” Arozamena said.

Right now, the children that attended James Monroe Elementary School are currently attending school at Middlesex County College. The children are dropped off at Herbert Hoover Middle School, where teachers from James Monroe wait for them and take buses with the children to the college. Arozamena said that her daughter was nervous at first about attending school at the college and when the fire happened, she asked, “Mommy why is this happening to us again?” She said that after her daughter went to school at the college the first day, her daughter came home and was happy to be with her classmates. Arozamena said that the superintendent and principal have done an amazing job of keeping the children together with their classmates and she is grateful that they were able to do that to help the children feel comfortable.

Arozamena said she wants to get the word out as much as possible about the fundraising so as much money as possible can be raised for the teachers. “I can’t thank everybody who has already helped out and reached out enough for their support. It is amazing and the most heartwarming feeling that I have ever felt and that is what is pushing me every day. To raise money for these teachers, it is like your faith in humanity gets restored a little bit every time someone reaches out to help. It is just amazing,” Arozamena said.

Flyer for the upcoming car show. Photo courtesy of Stefanie Arozamena.

Along with the fundraising page, a James Monroe Elementary School Teachers Donation Facebook page has been created where other fundraisers have been posted, as well as updates. Other fundraisers include a Tastefully Simple online party, with 25 percent of each order being donated and a Pampered Chef online party, with 10 to 15 percent of each order being donated.

Another fundraiser that has been planned, in which 100 percent of proceeds will go to the teachers’ fund, is a car show on May 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Papaianni Park in Edison. The event will include a car show, in which car clubs and anyone who wants to register their own car will be displaying their vehicles, as well as music, vendors and games for the kids. Arozamena said that she wants the car show to be fun for the families and the community, to take their mind off of the fact that the school burned down and just have fun while raising money.