Times record port jefferson • belle terre • port jefferson station • terryville
Vol. 31, No. 5
December 28, 2017
PEO PL E O F T H E YE A R 2017 Honorees Joseph Higgins A3 Nicole Christian A4 Joseph Rizzo A4 Debra Engelhardt A5 Christine Austen A9 John Turner A10 Margo Arceri A11 Charles Lefkowitz A12 Reboli Center A13 Frank Rivera A15 James Vosswinkel A16 Jack Soldano A17 SCPD 6th Precinct Officers A18 Ed Darcey A19 Building Bridges Brookhaven A20 Joseph & Maddie Mastriano A24 Frank & Kelli Cutinella A25 Tuscany Market A26 Champions for the autistic A27
Joseph Higgins Christine Austen
PAGE A2 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
A message from the publisher The Port Times Record is proud to continue an annual tradition of honoring members of the community who have contributed in a significant manner to its residents and institutions during the past year. These are the people who go the extra mile to improve the quality of our lives. In these pages, we salute their achievements. We also realize that these men and women are not unique — they are symbolic of the many who devote their efforts to the good of our hometowns. We salute them all and thank them for their service to the communities we love. Four years ago, we changed the format of how we honor our People of the Year. Now we have one edition for each of the three towns we cover — Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington — combining winners from multiple papers. We also eliminated the categories we previously used to organize the winners, such as medicine, sports or the arts, as we found that they were limiting in how we were able to honor people. Every winner is simply
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a person of the year, no matter what their concentration may be. We hope you enjoy our People of the Year issue, and that you feel enhanced pride your town. Leah S. Dunaief Publisher
The PORT TIMES RECORD (USPS 004-808) is published Thursdays by TIMES BEACON RECORD NEWSPAPERS, 185 Route 25A, Setauket, NY 11733. Periodicals postage paid at Setauket, NY and additional mailing offices. Subscription price $49 annually. Leah S. Dunaief, Publisher. POSTMASTER: Send change of address to PO Box 707, Setauket, NY 11733.
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DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A3
Tara Inn pub owner known for half-a-century of giving BY ALEX PETROSKI ALEX@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM A national tragedy sprung Joseph Higgins to action in September, but the owner of Tara Inn pub hasn’t needed a special reason to demonstrate his ethos of above and beyond generosity in the 40 years he has owned the upper Port Jefferson watering hole. When Higgins heard of the devastation in Houston and the surrounding region as a result of Hurricane Harvey in late August, he said it resonated with him in a way that left him feeling like action was required. The pub owner decided to hold a benefit Sept. 4, Labor Day, to raise money for people affected by the massive storm. In addition to the sale of raffle tickets and Harvey relief T-shirts donated by Port Jefferson Sporting Goods, Higgins gave away 100 percent of the bar’s food and beverage sales from the day to a group providing aid for victims in the region. Tara Inn amassed more than $15,200 in sales and donations that day, which were given to the storm victims through the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Higgins rounded up the donation to an even $16,000. “Forty years ago I had eight kids, my wife and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, and I said, ‘God, help me raise these kids,’ and he did,” the 87-year-old Photo by Alex Petroski Higgins said during the event, while seated near the pub’s front door with a container Joseph Higgins, owner of Tara Inn in Port Jeff, collects donations during a fundraiser Sept. 4 for Hurricane Harvey victims. for additional donations. “And I can’t thank God enough for all he has given me and Every year, Higgins also donates vegeta- Tara Higgins, whom the bar was named af- sign the paperwork she was informed she that’s why we give back. I’ve had a great bles to Infant Jesus church in Port Jeff for ter. She added somehow Higgins and his needed to come up with about $800 to pay life, and I like to give back. There have been times in my life where I had an oppor- its Thanksgiving event. The pub also serves wife of 65 years, Pat, managed to send her for the insurance, which she didn’t have. tunity to do something good and I didn’t a free lunch to senior citizens around St. and her siblings to schools like Harvard, She said she asked Higgins, who gave her Boston College, Villanova and Providence the money. The next day she arrived at the do it, and I always regret that. Every time Patrick’s Day every year. Kate Higgins estimated her father has to name a few. “With his grandchildren, bar ready to talk about how she would pay something comes along that we can do for donated somewhere in the ballpark of like he is with everyone else, he has an him back. Higgins asked how long the loan somebody else, I want to do it.” In talking to his friends and family, Hig- $200,000 in total from the New Year’s Day ability to make you feel like you’re the most was for, and when Talasko responded four years, he told her, “In four years come back gins’ assertion that he has missed opportu- fundraisers, but that doesn’t account for a important person in the world.” and talk to me.” lifetime of random acts Her sister Kate tried to explain why her nities to give back seems Up until recently, Tara Inn’s menu feaof kindness Higgins has father has decided to spend his life giving like a wholly disingenutured a hamburger for $1, a Higgins idea. done over the years. so much. ous characterization of “He always said he wanted to keep it According to Tom “I don’t think he ever forgets where he his life. For that reason, Meehan, a longtime came from,” she said. “He didn’t have it low so if anybody only had a dollar or two Higgins is a 2017 Times friend of Higgins’ and easy growing up. He lost his father when they could come in and get something to Beacon Record News the principal of Edna he was really young. He just never forgets eat,” John Koehnlein, another old friend of Media Person of the Year. the bar owner said. Louise Spear Elementa- that, I don’t think.” “He’ll say that money The price has gone up with the changry School, many years Stories of Higgins’ generosity flow like doesn’t mean anything ago a couple came draft beer inside Tara Inn’s four walls. Min- ing times. A hamburger at Tara Inn now to him, and the only into the bar who had dy Talasko, an employee of the bar since it costs $2. other people I’ve ever “His generosity is unmatched,” friend just gotten married at opened, said during a Saturday afternoon heard say that are milPort Jefferson Village interview at the pub, pointing to one of Stephen Murray said. “I can’t imagine anylionaires,” said Kate Hall by the village jus- the tables, Higgins had instructed the staff body out there who does more than he Higgins, one of the pub owner’s eight children, — Stephen Murray tice. Meehan said they years ago that a father eating lunch with does for people in need.” Kate Higgins offered a theory to exended up at Tara Inn his daughter were never to be charged for a reiterating he is not a because they heard the meal or drink at Tara Inn. The daughter had plain how Tara Inn has stayed in business millionaire. prices were inexpen- been injured in an accident as an infant, and for so long. For about 30 years, “I think his basic business model is Tara Inn has hosted similar events to the sive, and they were looking to celebrate had difficulties and disabilities as a result. “He’s just a wonderful, kindhearted ‘Make everybody feel at home, make everyHurricane Harvey benefit every Jan. 1 for their marriage despite having very little a wide range of causes. After a fire left Bil- money. Higgins caught wind, served the man,” Talasko said. “He would do any- body feel welcome,’” she said. “He doesn’t lie’s 1890 Saloon shuttered, the pub hosted couple a free lobster dinner and then thing for anyone and he’s done so much care what your background is. He doesn’t a fundraiser for Billie’s employees. When placed a call to Meehan, who owned for me over the years. I probably wouldn’t care if you’re head of one of the hospitals Erik Halvorsen, the late owner of Norse a luxury van at the time. Higgins gave be where I am if it wasn’t for Joe and Tara or the homeless guy up the street.” Murray summed up the character of Tree Service, died as a result of a tragic Meehan cash and instructed him to drive Inn and Mrs. Higgins.” Talasko said she had three kids dur- Tara Inn’s longtime owner, a man his accident on the job in 2016, Higgins or- the couple to Danfords Hotel & Marina ing the years she worked with Higgins. daughters described as very religious. ganized a fundraiser for Halvorsen’s fam- and pay for their stay for the night. “There’s very few people in this world Despite all of his generosity, Higgins Years ago, she said she would regularly ily. Another New Year’s Day event raised money for an Iraq war veteran who had lives modestly, according to his daughters. have car troubles, and eventually went to that when they get to the pearly gates “At one point we had two picnic tables lease a new car to be able to travel back they’re going to hear, ‘We were waiting for been paralyzed in the line of duty. Higgins himself is a U.S. Army Korean War veteran. in the dining room for the 10 of us,” said and forth to work. When she arrived to you,’” Murray said.
‘There’s very few people in this world that when they get to the pearly gates they’re going to hear, “we were waiting for you.’’’
PAGE A4 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
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Nicole Christian, grant writer for PJV, helps fund projects by finding hidden dollars. personable and understands the community and its needs. “When it comes to trying to find money, you’ve got to squeeze every ounce of water out and turn over every stone, and that’s what Nicole does,” Garant said. “When you don’t have it in your budget it’s so important to have that lifeline to have someone help you find the money.” Christian’s impact on the village in 2017 was certainly not limited to development projects. The village closed the iconic Rocketship Park for renovations and began a months-long refurbishment, partly funded by a $265,000 grant from New York State’s parks department. Garant said the village applied for the money multiple times, and prior to the third trip to present their qualifications for the grant, the mayor admitted her hopes were not high. “We went three times to get money for Rocketship Park and the third time I was like, ‘Guys, I’m not going, why would I go, they never gave us any money the first time,’” she said. “Nicole said, ‘No, you’ve got to go.’” The village still didn’t get the award, but finished close enough that when the applicant who came in first returned the money, Port Jeff’s application had been next in line. “I think when you’re a grant writer you have to be persistent,” Garant said.
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Though the hills might not be saturated with valuable nuggets like the gold rush days of old, hidden money exists for municipalities in the form of state and federal grants for countless types of projects. For the last eight years, Nicole Christian, a grant writer for HB Solutions consulting services, has been finding hidden dollars for Port Jefferson Village and, as a result, has helped to progress projects that might otherwise not have gone forward. Since 2014, Christian, a 2015 “Forty Under 40” honoree by Long Island Business News, has found more than $3 million to put toward a wide range of projects that have or will positively affect the lives of members of the community. Her work has been instrumental to advancing the village’s upper Port Jeff revitalization plan. Dubbed “Uptown Funk,” the multiphased project has been building momentum since 2014 and aims to transform blighted properties, better connect residents to work, make the streets more walkable and vibrant, and provide an overall better place to live in the area of the village on Main Street between North Country Road and the Long Island Rail Road train tracks, according to Village Mayor Margot Garant, At the beginning of 2017, Christian secured $500,000 from Empire State Development through its Restore New York Communities Initiative, and a grant of $250,000 from Suffolk County as part of its Jumpstart program, for transit-based improvements around the Long Island Rail Road Port Jeff train station. In December, the village learned it had received another $350,000 Restore New York grant from the state to go towards the upper Port plan, bringing the total Uptown Funk grant money up to $850,000. “I think Uptown Funk is going to skyrocket this village through its stratosphere,” Christian said in a previous interview. “It’s a destination for young people, families, tourists. I think it’s a fantastic investment for the community, and I think the state knows that too.” Garant said Christian has been an asset for Port Jeff Village because she is highly
Joseph Rizzo has always been a grab the bull-by-the-horns type. Since he was 6 years old he’s been a dedicated Boy Scout, independently completing the requirements for his merit badges and going on camp trips to foster more learning. “He’s always been driven,” Joey’s mother Bethanie Rizzo said. “He’s always eager to participate — he loves it. Never was there a time he didn’t attend any event with a smile on his face.” At 14 years old, as the only remaining member of his Cub Scout pack, he became one of the youngest to reach the rank of Eagle Scout. He is currently a senior patrol leader for his Port Jefferson Station Troop 454, with plans to one day enroll in the Navy. As part of the qualifications to become an Eagle Scout, which just 5 percent of all Boy Scouts achieve, a Scout must earn 21 badges, complete a community service project and undergo a lengthy review process.
His endeavor entailed building an outdoor learning garden so that life skills students in Comsewogue school district could grow fresh vegetables and learn about healthy eating. He constructed four raised beds, two with lattice, to make the gardens handicap accessible. The entire courtyard was named “Jackie’s Garden” after 24-year school district Superintendent Joe Rella’s late wife Jacqueline, whom he was married to for 42 years. “The project is very near and dear to my heart,” Joe Rella said. “She loved the children here, was with me at everything. And it was mutual, the kids loved seeing her, too.” Rella has known Joey since he was 4. Rizzo recalls the then-deputy superintendent asking her to videotape Joey during homecoming, saying to her, “He’s too darn cute.” “They’ve always had a close relationship,” Rizzo said. “So, when the opportunity came for him to do something for Joe and his late wife, while also doing a project that would help the life skills kids, it was really a win-win. It all fell into place and felt meant to be.”
