SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) – When physical education teacher Maryam Ek Kaufman, Coach Ek, returned to her gymnasium at Dr. King Elementary School after winter break, she saw new faces in his class. Six to be exact, all siblings.
So Coach Ek picked up the phone and called their mother, welcoming her and her seven children to the Syracuse City School District. She soon discovered that the worry she saw in the children was because they didn’t know where they were going to lay their heads each night, they were homeless.
“And I said ‘well you have a case manager and a worker are they helping you?’ And she said ‘I don’t think they’re doing enough’, and I said ‘Okay, I’ll see what I can do for you and that’s how it all started’, said said Kaufman.
Coach Ek set to work finding a home within the family budget, a far more difficult task than she had originally anticipated.
“I went to a few places and they were awful,” Kaufman said. “Between asbestos, mold and mildew in need of major renovation, apartment choices were slim to non-existent.”
With the help of her real estate agent friend, Kaufman broadened her search to houses, but was still struggling to find a large enough space in the family’s price range, until she came across this house.
“We were on our way to a house and that house was glowing like it lit up as we drove by and I’m still driving and we’re driving to another house and I’m like ‘wow!’ So we stop at the house next door and I say ‘how come this house on this street is not on our list?’ and she laughs and looks at me and says “this house is double your budget, that’s why it’s not on your list”, and I said “is it vacant” and she has said ‘yeah’ and I said ‘let’s just watch for fun.’ As soon as we walked in, my husband said, “This is it, this is home.”
Maryam Ek Kaufman, Physical Education Teacher, STEAM @ Dr King
The motivation behind this generous donation? Coach Ek describes it as a call from God that pushed her to do more.
“God calls us to give to those less fortunate than us and I would lay awake at night wondering if she slept or how the kids slept and I was so blessed to wake up and it was – I thought felt refreshed and I have a calm at home, I have a safe neighborhood and I said you know I want this for his kids, it seems like an easy thing to do,” Kaufman said.
But she didn’t do it alone. Her school community and the entire Syracuse community rallied around her giving gift after gift. By the time the family was ready to move in, the house had become a home. Not only was it fully furnished, but the fridge and freezer were stocked with food and there was a van waiting for them in the garage.
“We walked through the rooms, she saw every room and she just gasped… ‘is this really for my baby coach? I can’t believe you did this’ and I said ‘we, it was a team effort,’” Kaufman said.
Now a lifelong partnership as Coach Ek walks alongside his extended family in their new beginning.
The family of eight moved into their new home on Saturday, just in time for Mother’s Day. If you would like to donate to help the family get back on their feet, you can check out their GoFundMe page here.