During this holiday season, the Daily News is devoting a weekly spot to some of the miraculous work done by the city's nonprofits, foundations and charities. If you'd like to share your own favorite, send it to us at the addresses listed on the letters page - and label it "Milagros" - that's Spanish for "miracles."
BY THE TIME many of you get your hands on today's Daily News, Maureen Faulkner will have already been on TVs all over the country via NBC's "Today" show. Her appearance marks the official launch of the book she and I co-wrote, "Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain and Injustice."
Neither of us is accepting a dime from the sale of the book. All author proceeds will go to Justice for Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, the nonprofit set up by Maureen in 1998 to honor Danny's memory and combat the propaganda of those apologizing for the man convicted of killing her husband.
Since then, she's expanded its mission, and now makes scholarship grants to the children of murder victims in Philadelphia. Lord knows, there are plenty of potential recipients of her generosity, which is itself a silver lining to the execution of her husband 26 years ago this week.
Because of advance sales, Maureen Faulkner and I will present $170,000 to her nonprofit next week. The money will then be directed to the educational needs of Philadelphia youth who have lost a parent to violence.
Like Erma Aponte.
She's typical of those the Faulkner fund has sought to help. In 2000, less than two weeks before Christmas, Erma's father, Jamie, was killed while driving his taxi - shot just minutes after he finished dinner at the Aponte's North Philadelphia home. And just minutes after he'd told Erma he'd try to earn the $50 she needed to submit an application to computer school.
At the time, police suspected that whoever killed him intended to rob him. He became the third cabbie shot in the city that month, and his murder left six children without a father.
Not long after Jamie Aponte was killed, Jerry Watkins, then one of the stable of volunteers who make Justice for Police Officer Danny Faulkner work, called Erma to tell her Maureen Faulkner wanted to give her $5,000 to put toward college. Erma told Jerry Watkins: "It shows my dad is still watching over me." (Watkins, himself a gem of a man, has since left this earth.)
I often wonder what else Jamie Aponte sees as he watches over Philadelphia. No doubt he's watching a city still buckling under the weight of the violence that claimed his life - and left his daughter to try earn her keep before she could learn to do so.
These are days in which too many aren't safe. Drug markets continue to mar our streets, many families are scattered and broken, and those sworn to protect us are enduring an unparalleled assault. Six cops have been shot over the last two months.
Which makes Maureen Faulkner's work, done in Danny Faulkner's name, even more significant.
Just ask A. King Beverly, Justin Frisby, Erma Aponte, Dana Dutch, Charles Ritterson, Zilika Meade, Billy Kite, Michael Selby, Edward Fields, Nicole Ballard, Kaitlin Eichhorn, Angela Ahmarov, Gina Capriotti, Nora Rafferty, Anthony Bruno, David Capriotti and Tyzahvon McCloud.
They are recipients of $5,000 grants from the fund Maureen administers - and the stewards of her husband's good name today. More money will be awarded on Monday.
"We wanted to actually help them in some way, and we determined that the best thing we could do was to assist the children in furthering their education," Maureen told me. "That's why we began providing educational grants for the children of murder victims and those who have had a parent severely disabled in an attempted murder."
"So many people needlessly lose their lives in my home town, and, after the initial news buzz, their families are left alone to pick up the pieces. We founded the educational fund to help the survivors and to let them know that as survivors of murder, they are part of an extended family."
Those wishing to apply for education grants can write to Maureen Faulkner at PO Box 39270, Philadelphia, PA 19136.
"Murdered by Mumia" is on sale everywhere today.
Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5:30-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Read him Sundays in the Inquirer. Contact him via the Web at www.mastalk.com.