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A5
Director guiding 50-year-old library into the future BY ALEX PETROSKI ALEX@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM Steering a community institution as it crosses the half-century mark in its existence is an enormous responsibility. But when the institution has the inherent added degree of difficulty associated with morphing to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world, fulfilling that responsibility likely feels like threading a needle. As the third director in Comsewogue Public Library’s 50-year history, Debbie Engelhardt has gracefully and masterfully threaded that needle. Engelhardt got her start in the library world as the director of Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton in the early 2000s. She was also the director of the Huntington Public Library from 2009 to 2012, before being selected as just the third director in the history of the Comsewogue Public Library. In October 2017, Engelhardt played a vital role in planning, organizing and conducting a 50th anniversary celebration for the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville community staple. The day, according to many of her colleagues, had fingerprints of her enthusiasm, one-track community mindedness, and passion all over it, though that can be said about every day she’s spent at Comsewogue’s helm. “Very rarely do you find anybody as dedicated to her profession and to her community like Debbie,” said Richard Lusak, Comsewogue Public Library’s first director from 1966 through 2002. The Oct. 14 anniversary celebration included the dedication of the building’s community room in Lusak’s honor, an initiative Engelhardt unsurprisingly also had a hand in. “Those who come to know her quickly value her leadership ability and her insight into things,” he said. “She never says ‘no,’ she says, ‘Let me figure out how to do it.’” The director tried to sum up her feelings about the anniversary as it was still ongoing. “The program says ‘celebrating our past, present and future,’ so that’s what we’re doing all in one day with the community,” she said in October. The event featured games, a bounce house, farm animals, crafts, giveaways, snacks, face painting, balloon animals, music, a historical society photo gallery and tour, and a new gallery exhibit. “We thought of it as a community thank you for the ongoing support that we’ve had
Above, Comsewogue Library Director Debbie Engelhardt, third from left, and Port Jefferson Free Library Director Tom Donlon, second left, with others, cut the ribbon on a Free Little Library in Miller Place, below on the left. Below on the right, Comsewogue’s three directors — Richard Lusak, Engelhardt and Brandon Pantorno — during its 50th anniversary celebration. since day one, across all three administrations,” the library director said. Engelhardt’s vision has been a valuable resource in efforts to modernize the library and keep it vibrant, as Amazon Kindles and other similar technologies have infringed on what libraries used to be about for generations. As the times have changed, Engelhardt has shown a propensity to keep Comsewogue firmly positioned as a community hub. “I think she’s done a superb job with respect to coordinating all of the interests of input from the community as to what services are being requested by the public, whether it’s the children’s section, the adult reference and the senior citizens, including all of the activities we offer and the different programs,” said Edward Wendol, vice president of the library’s board of trustees who has been on the board for about 40 years. He was the board’s president when Engelhardt was selected as director. Wendol credited Engelhardt with spearheading efforts to obtain a Free Little Library not only for Comsewogue, but for several other area libraries. The program features a small, outdoor drop box where
readers can take a book to read or leave a book for future visitors. “Anybody can use it as much as they want and it’s always a mystery when you open that box — you never know what you’ll find,” Engelhardt said during its dedication over the summer. “There are no late fees, no guilt, no stress. If you want to keep a book, you can … we are pleased to partner with the historical society to bring this gem. The books inside will move you and teach you. We say that libraries change lives and, well, little free libraries can too.” Wendol said she also played a huge role in reorganizing the interior structure of the library. Engelhardt has created reading areas on all levels, placed popular selections near the entrance of the building, and taken an overall hands-on approach to the look and feel of the library. He also lauded her role working together with the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, an organization dedicated to serving the 56 public libraries in the county and assisting them in sharing services, website designs, group purchases and other modernization efforts. “She’s great at what she does and seems
to be having a great amount of fun while she’s doing it, and it’s kind of infectious,” said Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System and a friend of Engelhardt’s for more than 20 years. “She is one of the leaders in the county, not just in Port Jeff Station and Comsewogue, but somebody who other library directors turn to for advice and for leadership.” Her community leadership efforts cannot be contained by Comsewogue Public Library’s four walls however. Engelhardt is a member and past president of the Port Jefferson Rotary Club; a member of the board of trustees at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital; and vice president of Decision Women in Commerce and Professions, a networking organization dedicated to fostering career aid and support, and generating beneficial community projects. When she finds time in the day, she participates in events like the cleanup of Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck in Center Moriches, a facility for children with special needs. This past November she helped, among many others, clean up the camp with husband, John, and son, Scott.
PAGE A6 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A7
TBR Brookhaven People of the Year, 2013-2016 2013 Tesla Museum Volunteers
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DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A9
Photos from Port Jefferson School District
Above, Port Jefferson high school Principal Christine Austen, second from right, and others from the school celebrate its National Blue Ribbon School award. Below, teachers Eva Grasso and Jesse Rosen accompany Austen to Washington, D.C., as part of receiving the award.
The woman who helped PJHS become a national Blue Ribbon school BY ALEX PETROSKI ALEX@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM Being named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education is an achievement that takes a village, but leaders in Port Jefferson School District attribute the designation to one confident, tough yet compassionate woman. Christine Austen is in her third year as principal at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. In that short period of time, according to her colleagues, she has imposed her strong will, ideas and work ethic on the school and is the person most responsible for the school being recognized on a national level in September with the Blue Ribbon honor. “The award acknowledges and validates the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in striving for — and attaining — exemplary achievement,” the education department’s website says regarding qualifications for Blue Ribbon distinction. About 300 public schools nationwide were awarded in 2017. For helping to earn the prestigious award for Port Jeff and for her tireless efforts to improve the academic, social and emotional well being of all of her students, Times Beacon Record News Media named Austen a 2017 Person of the Year. “The things that are happening at the high school among the staff, with the students, with the community, you can’t have those things happening without a principal who’s really moving it, is a big part of it, gets involved — she does not look at the clock,” Superintendent Paul Casciano said. According to Jessica Schmettan, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, Austen’s relentless commitment to analyzing the effectiveness of academic programs and initiatives, and examining results with a critical eye have created quantitative improvements in student performance since she became principal.
“She’s always attuned to the data to help push the academic limits forward, and we definitely see those quantitative results,” Schmettan said. The curriculum and instruction director pointed out Austen’s strengths as a principal are far from limited to fostering academic excellence though. “The principals I’ve worked with always demonstrated a clear strength — who was more of a social and emotional leader, who was more of an instructional leader, who focused more on the community. Everybody that I worked with demonstrated a strength in certain areas, where Chris I think embodies all of those things and that’s really unique.” Austen and her husband Phil are each products of the Port Jefferson School District and community. She got her start working for the district as a librarian, and eventually served as a kindergartenthrough-12th grade assistant principal for her first foray into the administration world. Despite competing against at least one other candidate with experience as a principal, Austen wowed the school board at her interview, which led to her earning the position. “She came in the room, straightened her back, she sat in the chair and just emitted this confidence that, ‘I’m going to nail this, I’m going to give you my best answers,’” board of education President Kathleen Brennan said. Brennan said Austen’s confidence, without arrogance, stood out during her interview and has translated seamlessly into the position. Many of her colleagues spoke about Austen’s knack for deftly walking the fine line between holding students accountable without being punitive, while always remaining positive and generally warm. “If you’re working in this field, and she’s no exception, her ‘put the students first’ mentality is definitely a great strength,” Assistant Principal Kevin Bernier said. Bernier shared a story about an incident
that occurred during a pool party at a student’s home in 2016. A student at the party, who frequently had seizures, was the only person in the pool at one point. Bernier said he noticed something was wrong with the student, and realized he might be having a full seizure in the pool at that moment. “It only took a second,” Bernier recalled. “I said, ‘Is he OK?’ You saw something and he started to go down and before I even blinked my eyes, [Austen] was in the pool. If he went under he was going to take in water right away, and it was literally before I could even blink my eyes she was in the water.” Bernier noted, Austen is far from an avid swimmer and the student was much taller than her, making the rescue no simple task. “It took quite a bit of courage to dive into that pool,” said Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Principal Tom Meehan, who also was at the party.
Middle school Principal Robert Neidig, who started the same year as Austen, said he considers her a mentor. He said she’s great at giving one on one advice, but he also loves to hear her speak publicly because she strikes a perfect tone of humility and warmth accompanied with an unquestionable confidence that creates a perfect mixture for a leader. “I couldn’t imagine doing the job without having her perspective,” he said. Casciano summed up some firsthand observations he’s had since Austen took over at the high school. “You’ll see her in the hallway putting her arm around a child,” he said. “She knows them and knows just from expressions on their faces, she could tell whether or not they’re having a good day, bad day. And if things look like they aren’t going well, she’ll engage the student and try to encourage them.”
PAGE A10 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
John Turner: A steward of the environment BY ANTHONY FRASCA
advocate for the protection of Long Island’s drinking water and to preserve open spaces A familiar face in the Setauket area is at especially in the Pine Barrens. According to the forefront of environmental preservation the society’s website, with a large swath of land in Suffolk County slated for developand conservation. “It was good news when John and ment, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society Georgia Turner moved to town,” said Rob- filed suit in 1989 against the Suffolk County ert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Department of Health and the town boards Memorial Foundation. “John is a legendary of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampleader for protection of the environment ton. At the time it was New York state’s biggest environmental lawsuit, leading to and an admired naturalist and educator.” the Pine Barrens Act, thereby protecting John Turner has been the Pine Barrens and esinvolved with numerous tablishing the Central Pine groups whose focus is on Barrens Joint Planning & either open space preserPolicy Commission. vation or environmental As a spokesman for conservation. Town of the Preserve Plum Island Brookhaven CouncilwomCoalition, Turner has also an Valerie Cartright (Dbeen active in trying to Port Jefferson Station) said prevent Plum Island from she has considered Turner being sold and developed. a vital resource since she The environmentally senwas elected to office. — Robert Reuter sitive island is currently “I am constantly imat the center of a swirling pressed by [the] scope of his controversy and is the subknowledge about the town’s history and natural environment,” Cartright ject of a legal battle against the federal govsaid. “His involvement with organizations ernment under the Endangered Species Act such as the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and other laws, according to a TBR News his teaching and author background, along Media July 14, 2016, story. Made up of numerous diverse enviwith his constant desire to update existing knowledge with continued research makes ronmental groups, from the ConnecticutJohn a wealth of information the town is Rhode Island Coastal Fly Fishers to the North Fork Audubon Society, the Preserve lucky to have.” The naturalist was co-founder of the Plum Island Coalition has advocated for Long Island Pine Barrens Society, a group the signing of a petition to save the island whose mission is to promote education, to along with encouraging a letter-writing
‘John is a legendary leader for protection of the environment and an admired naturalist and educator.’
campaign to local elected officials. The island provides a habitat for a diverse variety of local and migratory wildlife. Carl Safina, founder of the Safina Center at Stony Brook University and the endowed professor for Nature and Humanity in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said he has worked with Turner on a variety of environmental initiatives on and off since the 1980s. “I consider John Turner to be the finest naturalist, and among the top handful of most engaged conservationists on Long Island,” Safina said. “He’s a true leader.” As the conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, Turner led the Stone Bridge Nighthawk Watch this past fall. The group recorded and tallied nighthawk sightings at the Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket. A significant nighthawk population was noticed at the park in 2016 and the open vistas provided an important location for cataloging the bird’s migration. The nighthawk research was supported by the board of the park, another organization that, according to Reuter, Turner “has adopted with vigor.” “We’ve walked every part of the park, looking for opportunities to improve habitat and interpret our diverse natural environment,” Reuter said. “The man certainly knows his plants and wildlife. He’s passionate about sharing his knowledge. Rather than just toss out ideas, John has prepared for the park a written blueprint for improvements and educational opportunities. It’s an honor to have his guidance.”
Photo by Maria Hoffman
John Turner is involved in several local environmental and nature organizations. New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he considers Turner one of the finest naturalists on Long Island. “He has brought his ‘inner pied piper’ of the environment to Setauket at the Melville Bridge,” Englebright said. “I watched through the years as the crowd grew. He has helped bring an awareness of the tidal wetlands of Setauket Harbor and has done it in a gracious and compelling manner. He is truly extraordinary, the essence of what a naturalist should be. He’s a special part of our community.”
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Arceri shares her passion for local history BY RITA J. EGAN RITA@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM With the help of those who appreciate history, events of the past have a chance to live on. Margo Arceri is one of those history lovers, and her passion has inspired others to learn more about their local landscape. Arceri didn’t need the AMC series “TURN” to discover how instrumental the members of the Culper Spy Ring were in the Colonies winning the American Revolutionary War. While growing up in Strong’s Neck, she learned about the Setauket spies directly from Kate. W. Strong herself. The great-great-granddaughter of Anna Smith Strong would tell stories of the patriot who used her clothesline to send messages to her fellow spies, and through those tales, Arceri developed a deep curiosity for history and the local intelligence group. Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly Tyler said Arceri’s passion is so strong her car features “Culper” license plates. “She loves the Revolutionary War,” Tyler said. “She loves Anna Smith Strong, and the whole idea of the spy ring.” A few years ago, Arceri, a former vice president and past secretary of the Three Village Historical Society, created Tri-Spy Tours, where participants follow the footsteps of the spies by walking, biking and/or kayaking through the area. Steven Hintze was the president of the society when Arceri came to him with the idea of the tours. He said he liked the concept and discussed it with the board members.
