Arts & Entertainment

Front row, from left, Leg. Susan Berland, Mikayla Shapiro, Beth Goldberg, Noah Rosenzweig, Councilwoman Jacqueline Gordon and Carol Nuzzi; back row, from left, Elijah Morrison, Justin Winawer, Sarah Strent and Justin Mintz. Photo by Shahron Sharifian

Last week seven Long Island teens were honored at the Annual CTeen West Suffolk Dinner at The Chai Center in Dix Hills, for their work and dedication to this vital youth community service organization.

Sarah Strent of Commack received the Leadership Award, Mikayla Shapiro of Commack and Justin Mintz of Plainview received the Rookies of the Year Awards, Noah Rosenzweig of East Northport and Justin Winawer of Plainview received the Chesed (Kindness) Awards, Beth Goldberg of West Babylon received the Dedication Award and Elijah Morrison of Melville was named Teen of the Year. The hosts for the evening were CTeen West Suffolk teen leaders, Carly Tamer and Hannah Sharifian, both of East Northport.

Beth Goldberg and Councilwoman Jacqueline Gordon. Photo by Photo by Shahron Sharifian

Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Suffolk County Legislator Susan Berland, Carol Nuzzi representing Sen. John Flanagan and Councilwoman Jacqueline Gordon of the Town of Babylon all attended to personally congratulate the teens. Warm greetings and certificates were also sent from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Among this year’s activities, CTeen West Suffolk teens cooked for needy families, held a toy drive, packed holiday gifts for ill children, enjoyed a paint night with seniors at an assisted living facility, listened to the life stories of Holocaust survivors and attended three major conventions — a regional, national and international Shabbaton, where they represented Long Island.

“It was an inspiring and moving night,” commented Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum, the director of CTeen West Suffolk, which is based at The Chai Center. However, he explained, this is just the beginning. “We need to reach every Jewish teen and let them know they have a home at CTeen West Suffolk.”

 Sarah Strent, who was named the Leader of the Year, told the crowd, “One very significant message I took away from this year of CTeen is that everyone is a leader. You don’t need a title or a sweatshirt to prove that. I firmly believe every single one of you is capable of achieving anything you set out to do.” 

 With over 200 chapters globally and tens of thousands of members, CTeen, the fastest growing Jewish teen network in the world, inspires and facilitates teens who want to give back to their community and environment, with an emphasis on positive character development. The CTeen Network believes in the power of youth and transforming the teen years into a time of purpose and self-discovery. The goal is to turn youth into leaders. Under the direction of Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum of The Chai Center, the CTeen West Suffolk chapter has tripled in size to more than 60 members since its launch just four years ago. 

Hervé Tiriac during a recent visit to the University of Nebraska Cancer Center. Photo by Dannielle Engel

By Daniel Dunaief

What if doctors could copy human cancers, test drugs on the copies to find the most effective treatment, and then decide on a therapy based on that work?

Hervé Tiriac, a research investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, moved an important step closer to that possibility with pancreatic cancer recently.

Tiriac, who works in the Cancer Center Director Dave Tuveson’s lab, used so-called organoids from 66 patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma tumors. These organoids reacted to chemotherapy in the same way that patients had. 

“This is a huge step forward,” Tiriac said, because of the potential to use organoids to identify the best treatments for patients.

Hervé Tiriac. Photo by Dannielle Engel

Tuveson’s lab has been developing an expertise in growing these organoids from a biopsy of human tumors. The hope throughout the process has been that these models would become an effective tool in understanding the fourth most common type of cancer death in men and women. The survival rate five years after diagnosis is 8 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

The study, which was published in the journal Cancer Discovery, “shows real promise that the organoids can be used to identify therapies that are active for pancreatic cancer patients,” Tuveson explained in an email. “This may be a meaningful advance for our field and likely will have effects on other cancer types.”

Kerri Kaplan, the president and CEO of the Lustgarten Foundation, which has provided $150 million in financial support to research including in Tuveson’s lab, is pleased with the progress in the field.

“There’s so much momentum,” Kaplan said. “The work is translational and it’s going to make a difference in patients’ lives. We couldn’t ask for a better return on investment.”

