By Ed Perratore
More than 150 drivers in downtown Mount Kisco on Aug. 11 got the chance to get their cars and trucks washed and make a profound difference at the same time.
The car wash, behind the Union Hook & Ladder Co. fire station on Green Street, raised more than $2,200 for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Girls Senior High School in Techiman, Ghana.
Father Benjamin Obour, a native of Ghana who served at Mount Kisco’s St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church for seven years, today is chaplain at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel but continues to visit St. Francis between semesters.
“The car wash will surely help my school,” he said in an interview. “With this financial assistance, I’ll be able to address at least some of the needs of my students. Africa is not privileged like the United States. You can tell the difference.”
During Obour’s visits from Ghana, he has worked to further ties and solicit as much aid as he can for his school of 600 girls from all over that African country. St. Francis is now a sister parish to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
Obour’s efforts to help his students began at St. Francis’ religious education office, where he asked Jill Carelli and assistant Lisa Reinhardt, who run that program, for help with buying school supplies such as pens, pencils and protractors, along with flashlights the students need while walking to use the facilities after nightfall. The response, fueled mostly through the church bulletin and social media, helped pay not only for supplies but also for numbered soccer jerseys bearing the school’s logo – with the help of Mt. Kisco Sports and Modell’s.
The pace further picked up after Carelli spoke with longtime volunteer Sharon Hyatt-Luppino, a lifelong St. Francis parishioner and mother of four boys, about the possibility of also getting the girls calculators. Hyatt-Luppino started a gofundme page and, soon after, started working on logistics for the car wash.
“My objective in life is to get involved where it makes a difference in the life of a kid, cause the kids are the best,” she said. “I put all my time and effort into it.”
Logistics aside, she needed volunteers – and got them. Besides several adults, including Carelli, Reinhardt and Obour, about two dozen members of the St. Francis Youth Group, along with teen parishioners preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation next May, handled the sponges, hoses and rags with cheer.
Hyatt-Luppino was thrilled with how smoothly the event ran, thanks to “an incredible bunch of kids.” And of the community’s response to the car wash, she wasn’t surprised.
“You can’t get a nicer, kinder, more gentle soul than smiling Father Ben,” she said. “He’s always in a good mood, always so pleasant. Everybody, when they hear it’s for Father Ben, that’s all we have to do.”
Obour was no less grateful to the village and everyone who made the day a success, including a St. Francis usher who missed the car wash but later handed over a $500 check.
Still, Obour knows his challenge is great. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel receives some aid from Ghana’s government, which pays for teachers’ salaries, but much of everything else is up to him and volunteers across the ocean.
He hopes, for example, to complete a security wall around the school property that would help protect the female students from attack. Another goal, in a country where malaria accounts for 40 percent of all outpatient medical attention, is to replace 28 aging or failed ceiling fans in 14 dormitories.
“We look at the fans as all-important because the students have mosquitoes carrying malaria parasites biting them in the night,” he said. “If we have the fans circulating the air in the room, we would be able to keep away the mosquitoes away.”
If you couldn’t make it to the car wash but would like to contribute, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/calculate-your-kindnesscalculators-for-mt-carmel.
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