Photo from Mari Irizzary
Margo Arceri, on right, creator of Culper Spy Day, poses with Diane Schwindt, dressed as an 18th-century cook at the 2017 event. Hintze said it was while conducting TriSpy Tours that Arceri realized there was more to share about local history, so she developed Culper Spy Day, an annual event that sponsors a self-guided tour where attendees visit various structures and museums in the area to learn how the Setauket spies assisted President George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Hintze said the day, which marked its third year in September, has greatly grown in popularity, attracting history lovers from all over the tristate area. According to historical society records, the event attracted twice as many people in 2017 than it did the year prior. Hintze said he isn’t surprised how popular it has become through Arceri. “She’s one of those people who has a great
personality, she’s friends with everybody,” Hintze said. “She knows a lot of people, and she knows how to put them together.” Tyler agrees that Arceri has done a wonderful job, especially in getting various organizations involved in Culper Spy Day. Arceri reached out to local groups such as The Long Island Museum, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Drowned Meadow Cottage in Port Jefferson, which once was owned by the Roe family, members of the ring. The happening has also grown to include organizations outside of the Three Village area, such as Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay and Ketcham Inn in Center Moriches. Tyler said Arceri is working with a historical society in Fairfield, Connecticut, to take part next year. “I think it’s very important to the area,” the
historian said. “It’s starting to bring in people.” Steve Healy, the Three Village Historical Society’s current president, said when it comes to questions he may have about local history, in addition to Tyler and Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell, he considers Arceri one of his go-to people. “It’s difficult in today’s environment to dedicate time to history, and she seems to have found a good mix with history and with [her] work,” he said. Arceri has a knack for getting people to think about history, Healy added, saying it’s apparent during both the Tri-Spy Tours and Culper Spy Day. He said the history buff connects with people by allowing them to ask questions and have a dialogue. She’s known for asking participants: “What do you think happened? What do you think are the elements that drove this situation?” because she doesn’t see historical events in black and white. “Margo likes to engage people, and that’s one of her strong points, too,” Healy said. “She has many, but one of them is to engage people in a situation where they can have an honest, educated discussion.” Healy believes the future looks bright for Arceri and her Culper spy ventures. “I think she’s found a great niche where she can introduce local history to people and grow that further, because she’s always looking to grow,” Healy said. “That’s one of the things that I really like about her. She’ll have a conversation with me and say: ‘Steve, I want to expand. I want to get more people involved in this. I want to teach more people to let them know what happened here.’”
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PAGE A12 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
Photo by Maria Hoffman
Charles Lefkowitz, right, one of the co-founders of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, presents an award to state Assemblyman Steve Englebright, center, along with George Hoffman, left, another founding member of the task force.
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When he noticed there were issues with the cleanliness of Setauket Harbor, Charles Lefkowitz took matters into his own hands. A founding member of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, Lefkowitz has become an advocate for attention to the harbor. “Nobody was doing anything and it was just deteriorating until Charlie and a bunch of us got together and said this harbor needs a group of people that will start advocating for its improvement,” said George Hoffman, also a founding member of the task force and a vice president of the Three Village Civic Association. By forming the task force to call attention to the issues regarding the cleanliness of the harbor, such as roadway runoff, the group was able to procure a $1 million dollar grant in state funding with the help of state Senator John Flanagan (R-East Northport). The task force was also appointed to the Long Island Sound Study, a cooperative multistate effort to improve the water quality of Long Island Sound, in existence since 1985. “As a founding member of the Setauket Harbor Task Force he has involved himself from the very beginning,” said state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who has attended numerous task force meetings. “He has made time out of his very busy schedule to attend meetings, sometimes in the middle of a workday. He very often offers some of the most sage advice around the table. This is worth noting and saying thank you to Charlie for being part of the individual glue that holds our community together. It speaks to a level of sincerity of love of the community and serves as an example of what it means to be a community leader.” Once an elected official in the Town of Brookhaven, Lefkowitz continues to involve himself with numerous community issues and advocacy groups in addition to the task force. “He’s a former town councilman and his involvement in our community and to our town continues,” Englebright said. “If anything he is even more effective now because he is unshackled from politics, and he is able to express his commitment to making our community even better.”
Hoffman said Lefkowitz is vice president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and has reinvigorated the chamber by recruiting new people, broadening the chamber’s focus and making it more representative locally. “Charlie is responsible for reinventing the chamber of commerce,” Hoffman said. “He is a driving force in keeping the group together and focused.” Lefkowitz was also involved in the community visioning committees for the reexamination of the zoning along the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area. Drivers along the state road in the vicinity of the Ridgeway Plaza Shopping Center can sometimes see Lefkowitz tending to the flower beds that are planted every spring. “The subtle side of Charlie is that he is the owner of the Stop & Shop [shopping center] on Route 25A, and I’ve seen him outside pulling weeds out of the flower beds,” Englebright said. “That’s an indication of the level of detail he’s willing to invest himself in.” Lefkowitz’s influence also extends beyond the Three Village area, according to Hoffman. “He is a visionary on land use issues especially upper Port Jefferson in terms of its commercial viability,” Hoffman said. “He is also an advocate for electrification of the Port Jefferson branch of the Long Island Rail Road. He focuses on how to make it happen and for the first time we are seeing progress.” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she has worked on various projects with Lefkowitz, and he is currently working with the town on implementing aspects of the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study on some of his properties. “As a former councilman, chamber vice president, business owner and resident, Charlie has a unique perspective of our community,” Cartright said. “Charlie’s knowledge of real estate and of the history of the Three Village area was a valuable addition to the community forums my office held while working on the Route 25A-Three Village area corridor community visioning report this past year. The award of Person of the Year is well deserved by Charlie, and I look forward to seeing him continue to work with residents on community projects.”
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A13
Joe Reboli, above, a Stony Brook artist, had a gallery built in his name, called the Reboli Center, on right. A ribbon cutting ceremony, below, was held with local contributors and politicians who helped make it possible.
Reboli Center keeps memory of late artist alive BY DANIEL DUNAIEF It’s much more than a place to go to appreciate the work of late artist and painter Joe Reboli. Located at the former site of Capital One Bank across the street from where Reboli grew up in Stony Brook, the Reboli Center for Art and History, which opened a little more than a year ago, blends a collection of art from the prolific painter with works by other local artists, rotated every three months. Housed in an A-frame white building with blue awnings, the center has showcased the work of artists including Ken Davies, who was Reboli’s teacher and mentor. Reboli was born and raised on Main Street, not far from where his name is memorialized. He and his family had a long history in the area. His grandfather ran a business across the street from where the center now stands, and decades later his aunt worked in the same building when it was a bank. He died in 2004 at age 58 after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Since his death, his wife Lois Reboli had been attending makeshift meetings at coffee and kitchen tables across Three Village with a squad self-identified as The Rebolians, working to make sure Joe Reboli’s story lived on. “[The center is] hopefully a gift back to the community my husband loved so much,” said Reboli, a former art teacher. He was on the board of the Three Village Community Trust and Gallery North. When asked by his wife why he attended those gatherings, she said he told her he loved the community and wanted to support it in some way. “I didn’t really understand it at that point,” she said. “I did after he got sick, and I just really wanted to give something to the community so they would remember Joe.” As part of the center’s cultural contributions, free talks are given with local artists, and, after a successful musical debut, the center may be the site of future concerts. Donna Crinnian, a photographer whose pictures of egrets were featured at the center in the fall, called the center a great addition to the community.
“Everybody in the community likes having it there,” she said. “They get a really nice crowd coming in for the speakers.” Besides Reboli, the idea for the studio gallery came together with the help of Colleen Hanson, who worked as executive director of Gallery North from January 2000 until her retirement in September 2010. She worked alongside Lois Reboli after Joe passed and also helped launch the first Reboli Wet Paint Festival weekend at Gallery North in 2005. Hanson also worked with B.J. Intini, a former Gallery North assistant and executive director who is the president of the Farmingville Historical Society. “I made a vow that we would do something for [Reboli],” Hanson said. “If we were to find a space, it had to be in Three Village and it had to have a Joe-like feeling. Now, I pinch myself and think, ‘This is so cool.’ We love this community. We want it to be even better and richer for everybody, and I see this as a beautiful upbeat place where people want to be.” State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (DSetauket) is credited with helping to make the purchase a reality, Reboli said. He helped the
three, self-dubbed the “tres amigas” create a not-for-profit called the Friends of Joseph Reboli, with a mission of collecting, preserving and exhibiting artwork and artifacts related to Joe Reboli. The group filed for federal 501(c) (3) status in 2012. Reboli had been looking for a suitable place to share her late husband’s work with the public and had been demoralized by a few false starts when she wondered if she would be able to find the right spot. It wasn’t until March 2015 when Hanson said she heard of Capital One in Stony Brook potentially leaving the historic landmarked building at a price tag of $1.8 million. Englebright spearheaded securing a $1.3 million state grant that went toward the purchase of the building, and two anonymous $150,000 donations turned the dream into a reality. “He went to bat to help us get as much funding as we could,” Reboli said of the lawmaker. “He was remarkable.” She signed the contract Sept. 25, 2015 — her late husband’s 70th birthday. “It’s everything I hoped for and more,” Englebright said of the center. “I have heard from dozens of people and they are absolutely
thrilled that this is a new part of the cultural dimension in our community.” Englebright said the late artist’s paintings open up a wide range of conversations about the interaction between nature and development. One of his favorites is of three gas pumps in front of a coastal scene on the North Shore. “He put this scene together that clearly to me is an expression of concern regarding the impact of overdevelopment, on a way of life, and on the beauty of Long Island,” Englebright said. In its first full year of operation, the center, which is free for guests, has hosted a range of crowds and events. In May, it welcomed a visit from the Commack High School Art Honor Society. In late October, world-renowned cellist Colin Carr, who has appeared with the Royal Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Montreal Symphony and is teaching at Stony Brook, performed at a benefit concert. He said the way the sound worked its way through the building was an unexpected surprise. “When I went in there and played the cello briefly as a trial run, it was immediately apparent that this was perfect for the cello,” Carr said. “It’s always exciting to walk into a new place, whether it’s a room or concert hall or even a church, to sit down and start playing and feel that there’s an immediate rapport between me, the instrument and the space.” Carr is the one who suggested that the center would be a “wonderful place for a small music series.” Reboli said she is thrilled with the direction the center is taking and suggested the showcase is far beyond what she had imagined when she first discussed highlighting her late husband’s artwork. On a Friday in late November, the building hit a high-water mark with about 180 guests in attendance, Reboli said. “I would have been happy with a wall somewhere,” Reboli said. “This has morphed into something that would have been unimaginable before. Never did we expect to have a place like this. This is a miracle.”
PAGE A14 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
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He has been called an angel, the personification of goodness and strength, a champion of the underrepresented and an inspiration. Frank Rivera is all of that and more. Rivera is the founder and president of Sarcoidosis of Long Island, an awareness and advocacy group for sarcoidosis, a rare and often debilitating disease from which the Coram resident is suffering. In 2004 at the age of 36, he received an incorrect diagnosis of lung cancer for which he underwent treatment. The Xray showed lumps in his lungs. It was after a hospital visit in 2011 for abdominal pain that he was correctly diagnosed with sarcoidosis. Things got even tougher for Rivera as complications from the disease arose. It attacked his neurological system, eyes and gallbladder. In April 2012, he went back to the hospital with more stomach cramps and learned his colon had ruptured. He contracted sepsis and nearly died. Through it all Rivera continues to fight, not only for his own health, but for the health of others affected by the disease. His organization raises awareness for sarcoidosis patients at local, state and federal levels, and helps them find doctors and treatment. Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (DMount Sinai) said Rivera came to her office a few years ago and told her his story and idea to start a not-for-profit organization. Anker said his tireless work with elected officials and medical research experts have provided him the guidance and resources to help residents dealing with sarcoidosis. “He has accomplished so much,” Anker said. “It was his goal, and it remains his goal.” County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), a practicing ear, nose and throat physician, said when he heard Rivera was creating awareness, he reached out to lend support. Spencer, who lost his mother to the disease, said he was fascinated by the work Rivera does. “It hit close to home,” the legislator said. “Many have not even heard of the disease.” Spencer said that what Rivera has done also generated a lot of funding to aid sarcoidosis patients in seeking medical attention and emotional support. “I hope to continue to support him,” he said. “I hope to see him do more great things for those who don’t have champions.” Some of the organization’s efforts include
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PAGE A16 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
Photo above from Melissa Weir; photo below from Stony Brook University
Stony Brook Univeristy surgeon James Vosswinkel, above left, is recognized prior to the Dec. 5, 2016 New York Jets game at Metlife Stadium. Below, Vosswinkel teaching bleeding control in April at MacArthur Airport Law Enforcement Division for the Town of Islip.
