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‘Officer Drew’ is there for school students

Drew Fiorillo. File photo by Barbara Donlon
Officer Drew Fiorillo’s job is to help students in need. File photo
Officer Drew Fiorillo’s job is to help students in need. File photo

Suffolk County Police School Resource Officer Andrew Fiorillo has the unique job of patrolling hallways instead of streets in an effort to bridge the gap between youth and law enforcement.

The 14-year veteran has been working as a school resource officer with Huntington and South Huntington school districts for more than 10 years. And while he is a sworn law enforcement officer  “Officer Drew,” as he is called, protects and educates students in need.

“I love to speak to them as a mentor, not a police officer,” Fiorillo said in an interview at the 2nd Precinct headquarters in Huntington.

Prior to becoming a police officer in 2001, Fiorillo, a graduate of Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in teaching, was a New York City firefighter. When he got the call offering him a job as a police officer, he knew it was where he was meant to be, as he wanted to help make a difference.

Fiorillo said walking the hallways helps both he and the students get to know each other better. He spends his days walking and talking and helping students in need. The officer said there are many different challenges he faces on a daily basis, which include speaking with students about issues they may be having, giving presentations to forming relationships and ensuring the school environment remains a place where students feel safe to learn and teachers feel safe to teach. Each day is different, which makes it exciting for him, he said.

“I explain things, show how to correct things, obtain information and deliver it in a non-confrontational way,” Fiorillo said.

The officer spends his days in the schools and sometimes goes into classrooms and delivers presentations to the students. One of the presentations he gives is the zero-tolerance law for drinking alcohol under the age of 21. He helps students understand that they cannot operate a motor vehicle with any blood alcohol content if they are under 21.

Fiorillo said he lives by the motto, “no problems, only solutions,” and that is what he tells students when they are in need of advice or any kind of help. He also teaches students that character counts and to do the right thing when no one is watching.

Huntington Superintendent Jim Polansky spoke highly of the officer and said he has proven himself to be a resource for everyone around him.

Drew Fiorillo. File photo by Barbara Donlon
Drew Fiorillo. File photo by Barbara Donlon

“They know he is there for them and will go out of his way to help them,” Polansky said in an interview. “I can’t see anyone doing a better job than him.”

Many can attest to Fiorillo’s passion for helping students. Those who encounter him each day say he goes above and beyond his daily duties and is not only spotted in the schools, but also at community events.

Huntington High School Principal Carmela Leonardi said Fiorillo is very approachable and that students “flock to him.” She also said he has been a partner to the administration and helped create a great environment.

“The ultimate goal is to provide a safe learning environment where kids can learn and teachers can teach,” Fiorillo said.

The officer said he is very thankful and lucky to get the opportunity to work with the students, teachers and administrators, and he hopes to continue the path for a very long time.

“We have an opportunity as police officers to have a positive influence in young people’s lives, which will hopefully help them become better in life,” Fiorillo said.

Veterinarian reflects on family business

The Huntington Animal Hospital, located on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station, is celebrating 63 years. Photo from Dr. Jeff Kramer

A four-year-old boy’s dream of being a veterinarian and following in his father’s footsteps has led to decades of business success.

The Huntington Animal Hospital is celebrating 63 years of business, and owner Dr. Jeff Kramer, who is living his lifelong passion, plans to mark the milestone with a special client appreciation day on June 6.

From the time Kramer, 61, was brought home as a baby from the hospital to his bedroom, which now serves as the exam room in Huntington Animal Hospital on Walt Whitman Road, he has been surrounded animals and the veterinary office.

“Growing up all I was ever going to do was be a veterinarian,” Kramer said in a recent interview. “I was always going to be a vet, there was never any other options.”

The animal hospital that Kramer owns once served as his childhood home and his father Mort Kramer’s veterinary office, which is where he got first-hand experience working in the field. The younger Kramer would hold animals, clean cages and observe as his father performing daily duties. Every free second he had was spent working with his dad, Kramer said.

“I’ve worked in this animal hospital since I was a little boy,” Kramer said. “I skipped Saturday morning cartoons and came here.”

Huntington Animal Hospital's Dr. Jeff Kramer is hard at work doing what he does best — helping animals. Photo from Kramer
Huntington Animal Hospital’s Dr. Jeff Kramer is hard at work doing what he does best — helping animals. Photo from Kramer

Kramer attended Johns Hopkins University and then went on to attend veterinarian school at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where he worked hard to fulfill his dream of becoming a vet.

After graduating from veterinary school, Kramer spent time living in Virginia and working at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  He then returned to Huntington Station where he teamed up with his dad and worked at the family’s animal hospital. Once his dad retired, Kramer took over the business and has been operating it ever since.

