Teen raises thousands to support Brooklyn homeless, frontline workers, small businesses

John Ciafone (center) donated jackets to homeless children.
Photo courtesy of John Ciafone

A teenager helped support frontline workers across Brooklyn while simultaneously supporting small businesses after launching a fundraiser that raised thousands of dollars. 

John Ciafone, a 17-year-old student at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in Manhattan, started the money-raising effort in August to support small businesses in Brooklyn, and raised over $5,000 in just a few days, which became $10,000 as his mother’s friend offered to match the amount of money he raised. 

“It was really cool to see that people still care about others, and they still want to give back to the community whether through someone or directly,” Ciafone said. “It just really warms my heart.”

The funds were used to purchase doughnuts from Peter Pan Donuts and Pastry Shop in Greenpoint, which the Queens native said he selected because he knew the owners could use the support as the pandemic has forced many small businesses in the city to close their doors. 

The dozens and dozens of doughnuts were then delivered by Ciafone and his mother to hospitals across the borough for frontline workers to enjoy — all while also helping a local business in need with his large purchase. 

“We donated the food to the hospitals for the employees, doctors, the nurses and even some of the patients,” Ciafone said. 

After his summer of giving was over, Ciafone left his GoFundMe page up and people kept on donating without Ciafone’s knowledge until December when he noticed the additional funds and took action. 

“I kept that page up and I recently found out that I gained another $2,000,” he said. 

This time, he went and bought coats and boots among other children’s clothing and personally delivered them to homeless and family shelters across the borough, giving kids the pick of their favorite jacket. 

“We went to a few different homeless and family shelters and we donated jackets to the little kids who didn’t have jackets,” Ciafone said. “And it was really amazing to see because they were really excited.” 

Ciafone said the excitement in the children’s eyes about their new coats is what makes all of his efforts worth it. 

“A little girl saw a red jacket that caught her eye, and luckily it was her size,” Ciafone said. “And her eyes lit up and it was really nice to see.” 

Seeing all of the loss people were experiencing as a result of the pandemic while he sat comfortably on his couch is what the high school student said inspired him to help those less fortunate than him. 

“My whole life I haven’t had to worry about when I am going to eat my next meal or if I am going to sleep in my own bed at night,” Ciafone said. “I saw a lot on the news about how people were struggling, how people had to leave their home… and that really upset me and saddened me and I wanted to do something about it.”