Stony Brook trauma care surgeon is an asset for Suffolk County BY DANIEL DUNAIEF When they come to him, they need something desperately. He empowers people, either to help themselves or others, in life and death situations or to prevent the kinds of traumatic injuries that would cause a crisis cascade. Dr. James Vosswinkel, an assistant professor of surgery and the chief of trauma, emergency surgery and surgical critical care, as well as the medical director of the Stony Brook Trauma Center, is driven to help people through, or around, life-threatening injuries. Vosswinkel speaks to people in traffic court about the dangers of distracted driving and speeding, encourages efforts to help seniors avoid dangerous falls and teaches people how to control the bleeding during significant injuries, which occur during mass casualty crisis. For his tireless efforts on behalf of the community, Vosswinkel is a Times Beacon Record News Media Person of the Year. Vosswinkel is the “quarterback for developing all the resources and making sure the quality of those individuals is up to very, very high standards,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, the dean of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “He’s a very fine trauma surgeon, who has assembled a team of additional fine surgeons. If he’s ever needed, he’s always available, whether he’s on call or not.” Vosswinkel has earned recognition from several groups over the last few years. He was named the Physician for Excellence in 2016 by the EMS community. In 2016, Lillian Schneider was involved in a traumatic car accident for which she needed to be airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital. Despite the severe nature of her injuries, Schneider gradually recovered. In September Vosswinkel was honored as the first Lillian and Leonard Schneider Endowed Professor in Trauma Surgery at Stony Brook University. “What’s different about Vosswinkel,” or “Voss” as Jane McCormack, a resident nurse and the trauma program manager at Stony Brook calls him, is that “a lot of people talk about working harder, but he does it. He’s
an intense guy who is very passionate about what he does.” Dr. Mark Talamini, the chair of the Department of Surgery and the chief of Surgical Services at Stony Brook Hospital who is also Vosswinkel’s supervisor, said Vosswinkel will come to the hospital to help a member of his team at any hour of the night. “When his people need help, he’s there,” Talamini said. Vosswinkel was recently promoted to chief consulting police surgeon by the Suffolk County Police Department. Dr. Scott Coyne, the chief surgeon for the Suffolk County Police Department said he’s come to rely on Vosswinkel repeatedly over the years. Coyne said Vosswinkel is frequently on the scene at the hospital, where he shares critical information about police officers and their families with Coyne. “He’s a very valuable adjunct to our police department,” Coyne said. “If you are transferred because of the seriousness of your trauma or the location of your trauma and you end up at Stony Brook, you can be well assured that you’ll receive state-of-the-art care. Vosswinkel is one of the leaders in the delivery of that surgical care.” The trauma surgeon is also involved in helping train members of the community with a system called B-Con, for bleeding control. Amid the alarming increase in mass casualty events that have occurred throughout the country, the first provider of care is often a civilian. “Even before the EMS gets there, civilians can take action,” McCormack said. Vosswinkel has been directly involved in helping civilians to recognize life-threatening hemorrhaging, how to place a tourniquet and how to pack wounds. “He’s been the energizer bunny for that [effort] all throughout Suffolk County and on Long Island,” Talamini said. “It’s been an incredible effort.” Talamini said he is impressed by the work Vosswinkel has also done at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center to help pre-
pare for its Level 3 certification. “He has begun doing his magic at another significant Suffolk County hospital,” Talamini said. Talamini called his work on blood control at Brookhaven “superhuman.” Talamini said he is impressed with his colleague’s ability to connect with people from various walks of life, which is an asset to the trauma surgeon. “He’s that kind of person, which is why he’s been so successful with all these outreach events,” Talamini said. “His patients adore him.” Working with the Setauket Fire Department, Stony Brook’s Trauma Center offers tai chi for arthritis and fall prevention, which uses the movements of tai chi to help seniors improve their balance and increase their confidence in performing everyday acts. Discussions about Vosswinkel often include references to a conspicuous passion: the New York Jets. Kaushansky called Vosswinkel the most die-hard Jets fan he has ever seen. His office is decorated with Jets paraphernalia, leaving it resembling a green shrine.
In December 2016, the Jets honored Vosswinkel for his lifesaving care of two Suffolk County police officers. He participated in the coin toss to kick off a Monday Night Football game. Vosswinkel credited the trauma group for the favorable outcomes for the two officers. “This is not about me,” he said at the time. “This is about Stony Brook. It is a true team that truly cares about patients.” To be sure, the successful and effective doctor does have his challenging moments. “He gets tired and cranky once in a while, like everyone else does,” McCormack said. “Most people in this building would be, like, ‘I want to be on his team. I know we’ll probably win with him.’” A win for Vosswinkel and the Stony Brook trauma team is a win for the patient and for the community, which benefits from some of the best trauma care in the country, Talamini said. “There’s nobody that’s more deserving and done so much and continues to do so much for the people of Suffolk County than Dr. Vosswinkel,” Coyne said.
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A17
‘I was bitten by a radioactive altruistic person.’ — Jack Soldano
Miller Place boy wonder a hero to his community BY KEVIN REDDING KEVIN@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM Jack Soldano can’t fly or shoot webs out of his wrists. And despite his spot-on Batman impression, he doesn’t spend nights jumping off buildings fighting crime. But this past summer, the 13-year-old North Country Road Middle School student was inspired by all the comic books he reads to do some saving of his own, and in the process, he earned the title of hero in his hometown of Miller Place. Every week in July and August, Jack, who was 12 at the time, set up a table at Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park and sold 1,000 of his own comic books, as well as pins, magnets and bottle openers he made out of the vibrant panels in extra issues he had. The booming business he dubbed Comics for a Cause — a magnet for Marvel and DC comics lovers of all ages from the area — collected a total $1,220, but Jack didn’t keep a cent. Instead, he gave it all to the Miller PlaceMount Sinai Historical Society to help the nonprofit fund roof repairs on its main headquarters, the nearly 300-year-old William Miller House at 75 North Country Road. The night Jack presented the check to historical society members, he sold a few more comic books and contributed an additional $10. “I was bitten by a radioactive altruistic person,” Jack quipped when asked what made him want to aid in the nonprofit’s effort.
In actuality, Jack, currently in eighth grade, The historical society’s president, Peter said that he felt compelled to help when he Mott, was equally impressed with Jack, who saw in The Village Beacon Record in May that he referred to as a friend. the historical society was in desperate need to “This young man displayed an uncommon renovate the collapsing roof on the structure, and incredible sense of responsibility and conthe oldest existing house in Miller Place, built cern for his local community,” Mott said. “We circa 1720. While he didn’t know any members seasoned adults were in awe of his energy and of the nonprofit personally, Jack said he had a spirit. Jack is, and we predict will continue to strong connection to the town landmark, as he be, an amazing person who will benefit his local and his family were regulars at its annual Post- and larger community for many years to come.” man Pete and Spooky Lantern Tour events. But for those who know Jack best, this gen“I figured, I like helping people, I have erosity wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. these comics — way too many of these comics “He’s always doing stuff like this,” said his — and people need help,” said friend, Cory Gardner, 14, who Jack, who inherited the large helped out during the comic collection from his grandfather, book sales. “The levels of things the former owner of a hobby he did, and does, for the comshop in Port Washington. “And munity blows my mind. If he’s also, smiles are contagious, so not a hero, I don’t know who is.” it makes me happy that I can Cristin Mansfield, Jack’s make others happy.” mom, said her son often helps When they heard what the the elderly on their block by young entrepreneur planned moving their newspaper from to do for them, members of the edge of the driveway to — Cory Gardner where he or she can reach it, the historical society, who rely heavily on the generosity of and shovels when it snows. others to function, were stunned. With an “Jack’s always been an enthusiastic helper, initial goal of $18,300 to fix the roof, Jack’s from a very early age,” Mansfield said. “I think contribution had brought the repair fund he just really feels good helping people out to $7,500. As of Dec. 20, the nonprofit had and making them smile.” reached its goal to be able to start the project. A member of his school’s track and wresA brick in his honor — reading “Jack Sol- tling teams and National Junior Honor Sodano Our Comic Book Hero 2017” — was ciety, Jack is a frequent volunteer at Parentrecently installed on the walkway around the Teacher Association events, including a historic house. Jack was also named an hon- reading club where he once dressed as Cat in orary member. the Hat and read to kids. “That boy is a diamond in the rough,” said “Whatever is put before him, he always Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society jumps in with both feet and takes it to the Vice President Antoinette Donato. “We some- next level,” said Matthew Clark, principal at times have to send out an appeal to the public North Country Road Middle School. “And the when we need to raise money, but we certain- fruits of his labor have created a contagious ly did not expect a 12-year-old boy to respond environment here. He stands out in such a to us the way he did.” positive way.” Donato said Jack is not just a role model to In the midst of the comic book project over other young people but to adults too. the summer, Jack began volunteering at Great “I think he motivates everyone to think Strides Long Island’s Saddle Rock Ranch in about giving back to the community — giving Middle Island, helping developmentally disto a good cause and caring about the world abled children ride horses and even set up his around us,” she said. “He’s truly an inspiration.” table at the organization’s annual Evening Un-
‘The levels of things he did, and does, for the community blows my mind. If he’s not a hero, I don’t know who is.’
Photo at top by Kevin Redding; other photos from Cristin Mansfield
Miller Place comic book kid Jack Soldano sold comics at a stand outside the William Miller House to raise funds to replace the historic building’s roof. His initiative was so well received a brick on the building’s new walkway was engraved in his honor. der the Stars fundraiser. He made 25 customized magnets and bottle openers and raised $100 for the event that benefits community therapeutic riding and veterans programs. Of his own accord, he also made special magnets for a “swab drive” Nov. 30 that sought to find a bone marrow donor for a Sound Beach resident diagnosed with AML leukemia, the father of one of his friends. “Jack’s just one of those kids who’s always thinking of things like that to do for other people,” said Kim Daley, whose husband was the focus of that event and has known Jack since he was in preschool. “He’s always been the boy that goes out of his way to make sure no one sits alone at lunch, and confirms everyone gets a chance at an activity … He’s observant and sensitive to others. I could go on and on about Jack and what a big heart he has.” Jack hopes he can inspire more people his age to get involved in any way they can. “With a great ‘blank’ comes great responsibility,” he said, paraphrasing a quote from Spider-Man. “Go fill in the blank.”
PAGE A18 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
6th Precinct officers build bridges between cops and community BY KEVIN REDDING KEVIN@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM In areas patrolled by the 6th Precinct, the sight of a police car has become more comforting than daunting for residents this year. That’s largely thanks to the efforts of Suffolk County Police Department officers Casey Berry and Will Zieman, who spend their days bridging gaps between cops and the community. In just the last few months, the dynamic duo have supplied clothes and food to homeless residents, brought holiday cheer to struggling families, helped young kids with their homework and taught high schoolers how to cook healthy meals. The two also bounce between nine civic association meetings each month where they listen and try to find solutions to concerns and complaints raised by residents. “Work doesn’t feel like work,” said Zieman, 34, smiling from ear to ear. “Everywhere we go we have an opportunity to make a difference that’s going to be beneficial to everybody. Each day we get to pay it forward.” Berry, 39, who takes part in monthly Nerf battles with local kids at Sky Zone in Mount Sinai and hosts community fishing trips, said she especially values the impact they have on youth. “It’s immeasurable when we go to these events and they say ‘Officer Casey!’ and come running up to hug my knees,” she said. “That’s going to be a 15- or 25-year-old one day that might have a problem, and I hope my relationship with them will then positively affect their relationship with law enforcement for years to come.” Both former patrol officers, Berry and Zieman — a Community Oriented Police Enforcement, or COPE, officer and community liaison officer, respectively — took on their new roles within the precinct in recent years as a way to better connect with the public they serve. In doing so, they strived to make patrol officers’ lives easier and their interactions with residents more effective by breaking down barriers and quelling divisions between the police and public.
“Will and Casey genuinely care about the job they’re doing and clearly enjoy it,” said Sgt. Kathleen Kenneally, the executive officer of the SCPD’s Community Relations Bureau. “They’re very open to having transparent conversations with community members. There’s certainly a strife going on nationally [between cops and civilians] that causes questions in our community and they’ve made a point to engage and answer sometimes difficult questions.” Berry said there’s always an initial guardedness among residents at events with them, no matter their ages, and it’s the unit’s job to put people at ease. “Once they see the person behind the uniform, we can really see and feel the shift,” Berry said. “We’re not just the uniform, not just that person they may have had a negative experience with two weeks ago or whatever. I think that can all get dissolved by more human interaction.” During big events like Coffee With a Cop and National Night Out — nationwide communitypolice bonding initiatives — Zieman chats with people about “unmasking misconceptions,” he said. “It’s a two-way street,” Zieman explained. “Not every police officer is the same and not every per— Will Zieman son who looks a certain way or dresses a certain way is the same. People become more open with us quickly. And within our events, we always try and make it a priority to reach out and explore development with communities that are hesitant to interact with us.” Keith Owens volunteers at St. Michael’s Recreation Center in Gordon Heights and has been a longtime friend of the officers, who host fun activities with youth groups there. But Owens said many of the teens at the center weren’t too interested in hanging out with Berry and Zieman at first, as they have had negative experiences with police in their past. “They were asking the officers questions in the beginning, like, ‘Would you shoot us?’ and ‘Why do you have a gun?’,” Owens said of the kids. “But now they’re asking me, ‘Is Officer Will coming by today?’ The youth are telling me they feel more comfortable around law enforcement. Will and Casey go above and
‘Work doesn’t feel like work. Everywhere we go we have an opportunity to make a difference that’s going to be beneficial to everybody. Each day we get to pay it forward.’
