Monroe-Woodbury High School student Cindy Aguilarand her family.
By Christine Urio MONROE — Social media isn’t just about sharing cute videos of puppies and memes, but also about connecting the community to help others in need. GoFundMe, the social fund-raising platform where one can create a campaign for a cause, people can share the story to raise awareness and show their support via comments or donations, has many people looking to help others. That’s what Brittany Inglese, a neighbor and coworker of Monroe-Woodbury High School student Cindy Aguilar, whose mother, Maria, recently passed away, set up a GoFundMe, as well as an art auction, to help support the family, is trying to do. “At just 19, Cindy is the kindest and hardest working person that I know, working two jobs, going to Monroe-Woodbury High School, and helping to care for her two brothers, one with a learning disability and the other who is only three years old,” said Inglese. “For a teenager, there are a few things that could be considered more tragic than the loss of a mother, and I’m hoping to bring together the community to support a young girl in need, whether it be through donations within GoFundMe, or bidding on amazing art by a wide variety of illustrators and designers.” Social media and illustrationThough coworkers for almost two years, it wasn’t until six months into the job that Aguilar and Inglese realized that their homes are right down the road from each other. “Throughout our time together, we’ve come to care for each other as family — I truly consider Cindy to be my sister, and I would do anything to comfort her during her time of loss,” Inglese said. “My personal skills are social media and illustration, which is why GoFundMe and an artist auction are within my capabilities to try and help the Aguilar family.” An artist auction is a group of different artworks made within a common theme by many artists, which are then sold to the highest bidder. The artist receives the starting amount for the auctioned item, and the remaining bids are donated toward the cause. “I will be including donated illustrations, books, pins, and/or prints from my peers and fellow artists, including: Chris Piascik, Rich Pellegrino, Allison Cole, Tuesday Bassen, Ryan O’Rourke and several others,” said Inglese. “The full roster of artists, as well as the event itself, is still being worked through with the Monroe-Woodbury High School Art Department, and the GoFundMe will be updated with information as I receive it.” Making a differenceThe effort of one person goes a long way when it comes to helping others. “One person can make all the difference, even if it may not be noticeable to others,” Inglese said. “Sometimes, even simply letting someone know that you are there for them is enough to change their day; we all have an internal struggle, and it is always helpful to know that you have someone on your side, ready to pick you up.” Within a few days of creating the campaign, more than $4,000 was raised for Aguilar and her family, thanks to the many people that know her, along with kindhearted donors who didn’t. “When I heard about the death of Cindy’s mother, like many of her close friends and family, I was heartbroken for her,” said co-creator of the GoFundMe campaign and Aguilar’s co-worker, Joseph Fedele. “That was something out of everyone’s control, and it’s moments such as that which make you wish that you could turn back time and change whatever you can to prevent it from occurring . Cindy is now carrying the weight of two worlds on her shoulders, for she has to take on her mother’s role as a parent in her household.” The campaign is still working toward its goal of $10,000. “The community coming together would not just be helping the life of a local high school senior with finances that are out of her control, but her family’s life, as well,” Inglese said. “Cindy was left in charge of her mother’s funeral arrangements, hospital expenses (without the aid of life insurance), completing her last year of high school as best as she can, and having to quit one of her two jobs in order to take care of both her three-year-old brother, Bryan, and her 20-year-old brother, Alan.” Work, school, church, familyOn top of these responsibilities, she is in charge of putting food on the table, and helping to keep a roof over their heads, with help from their stepfather. “She struggled to maintain a 40-hour work week as a manager of a retail store, working at a local church and keeping up with her grades in school,” said Inglese. “With the sudden and tragic loss of her mother, this also adds the role of a parental figure and provider.” Fedele wanted to do whatever he could to help Aguilar and was amazed at how quickly other co-workers banded together to help in any way possible. “The fact that within a moment’s notice, everyone was on board for whatever could be done to help Cindy and her family, just goes to show the impact she has made in our lives,” he said. “I have considered Cindy a part of my family. When you meet someone who is as compassionate, selfless, and as pure as Cindy, you don’t want to lose her from your life. You want to shield her from the negative aspects of our world. You see her as a little sister whom you would protect at all costs.” Working with Aguilar has motivated her peers to work to the best of their capabilities. “Words could never express how grateful Cindy and her family are, as well as myself, to see a community come together to help someone who thinks of everyone else before herself,” said Inglese. “I, like many of Cindy’s other coworkers who see her as family, have reminded her that she is not alone—we are all here for her, whenever she needs us, and she doesn’t have to carry all of the weight.”