“It has been an all-around wonderful experience, giving back to people and providing the animals and people with care and help,” Kramer said.

In the past Kramer has treated ferrets, guinea pigs and hamsters, but the practice now treats cats and dogs. Kramer said the staff would treat other animals if they came in.

While he loves treating dogs and cats, he said a big part of his job is treating their owners and helping them cope through difficult times. Through his more than 30 years running the practice, he said he has seen some sad cases that are just part of the job.

“It’s hard to see a dog and cat that has been hit by a car,” Kramer said.

The veterinarian said his job is very rewarding and he loves helping animals and owners. He said he loves giving back and providing animals with the care they need.

“It’s a wonderful profession,” he said. “I’m very very lucky to be a veterinarian. I’m one of the family doctors, that’s my favorite part.”

Sal Migliore, an owner of four cats, visits Kramer regularly and has been for the last three years. He called the veterinarian a good person who is very caring with animals.

“He is our Dr. Doolittle,” Migliore said. “He is a doctor for animals. We don’t know what we would do without him, we have so much faith in him.”

Next week, at the June 6 client appreciation day, people will get to meet a dog trainer, groomer along with Kramer and his team. Attendees will also be able to enjoy snacks and drinks, Kramer said.

“It’s really saying thank you to our Huntington Animal Hospital family,” Kramer said.

Program aims to make dogs more adoptable

Dogs Playing for Life, a socialization program for dogs, is now being implemented at the town shelter. Photo from A.J. Carter

Dogs at the Huntington Animal Shelter will get the chance to participate in playgroups that will help them burn energy and counteract the stresses of shelter life.

The town shelter has begun implementing Dogs Playing for Life, a socialization program for shelter dogs. In addition to playgroups for the dogs, the program also helps provide better indicators for shelter staff in classifying dogs for adoption.

“Huntington is proud of our shelter and our efforts to stay at the forefront of current trends in caring for the physical and emotional needs of the dogs in our care,” Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in a statement. “We are excited about the potential of the Dogs Playing for Life program to stimulate dogs at the shelter and prepare them for their lives when they find new homes.”

This week, the founder of Dogs Playing for Life, Aimee Sadler and her team, began training shelter workers and volunteers in the program, according to a town statement. The training includes a classroom session and training with some of the shelter dogs. There is also a classroom presentation and demonstration for safe handling techniques during group experiences.

The Dogs Playing for Life program has its roots on Long Island, beginning at the Southampton Town Animal Shelter 17 years ago.

“Play is good for animals and people,” Sadler said in a statement. “Letting shelter dogs get together to socialize daily helps them to cope with the stressful kennel environment while waiting for someone to take them home.”

The benefits of the program include critical dog-to-dog social skills that can help postadoption in developing positive relationships, along with exercise that will help relax the dogs in their kennels when meeting people. Also, shelter staff will gain a better understanding of each dog by observing its state of play and social skills of the leash — information that can be used to make better decisions about potential adoption matches.

The program, which costs approximately $6,000, is being funded at a cost share by the town and the Huntington League for Animal Protection, whose volunteers have worked with the shelter dogs for many years.

Jane Barbato, who runs the volunteer program at the shelter for the League for Animal Protection, said, “The shelter staff and LAP volunteers already know that we have the most wonderful dogs in the world. Playing for Life gives the public the opportunity to see for themselves just how magnificent they really are — in all their glory, just doing what dogs do, reveling in their connection with each other.”

Dogs Playing for Life is the latest program implemented at the shelter in an effort to help dogs find new homes and help with basic socialization training.

The town is planning on chronicling the progress of the program in online videos told through the eyes of Dixie, a pit bull mix at the shelter.

$6.5 million state project resumes in Fort Salonga

Roadwork on Route 25A in Fort Salonga. Photo by Rohma Abbas

A $6.5 million state project to repave a 10.6-mile stretch of Route 25A in Huntington Town resumed in Fort Salonga on May 20.

Repair and repaving work began at Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in Fort Salonga and will proceed westward to Middleville Road in Northport, according to a statement from the New York State Department of Transportation. Posillico Inc. of Farmingdale, under contract with NYS DOT, is performing the work. That section of the roadwork is expected to be completed within two weeks, according to a statement from the DOT.

The statement indicated that three of the most deteriorated sections of Route 25A were repaired prior to the harsh winter weather.

The scope of the project is to repave Route 25A, Main Street and Fort Salonga Road between Route 108 in Cold Spring Harbor and Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in Fort Salonga. The pavement along the 10.6-mile project route will be removed and replaced with new asphalt and the traffic signal loops will be replaced.

