When Cindy Russell, owner of Abigail Bottoms Preschool in Patchogue, announced on Facebook that the school was closing due to financial struggles, the community quickly rallied and put a plan into action.

On May 21 she posted an emotional letter that read, “Like many other small businesses, the effects of COVID-19 have put tremendous

financial stress on Abigail Bottoms. With no income to cover rent, and no certainty of being able to reopen in September, I am forced to accept the reality that I must close the school after over 40 years of operation.”

Russell, who took over the preschool from its original owner in 2004, had to close its doors in March because of the mandated state shutdown and was unsure if she will be able to open in the fall.

“I still have rent,” she told GreaterPatchogue. “And between the unknown and length of that time… it’s expensive.”

But once she posted the letter to social media, followers and families refused to let closing be the last resort. Russell said that her phone would not stop ringing and, although uncomfortable at first, she decided to accept the donations and give the thought of opening its doors at 450 Waverly Avenue another shot. 

“I’m so grateful, overwhelmed and blessed,” she said. “I’ve never been more proud to be a part of this community… there’s a lot of good coming out of it.”

A GoFundMe was posted on May 27 and in just two days over $8,000 was raised. With the help of private donors, Russell said they could now keep her space a couple of more months.

In a new letter posted to Facebook, she wrote, “We have begun reassessing the possibility of reopening in September, though we cannot predict what the reopening will look like. With your support, we have been given the opportunity to see how things will evolve over the next few months. Hopefully, as time passes, there will be more details on how we can move forward in a responsible way.” She also detailed how class might look post-pandemic if the school can open.

“Am I nervous? Yes,” she said. “But the community wants to me to try, so I’m going to.”

Until then, Miss Cindy said they are just waiting to see what happens as the school year approaches.

“We’re going to take the risk and try, watch, and see how it goes,” she said.

Top: Cindy Russell, owner of Abigail Bottoms Preschool in Patchogue, with children at her school (credit: Facebook)