How The Andy Foundation keeps its namesake’s spirit alive
In the 15 years since it was founded in January 2004, the Garden City-based and volunteer-driven Andy Foundation has been involved with providing nearly $1 million to more than 25 different charitable causes.
The latest project, being spearheaded by founder Jill Palmeri, is the construction of a playground for the Pal-O-Mine equine assisted therapy center in Islandia. The community build happened on Sept. 28.
Having raised $200,000 to fund the construction, Palmeri also roped in local general contractor Jeremy Cotty to help out. Not only is Cotty volunteering all of his time, but he wrote a check and also wrangled a crew to prep the site. When the inclusive play space is done being constructed, the hope is that it will bring joy to children of all ages and abilities. It’s just this kind of charitable spirit that Palmeri has hoped to continue fostering ever since her organization was founded as a way to honor the memory of her then-11-year-old son, who was tragically hit by a car while playing tag back in 2003.
“[The Andy Foundation] was started after the death of my son Andrew. We just wanted to do something to honor his life a little bit. And we wanted to do something that was all inclusive because he was only 11 and the kids were young,” Palmeri explained. “So we started this first yard sale because everybody could do it. There was no cost to it. You could either donate, shop or volunteer to help.”
It was this kind of egalitarian spirit that wound up defining the organization’s motto, “By Kids—For Kids.” Shortly after the Andy Foundation got off the ground in January 2004, an Andy Club was started at school. Football clinics, bake sales and hockey tournaments were held and the Mother’s Day classic known as the annual Andy Foundation yard sale took place at St. Paul’s. It was going strong for 15 years through 2018. That is, until the village increased the amount it cost to rent St. Paul’s to a point that made it prohibitive to hold the event there.
“It’s the same with what happened with the Jay Gallagher Lacrosse Tournament, which is why that ended,” she explained. “We put a lot of work into [the yard sale] and to have such a huge increase with no negotiation—we did it for a few years and I just decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. It’s not fair.”
While the yard sale is no more, Palmeri is still accepting donations of gently used items via a Yard Sale Shop that was originally located on Franklin Avenue when it opened three years ago. A quest for more space led to its current location in a 1,500-square foot space at 195 Herricks Rd. in Garden City Park.
Palmeri’s selflessness found her being recognized by the Garden City Historical Society, which honored her alongside fellow Garden City residents Jack and Maggie Biggane of the Mollie Fund and Al Vanasco of the Garden City Athletic Association’s Challenger Sports Program at the society’s annual fundraiser that was recently held at the Garden City Hotel, which was also commemorating the village’s 150th anniversary.
Born and raised in Garden City, (not unlike her mother), Palmeri’s work as a real estate broker has found her touting the village’s historic homes, stellar schools and excellent sports and STEM programs. But it is the spirit and generosity of her community’s residents that have allowed the Andy Foundation to push forward with its charitable spirit while honoring the memory of her late son Andrew.
“What makes Garden City so special is the spirit of giving and giving back. People realize they’re lucky and want to help,” Palmeri said. “We’ve never had an issue raising money once we get a cause going. Or getting people to help if we just need bodies. I don’t know if Garden City is unique or not, but I think it’s just unbelievable.”