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NYC woman finds long-lost friend with help of old photo and lucky Facebook post: ‘I started crying’

UWS resident Jennifer Calcano
UWS resident Jennifer Calcano

An old photo album, a social media plea and a key stroke of luck reconnected an Upper West Side woman with a long-lost friend she hadn’t seen or spoken to in three decades.

When Jennifer Calcano found a charming photo in a scrapbook a few years ago of her and an older girl she knew growing up in the 1990s, she wondered what happened to her childhood pal.

The older girl, Kimberly Mendez, played an integral part in Calcano’s childhood, walking her to now-shuttered St. Gregory’s Catholic School every day for two years when Calcano, now 36, was too young to go alone and her mother was too ill to take her there.

The photo was from the mid-1990s. Matthew McDermott
The photo was from the mid-1990s. Matthew McDermott

The girls both lived on West 90th Street a few buildings apart, but lost contact in 1995 after Mendez graduated from the school that only ran until 8th grade back then. Calcano was in 3rd grade at the time.

“She treated me like I was cool,” recalled Calcano. “We would just walk and talk and then she would drop me off at my class and she would go to hers.”

The photo discovery prompted a years-long search that seemed destined to fail.

Calcano only knew Mendez’s first name and had the single photograph. She had reached out to past teachers and put up other Facebook posts, but to no avail. She couldn’t ask her mother, who died 10 years ago.

“I just wanted to know how she was doing,” Calcano said of her friend. “I wasn’t expecting much.”

She finally got her answer after she posted on the “Upper West Side Together” Facebook page last month.

“My name is Jennifer and the young lady hugging me is named Kimberly,” Calcano posted on Feb. 23, according to local outlet ilovetheupperwestside.com, which first reported the story.

“I’ve been looking for her for years, just to show gratitude because if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have made it to school every day due to my mother’s illness and she was such a nice beautiful young woman. Does anyone know where I can locate her?”

The outside of the home Calcano grew up in and would get picked up every day by Kimberly. Matthew McDermott
The outside of the home Calcano grew up in and would get picked up every day by Kimberly. Matthew McDermott

It took only hours for her to find an answer.

“And then someone said, I know who that is, I want to make sure she’s comfortable giving out her information,” Calcano said. “So again — didn’t hold out hope, but then Kim wrote me on Facebook and said ‘you found me.’ I felt such joy.”

Mendez, 42, now lives in Connecticut and is a mother who works in the cannabis field.

“I started crying immediately because it’s such a nice feeling … that someone remembers something kind of small that you did, but was impactful for them,” she told The Post about finding out that Calcano was searching for her.

Mendez’s aunt was contacted by a friend about Calcano’s Facebook plea and passed the message along to her niece.

Kimberly Mendez was thrilled when she found out a decades old pal was seeking her. Instagram / Kayslayyy_97
Kimberly Mendez was thrilled when she found out a decades old pal was seeking her. Instagram / Kayslayyy_97

When Mendez replied to the post on the Upper West Side page, she wrote, “I too think about you often and wondered about you. You were such a sweet little lady.”

Mendez said she believes Calcano’s mother initially paid her $5 per week to help her daughter.

“But before you knew it, I really liked doing it,” Mendez said, noting Calcano was “like a little sister.”

The pair spoke two weeks ago for the first time in nearly three decades and have also texted a few times with plans to meet up when the weather warms up.

Calcano, also a mother herself now and a former postal worker, lives in the same apartment she grew up in and Mendez’s aunt still lives on the same street.

“Our plan is to meet and go have a drink or you know, catch up,” Calcano said. “I’d love to have an updated photo of just her and I … I would be just so happy to see her again.”