When a Simsbury mother learned one of her friends had fallen on difficult times, she wasted no time and decided to rally her community to come to her friend's aid.
Patty Janusz knew something was not right with her friend Hannah Thibedeau when she saw her at their daughters' cheerleading practice one night.
"She looked so stressed and so tired," Janusz said. "It just broke my heart."
Thibodeau, a middle school physical education teacher in Tolland, is a mother of two young girls, Haleigh, 8, and Ceirra, 7, and is currently 8-months pregnant with another child. Thibodeau lives in East Windsor and met Janusz last year at the Phoenix Spirit All Stars gym in East Windsor.
Last year, Thibodeau's apartment sustained severe water damage during hurricane Irene. After reporting the damage to her landlord, Thibodeau said she waited, and waited, but nothing was ever repaired. The apartment then became infested with mold.
"I wanted to move, I just didn't have enough money to move out," Thibodeau said.
Following the mold infestation, the apartment was also damaged by two electrical fires as a result of a lack of maintenance by Thibodeau's former landlord.
Thibodeau, who has taught for approximately 10 years, said the troubles at her home coupled with several expensive repairs to her car and her husband's unemployment created a financial storm for her family.
Thibodeau recently moved out of the mold-infested apartment and she and her daughters stayed with a friend until she could afford the deposit for a new apartment.
"It's been an all-around bad situation for her," Janusz said.
That's when Janusz decided she needed to do something for her new friend.
"I asked her 'what do you need," Janusz said.
Thibodeau, at first reluctant to ask for help, told Janusz she could use a few items of furniture, but mostly she needed to replace all the items she had been collecting for her new baby. Just about everything in her old apartment had been damaged by the mold.
Janusz took down a list of the few items Thibodeau told her and got right on the Simsbury Beg, Borrow, Barter, or Sell Facebook page and posted a request for help.
"ISO: Hi moms...I have a friend who is going through a really tough time right now financially and is in need of a few things...a small kitchen table...a stroller/newborn car seat...a rocking chair for baby's room and anything else you think a soon to be mom of three on her own may need....ps..she's a school teacher so keep that in mind..it can happen to anyone:-("
"I just put the message out there and within minutes I had about 50 emails," Janusz said. "It was incredible. The response blew me away. I was in tears."
Soon after she posted the request, donations quickly began to accumulate at her home.
A kitchen table, a microwave, gift cards, comforters, kitchen items, and baby clothes from families all over the Farmington Valley.
"People aren't just donating old items, they are going out and buying things," Janusz said.
When the donated items began to show up at Thibodeau's home, she was speechless.
"I just couldn't believe it, it was amazing," Thibodeau said.
Janusz said she's been impressed by the amount of support that she's seen and continues to see from the community.
"When it's a teacher it hits so close to home because we're all so close to our kids' teachers," Janusz said. "I think there's also a lot of moms who have donated because they've been in a similar situation in the past."
Thibodeau said she's received just about everything she needs with the exception of diapers which she'll soon need plenty of as she's due to give birth in the coming weeks.
"I'm just so thankful to all the people who are helping us out."