By Tim Harfmann
Lisa Cotoggio owns Grandma’s Cheesecake Sandwiches, an online-based company, and she wanted to help those who have fallen on hard times. “It’s always been my biggest fear that I would wind up homeless,” said an emotional Cotoggio, “I just think it’s very important that we help them.” So the Bayside, Queens baker made 150 heart-shaped pastries for Valentine’s Day.
Using her grandmother’s recipe, cherry-filled cheesecake is sandwiched between two cookies and topped with chocolate. They’re baked with love. “I don’t have my own valentine, and I figured a lot of homeless people didn’t have a valentine either; so I thought maybe I could be everyone’s valentine this year and make some people feel better,” said Cotoggio.
Cotoggio’s first stop on Wednesday, February 13th was the Long Island Railroad station in Babylon. Fifty-five-year-old Thomas Wrightington has been on the streets for eight months. A former baker himself, he’s trying to get back on his feet. He described how the gesture made him feel. “Special. We’re on the streets here, so it’s nice that someone comes by and gives us some food,” said Wrightington. A Catholic himself, Wrightington said he turns to local parishes for help. To him, Cotoggio is a Godsend. “She’s an angel from above. She really is,” said Wrightington.
Growing up a parishioner at Saint Fidelis Church in College Point, Queens Cotoggio attended Catholic school there. The faith-based education instilled values leading to her good deed. “My Catholic faith played a tremendous role in this. They teach you, in Catholic school, to be caring and humble and to help the less fortunate,” said Cotoggio.
At Saint Patrick’s Church in Bay Shore, it was lunchtime in the soup kitchen. Cotoggio brought dessert. “It’s a beautiful spirit. She’s blessed for doing it, and I’m blessed for receiving it,” said Michael Lopuch. The 65-year-old was at the church for lunch. “They’re human just like we are, and people need to remember that,” said Cotoggio.
The Catholic baker also passed out desserts in Midtown Manhattan on Valentine’s Day.