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Donna Van Leuven

HYDE PARK – While safety on the road is CSEA-represented school bus drivers’ top priority, their travels give them a unique look at where help is needed most for the students in their care.

When bus drivers began talking about organizing a golf outing a decade ago, CSEA member Donna Van Leuven and her colleagues in the Hyde Park Central School District realized that a day of fun could also help students in need.

“Someone just walked in one day and said we should do a golf outing,” said Van Leuven. “It eventually grew to include the whole community.”

This past December, Hyde Park Kids in Need wrapped up a decade of fund-raising that ensured struggling families with students in the school district had a chance at college scholarships, holiday meals and presents under the Christmas tree.

Van Leuven, who was quick to credit a list of co-workers as important partners in the endeavor, estimated the group raised $55,000 through golf outings, bowling tournaments and other fundraisers over its 10 years.

As a result, district families in need received gift cards to the local Stop and Shop grocery store so they could shop for holiday meals. When the district’s Roosevelt High School held its graduations, the group had scholarships to lessen burdensome college costs. And when the holidays rolled around, Van Leuven and other bargain hunters ensured students had presents under the tree regardless of family struggles.

After a decade of busy fund-raising, Van Leuven has opted to end her efforts on a high note.

“Donna has been just amazing when it comes to fund-raising and keeping this going,” said Unit President Shirley Turk. “You see some of these kids and know the families are having a hard time, but often parents are too proud to ask for help. We hope others will get involved, step up and show the same dedication to our families in need.”

While their efforts meant students awoke excited on Christmas morning to learn that Santa hadn’t missed them, Van Leuven said she and her co-workers enjoyed the spirit of giving just as much.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said.

In photo above, CSEA members employed at Hyde Park School District’s Transportation Department gear up for their final holiday gift delivery.

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About Author

Jessica Ladlee

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

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