The project includes installation of fresh pavement markings, including bike lane striping and more visible pedestrian crosswalks.

In addition, audible rumble devices will be added on the centerline, which will provide noise and physical vibration warnings to motorists who stray into oncoming traffic.

Drainage structure repairs are included in the project to improve roadway runoff.

“When completed, these pavement repairs will improve motorists’ safety and help maintain the integrity of NY Route 25A/Main Street/Fort Salonga Road in the Town of Huntington,” according to the statement.

In an effort to begin the project while minimizing its impact, the construction has been arranged to be shorter and limited to sections of Route 25A, according to the state. The work will also take place during off-peak days and night hours depending on the area.

The travel lanes will also be shifted during the work to accommodate construction activities. A single travel lane is being maintained in each direction. On-street parking is not permitted during this construction work, according to the release.

The NYS DOT is urging drivers to use alternate routes in an effort to avoid travel delays. Local officials, businesses, schools and emergency service providers are being notified about the repaving operations in their local areas.

Police Officer Lance Prager with his son Joshua. Photo from Lance Prager

Suffolk County Police Officer Lance Prager, who also serves in the Army National Guard, will be hosting a charity event Saturday, where 93 percent of the proceeds go towards helping veterans.

Prager, 49, a father of three, is a retired chief warrant officer for the United States Marine Corps and has served three tours in Iraq. The current Suffolk County SWAT officer has a love for his country and the people who serve it, and is holding the event to help those in need.

The event will take place May 23 at the Checkmate Inn in East Setauket from noon to 5 p.m. There is a $20 donation at the door that includes two free beers, a free barbecue and a live band. There will also be 50/50 raffles and other prizes.

The money raised will go to the Semper Fi Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit set up to provide immediate financial support to post-Sept. 11 injured and critically ill members of the United States armed forces and their families. The group provides relief for financial needs that arise during hospitalization and recovery as well as assistance for those with perpetual needs.

“I’m so proud and honored to be associated with them,” Prager said.

The fund provides support for service members and their families, specialized and adaptive equipment, adaptive housing, transportation, education assistance, posttraumatic stress support and more. Since the fund began in 2003, it has raised millions of dollars to help thousands of wounded service members.

Veterans hold a special place in Prager’s heart. He took numerous leaves of absences from the police department to serve his country during the Iraq war.

In addition to the event he hosts annually, the service member also runs marathons to help raise money for the cause. This year he will run his sixth Marine Corps Marathon along with his 16-year-old son Joshua, who is running his first.

To learn more or to donate to the fund, visit www.Semperfifund.org.

Keith Frank, left with school board president, Mike Unger, right, finds out he won a seat on the Miller Place school board. Photo by Erika Karp

Miller Place residents came out in support of the district’s proposed nearly $70 million budget on Tuesday with 79 percent of voters casting a “yes” ballot.

The approved budget, which stays within the district’s tax levy increase cap of 2.85 percent, maintains programs and adds a few new instructional programs, support services and extracurricular activities. Out of the 1,226 ballot papers lodged, 964 were in the affirmative.

In addition, residents approved a proposition for library services and elected Keith Frank, 50, as their new school board trustee.

“I think that almost 80 percent is certainly a record in the district for the budget and in a light voter turnout, it means even more,” school board president, Mike Unger, said.

Frank, an attorney and father of three kids, waited anxiously for the results to be announced on Tuesday evening. He received 781 votes, while opponent Mike Manspeizer, 55, fell short with 287 votes. After finding out he won, Frank smiled and was congratulated by other board members. He said it felt great to be elected.

“I just want to thank everyone for coming out and voting,” Frank said. “I’m just looking forward to the next three years.”

The newcomer will take Unger’s seat as the board president did not seek re-election for a third term. In an email, Unger said he feels the board is in great shape and it’s a good time to hand things off. Frank will assume his school board role on July 1.

“I am pleased with Keith Frank as the new trustee,” Unger said. “Both candidates had valuable experience to offer. Keith will be a great addition who will work very well with the existing board, the administration and the community.”

Manspeizer said he will continue to serve and be involved in the community.

“I am disappointed in the outcome, but I have a great deal of respect for Keith and I know he’ll do a great job,” he said.

Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Higuera said she was pleased the budget passed.

“We’re very appreciative of the community’s support of our programs and staff, and we look forward to another successful year,” she said.

Gene and Edna Gerrard are surrounded by their grown children — from left, Christine, Pam, Ann, Patricia and Paul — on their 50th wedding anniversary. Photo from Kerri Ellis

Edna Gerrard, a longtime resident with a knack for community service and a mind for business, died on May 16 at age 86.

