COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Whether it’s by donating soup, batteries, or clothes, Donna Russo-Lubrano tries to epitomize the charitable morals her father and sister instilled in her—but with a modern twist: utilizing Facebook to facilitate it.
“Immediately after Hurricane Sandy [hit] I went on Facebook to see how I could help, and basically I saw there was such a need in Gerritsen Beach, Coney Island and Staten Island,” the Bay Ridgeite said. “I posted that I would be dropping off items [like batteries and clothes] and I was flooded with [donations].”
With the help of her friend Michelle, Russo-Lubrano created the Hearts Connected Facebook page, where people from Bay Ridge and beyond can contact her to donate items like clothing and food to people in need throughout Brooklyn.
“People will reach out to me and say, ‘There was a fire on Staten Island,’ and I’ll bring what they need,” Russo-Lubrano said. “I’m happy to be this middle man. There are so many generous people in this community who want to help but don’t know how. I almost feel like Santa Claus.”
Some of Russo-Lubrano’s altruistic projects have included donating food to a pastor in Coney Island for her mission, collecting over 200 prom dresses for young girls who had financial limitations, and using the event space where she works for fundraisers to raise money for Relay for Life, food pantries and Frankie’s Mission, which helps families who have children with cancer.
MOTIVATION: Russo-Lubrano says she has two major motivations: how positive she feels when the Bay Ridge community pitches in, and teaching her daughter Angelia the same lessons her family imparted to her.
“People always talk about me, but I’m more impressed with others,” she said. “And I want to teach my daughter. She’s always with me, packing toys, wrapping toys or recently helping out with the Hunger Walk [for Reaching-Out Community Services]. [She] realizes that there are people that are in need.”
CAREER/DAY JOB: Russo-Lubrano is the office manager at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and helps with its day-to-day operations.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The biggest challenge is when I see people—especially as a result of Hurricane Sandy—still living in their garage,” she said. “As much as I can help them with clothing and food, I still see they’re suffering.”
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “I think the biggest achievement that I’ve had is that as a result of the Hearts Connected Page, I’ve made so many wonderful friends that continue to help, or get the word out for any of my fundraisers,” Russo-Lubrano said. “Something good always comes out of something bad.”
PERSONAL LIFE: When she isn’t delivering charitable donations or facilitating them, Russo-Lubrano cheers on her daughter, a competitive dancer, and spends time with her family.
–Faraz T. Toor