Tiriac cautions that, while the work he and his collaborators performed on these organoids provides an important and encouraging sign, the work was not a clinical trial. Instead, the researchers retrospectively analyzed the drug screening data from the organoids and compared them to patient outcomes.

“We were able to show there were parallels,” he said. “That was satisfying and good for the field” as organoids recapitulated outcomes from chemotherapy.

Additionally, Tiriac’s research showed a molecular signature that represents a sensitivity to chemotherapy. A combination of RNA sequences showed patterns that reflected the sensitivity for the two dominant chemotherapeutic treatments. “It was part of the intended goal to try to identify a biomarker,” which would show treatment sensitivity, he said.

While these are promising results and encourage further study, researchers remain cautious about their use in the short term because several technical hurdles remain.

For starters, the cells in the organoids take time to grow. At best right now, researchers can grow them in two to four weeks. Drug testing would take another few weeks.

That is too slow to identify the best first-line treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, Tiriac explained. “We have to try to see if the organoids could identify these biomarkers that could be used on a much shorter time frame,” he added.

Tuveson’s lab is working on parallel studies to accelerate the growth and miniature the assays. These efforts may reduce the time frame to allow patients to make informed clinical decisions about their specific type of cancer.

As for the RNA signatures, Tiriac believes this is a first step in searching for a biomarker. They could be used in clinical trials as is, but ideally would be refined to the minimal core gene signatures to provide a quick and robust assay. It is faster to screen for a few genes than for hundreds of them. He is studying some of these genes in the lab.

Researchers in Tuveson’s lab will also continue to explore biochemistry and metabolism of the organoids, hoping to gain a better insight into the mechanisms involved in pancreatic cancer.

Going forward, Tiriac suggested that his main goal is to take the gene signatures he published and refine them to the point where they are usable in clinical trials.“I would like to see if we can use the same approach to identify biomarkers for clinical trial agents or targets that may have a greater chance of impact on the patients,” he said.

The research investigator has been working at Tuveson’s lab in Cold Spring Harbor since the summer of 2012.

Tuveson applauded Tiriac’s commitment to the work. Without Tiriac’s dedication, “there would be no Organoid Profiling project,” Tuveson said. “He deserves full credit for this accomplishment.”

Tiriac lives in Huntington Station with his wife Dannielle Engel, who is a postdoctoral researcher in the same lab. He “really enjoyed his time on Long Island,” and suggested that “Cold Spring Harbor has been a fantastic place to work. It’s probably the best institution I’ve worked at so far.”

He appreciates the chance to share the excitement of his work with Engel. “You share a professional passion with your loved one that is beyond the relationship. We’re able to communicate on a scientific level that is very stimulating intellectually.”

Born in Romania, Tiriac moved to France when his family fled communism. He eventually wound up studying in California, where he met Engel.

Tuveson is appreciative of the contributions the tandem has made to his lab and to pancreatic cancer research. 

“Although I could not have imagined their meritorious accomplishments when I interviewed them, [Tiriac and Engel] are rising stars in the cancer research field,” he said. “They will go far in their next chapter, and humanity will benefit.”

Kaplan suggested that this kind of research has enormous potential. “I feel like it’s a new time,” she said. “I feel very different coming into work than I did five years ago.”

The cover of Karol's book

By Donna Newman

One of the certainties of life is that, unless one departs first, sooner or later each of us will have to deal with the death of a loved one.

Among his many duties as a spiritual leader, Stephen Karol, now Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, has ministered to the bereaved. He has officiated at funerals, counseled families and helped people navigate the mourning period that begins upon a death and continues through memorial services throughout the ensuing years.

Rabbi Karol has gathered a series of memorial sermons into a book titled, “Finding Hope and Faith in the Face of Death” and subtitled, “Insights of a Rabbi and Mourner.”

Author Stephen Karol

What motivated you to write this book?

I decided to do it for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve gotten really good feedback on my Yizkor (memorial) sermons. People have asked for copies and that sort of thing. And, throughout my career officiating at funerals, I just think people need comforting, hopeful messages to help them cope with death. That’s what this book provides.

Is this a ‘Jewish’ book, or do you feel it has broader appeal?

The book is written primarily for Jews, but not exclusively. While I speak from a Jewish context, a lot of what I have to say in these messages can be applied to people who are Jewish or not, religious or not, whatever they may be.

