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‘Every act of kindness makes a difference’: More than 11 Staten Island public schools band together to help veterans

The American flag. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

PS 56 in Rossville has again partnered with the SSG Michael Ollis Freedom Foundation to support our troops. In years past, the school spearheaded the Operation Ollis initiative, which delivered over 200 care packages to servicemen and servicewomen overseas. This year, the school has set its sights on helping retired local veterans who need support the most, hence the launch of operation “A Hero Needs A Hero.”

Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis was an Army Ranger who hailed from New Dorp. After graduating from the Michael J. Petrides High School in Sunnyside, he enlisted in the armed services at 17. He served seven years in the armed forces, and had three total tours: One in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. In 2013, during his second deployment to Afghanistan, insurgent forces launched an attack; in the midst of the battle, Ollis used his own body to shield a wounded Polish soldier from a suicide bomber. He gave his life that day at the young age of 24. This heroic act of selflessness earned Ollis an array of posthumous awards, among them Poland’s highest military award, the Polish Gold Star Medal of Honor. New York City honored Ollis by naming the latest, state-of-the-art Staten Island Ferry class after him.


Ollis gave everything for his fellow serviceman, and now Staten Islanders are called upon to give what they can. Recent years have witnessed the upheaval due to a global pandemic and rising costs for necessities. To make matters worse, many veterans receive insufficient stipends that fail to meet their needs. To alleviate the pressure facing our veterans and their families, the Craig Newmark New York Tri-State Chapter of Blue Star Families teamed up with Staten Island Giving Circle to host a food pantry at Fort Wadsworth. Drawing inspiration from this initiative, PS 56, and the SSG Michael Ollis Freedom Foundation took action.

PS 56 has led a coalition of public schools across the Island in support of our troops. The first step of this two-part operation is to establish a day to wear camo clothing, and ask staff for a $1 donation. This aims to spur the spirits of those serving this nation. Additionally, schools are invited to designate an area where tags can be displayed. These offerings call for gift cards to local stores, most of which are no more than $10. PS 56 opted to create a giving tree, but schools can decide if they would like to mimic that idea or create one of their own. Schools currently committed to A Hero Needs A Hero include PS 1, PS 3, PS 5, PS 6, PS 29, PS 36, PS 42, PS 48, PS 55, PS 56, PS 62, and I.S. 75.

“[We want to] teach our future leaders and shapers of tomorrow that every act of kindness makes a difference,” said Marie Ribaudo, secretary of PS 56.

The deadline for this community give-back is Dec. 16.

With Thanksgiving less than a week away and other holidays right around the corner, this initiative allows the community to express their gratitude.

For more information on how to support this cause, email Ribaudo at [email protected] or call PS 56 at 718-605-1189.


(c) 2022 Staten Island Advance

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