Ithaca Is...Helping

When a tractor-trailer slammed into Simeon’s restaurant on the Ithaca Commons last summer, killing bartender Amanda Bush and injuring seven others, Deborah Mohlenhoff ’92 knew she had to do something to help.

Immediately she started organizing the community aid flowing in for those affected by the accident, and within a month she had organized a benefit raising nearly $10,000.

“It is our responsibility to make sure there are good community leaders ready to step up in the future.”


“We had so many people coming forward and saying, ‘I want to help. What can I do?’” Mohlenhoff says. Her Google web forms helped match offers of jobs, cash, and supplies with Simeon’s employees, residents of the building, and others affected.

This wasn’t the first relief effort organized by the City of Ithaca alderwoman and acting mayor. Last winter, when Ithaca’s Fall Creek neighborhood was flooded, Mohlenhoff used social media to direct volunteers, preparing more than 5,000 sandbags in under 24 hours.

“I’m always amazed at the response we get,” Mohlenhoff says. “It reinforces how wonderful the Ithaca community is. It’s a city of such generous people.”

Mohlenhoff’s philanthropic roots run deep. Before joining Tompkins Cortland Community College in 2010 as director of student activities, she worked at IC developing the college’s community service program — where she led by example, volunteering and joining local nonprofit boards. She also participated in the yearlong Leadership Tompkins program, which teaches participants how to effectively make a difference in their community.

Now she’s the program director. “It is our responsibility to make sure there are good community leaders ready to step up in the future,” says Mohlenhoff.

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