A 57-year resident of Brookhaven Town and the wife of former town councilman Gene Gerrard, she died of complications related to esophageal cancer, her daughter Pam Ruschak said in an interview on Tuesday.

Edna Gerrard had lived in Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson and Middle Island with her husband, to whom she was married for 65 years. The couple raised five children together.

Gene and Edna Gerard were married for 65 years. Photo from Kerri Ellis
Gene and Edna Gerrard were married for 65 years. Photo from Kerri Ellis

The pair’s surname was perhaps most well-known through the printing shop they owned in Port Jefferson Station, St. Gerard Printing, where Edna worked until last year, when the Gerrard family sold the local business.

But “her big love was community service,” Ruschak said.

Gerrard had worked with many organizations throughout the area over the years. She was a past president of the Port Jefferson Station and Terryville chamber of commerce; a founding member and past president of the networking group Decision Women in Commerce and Professions; a former vice president of the Mount Sinai Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary; and a former Long Island Power Authority trustee.

Former LIPA Chairman Richard Kessel called Gerrard a “valuable asset to the board.”

“Soft-spoken but challenging, cared greatly for ratepayers and the environment,” Kessel said. “She’ll be missed.”

Ruschak said her mother found a way to raise a family and still be involved in her community, something that makes her proud.

“She was just a beautiful, dynamic, classy, graceful woman,” the daughter said.

In addition to husband Gene, daughter Pam and Pam’s husband, Richard Ruschak, Edna Gerrard is survived by her son, Paul Gerrard, and his wife, Pam; her daughter, Patricia Leffke, and husband Gary; her daughter, Ann Dunn, and husband John; her son-in-law, Edward McKenna; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Her daughter, Christine McKenna, preceded her in death.

Moloney’s Port Jefferson Station Funeral Home handled arrangements and a Mass was held at St. Frances Cabrini R.C. Church in Coram on Wednesday.

“There will be tough shoes to fill,” Pam Ruschak said. “There will be a real void in this community.”

This version corrects the spelling of the Gerrard family name.

Officials cut the ribbon on the new Port Jefferson Village tennis courts. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Port Jefferson officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday for newly renovated tennis courts behind Village Hall that will double as a soccer field.

Renee Lemmerman waits on a service at the new Port Jefferson Village tennis courts. Photo by Barbara Donlon
Renee Lemmerman waits on a service at the new Port Jefferson Village tennis courts. Photo by Barbara Donlon

The village recently upgraded the three tennis courts, off Roessner Lane and across from Rocketship Park, using a $30,000 grant from the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Grant Program, which the village matched equally.

According to a press release from the village, the courts’ surface is now a combination of sand and synthetic grass, making it possible for residents to take down the removable nets and use the facility to play soccer.

Doug DeGroot, owner of the Hamptons Tennis Company and a Sag Harbor resident, donated labor and new net posts.

“This project is a reflection of a great partnership,” Mayor Margot Garant said in an interview at the ribbon-cutting.

More than 7,500 people use the site annually and the village predicts usage will double this year now that it can be used for soccer.

“The upgrade of the tennis courts will attract tennis and soccer enthusiasts, creating an inviting, safer court area available during two sports seasons,” Renee Lemmerman, village recreation superintendent, said in a press release.

Garant said she is happy the courts were redone in a timely manner, as they had become unusable, with damage even beyond what patching could repair. She said it would have cost more to resurface the courts than to upgrade them.

Brett Rainey poses with his girlfriend Danielle and a puppy. Photo from Lisa Karrer

A 27-year-old Huntington Station motorcyclist was killed after colliding with a minivan on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington.

Brett Rainey was riding his 2000 Yamaha north on Walt Whitman Road at about 5:30 p.m. on May 15 when he struck the passenger side of a 2002 Chrysler Town & Country as the driver attempted to make a left turn into a parking lot. Lucas McAfee, an 18-year-old man from Fort Salonga, was driving the minivan.

Rainey was transported to Huntington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the minivan and three male passengers were not injured and remained at the scene, according to police.

The death of Rainey has hit his family hard. His older sister Lisa Karrer said her brother was a great man who died too soon.

“He was beautiful,” she said. “From the day he was born he was amazing.”

Karrer described her brother as someone who was always by her side and had a great love of motorcycles. She said he got his first motorcycle at age 4 and spent much of his life riding dirt bikes, motorcycles and Jet Skis.

“He loved the thrill, its freedom and passion,” Karrer.

Rainey’s sister said her brother suffered from a drug addiction for eight years before going to rehab and getting clean. She said he spent his last two years sober, living with her and making his life better.