Photos by Kevin Redding
Clockwise from above, 6th Precinct community liaison officer Will Zieman and COPE officers Casey Berry and John Efstathiou visit monthly civic meetings and engage in community programs, like at Police Unity Night, below right, and Coffee With a Cop, below left, to better bring cops and the community together for common good. beyond for them — it means the world to me.” Pastor Anthony Pelella of Axis Church in Medford, where the officers host their cooking workshop and coat drives for residents in the winter, said the officers make a huge difference in the community. “They’re really outgoing and their personalities are wonderful — it’s contagious,” Pelella said. “We’re so blessed here in the 6th Precinct to have officers like them. They’re really making a difference … you just have to see Officer Berry on her knees looking at these little kids, embracing mothers, she’s just so loving and helpful toward them.” The two officers joined the force in 2010 with backgrounds that prepared them perfectly for their current jobs. Berry, who grew up in the Commack area in a family of police officers, always knew she wanted to be in a helping profession and served for several years as a social worker in an outpatient mental health clinic. She was also an instructor in the police academy before switching to the COPE unit. Zieman, for as long as he can remember, wanted to either be a teacher or a cop. The William Floyd graduate eventually received degrees in childhood and special education at St. Joseph’s University and taught for a number of years within the Sachem school district, teaching fifth grade in the elementary school and math and English in the middle school. When he took the police test, for a second time, and did well, he had some soul-searching to do, he said. “I thought, would I be able to live out the rest of my life without regretting not taking the risk?” Zieman recalled. “In both professions, you have the ability to right certain wrongs and guide people in the right direction. Being a community liaison officer gives me the ability to tie it all together.” The pair, along with new 6th Precinct
COPE officer John Efstathiou, are tasked with being as innovative as possible when it comes to creating events that engage the community. Many of their frequent initiatives include hosting tours of the precinct for members of the Girl and Boy Scouts; giving food, clothing and other nonperishables to those in need in a mobile food pantry; and helping the senior community get rid of expired medications. A recent pilot event, headed by Zieman and in partnership with 6th Precinct Cops Who Care and Heritage Harbor Financial Associates in Port Jefferson Station, provided 40 lowincome families the opportunity to get professional — Casey Berry holiday photos taken free of charge. Nicole Tumilowicz, the director of events at Sky Zone, said both officers are invaluable. “With the state of the country right now and police relations in general, I think the two of them just really embody what it is to be an approachable, relatable police officer,” Tumilowicz said. “They’re really hands-on and their attitude toward life makes it easy for people to relate to … if anybody needs the help of the police, these two people would be the ones you’d want to go to.”
‘We’re not just the uniform, not just that person they may have had a negative experience with two weeks ago or whatever. I think that can all get dissolved by more human interaction.’
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A19
Photos from Facebook
Personal Fitness owner Ed Darcey has always felt a growing need to help others.
Rocky Point gym owner shapes up community BY KEVIN REDDING KEVIN@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM A Rocky Point fitness club owner is determined to get people in shape — inside the gym and beyond it. Since 1989, North Shore residents have been going to Personal Fitness on Route 25A not just to run on the treadmill and get fit for beach season. They go to have their lives transformed by Ed Darcey, the gym’s owner, trainer and “overall cheerleader and therapist,” according to gym members, who are made up of athletes, parents, children, developmentally disabled residents, people in wheelchairs and those struggling with drugs, alcohol or abuse. “Ed is an inspirational, motivational, kind, empowering and passionate trainer,” said Faith Powers-Raynis, who joined the gym after suffering a spinal cord disease that paralyzed her from the waist down. “Ed is helping me to rebuild the muscles that I lost … I know with Ed’s help, I just might get back on my feet.” “He’s a wonderful soul,” Lisa Monaco said. “He makes you feel comfortable and pushes you as far as you can go.” Rob Geneva, a longtime customer turned staff member, said Darcey makes the atmosphere feel less like you’re in a gym and more like the bar from “Cheers.” “Anybody is welcome and you just get that feeling right when you come in,” he said. “You’re not intimidated.”
Video: Working out with Chris Scharrer
Darcey, 54, a Shoreham native and Riverhead High School graduate, said he has always felt a need to help and protect those around him, whether it was a kid at school being bullied or a homeless person on the street asking for money. It’s a feeling that remains. “If someone needs a hand, I’m going to try and reach out and do my best to help, especially those whose lives maybe aren’t what they should be,” Darcey said. “A lot of our members here see the gym as an outlet, like a second home. Sometimes they’re more comfortable here than they are at their actual home. They come here, get in shape and we all root each other on. I’m trying to help give them a better life if I can.” A football player throughout high school, Darcey pursued a degree in physical education and health at C.W. Post, where he received his gym certification after three years. In his late 20s, he decided to take advantage of some empty space next door to his parent’s longrunning carpet business on Route 25A, and he’s been there ever since. “From the beginning, I tried to make it very personal and hands-on,” he said. “Lots of other gyms are these big franchises. This is a family-type atmosphere. We have members that have wheelchairs and walkers, and kids with cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. But in my gym, everybody’s the same. Some may have different limitations and abilities, but they’re all the same to me.” The first time Rocky Point resident Rich Grundmann went to the gym, he saw a young woman with Down syndrome running on a treadmill and mentioned to a nearby trainer that his 12-year-old son Alex had cerebral palsy,
wondering if he’d be able to get involved with the gym. The trainer encouraged the father to bring him by. “After just one session there, my son just lit up,” Grundmann said. “And the personal attention they gave him was incredible. He’s been through all sorts of therapy, personal and occupational, but the trainers here really pushed him and he loves it. It’s amazing the amount of strength he’s built up since going there.” Alex, he said, moves around in a walker and sometimes a wheelchair, and has a lot of spasticity. The trainers work on stretching his legs and arms to gain more mobility. “It gets frustrating for him at school because he looks around and he wants to do all the sports the other kids do and wants to feel like a regular teenager,” his father said. “But whenever he leaves the gym, he’s on cloud nine. There’s something about that place and Ed where everyone fits in. It’s like a big family.” Amy Dias of Middle Island, who sustained a traumatic brain injury after a car accident on Middle Country Road in 2003, said Personal Fitness helped her feel confident again. Following the accident, which left her in a coma for nine months, doctors told Dias she would never speak or move again. A year after she joined the gym, she was walking with a cane
and talking. She even lives on her own now. “I’m not afraid to talk to people now and they definitely strengthened my right side, which got affected most,” Dias said. “I love everyone at the gym. Ed is wonderful and really helped me.” And how did he do the impossible? “He cares,” she said. “He honestly cares about every individual person.” The gym owner also helps out in the local community, frequently lending a charitable hand to Ridge Full Gospel Christian Church, where he recently helped to feed and clothe the homeless on Thanksgiving. He raises funds and promotes any and all shelters and charity drives in the area, and is a regular contributor to Betty’s Closet, a store inside the Rocky Point Middle School cafeteria that helps raise money and collect toys and food for families in need. “Whenever I post something about an upcoming event on my page, he’s always ready to help,” said Betty Loughran, the Rocky Point PTA member who created Betty’s Closet. “He gets all the gym members involved, donates gift cards and goods and whatever the community needs. He’s just a really good person. The gym is always open and if kids in the community are ever in trouble and need a place to go, he’s there for them.”
PAGE A20 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
Community group in Brookhaven working to build bridges Born in response to tragedy, the organization aims to start conversations about immigration rights, racial divisions, social injustice BY DANIEL DUNAIEF Tom Lyon, Mark Jackett and Susan Perretti, among many others, don’t have all the answers. In fact, they are filled with difficult questions for which the Town of Brookhaven, the state of New York and the country don’t have easy solutions. That, however, hasn’t stopped them from trying to bring people together in Brookhaven to address everything from social injustice to immigration rights to racial divisions. Members of Building Bridges in Brookhaven, Lyon, Jackett and Perretti have met regularly since 2015 when the group formed in the wake of the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Building Bridges personally connects with people, according to Tehmina Tirmizi, who is the education chair at the Islamic Association of Long Island. Building Bridges members attended an interfaith event at IALI in late 2016, and its members have gathered with others for monthly vigils to support Muslims. Tirmizi said she appreciates the understanding, solidarity and unity and feels members of Building Bridges are out there for support. The group meets on the second Monday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. to get together and talk, forge connections, understand differences and encourage peace.
Photo by Will McKenzie
Tom Lyon, center, and Gregory Leonard, right, of Building Bridges in Brookhaven with an attendee of the group’s 2017 Martin Luther King Day Jr. event. They have met at churches throughout the region, as well as at the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Selden. “The origins were in response to the shootings,” said Jackett, an English teacher at Smithtown High School West. He added continued gun violence is part of what the group is trying to address. “It’s part of the sense of urgency.”
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Jackett decried the drumbeat of hatred, negativity and division in the country and in communities on Long Island. “We’re trying to be a voice speaking up in favor of bringing people together and finding ways that we have common ground and respecting the dignity and humanity of all people,” Jackett said. The gatherings bring together people of different backgrounds, ages, races and sexuality and attract a crowd from a wide cross section of Long Island. This past year, the organization hosted a celebration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and a Unityfest at Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach in September. The MLK event drew more than 200 people, while the Unityfest brought almost 300. The Unityfest enabled Building Bridges to donate $1,600 to support Hobbs farm and highlight its program to supply fresh produce to local food pantries. Coming in February, the group will host its second annual MLK festival, which moves beyond King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech and embraces his broader approach. “King talks a lot about the beloved community,” said Lyon, who is also one of the founders of Building Bridges. “That was his ultimate vision for the world and it involves a lot more than [defeating] segregation.” Lyon said former head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover had an enemies list, as did former President Richard Nixon. For King, his enemies were militarism, racism and materialism. While BBB formed in response to violence in a church and brought people together through church organizations, it is an interfaith group, Lyon said. The group encourages people to contribute to, and participate in, other efforts on Long Island as well. Many of the group members belong to other organizations, according to Jackett. Building Bridges has also been supporting other efforts, which include Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and People Power Patchogue, a group dedicated to defending civil rights and creating stronger and safer communities. Building Bridges has also formed subcommittees on immigration rights and criminal justice reform.
Jackett said efforts to address and combat racism need to be done regardless of who is in office. “We try our best to do that work and highlight the need,” he said. The group has a Facebook page and the group is working on a website too. A mix of retired people and people still in the workforce, the members of Building Bridges have been discussing the architecture for a web page. It is also hoping to forge deeper connections with millennials through Stony Brook University, Suffolk County Community College and a new Artists Action Group in Patchogue. Perretti, a retired writer who worked as an editor at St. Joseph’s College, suggested that Building Bridges is looking to create a network of people who can respond to various needs. “We need to build ourselves into a community more and more and when that happens, more people will come,” Perretti said. The group is also focused on jumping to action during times of crisis. “This is the opportunity to get to know people who may be the targets of hate or violence and to develop a friendship and alliance with them,” Perretti said. “When something happens to them, it happens to us as well.” Looking ahead, Perretti said the group has to find ways to attract and encourage involvement from a broader base of community members in 2018. She said she would like to make room for people who have vastly different views. She encouraged people with different opinions to engage in courageous conversations, without fear of reprisals or attacks. “It’s nice and fun and easy to be with people we are like, [but] it’s really hard work to talk to people who hold different opinions who may argue with us,” she said. Members of the Building Bridges community know they face uncertainty with the issues and challenges ahead. “We don’t have all the answers,” Perretti said, adding that the group’s primary mission is to start conversations about the things happening in the United States. “This is a community that wants to build and grow,” she said. “We need to hear other people. We’re open to ideas.”
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A21
Religious ASSEMBLIES OF GOD STONY BROOK CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLY Connecting to God, Each Other and the World
400 Nicolls Road, E. Setauket (631) 689–1127 • Fax (631) 689–1215
www.stonybrookchristian.com Pastor Troy Reid Weekly Schedule Sunday Worship w/nursery 10 am Kidmo Children’s Church • Ignited Youth Fellowship and Food Always to Follow Tuesday Evening Prayer: 7 pm Thursday Morning Bible Study w/Coffee & Bagels: 10 am Friday Night Experience “FNX” for Pre K-Middle School: 6:30 pm Ignite Youth Ministry: 7:30 pm Check out our website for other events and times
BYZANTINE CATHOLIC RESURRECTION BYZANTINE CATHOLIC CHURCH
38 Mayﬂower Avenue, Smithtown NY 11787 631–759–6083 email@example.com www.resurrectionsmithtown.org Father Tyler A. Strand, Administrator, Joseph S. Durko, Cantor Divine Liturgy: Sundays at 10:30 am Holy Days: See website or phone for information Sunday School Sundays at 9:15 am Adult Faith Formation/Bible Study: Mondays at 7:00 pm. PrayerAnon Prayer Group for substance addictions, Wednesdays at 7 pm A Catholic Church of the Eastern Rite under the Eparchy of Passaic.