Why publish it now?

As a congregational rabbi I was devoted to my congregants — and happily so — and didn’t have the time to write a book. Now, in retirement, I decided to share my words of comfort. And when I submitted my proposal to the publisher (Wipf and Stock), they loved my idea and enthusiastically agreed to publish it under their Cascade Books imprint.

What was the most challenging part of compiling the manuscript?

In creating the introduction to the book, I wanted to be honest. I had to confess that, despite my faith in life after death, I am afraid to die. So, I describe my fear and explain how it materialized at a particularly happy time in my life, shortly after my daughter’s birth. I tell about the ways I’ve learned to cope with it and describe how a combination of hope and faith have helped me not only as an individual but also as a rabbi. That’s why I think my words can be universal, because you don’t have to be a rabbi to believe what I believe, and to feel and think what I feel and think.

How did you choose the sermon that became Chapter 1?

The first chapter in the book was chosen because it dealt with a personal loss. I titled it, “Accompanying the Dead” and it begins: “My uncle Harry died last month.” I talk about the experience of being in my uncle’s hospital room with him when he died, and officiating — along with my brother who is also a rabbi — at his funeral. A good number of the chapters involve personal experiences.

The cover of Karol’s book.

Aside from your own personal losses over the years, did other experiences contribute to your understanding of life and death?

I suffered a heart attack in 1995 that gave me a greater sense of perspective. One of the messages in the book is that we need to value life and make every day count. We need to tell people that we love them whenever we can.

How long was this book in the making?

The book consists of 16 sermons that I have given both at Temple Isaiah and at Congregation Sha’aray Shalom in Hingham, Massachusetts, over the course of my tenures at both synagogues. So, when people ask me how long it took to write the book, tongue in cheek I say: 35 years.

“Finding Hope and Faith in the Face of Death” is currently available for purchase on Amazon, Kindle and Ingram. Meet Rabbi Karol at a book talk and signing on June 24 at Temple Isaiah, 1404 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook from 5 to 7 p.m.; or at a book signing on June 28 at Barnes & Noble at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove from 7 to 9 p.m.

‘Big Sibling’ by Michael Danielson

‘You don’t take a photograph. You make it’— Ansel Adams

By Heidi Sutton

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack hosted an award ceremony for its annual Photo Contest last Thursday evening. The event, which was held in the center’s Simon Rainbow Room, celebrated 25 years of bringing beautiful photos to their residents and featured a slide show of the winning selections from this and previous years.

‘Indigo’ by Stan Mehlman

Generously sponsored by the Tiffen Company for the 12th year in a row, this year’s competition drew over 700 entries from amateur photographers across the country. Of those submissions, 47 photos were chosen to be enlarged, framed and hung on permanent display for the enjoyment of the residents, staff, visitors and volunteers.

“It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for a quarter of a century,” said Dennine W. Cook, public relations director at Gurwin, who came up with the initial idea in 1993 as a way of “making [Gurwin’s] bare walls worthy of a smile.” According to Cook, in its infancy, the contest had two categories — color and black and white — with less than 100 entries. The annual event has since expanded to offer 12 categories including Nature, Long Island/New York, Travel, Still Life and the ever popular Pets, Children and Nature. “Needless to say, we’ve come a long way,” she said.

Addressing the photographers in the audience, Cook said, “[At Gurwin] our mission … is to provide the highest quality of care to our residents while also providing them the very best quality of life. And that’s where all of you come in.”

She continued, “This contest … is different from any other contest you might enter. Sure there are winners … and there are prizes, but that’s where the similarities end.” Cook went on to explain that each year’s winners are displayed permanently for the enjoyment of the residents, first in the center’s Helen and Nat Tiffen Gallery and then up to the resident units to make space for the current year’s winners.

‘Popping Bubbles’ by Donna Crinnian

The public relations director went on to speak of the profound impact these beautiful images have made on residents of the 460-bed facility. She spoke of Faith who loves to look at photos of babies. “The babies, it seems, make her smile the most and so we move the [baby pictures] to Faith’s unit.” She spoke of Len, who is visited each day by his wife. “Together they stroll the halls, stopping to admire a photo that catches their eye. They may go the same way each day but they find something new to discuss every time.”

