Teen rallies community around those in need with triple benefit dinner
From the Thousand Islands Sun, February 16, 2005

Depauville – The residents of Depauville have always reached out to support and care for their neighbors, but never before in the hamlet’s history has anyone attempted a triple benefit dinner – something the community plans on doing February 25 – and it’s a labor of love for one local teenager.

Eighteen-year-old Leah Cervantez, one of the organizers of the benefit and daughter of the late Phillip Cervantez, is no stranger to how comforting and helpful community benefits can be. She knows first-hand how much the community loved and supported her father throughout his illness and the generosity that was shown when a benefit dinner was given on his behalf, and she remembers just how grateful her family felt – and the warmth she and her family feel for the community will never diminish because of it.

Leah has always been a good friend of classmate, Natasha Branche of Clayton, who was seriously injured in an automobile accident in January. Leah knows the grief the Branche family is enduring as she had experienced much the same grief herself five years ago. Leah felt so helpless seeing her friend and family suffering after the accident that almost took her life, so she decided to do something to help her friend, and two others.

Tom Patch, who was injured in another accident, is a neighbor down the street and Leah’s heart is touched every time she drives by the Patch family home. The house, according to neighbors, is always dark because Tom’s mother keeps vigil at the hospital with her injured son.

Another neighbor, Lonnie Darou, is well known to the community, and now, his wife Gail must travel extensively to be with her husband at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where he has undergone treatment. “It has been a long haul for all of these families,” Sheila Reff, Leah’s grandmother said. “We have continuously prayed for them and are so grateful that all three are improving, but we also know that there is still a great need ant that we can finally extend ourselves to help. We would like to help defray these costs and lighten the load that such tragic upsets can impose upon a family.

At a recent Sunday worship service, Theresa Getter asked the church and community to stand behind Leah and give their one-hundred-percent support. According to Reff, Getter stated that she was so proud that someone so young would take on the responsibility ant that, as a caring community, it should encourage Leah with the undertaking. “Leah’s desire ‘to do something’ has been selfless and is commendable,” Reff said.

Leah formed a committee to help with such an undertaking that is composed of relative, friends, and neighbors of the three families: Reba Cervantez, Tim Scee, Ernie Ross, Theresa Getter, Donna Patchen, Cindy Grant, Blaine LaClair, Melanie Evans, Jessica Tousley, and Sheila Reff.

Jan Larrow has created posters to place in various business establishments to advertise the benefit dinner. The Depauville Volunteer Fire Department has reserved the Social Hall and given their time to make this triple benefit dinner a success.

The spaghetti and meatball dinner is scheduled for Friday, February 25, with take-out orders starting at 4 p.m. and dinner served at 5 p.m. at the Depauville VFD Social Hall. There will be a 50/50 drawing and donations for raffle are also being accepted.

For more information on the dinner or how to donate, call Leah Cervantez at (315) 686-2147