Fontbonne Hall Academy helps hurricane-stricken students bounce back

Seventy-nine families whose daughters attend Fontbonne Hall Academy in Bay Ridge were left homeless by the destructive forces of Hurricane Sandy, according to officials at the high school.

The school community has come together in the past three weeks to help those families regain their footing.

While Fontbonne Hall Academy, a Catholic high school for girls, is located on Shore Road in Bay Ridge, its student population comes from a wide variety of communities in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens, including neighborhoods that were devastated by the super-storm.

Even before hurricane winds subsided, Sister Dolores Crepeau, the school’s principal, started the ball rolling by assisting many of Fontbonne Hall’s 79 homeless families with resettlement. Sister Crepeau was also fielding phone calls, e-mails and text messages from concerned students, alumnae, parents and faculty.

Fontbonne Hall’s students also jumped into action. Members of the Student Activities Council, headed by President Gabriella Castellano, collected names and needs of stricken students and made plans to help.

Worried parents contacted the school about their daughters’ emotional well-being and told school officials that the girls craved the normalcy of school, according to a school spokeswoman.

Members of the Fontbonne Hall alumnae offered school uniforms and shoes to allow girls whose families lost all of their possessions to feel comfortable returning to school. Many of the girls and their now homeless families have been taken in by other Fontbonne Hall families, according to school officials.

Students listened with sympathy as survivors described their ordeal, including horrifying tales of families escaping from their rapidly flooding homes by surfboards and kayaks.

Hurricane Sandy also forced four of the teachers to leave their homes in Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Staten Island and Howard Beach.

While most after-school activities have been cancelled, the soccer team and the varsity and junior varsity volleyball teams met and voted to compete in their respective play-off series.

“This commitment is particularly noteworthy since the majority of the team members have lost their homes and are displaced. Nevertheless, they are looking forward to competing as Fontbonne. The volleyball coach herself lost her Breezy Point home to fire,” a statement from the school read.

The Student Activities Council has organized collections for items such as cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items and baby needs, as well as donations of Visa and Master Card gift cards to be given directly to the families. The students have taken a leadership role in this recovery project, school officials said.

As the needs of the hurricane victims continue to unfold, additional plans will be made to assist them, school officials said. Many of Fontbonne Hall’s students have responded to the crisis by volunteering in their home communities or those of their friends.

One such initiative has been taken by Lifestream, a decades-old student club founded to respond to emergency situations. Its origins were in recycling cans for cash, and the students have gone back to the club’s  roots by collecting old or unused cell phones to distribute to families whose devices were lost or destroyed in the storm. On Sunday, Dec. 9, members of the Fontbonne Hall Academy board of trustees are hosting a Zumbathon to raise funds to help the members of the Fontbonne community.  For more information, visit 

Anyone interested in assisting Fontbonne Hall families should contact Sister Dolores Crepeau at 718-748-2244 or contact her at [email protected].