CATHOLIC CHURCH OF ST. GERARD MAJELLA 300 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station (631) 473–2900 • Fax (631) 473–0015
www.stgmajella.org All are Welcome to Begin Again. Come Pray With Us. Rev. Jerry DiSpigno, Pastor Oﬃce of Christian Formation • (631) 928–2550 We celebrate Eucharist Saturday evening 5 pm, Sunday 7:30, 9 and 11 am Weekday Mass Monday–Friday 9 am We celebrate Baptism Third weekend of each month during any of our weekend Masses We celebrate Marriage Arrangements can be made at the church with our Pastor or Deacon We celebrate Reconciliation Confession is celebrated on Saturdays from 4–5 pm We celebrate You! Visit Our Thrift Shop Mon. – Fri. 10 am–4 pm + Sat. 10 am–2 pm
INFANT JESUS ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH 110 Myrtle Ave., Port Jefferson, NY 11777 (631) 473-0165 • Fax (631) 331-8094
www.www.infantjesus.org Reverend Patrick M. Riegger, Pastor Associates: Rev. Francis Lasrado & Rev. Rolando Ticllasuca To schedule Baptisms and Weddings, Please call the Rectory Confessions: Saturdays 12:30-1:15 pm in the Lower Church Religious Ed.: (631) 928-0447 • Parish Outreach: (631) 331-6145 Weekly Masses: 6:50 and 9 am in the Church, 12 pm in the Chapel* Weekend Masses: Saturday at 5 pm in the Church, 5:15 pm in the Chapel* Sunday at 7:30 am, 10:30 am, 12 pm, and 5 pm in the Church and at 8:30 am, 10 am, and 11:30 am (Family Mass) in the Chapel* Spanish Masses: Sunday at 8:45 am and Wednesday at 6 pm in the Church *Held at the Infant Jesus Chapel at St. Charles Hospital Religious Education: (631) 928-0447 Parish Outreach: (631) 331-6145
D irectory CATHOLIC
ST. JAMES ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH 429 Rt. 25A, Setauket, NY 11733 Phone/Fax: (631) 941–4141 Parish Office email: firstname.lastname@example.org Oﬃce Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 am - 2 pm
Mission Statement: Beloved daughters and sons of the Catholic parish of St. James, formed as the Body of Christ through the waters of Baptism, are a pilgrim community on Camiño-toward the fullness of the Kingdom of God, guided by the Holy Spirit. Our response to Jesus’ invitation to be faithful and fruitful disciples requires us to be nurtured by the Eucharist and formed by the Gospel’s call to be a Good Samaritan to neighbor and enemy. That in Jesus’ name we may be a welcoming community respectful of life in all its diversities and beauty; stewards of and for God’s creation; and witnesses to Faith, Hope and Charity. Rev. James-Patrick Mannion, Pastor Rev. Gerald Cestare, Associate Pastor Rev. Jon Fitzgerald, In Residence Weekday Masses: Monday – Saturday 8:00 am Weekend Masses: Saturday Vigil 5:00 pm Sunday 8:00am, 9:30 am (family), 11:30 am (choir), 6:00 pm (Youth) Friday 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, Saturday 9:00 am – 2:00 pm Baptisms: Contact the Oﬃce at the end of the third month (pregnancy) to set date Reconciliation: Saturdays 4:00 – 4:45 pm or by appointment Anointing Of The Sick: by request Holy Matrimony: contact the office at least 9 months before desired date Bereavement: (631) 941-4141 x 341 Faith Formation Oﬃce: (631) 941-4141 x 328 Outreach: (631) 941-4141 x 333 Our Lady of Wisdom Regional School: (631) 473-1211 Our Daily Bread Sunday Soup Kitchen 3 pm
CONGREGATIONAL MT. SINAI CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
233 North Country Road, Mt. Sinai • (631) 473–1582 www.mtsinaichurchli.org
“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here” Worship hour is 8:30 am and 10 am Sunday School and Childcare oﬀered at 10:00 am open to all children (infants to 8th grade). The last Sunday of every month is our Welcome Sunday Service. This service has been intentionally designed to include persons of diﬀering abilities from local group homes. We are an Open and Affirming Congregation.
ALL SOULS EPISCOPAL CHURCH “Our little historic church on the hill” across from the Stony Brook Duck Pond
Main Street, Stony Brook • (631) 751–0034
www.allsouls–stonybrook.org • email@example.com Please come and welcome our new Priest: The Rev. Farrell D. Graves, Ph.D., Vicar Sunday Holy Eucharist: 8 and 9:30 am Religious instruction for children follows the 9:30 am Service This is a small eclectic Episcopal congregation that has a personal touch. We welcome all regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey. Walk with us.
To be listed in the Religious Directory, please call 631–751–7663
CAROLINE CHURCH OF BROOKHAVEN The Rev. Cn. Dr. Richard D. Visconti, Rector
1 Dyke Road on the Village Green, Setauket Web site: www.carolinechurch.net Parish Office email: firstname.lastname@example.org (631) 941–4245
Sunday Services: 8 am, 9:30 am and 11:15 am Church School/Child Care at 9:30 am Church School classes now forming. Call 631-941-4245 for registration. Weekday Holy Eucharist’s: Thursday 12:00 pm and ﬁrst Friday of the month 7:30 pm (rotating: call Parish Oﬃce for location.) Youth, Music and Service Programs oﬀered. Let God walk with you as part of our family–friendly community.
CHRIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH 127 Barnum Ave., Port Jefferson (631) 473–0273 email: email@example.com www.christchurchportjeff.org
Father Anthony DiLorenzo: Priest–In–Charge Sunday Services 8 am & 10 am Sunday Eucharist: 8 am and 10 am/Wednesday 10 in our chapel Sunday School and Nursery Registration for Sunday School starting Sunday after the 10 am Eucharist Our ministries: Welcome Inn on Mondays at 5:45 pm AA meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 pm/Prayer Group on Wednesdays at 10:30 am/Bible Study on Thursdays at 10 am. It is the mission of the people of Christ Church to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ and to make his love known to all through our lives and ministry. We at Christ Church are a joyful, welcoming community. Wherever you are in your journey of life we want to be part of it.
ST. JOHN’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
12 Prospect St, Huntington, • (631) 427-1752 “To know Christ and to make Him known” Rev. Duncan A.Burns, Rector Rev. Anthony Jones, Deacon Alex Pryrodyny, Organist & Choir Director www.stjohnshuntington.org • LIKE us on Facebook Sunday Worship 8:00AM - Rite I Holy Eucharist 10:00 AM - Rite II Choral Holy Eucharist
EVANGELICAL INTERNATIONAL BAPTIST CHURCH Loving God • Loving Others • Sharing the Gospel
1266 N. Country Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790 (631) 689-7660 • www.internationalbaptistsb.org Pastor Hank Kistler Sunday Worship 11 am Thursday Small Groups 7 pm
THREE VILLAGE CHURCH Knowing Christ...Making Him Known
322 Route 25A, East Setauket • (631) 941–3670 www.3vc.org
Lead Pastor Josh Moody Sunday Worship Schedule 9:15 am:Worship Service Sunday School (Pre–K – Adult), Nursery 10:30 am: Bagel/Coffee Fellowship 11:00 am: Worship, Nursery, Pre–K, Cornerstone Kids (Gr. K–4) We offer weekly Teen Programs, Small Groups, Women’s Bible Studies (day & evening) & Men’s Bible Study Faith Nursery School for ages 3 & 4 Join us as we celebrate 55 years of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ!
PAGE A22 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
Religious GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION
430 Sheep Pasture Rd., Port Jefferson 11777 Tel: 631-473-0894 • Fax: 631-928-5131 www.kimisis.org • firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Demetrios N. Calogredes, Protopresbyter Sunday Services Orthros 8:30 am - Devine Liturgy 10 am Services conducted in both Greek & English* Books available to follow in English* Sunday Catechism School, 10:15 am - 11:15 am* Greek Language School, Tuesdays 5 pm - 8 pm* Bible Study & Adult Catechism Classes Available* Golden Age & Youth Groups* Thrift Store* Banquet Hall available for Rental* For information please call Church ofﬁce*
CHABAD AT STONY BROOK
YOUNG ISRAEL OF CORAM
Coram Jewish Center 981 Old Town Rd., Coram • (631) 698–3939 www.YIC.org • YoungIsraelofCoram@gmail.com
RABBI DR. MORDECAI AND MARILYN GOLSHEVSKY RABBI SAM AND REBECCA GOLSHEVSKY
“The Eternal Flame-The Eternal Light” weekly Channel 20 at 10 a.m. Shabbat Morning Services 9 a.m. Free Membership. No building fund. Bar/Bat Mitzvah Shabbat and Holiday Services followed by hot buffet. Adult Education Institute for men and women. Internationally prominent Lecturers and Torah Classes. Adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Kaballah Classes. Jewish Holiday Institute. Tutorials for all ages. FREE TUITION FOR HEBREW SCHOOL PUT MEANING IN YOUR LIFE (631) 698-3939 Member, National Council of Young Israel. All welcome regardless of knowledge or observance level.
“Judaism with a smile”
Current location: 821 Hawkins Ave., Lake Grove
HOPE LUTHERAN CHURCH AND ANCHOR NURSERY SCHOOL
Future site: East side of Nicolls Rd, North of Rte 347 –Next to Fire Dept.
(631) 585–0521 • (800) My–Torah • www.ChabadSB.com Rabbi Chaim & Rivkie Grossbaum Rabbi Motti & Chaya Grossbaum Rabbi Sholom B. & Chanie Cohen Membership Free •Weekday, Shabbat & Holiday Services Highly acclaimed Torah Tots Preschool • Afternoon Hebrew School Camp Gan Israel • Judaica Publishing Department • Lectures and Seminars • Living Legacy Holiday Programs Jewish Learning Institute Friendship Circle for Special Needs Children • The CTeen Network N’shei Chabad Women’s Club • Cyberspace Library www.ChabadSB.com Chabad at Stony Brook University – Rabbi Adam & Esther Stein
NORTH SHORE JEWISH CENTER
385 Old Town Rd., Port Jefferson Station (631) 928–3737 www.NorthShoreJewishCenter.org Rabbi Aaron Benson
Cantor Daniel Kramer Executive Director Marcie Platkin Principal Heather Welkes Youth Director Jen Schwartz Services: Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 9:15 am Daily morning and evening minyan- Call for times. Tot Shabbat • Family Services • Sisterhood • Men’s Club Seniors’ Club • Youth Group • Continuing Ed Adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah • Judaica Shop • Food Pantry Lecture Series • Jewish Film Series NSJC JEWISH LEARNING CENTER RELIGIOUS SCHOOL Innovative curriculum and programming for children ages 5-13 Imagine a synagogue that feels like home! Come connect with us on your Jewish journey. Member United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
TEMPLE ISAIAH (REFORM)
1404 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook • (631) 751–8518 www.tisbny.org A warm and caring intergenerational community dedicated to learning, prayer, social action, and friendship. Member Union for Reform Judaism
Rabbi David Katz Cantor Marcey Wagner Rabbi Emeritus Stephen A. Karol Rabbi Emeritus Adam D. Fisher Cantor Emeritus Michael F. Trachtenberg
Sabbath Services Friday 7:30 pm and Saturday 10 am Religious School • Monthly Family Service • Monthly Tot Shabbat Youth Groups • Senior Club • Adult Education Sisterhood • Brotherhood • Book Club-more
46 Dare Road, Selden (631) 732-2511 Emergency number (516) 848-5386
Rev. Dr. Richard O. Hill, Pastor email: email@example.com • website: www.hopeluth.com Holy Communion is celebrated every week Saturdays at 5 pm, Sundays at 8, 9:30 and 11 am Service of Prayers for Healing on the ﬁrst weeked of each month at all services Children and Youth Ministries Sparklers (3-11) Saturdays 5 pm • Sunday School (ages 3-11) 9:30 am Kids’ Club (ages 4-10) Wednesdays 4:15 pm Teen Ministry (ages 11-16) Saturdays 3 pm
ST. PAULS EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH 309 Patchogue Road, Port Jefferson Station (631) 473–2236
Rev. Paul A. Downing, Pastor email: firstname.lastname@example.org • pastor’s cell: 347–423–3623 Services: Sundays-8:30 and 10:30 am—Holy Communion Sunday School during 10:30 service Bible and Bagels 9:30 am on Sundays Wednesday Night — 7:30 pm Intimate Holy Communion Friday Morning 10:30 am—Power of Prayer Hour Join us for any service-all are welcome We are celebrating 100 years in Port Jeﬀerson Station
MESSIAH LUTHERAN CHURCH Messiah Preschool & Day Care 465 Pond Path, East Setauket 631-751-1775 www.messiahny.com
METHODIST BETHEL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
33 Christian Ave/ PO2117, E. Setauket NY 11733 (631) 941–3581 Rev. Gregory L. Leonard–Pastor Sunday Worship 10:30 am • Adult Sunday School 9:30 am Lectionary Reading and Prayer Wed. 12 noon Gospel Choir Tues. 8 pm Praise Choir and Youth Choir 3rd and 4th Fri. 6:30 pm
COMMACK UNITED METHODIST CHURCH 486 Townline Road, Commack Church Office: (631)499–7310 Fax: (631) 858–0596 www.commack–umc.org • mail@commack–umc.org Rev. Linda Bates–Stepe, Pastor
FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Welcome to our church! We invite you to Worship with us! Come check us out! Jeans are okay! Open Table Communion 1st Sunday every month. 603 Main Street, Port Jefferson Church Office- (631) 473–0517 Rev. Sandra J. Moore - Pastor Sunday Worship - 9:30 am (summer), 10:00 am (September) Children’s Sunday School - Sept. to June (Sunday School sign up form on Web) Email- email@example.com Web- http://www.pjfumc.org
SETAUKET UNITED METHODIST CHURCH 160 Main Street, Corner of 25A and Main Street East Setauket • (631) 941–4167
Rev. Steven kim, Pastor
www.setauketumc.org • SUMCNY@aol.com Sunday Worship Service & Church School 10 am Holy Communion 1st Sunday of Month Mary & Martha Circle (Women’s Ministry) monthly on 2nd Tuesday at 1pm
STONY BROOK COMMUNITY CHURCH UNITED METHODIST
216 Christian Ave., Stony Brook, 11790 Church Office: 631-751-0574 firstname.lastname@example.org www.stonybrookcommunitychurch.org Rev. chuck Van Houten, Pastor Connecting people to God, purpose and each other Sunday Worship 10:00 am Sunday School 10:00 am
Renewing, Restoring, Reviving for the 21st Century!