While the original 8- by 10-inch submissions will not be returned, Cook assured guests that all of them will be put to good use. “Each photo … is given to our recreation departments in our nursing homes, assisted living and day care programs to be used for all kinds of projects all year long.” Whether they become inspiration for a painting, part of a collage or even placed at the doorway of a resident’s room, “they have a much higher purpose.

This year’s judges, James Dooley (former Director of Photography for Newsday and Administrator of the Alexia Foundation), Susan Dooley (Emeritus Chair of the Art Department at Nassau Community College and member of fotofoto gallery of Huntington) and Tony Lopez (Tony Lopez Photography), were tasked with choosing a grand prize winner along with honorable mentions for each category as well as Best in Show, which this year was awarded to Kathleen Hinkaty of  Huntington for her playful piece, “Diaper Races.”

‘Diaper Races’ by Kathleen Hinkaty

In addition, Gurwin’s resident judges Nancy and Trudy selected five of their favorites to be honored. According to Cook, “They poured over the photos … considering not only their own preferences but also what they thought others would appreciate.”

“Although this contest is a great achievement for you as a photographer, it’s really about the people who get to see your work once it is chosen,” explained Cook.

President and CEO of Gurwin Family of Healthcare Services Stuart B. Almer agreed, stating, “We always enjoy this particular event,” sharing that when he gives tours of the facility, “everyone always stops to admire the photos. This is not just a once-a-year event — this is a 365-day-a-year event,” he stressed, thanking the photographers for their contribution.

 “All of the selections will be judged, discussed and enjoyed by so many appreciative eyes for years to come and to me that is the real honor — that your photos will hang for decades in our resident’s home,” said Cook. “These photos make all the difference in the world.”

Entries for next year’s Photo Contest will be accepted between Feb. 15 and April 15, 2019. Visit  www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest to see more of this year’s winners.

All photos courtesy of Gurwin Jewish

Aunt Edith’s Strawberry Shortcake

By Barbara Beltrami

When June finally busts out all over, local strawberries will be at their peak. Despite their slow start because of the rain, they will be their usual juicy ruby red selves ready to be picked or purchased at local farms or those out east. There will be plenty for dropping into baskets and just as many for popping into our mouths as we move between the rows. When fresh strawberries are so naturally delicious without any adornment except maybe a little sugar and cream, anything further seems like sacrilege.  

On the other hand, when they’re that good, any recipe that features them is always that much better because those little gems themselves are so good. So when you get home from your strawberry picking with your baskets of ruby treasures, consider an old-fashioned strawberry shortcake, a strawberry-arugula-radish salad with balsamic dressing or a strawberry sorbet.

Aunt Edith’s Strawberry Shortcake

 

Aunt Edith’s Strawberry Shortcake

YIELD: Makes 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and crushed

¼ cup sugar

2½ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl combine the berries with the quarter cup sugar and set aside. In a medium bowl combine the flour, one-third cup of sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs; stir in milk. Knead until dough forms, then, on a lightly floured surfaced, pat into a half-inch thickness.  

Using a 2½-inch cutter or the same-size upside-down glass, cut into 10 circles and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush egg yolks over tops, then sprinkle with two tablespoons sugar. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whip cream with remaining tablespoon sugar and vanilla. Split shortcakes in half horizontally, place on plates, then spoon whipped cream and strawberries in any order you wish and replace tops. Serve immediately with hot or iced coffee or tea.

Strawberry-Arugula-Radish Salad with Balsamic Dressing

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

10 ounces fresh arugula, washed and dried

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

8 radishes, washed, trimmed and very thinly sliced

½ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1 whole garlic clove, peeled

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Place arugula, strawberries and radishes in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and let sit for one hour. Remove and discard garlic. With a fork or small wire whisk, emulsify the oil, vinegars, juice, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Pour over greens and toss thoroughly. Serve immediately as a first course or with meat, poultry or fish.

Strawberry Sorbet

Strawberry Sorbet

YIELD: Makes 1 quart

INGREDIENTS:

2 quarts strawberries, washed and hulled

1 cup sugar

1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ ounce vodka

Pinch coarse salt

DIRECTIONS:

Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until there are no lumps left.  Transfer to another container, cover and refrigerate 6 hours. Place in an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions until mixture resembles soft ice cream.  Transfer one more time to airtight container and freeze at least 4 hours. Serve with crisp cookies, biscotti or pound cake.