“He changed his life and he was finally happy,” she said. “He was finally living his life for the first time.”

The 27-year-old was also a father to a 5-year-old girl who was adopted by a family member a few months after being born. The tough decision came from Rainey, who knew she was better off being adopted by a family member, Karrer said.

“He was loving, he loved everybody,” his sister said. “He was always there for anybody.”

Rainey channeled his love for all things mechanical into working as a mechanic for the last couple of years. He also worked at a PetSmart in Huntington Station. When reached for comment, a PetSmart manager who would not give his name said the loss “hit the team really hard.”

Karrer said the family doesn’t want the driver and passengers involved in the minivan to blame themselves. She called it a “terrible accident.”

Services for Rainey are being held in New Jersey, where he is from, his sister said. It will take place this Saturday at Ora L. Wooster Funeral Home in Clementon, N.J.

He is survived by his girlfriend Danielle, sisters Lisa and Laura, his sister-in-law Deborah, his mom Drena Kanz, father Doug Rainey and two younger siblings Lilly and Ries.

Karrer and her wife Deborah Porretto will be hosting a memorial gathering at their home at 39 Dawson Street in Huntington Station on May 30 beginning at 1 p.m. for anyone and everyone who would like to come.

Teenager staying in Port Jefferson Station, attending Comsewogue High School

Cathy Song, far right, hangs out with host mother Linda Bernet, her daughter Meredith, and Meredith’s children Nicholas and Larissa in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Barbara Donlon

She had to travel 7,000 miles, but Seungeun Song is living out her dream and seeing what America is really like.

The 15-year-old Comsewogue foreign exchange student, who goes by Cathy, made the trip from her hometown, the South Korean city of Incheon, to Long Island at the end of January through the educational tour group EF Explore America. To participate in the program, the high school sophomore had to score well on a written exam and decide which country she wanted to visit.

“I wanted to come here to learn English better and make American friends,” Cathy said in an interview in the home where she is staying in Port Jefferson Station.

Upon arriving in New York, Cathy, who once briefly visited the United States as a young child, stayed with a welcome family before moving in with her Dorothy Street hosts, the Bernets, about five weeks ago.

Since starting classes at Comsewogue High School, she has made the honor roll and is having a great time experiencing American education.

She will stay stateside until the end of January 2016.

“Everybody is nice to me; they help me,” Cathy said. “It’s fun to learn something else in another language.”

Cathy said she likes school in the United States better than in South Korea because it is not as strict. One of her favorite things, for instance, is that she is allowed to eat during class, something she said would never be allowed back home.

“I like it here better,” Cathy said. “Korea is crazy about studying, but here I feel comfortable … and I’m doing OK.”

Cathy said high school in South Korea runs nine hours a day. Students then eat dinner and go to study until about 10 p.m. There would sometimes be class after that, too.

As the school year is coming to a close, Cathy has plans to travel, including a trip to Walt Disney World with another exchange student staying in Smithtown, a two-week trip to South Carolina to visit her aunt and cousins and excursions with the Bernet family.

“I want to take her to Broadway,” host mother Linda Bernet said. “We’ll cook, go upstate and I want to take her to the beaches.”

Cathy isn’t the only one getting the experience of a lifetime — Bernet said her home’s new resident has brought a lot of joy into her life as well.

“It’s been nice because we do things together,” Bernet said. “We are really kind of learning from each other.”

Bernet got the opportunity to host Cathy through her gym — Cathy’s exchange coordinator was teaching a class and asked if anyone was willing to take in the girl during her stay or knew someone who would. Bernet was intrigued and offered to do the job.

Through the experience, Bernet has decided to become a coordinator for EF Explore America to help connect exchange students with families here on Long Island.

Since Cathy arrived here, she and Bernet have done a lot, including a trip to Times Square, visits to the nail salon and some local shopping. They also have dinner together as a family every night. Soon Cathy will join the family on trips upstate to their second home.

“I want Cathy to have a good feel of the U.S. and see what kids here do,” Bernet said.

The student will also get the chance to make money like any other American teen with a part-time job this summer, as she learns how to babysit and take care of three of Bernet’s grandchildren, who often come over to ride scooters with her.

While Cathy is enjoying her time in New York, she misses home and Korean food, despite finding American food and Bernet’s cooking delicious, she said. She uses Skype regularly to chat with her mom and her younger brother and sister back home. Her time away from them has taught her a lot.

“I’m having fun because I get to be independent,” she said.

Because she has enjoyed her time in Comsewogue, Cathy said she may return to the United States for college.

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