Community sends Voorheesville’s Class of 2020 into the world with a little care

— From Michelle Napierski-Prancl

Wendy Relyea delivers a care package to Voorheesville senior Kaelyn Lawson, while Relyea’s son, Trevor, was home getting his own care package. Lawson will be attending Castleton University in Vermont; her care package included a Castleton hat and water bottle along with snacks.

VOORHEESVILLE — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Clayton A. Bouton’s soon-to-be graduating Class of 2020 to miss out on a lot of rites of passage this year, like their prom and senior trip.

“Everything had kind of been pulled out from under them. And so we’re just texting and [asking] what can we do about doing this?” said Michelle Napierski-Prancl, whose son, Colin, will be graduating this year and attending Providence College in the fall.

Not long after Governor Andrew Cuomo physically closed schools for the year and all learning went online, parents of Voorheesville’s senior class began texting one another about what they could do. 

“We knew there were several other texting conversations going on among other groups of parents so we started a Facebook page so that we could all share information and support one another during these extraordinary times,” Napierski-Prancl told The Enterprise by email. 

She said that about 90 percent of the parents of the 91 graduating students were in the group; the rest were reachable by phone. 

One of the first things to come out of the Facebook group, she said, was the decorating of Hotaling Park at the center of the village to celebrate the seniors. Napierski-Prancl credited Robert Whiteman with setting all of that up. 

On a group text of mothers, Napierski-Prancl said, one mom had asked if any of the others had seen the adopt-a-senior “thing” that was happening on Facebook.

Another mother said she had signed up her son for it, and, at first, her son thought it was “dorky” that his mother had signed him up, Napierski-Prancl said, but his cynicism quickly turned to sincerity. “He couldn’t believe how touched he was by the stranger who had sent this care package to him,” she said.

So, she and some other mothers presented a similar program to the Voorheesville Parent-Teacher Association for sponsorship, which loved the idea, and what came out of it was the Blackbird Special Delivery Service.

Napierski-Prancl coordinated the service along with Shauna Worthley and Suzanne Hartmann, she said.

Parents signed up their seniors to receive a care package, Napierski-Prancl said, and they were asked about their child’s favorite snack, a fun fact about him or her, and their post-graduation plans, among other things.

And then someone in the community could sign up if they wanted to give a care package, she said. 

Each care package was unique to its receiver, according Napierski-Prancl, and “may have been created by a third-grader, a science teacher, a parent of a middle schooler, a Voorheesville alumnus, a Kiwanis soccer coach, a member of the PTA, a next-door neighbor, or any one of the many people from the Voorheesville community who wanted to send their support to the Class of 2020.”

A number of local businesses made donations as well, she added. 

On Sunday, June 14, the individual care packages were dropped off at the high school parking lot where 10 parent volunteers waited to deliver the packages to their intended student.  

“We actually had a few more people sign up to give, then we had enough seniors to get [a care package],” Napierski-Prancl said.

Students were surprised when their care packages were dropped off at the places they work, she said; one student was called into work at Indian Ladder Farms at the last minute, but still received her care package there. Athletic Director Joseph Sapienza showed up at her son’s workplace to drop off his care package, she said. 

Her son, Colin, had thought she sent him the care package because it included laundry detergent — for his college dorm. But she also had written that he was a big fan of television shows “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” so there was a mug with Michael Scott on it and a T-shirt with Ron Swanson on it.

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