From left, Sharks Jay Norman, George Chakiris and Eddie Verso in a scene from ‘West Side Story’

“Something’s coming, something good …” 

Fifty-seven years after its world premiere screening at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City, the award-winning musical “West Side Story” will return to over 600 select cinemas nationwide on June 24 and 27, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events.

Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood sing ‘Tonight’ in a scene from ‘West Side Story’

Starring Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Beymer and George Chakiris the film takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and turns the Montague-Capulet battle into a feud between two New York City street gangs — the Jets and the Sharks. When a member of the Jets falls in love with the sister of the Sharks’ leader, things look hopeful at first, but rapidly go downhill. Illustrating the events are many memorable song and dance numbers such as “America,” “Tonight,” “A Boy Like That,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “Somewhere” and “I Feel Pretty.”

With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim, the film went on to win 10 Oscars at the 34th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and both supporting acting awards, for Chakiris and Moreno, becoming the record holder for the most wins for a movie musical. Deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress, it was selected for the National Film Registry in 1997.

The film will be presented in its original wide-screen aspect ratio and include a mid-film intermission, as was featured in the original theatrical release. It will also include pre- and postshow commentary from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

There’s no better way to prepare yourself for Steven Spielberg’s reboot, so mark your calendars!

Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook (at 2 and 7 p.m. on both days); Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale (on June 24 at 2 p.m. and June 27 at 7 p.m.); and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville (on June 24 at 2 p.m. and June 27 at 7 p.m.) To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

Supersequel was worth the wait

By David Ackerman

After a 14-year hiatus, Pixar’s beloved superhero family, the Incredibles, has returned and immediately picks up where the original left off. “Incredibles 2” follows the Parr family — parents Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) along with kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) — as they strive to find their place in a society that has criminalized their superpowers.  

The Parr family is back to save the day.

The story opens when the city is under attack by the Underminer who appeared in the final moments of the original movie. The fallout from this epic and highly destructive confrontation causes all Superhero activity to be banned in the city, and the Parr family is forced to go underground, taking up residence in a dingy motel.

The outlook is bleak for the superfamily until they are approached by the wealthy and eccentric siblings Evelyn (Catherine Keener) and Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) who offer them a chance to restore the reputation of all Supers to the glory of a bygone era.

Elastigirl is chosen to take on the mission independently due to her proven track record of causing minimal collateral damage; leaving Mr. Incredible to deal with the equally daunting task of staying home with the kids. In the new role of Mr. Mom, he struggles to manage Violet’s teenage angst, Dash’s math homework, and the highly unpredictable Jack-Jack, who is beginning to show an impressive range of superabilities including self-replication, morphing into demon form and laser vision.

Jack-Jack’s superpowers come out in full force in new Incredibles sequel.

Meanwhile, Elastigirl is faced with her first assignment — to save the passengers on a newly unveiled high-speed train that has been set on a collision course by the mysterious supervillain, Screen Slaver. She accomplishes her mission with flawless style and is applauded for reminding society of the Supers’ value as protectors of the innocent.  Mr. Incredible watches his wife’s success on the news and is forced to reconsider the effectiveness of his macho, alpha-male persona.

The plot remains fast-paced and unpredictable up until the conclusion. Pixar’s brilliant character design and highly creative action sequences will keep your attention from start to finish. 

“Incredibles 2” is a breath of fresh air in the superhero genre, which has become saturated with sequels based on unoriginal, formulaic story lines. The superhero film has been brought back to a focus on strong character development, dazzling creativity and a continuous thread of humor and levity woven throughout the story line. While the film maintains a light-hearted tone it also touches on relevant social issues such as gender stereotypes and the public’s obsessive consumption of digital media and entertainment.

Elastigirl in a scene from the movie.

“Incredibles 2” is a worthy sequel that doesn’t disappoint. Pixar has again succeeded in creating a film that will appeal to audiences of all ages by avoiding the typical limitations of a children’s film. The film’s primary strength is in the creativity and beauty of its visual execution and character design. Although the plot is certainly original and engaging, what will keep your attention is the incredible depth of expression that is achieved through character development, world building and visual design.