Rev. Charles Bell- Pastor We welcome all to join us for worship & Fellowship Sunday Worship Services 8:15 am, 9:30 am, 11 am Sunday School at 9:30 am We have a NYS Certiﬁed Preschool & Day Care
To be listed in the Religious Directory, please call 631–751–7663
Religious Directory continued on next page
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A23
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21 Bennetts Road, Suite 200, Setauket, New York 11733
Less than 5 minutes from SBU Campus, 800’ north of Rte. 347
SETAUKET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
5 Caroline Avenue ~ On the Village Green (631) 941-4271
Making God’s community livable for all since 1660!! www.setauketpresbyterian.org Email: email@example.com
Rev. Mary, Barrett Speers, pastor
Join us Sundays in worship at 9:30 am Church School (PreK-6th Grade) at 9:45 am Adult Christian Education Classes and Service Opportunities Outreach Ministries: Open Door Exchange Ministry: Furnishing homes...Finding hope www.facebook.com/welcomefriendssoupkitchen Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen Prep Site: firstname.lastname@example.org All are welcome to join this vibrant community of worship, music (voice and bell choirs), mission (local, national and international), and fellowship. Call the church office or visit our website for current information on church activities. SPC is a More Light Presbyterian Church and part of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians working toward a church as generous and just as God’s grace. ©155327
UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST FELLOWSHIP AT STONY BROOK
380 Nicolls Road • between Rte 347 & Rte 25A (631) 751–0297 • www.uufsb.org • oﬃce@uufsb.org Rev. Margaret H. Allen (email@example.com) Sunday Service: 10:30 am
Religious Education at UUFSB: Unitarian Universalism accepts wisdom from many sources and offers non-dogmatic religious education for children from 3-18 to foster ethical and spiritual development and knowledge of world religions. Classes Sunday mornings at 10:30 am. Childcare for little ones under three. Senior High Youth Group meetings Sunday evenings Registration is ongoing. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be listed in the Religious Directory, please call 631–751–7663
UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST FELLOWSHIP OF HUNTINGTON
109 Brown’s Road, Huntington, NY 11743 631–427–9547 • www.uufh.org Rev. G. Jude Geiger, Minister (email@example.com)
Starr Austin, religious educator (firstname.lastname@example.org) Sunday Service 10:30 am, Children’s Religious Education 10:30 am Whoever you are, whomever you love, wherever you are on your life’s journey, you are welcome here. Our services offer a progressive, non-creedal message with room for spiritual seekers. Services and Religious Education each Sunday at 10:30 am Youth Group, Lifespan Religious Education for Adults, Adult and Children’s Choirs. Participants in the Huntington Interfaith Housing Initiative. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.
UNITY CHURCH OF HEALING LIGHT 203 East Pulaski Rd., Huntington Sta. (631) 385–7180 • www.unityhuntingtonny.org Rev. Saba Mchunguzi
Unity Church of Healing Light is committed to helping people unfold their Christ potential to transform their lives and build spiritual community through worship, education, prayer and service. Sunday Worship & Church School 11:00 a.m. Wednesday Night Prayer Service 7:30 p.m. Sign Language Interpreter at Sunday Service
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PAGE A24 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
Photos from Laura Mastriano
Clockwise from above, siblings Joseph and Maddie Mastriano are the founders of the Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand, which has raised $36,000 in total for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital; the Mastrianos and friends present a check for $20,000 to the children’s hospital after their 2017 event; and Maddie and Joseph pose with Mr. Met at this year’s lemonade stand.
Teens perfect fundraising with a twist of lemon BY RITA J. EGAN RITA@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM
made an appearance and even some gourmet lemonade for attendees. Mastriano said it was necessary to move Two Stony Brook teens have perfected the lemonade stand to the school grounds how to turn lemons into lemonade for a due to its growing popularity, and it made sense because of the number of student worthy cause. Maddie Mastriano, 17, and her younger volunteers from the Three Village Central brother Joseph Mastriano, 14, started off School District. Maddie and Joseph apjust wanting to sell lemonade outside their proached school board trustee Inger Gerhome one hot August day in 2013. At the mano about the idea, who said she thought time, the pair never imagined their venture it was a good plan, and the district agreed to host it. would grow, or how it would grow. “We thought this would be a great opThe first year they thought of splitting the few dollars raised between friends, but portunity to get more children involved, not their mother suggested donating it to charity. just from the S-Section [neighborhood] but from the Three Village comSince then the Mastrianos munity and the school,” and their friends have raised Germano said. “I think it $36,000 for Stony Brook was the right move.” Children’s Hospital with Courtney DeVerna, 7 their Three Village Kids Lemyears old, has been volunonade Stand — $20,000 of teering at the stand for the that amount from this past last three years, having visitsummer alone. ed the stand with her mother Laura Mastriano said Lisa since she was 2. As soon her children caught the — Laura Mastriano as Courtney understood it fundraising bug after the was a fundraiser, she wanted first time they handed over to help and even practices the money to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, so they decided to her lemonade pouring before the event. “It’s really fun and exciting because make it a yearly tradition. Formerly known as the S-Section Kids you’re waiting to do it for a while, and it’s Lemonade Stand, the booth attracted hun- for a good cause,” said Courtney, adding dreds of residents from all over the school she looks up to Joseph and Maddie. “We’re district and even local celebrities to their giving the money to the children’s hospital, home in 2016, according to Mastriano. The which makes me more excited.” The siblings are always coming up with event was moved to the grounds of R. C. Murphy Junior High School, where Joseph is new ideas, according to their mother, so to a student, in 2017, and 500 people attended help reach the pair’s 2017 fundraising goal of over the course of another hot August day. $20,000, the brother and sister solicited the Besides lemonade, the kids have expanded help of sponsors, including fast-food chain to offer food, activities and live music. Town Chick-fil-A. The idea came to them after noof Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) ticing that many fundraisers partnered with presented them with a proclamation, and ce- local companies. Recently, Maddie, Joseph and friends lebrity chef Barrett Beyer of “Hell’s Kitchen”
‘He’s business, and she’s the communications part of it. It’s pretty fun to see that.’
participated in the Three Village Holiday Electric Light Parade to promote their fundraising venture. Joseph said during the school year they work on their website, research ideas on how to make the next event better, ensure everyone who helped is thanked and sign community service letters for the 150 student volunteers. “We know how busy everyone is, and we are so thankful and glad they helped,” he said. Maddie, who is a senior at Ward Melville High School, said she plans on continuing the tradition even though she will be away at college next year. The siblings have already set a new goal, hoping to eventually raise $100,000 in total for the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “Next year Joseph will take on a bigger role in the planning while I am away, but I know he has things under control and actually has really great ideas already,” Maddie said. “We will do whatever we have to do to make sure this community tradition is an annual tradition. We are thankful for the community, for the support and for the opportunity to come together to turn lemons into lemonade together for the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.” Their mother said they each bring different talents to the table. Maddie hopes to major in communications when she attends college, and Joseph is good with numbers. “That’s where they complement each other,” their mother said. “He’s business, and she’s the communications part of it. It’s pretty fun to see that.” Joan Alpers, director of Child Life Services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said Joseph and Maddie are creating a legacy in their district. “Both of them are outstanding, mature, bright and polite kids, and very humble for everything that they do,” Alpers said. “They’re so professional to groups and the
community. They’re able to pull off putting together something that is much larger than most people their age could pull off.” Their mother said she and her husband Joseph still can’t believe how popular the Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand has become. “I have to say that I am beyond proud and blown away by all their efforts,” the mother said. “It really was a small lemonade stand that has grown into a beautiful community tradition, and it’s something that I am not only proud of, seeing what they’ve accomplished, but proud of what all of these kids in Three Village have been able to do. It’s contagious wanting to do good for others, and I think that starting so young really has infected others to want to do good for the kids in the hospital. It’s a pretty incredible thing.” For more information, visit the website, www.threevillagekidslemonadestand.com. The next Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand is scheduled for Aug. 8, 2018.
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A25
Game changers: Cutinellas are a beacon of hope to community BY KEVIN REDDING KEVIN@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM Frank and Kelli Cutinella have always been this way. Family members and close friends say the Shoreham-Wading River couple, who were married in 1996 and together raised four kids, have always given back, helped others and been there when needed the most. “You can’t meet a more solid person than Frankie,” said Kenneth Michaels, Frank Cutinella’s childhood friend and fellow officer within the Suffolk County Police Department. “He’s a model. He’s someone you want to emulate. I’ve never met anybody like him in my life.” Mount Sinai’s Theresa Biegert said her sister Kelli Cutinella helps no matter who needs it. “She’s so kind and loving and generous, and goes out of her way for everybody — her family, friends and members of the community,” she said. So after tragedy struck the Cutinellas Oct. 1, 2014, they didn’t buckle, they didn’t wallow. The reach of their generosity only got bigger and stronger. Their mission in life began. It’s been more than three years since their oldest son, Thomas Cutinella, died at age 16 from a helmet-to-helmet collision with another player during a Shoreham-Wading River football game. Thomas, a star Wildcat and junior at the time of the accident, had aspirations of serving his country and, like his parents, was always looking to lend a hand, or more. When he was rushed to Huntington Hospital, and after doctors there told the Cutinellas what no parent should ever hear, they honored a wish their son made on his birthday that year to donate his organs to others. His heart, pancreas, kidneys, liver, tissue and skin all went to those in need. “When Thomas went to get his driver’s permit that year, they asked if he wanted to be a donor even though he wasn’t old enough to register at the time,” said Maria Johnson, Kelli’s mother. “He was like, ‘Yes! What do you mean? Of course I want to be a donor!’ Thomas was a very giving boy. He had to get that from somebody, and he got it from his parents.” Since his death, mother and father have taken it upon themselves to never stop honoring Thomas’ memory. And in signature Cutinella fashion, they’re bettering the lives of everybody around them in the process. Frank and Kelli Cutinella have spoken in front of Suffolk County officials, athletic directors and football coaches from across the state
about bringing much-needed changes to the sport that took their son’s life, and the culture surrounding it. Having seen firsthand the illegal hit Thomas took when an opposing player rammed the crown of their helmet into the side of Cutinella’s, and the brief celebration among the players and crowd that followed, Frank Cutinella became determined to make the game safer and reduce the unnecessary dangers encouraged on the field. A former high school football player himself, Frank Cutinella presented his case to save the lives of young athletes to Section XI members, who, in the fall of 2016, began to implement the Tommy Tough Football Safety Standards across the county. In July of this year, Tommy Tough was adopted at the state level, by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. Frank’s next goal is to take it to the national stage. Focused on limiting the risk of injury, caused by certain ways of tackling and leading with the helmet, the new safety measures are read before each game by on-field officials and stricter penalties are enforced when it comes to illegal contacts and hits. Educational programs on safety and proper helmet techniques are offered to coaches. “Frank wanted to make a difference to the game and not let Tommy’s death go unnoticed,” said Tom Combs, executive director and former football chair of Section XI. “These standards make the game safer, bring an awareness to what is an illegal hit and what isn’t, what’s acceptable on the field and what isn’t. It’s helping coaches and players and officials get on the same page and understand that this game can be as safe as possible if we follow certain standards. Frank’s amazing. I don’t think I could’ve found the strength to do what he’s done.” Kelli Cutinella has shared Thomas’ story, and advocated for the lowering of the organ donation registration age across the state, speaking at local school districts like Harborfields and East Islip, colleges like Hofstra and Stony Brook University, and in Albany to support the passing of a law permitting 16- and 17-year-olds to enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry, which was rolled out in February 2017. She is also a frequent contributor at events put on by LiveOnNY, an organ donation network, and a nonprofit called Long Island TRIO, standing for Transplant Recipients International Organization. Dave Rodgers, a leader at Long Island TRIO, said he had been following Thomas’ story since the day his death was reported, and was honored to have his mom join his cause. Within the nonprofit, Kelli Cutinella speaks to high school and college students about what organ donation and transplantation means from a parental perspective. “It’s truly amazing what she’s able to do,” Rodgers said. “She takes it full circle from raising her son and what he and his loss meant to her, to the transplantation process of another person getting that life and then being in contact with all the recipients of Thomas’ organs. Her story is quite compelling.” Not only is Kelli Cutinella friends with Thomas’ heart recipient, she has been running alongside her at the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in New York City since 2015. Karen Hill, a 25-year-old Washington, D.C.,
File photo above by Bill Landon; file photos below from Kelli Cutinella
The Shoreham-Wading River community and football team, above, mourned the death of teammate Thoams Cutinella’s passing. Thomas, below left, hoped to donate his organs. His mother made sure of this, and ran next to his heart recipient Karen Hill, below right. native, received Thomas’ heart three days after his death, while she was a student at Fordham University. When she was 11, Hill was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease, and had been regulated with medication until she turned 21 and got on a waiting list for a transplant. “It’s crazy because when I found out I needed a transplant, the first thing I wondered was, ‘Whose heart am I doing to get?’” Hill said. “There is no word in the dictionary that described just how fortunate I was to be able to receive the heart of such a well-loved person. I feel like since the transplant and meeting the Cutinellas, I’ve become a better person in my own life.” Hill first met the Cutinellas in May 2015, along with the recipient of Thomas’ kidney and pancreas. She has been in frequent communication ever since and has found a real kinship with Thomas’ mother. “Kelli is almost in a way like a second mom,” Hill said. “She has such a wonderful and warm personality. She and Frank both still have the most positive spirits and are great people to be around.” Through The Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation, the parents are also extremely hands-on and charitable within their son’s school district, granting a special scholarship in Thomas’ name — more than $14,000 in 2016 — to students of Shoreham-Wading River and beyond who exhibit characteristics of kindness, modesty and selflessness. The couple oversaw the building of the new memorial football field, and Frank Cutinella is spearheading the construction of a concession stand and bathroom on the property. Thomas was honored in the form of a buddy bench installed at Wading River Elementary School. At the high school, alongside the football field, a bust was created along with a special seating area by local Eagle Scout Thomas Leda. “It’s overwhelming for them, but they want to give back to the community because the community gave back to them in their time in need,” Michaels said. “Thomas loved that
school and that’s where they felt they could truly carry on his memory. The [Cutinellas] were dealt a bad hand, but they’ve turned that bad hand into a royal flush.” Biegert agreed. “Kelli and Frank didn’t crawl in a hole and cry about this,” she said. “They opened their arms and thought of what they could do to make it better and make a difference.” Kenny Gray, a family friend, said the Cutinellas encompass the small-town feeling of Shoreham-Wading River with their strong family values and love of community. “I know that they will never fully recover from this and it continues to be a struggle for them, but they’re strong and keep life normal for the other three kids,” Gray said. “This tragedy has led Frank and Kelli to do even more for community and friends.” Kevin Cutinella, 18, their second oldest child who also played on the high school football and lacrosse team and currently attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said he’s most proud and admiring of his parents’ strength. “I love that they haven’t changed at all — they stayed just as stable and strong as a rock,” he said. “It’s just what they’ve always been: strong, focused and helpful. It’s definitely rubbed off on us all.”