The film is a must see for Incredibles fans and is bound to be a major hit this summer for all audiences. Running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.

Rated PG (for action sequences and some brief mild language) “Incredibles 2” is now playing in local theaters.

Photos courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Alta

MEET ALTA!

This sweet girl is a 5-year-old Shiba Inu mix who recently arrived at Kent Animal Shelter from Thailand. Rescued from the meat trade industry, she had a rough start in life but that is all behind her now. Alta takes a little time to warm up to new people because she is a little shy, but her gentle nature will capture your heart if you give her a chance. Stop by and meet her today! Alta comes spayed, microchipped and up to date on all her vaccinations.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Alta and other adoptable pets at Kent, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731. 

 

Eric Powers shows participants a bat specimen.

By Heidi Sutton

The Smithtown Historical Society (SHS) teamed up with Ranger Eric Powers last Friday night to give our local bats a much needed helping hand. The North Shore community was invited to the historic Frank Brush Barn to learn about our mosquito-eating friends, build a bat house to take home and then stroll the grounds in hopes of catching a glimpse of these fascinating mammals.

David and Susan Henderson with their bat house

And the turnout was impressive as residents of all ages embraced the batty subject and enjoyed a wonderful educational evening. Participants were able to ask questions, had the opportunity to see a bat specimen up close and learned about the different styles of bat houses before assembling one of their own using plywood, screws and wood stain.

Powers was invited to present this program by Melissa Clements, the director of education at the SHS, who attended a bat workshop led by Powers a few months ago at Sands Point Preserve in Port Washington. “I had such a great time and enjoyed it so much,” she said, and couldn’t wait to bring Powers to Smithtown.

An ardent nature lover, Powers moved from Greeley, Colorado, to Long Island 20 years ago partially because “we live in this cool sweet spot where we have northern species and our own species and also southern species that come up — so there is this awesome convergence right here.”

Accompanied by his trusty sidekick, Gangsta, a 100-pound mush of a therapy dog, the wildlife biologist passionately spoke about one of his favorite animals, bats, and his mission to help them. “I’m focusing on bringing back nature, helping to restore the balance of nature, and a lot of that means supporting our natural ecosystem,” he said. And what better way to do that than with bats?

According to Powers, bats are important in so many ways. The only mammals that can fly, bats eat tons of flying insects including beetles, flies, moths, hatching termites and, most importantly, mosquitoes. “They’re out there eating bugs that are bugging us,” he laughed. They also play an important role as pollinators and seed dispersers.

Children stain their bat houses under the watchful eye of mom.

Aside from cats that are allowed to roam free, humans are the bat’s biggest threat. On top of dealing with habitat loss, “Everyone is spraying their property. There is such a chemical soup happening right now, all for killing bugs, killing beneficial insects,” he said sadly, continuing, “The bat’s food, flying bugs, is way down. The vast numbers of bugs are just not there anymore. And now, because we’re so out of balance with our ecosystem, the one thing that is surviving very well are mosquitoes.”

Before they got their hands dirty, Powers showed participants how to assemble a bat house, stressing that, when completed, it should be positioned at least 15 feet high on a tree or post and should be placed where the yard gets full sun from around noon to sunset. “Bats need a safe, warm place to hang out all day long.” Each bat house can accommodate up to 50 bats.

Dominick Domino of St. James decided to bring his daughter Hannah to the event. “It’s an activity we can do together,” he said. Hannah, who will attending summer camp at the historical society this summer, “is always interested about bats. She loves them.” The Dominos will be putting their new bat house in their garden.

Dominick and Hannah Domino show off their completed bat house.

David and Susan Henderson of Kings Park learned of the program on Instagram and decided to attend. “We love bats, they are just cute” said Susan, who received a bat house for Christmas. “We put it in our yard but we haven’t had bats yet so we were hoping to learn what we need to fix [to attract them].”

“We are looking forward to getting bats,” said David optimistically, as the couple finished assembling their second bat house.

For SHS Office Manager Victoria DelVento, the program was a great way to dispel any stigmas people have about bats and she was pleased with the wonderful and enthusiastic turnout. “Bats aren’t just for Halloween and they don’t suck your blood,” she laughed. “That was the point of this event.”

All photos by Heidi Sutton

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