PAGE A26 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
Photos above left, below right and below left by Jennifer Brunet; photo on right from Patti Kozlowski; and photo bottom right from Jennifer Hunt
Tuscany Gourmet Market Rich Fink and Tommy O’Grady, from left above, are known for helping families in the community, whether it be donating food and gift cards to a charitable event, or volunteering time to cater and serve at an event with company volunteers.
Miller Place market brings cheer to those that need it most BY DESIRÉE KEEGAN DESIREE@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. That’s what it’s like when entering Tuscany Gourmet Market. Customers step through the sliding doors of the 10-year-old establishment’s new location on 25A in Miller Place and are immediately greeted by staff members. Restaurant-quality foods, imported cheeses and fine meats are available everywhere the eye can see at the family owned fare. Owners Tommy O’Grady and Rich Fink are even known to whip up specialty items if a customer can’t find exactly what they were looking for, and if they can’t do that, they’ll find a way to get it. But that’s not even half of what Miller Place residents say makes the market so special. To many, it’s that the warm, welcoming atmosphere is coupled with sincere care for the community. Sound Beach resident Patti Kozlowski first visited Tuscany Market five years ago as a customer. She said right away, she knew it was a place she wanted to shop. “It felt like family, like they were family,” she said of her first experience, which was at the business’ previous location closer to Mount Sinai. “It didn’t feel like a corporate place. It felt like a mom-and-pop shop where they knew everybody in the neighborhood and everyone in the neighborhood knew them.” O’Grady and Fink get to know each customer, his or her family and usual orders in what many consider a very tight-knit Miller Place community. “They are consistently going above and beyond, and in many cases it’s unsolicited,” Kozlowski said. “I try to give them my business every opportunity that I have. I always recommend them. One, because I truly think that their service and their products are well
above average — exceptional. And two, because I always think that their service to the community should be recognized.” Kozlowski, who is also the founder of North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit that raises funds to provide support services for local families fighting cancer, approached the owners seeking donations as part of a fundraising effort for local boy Thomas Scully, who was fighting anaplastic ependymoma, a form of brain cancer. When the gentlemen heard of Thomas, they immediately began aiding in alleviating the family’s struggles, and in a variety of ways. Jennifer Brunet, Thomas’ aunt, said there were two fundraisers held for her brother’s family — at the Miller Place Fire Department and at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Miller Place, which is now Recipe 7. Brunet said at the second fundraiser, in 2015, O’Grady and Fink ran the show. “They genuinely wanted to be there for Thomas,” she said. “Not only did they donate stuff, every staff member came and donated their time to help — brought food, brought raffle items — they did everything.” The business kept raising money for the family until Thomas died in summer 2016 and continued to help amid the wake and funeral. “When Thomas passed away they reached out to me immediately and said, ‘We want to take care of everything,’” Brunet recalled. “And they did. They could have very well shown up at my house with a hero, but when we came back from the first wake session with my entire family everything was set up — salads, entrées, vegetables; there were choices for kids to eat, everything. And when I came home from the second wake everything was wrapped up and the place was clean. I didn’t have to do a thing. They were unbelievable.” Thomas’ mother Debbie Scully said the kind, giving, selfless nature of the Tuscany
Market owners and employees moved her beyond words. “We were busy doing what we needed to do to take care of our son and they were giving us gift cards to come get food and showed so much support,” she said. “Tom would never let us pay for anything when we’d go there, he’d say, ‘When you get back on your feet then you can pay, until then, no.’ And it was endless, because after Thomas passed away they continued to give. It was over three years of them taking care of us and not asking for a thing in return.” Scully said the family started a foundation in Thomas’ memory to help other children with cancer, and Tuscany Market members wanted to remain involved. “He goes, ‘All right, what can I do? Let me know when the next event is,’” she said of O’Grady. “When you go through what our family went through, you don’t know what you need, but you do need help. And to have somebody preempting that and just being there and being supportive, it made it a little bit easier for us. That’s priceless.” That caring, community-centric, no-questionsasked attitude reverberates beyond Miller Place. Jennifer Hunt works with Kozlowski for team Fight Like a Girl, which participates in the LI2Day Walk, a 13.1-mile walk that celebrates cancer survivors and raises funds for local Long Island families battling cancer. The team hosts its own fundraiser, a Chinese auction, for which Tuscany Market has provided gift cards and what Hunt referred to as “high end” baskets. “Without businesses like that, the money that we raise to help people in our neighborhood fighting cancer, it wouldn’t happen,” she said. “The fact that they’re willing to step up is tremendous. Not many people do as much as they do.” Most recently, the owners stepped up to help Shoreham-Wading River freshman Alexa Boucher, who was diagnosed with orbital
rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer in the eye socket. A sold-out spaghetti fundraiser was held at the Wading River Fire Department, and Tuscany Market catered the event, donating food, paper goods and wait staff for a 150-person dinner. “Originally, it was going to be a spaghetti dinner at the firehouse,” Hunt said. “But no one knew how it was going to run — it was a little overwhelming — so Tommy decided he would just do it and cater it from soup to nuts. I’m there shopping all the time because the food is so good and everyone is just so nice and helpful, but it’s also nice that they’re willing to step up in any way you ask them to.” It’s said it takes a village, and O’Grady and Fink are said to emit so much joy doing what they’re doing to support their neighbors. “Their kindness is alive and kicking in them,” Scully said. “It’s like you’re watching a movie of this little community where everyone comes out and supports each other and has each other’s back and looks out for each other. They are at the heart of that, they embody that. We’re very lucky to have them in our community.” Tuscany Market helps provide for those that need it most, in a place where everybody knows your name.
DECEMBER 28, 2017 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • PAGE A27
Locals provide outreach to special needs community BY JILL WEBB Out of the 366,574 children residing in Suffolk Country, 2,445 of those children live with autism, according to a report in a threepoint plan put out by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) to address the disorder. In an effort to give support to the intellectual and developmental disabilities community, several residents of Suffolk County have increased outreach in their areas.
Kids get their kicks
Rocky Point’s boys varsity soccer coach Joe Camarda, along with the girl’s coach, Pete Costa, created an opportunity for mentally and physically disabled kids to become athletes when they started Rocky Point’s TOPSoccer league in 2016. Camarda and Costa, as teachers in district, understood the need for families to have special needs programs in their backyard, instead of having to search Long Island. “We see it everyday,” Costa said. “It’s extremely important for students with special needs to be socialized and it’s a good opportunity for them to interact with their peers.” By working with the Long Island Junior Soccer League, the coaches host eight to 12 kids with varsity Rocky Point players volunteering to help out on the field. “They can’t wait to come and help on Saturdays,” Camarda said of his varsity players. As well as being a fun activity for the children, it is also a way for the varsity players to become educated on what it really means to have a disability. “Truth is, that a lot of times they’re not in school with them, they’re not in class with them,” Costa said. “So, it’s an opportunity for them to learn what it’s all about.” Putting the children in a field setting where there’s no pressure to perform, while also giving them the ability to develop their motor skills is a win-win for parents and their kids. Camarda sees the dedication his athletes have to soccer, despite their disabilities. Rain or shine, they’ll be on the field with smiles on their faces, according to Camarda. “The feedback we get from the parents is that they’re talking about it all week,” he said. “They can’t wait to get here.” In the future, they hope to put on a Special Olympics-style tournament, potentially called the Special World Cup. “The community should provide opportunities for everybody regardless of what your needs are,” Costa said. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to help each other out.”
Photo above from Tristan Whitworth; file photos on right by Kevin Redding; file photo below left by Desirée Keegan
Clockwise from above, Game On hosts a night out for bowling and pizza with friends; SASI founders Priscilla Arena and Stephanie Mendelson at a fundraiser; a girl enjoys a SASI camp experience; and Summer Netburn races around the soccer field in Rocky Point TOPSoccer.
New friendships from old games
Whitworth has even started organizing Game On owner Tristan Whitworth has some outings for the group, like sponsoring opened the doors of his business to local spe- 20 kids and their parents to go out for a night cial needs children who have bonded over a of bowling and pizza. love of retro games. “I basically just noticed that a lot of parents Bridging the information gap would come in with a child, or sometimes In December 2015, Priscilla Arena and two, on the autism spectrum,” Whitworth Stephanie Mendelson met up for a business said. “The parents would come talk to me and meeting, but ended up discussing the lack they’d say something like, ‘I don’t get it they’re of local resources for both of their young, so into these retro games and none of their autistic sons. friends are.’” After confiding in each other, the two Retro video games and toys is exactly what Mount Sinai mothers decided to take matters Game On, with locations in Miller Place and into their hands by starting Suffolk Aspergers/ Stony Brook, supplies its customers with. Autism Support & Information. Whitworth loved seeing kids enjoying his “We talked about how we felt fairly alone games, but wanted to do more for them by in that diagnosis and that there really weren’t a connecting them to each other. lot of local resources out here in Suffolk County “We just had a huge customer base of all for parents like ourselves,” Mendelson said. these children that loved the retro games, but Their first meeting was spurred by a Facebook they never had asked to post scouting out local parhang out or see each other,” ents who felt the same. he said. “They would only “Just like the child feels play alone at home.” alienated, isolated, alone Whitworth decided to and misunderstood, so do host a game night for his the parents,” Arena said. customers to provide them The group took form as an opportunity to make new 12 parents in a living room friends. After a trial run held discussing issues, and since at his store, he decided he its first get-together, has needed to upgrade venues. into a free program After contacting a couple lo— Priscilla Arena grown of over 2,000 members. cal churches, he found his Arena and Mendelson’s fit with North Shore United mission is based around Methodist Church in Wading River. providing education and knowledge — helping Whitworth’s events became The Autism Social Club & Game Night in October 2016, parents find out where their children can ata free monthly event that brings together au- tend school, where they can live in their adult tistic children, and all others with disabilities. life and where they can find careers are just a While Whitworth and his staff volunteer at small handful of questions SASI answers. “We want to be a central resource for pareach game night, Whitworth credits the parents as a big help in running the event, which ents to go to no matter where they are in the hosts about 20 kids. All ages under 18 are in- diagnosis process, and even if the children are vited, but Whitworth says most of the attend- older,” Mendelson said. “A place to go to look for recommendations for doctors, services, ees are 10 to 15 years old. Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart are two advice, resources, and then of course emotional and financial support.” of the most popular games among the kids. Monthly support group meetings are held “They really love the four-player games for GameCube and Nintendo 64,” Whitworth said. at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Some of the best moments, according to Jefferson, with relevant informational speakWhitworth, are when the kids give him a hug ers providing similar information on getting goodbye, and normally nonverbal children try access to services, finding psychologists and learning what support is available through to say “Thank you.” The community’s need for programs like the state. “The best resource is actually the parents this is apparent, as Whitworth notices enrollthat come,” Mendelson said. “They share with ment go up every month. .
‘Just like the child feels alienated, isolated, alone and misunderstood, so do the parents.’
each other things that have worked for them.” SASI organizers pride themselves and the group in making members feel comfortable and catered to, because the directors were in the same boat. “Our members refer to us as a family, and we’re slowly but surely changing the perception of the ASD population” Arena said. “That is something that no other autism organization has been able to accomplish, and that is because Stephanie and I are in the trenches face-to-face doing everything that they’re doing. There’s no detachment — we are walking, living, breathing the same thing.” Mendelson and Arena recently launched SASI in Español because they noticed a stigma in the Latino community when it comes to discussing developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. “The Spanish speaking community, especially here on Long Island, has been so underserved and so ignored when it comes to resources,” Mendelson said. One of the pair’s favorite programs SASI offers is a birthday club. “Unfortunately a lot of these kids don’t get invited to regular birthday parties, so every month we throw a birthday party where they can all come and celebrate in a judgementfree atmosphere.” At one birthday party, a child had a meltdown in the middle of the party, prompting the parent to get embarrassed and apologizing to everyone, but in response, was told by every other parent that she wasn’t alone. “When I’m tired, or I feel like, ‘Wow, this is taking over my life,’ those are the moments that propel me forward,” Mendelson said. “They make me realize why this is so important and such a gift to do.”
PAGE A28 • THE PORT TIMES RECORD • DECEMBER 28, 2017
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Published on Dec 27, 2017