Community

Legislator Kara Hahn, center, pitches the pieces of legislation that would employ GPS technology to keep offenders away from domestic violence victims in Suffolk County. Photo from Kara Hahn

The county’s proactive push to empower victims of domestic violence reached another milestone on Tuesday when the Legislature unanimously approved a pilot program that would slap ankle bracelets on offenders under an order of protection.

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) ignited the domestic violence discussion last month when the county approved her legislation providing law enforcement and victims with danger assessment tools that identify high-risk offenders. Her efforts turned another corner with Tuesday’s approval of legislation that she called a multi-faceted approach to making Suffolk’s domestic violence policy stronger than it’s ever been.

The latest pieces of legislation make Global Positioning System technology available to electronically monitor those in the family and criminal court systems who are subject to a “stay away” order of protection — which is more restrictive than a “refrain from” order — and pose a continuing threat to the safety of a victim or their children, Hahn said.

“This has been something I’ve wanted to work on since getting here,” said Hahn, whose personal experience as a victim of domestic violence brings the issue to the top of her list of priorities. “One of the things that was important to me was dealing with orders of protection. I had an order of protection and it’s very frightening — and I’ve heard over and over again over the years — that it’s just a piece of paper with no ability to truly protect the victim. That’s what I’m trying to fix.”

Both bills were virtually replicas of one another, but were specific to criminal and family courts respectively.

The county’s district attorney would acquire the GPS units and the offenders would have to cover the cost of monitoring, she said.

Tom Spota, the Suffolk County district attorney, threw his support behind Hahn’s initiative.

“I have every confidence this pilot program will be successful in effectively protecting victims of domestic violence,” he said in a statement.

In 2013 alone, the state division of criminal justice reported that there were more than 1,500 violations of orders of protection in the county. That statistic, coupled with the fact that domestic violence accounted for 21 percent of all violent victimizations nationwide from 2003 to 2012, was what spurred Hahn to bulk up her agenda, she said.

“In my experience as a federal prosecutor, GPS devices serve as a real deterrent,” said Tim Sini, assistant deputy Suffolk County executive. “In the moment of passion, an offender often thinks twice before reoffending when he knows he is being monitored by law enforcement.”

The pilot program would provide the county with 30 new GPS devices to be used when judges assign offenders to an order of protection. The technology could be used in one of two ways — either tracking offenders so they stay away from victims’ homes or jobs, or acting as proximity detectors and letting victims know if an offender is near them. The latter form of tracking would be optional for victims.

“Having been someone who had an order of protection and was afraid that the offender would come, it gives you peace of mind as a victim knowing you could be alerted,” Hahn said. “If a victim doesn’t like it, they don’t have to [wear] it.”

Construction could start in September

Stephen Normandin, of The RBA Group, answers residents’ questions at the Sound Beach Civic Association meeting on Monday. Photo by Erika Karp

Echo Avenue in Sound Beach is getting a makeover.

Brookhaven Town officials presented plans for a revitalization project along the busy street at the Sound Beach Civic Association meeting on Monday. Handicap-accessible sidewalks, new curbs, decorative lighting and ornamental trees are set to line the approximate .3-mile stretch between New York Avenue and North Country Road in the near future, as leaders seek to beautify and make the area safer for pedestrians.

Steve Tricarico, deputy highway superintendent, said the project will “bring that downtown feel like you may have seen the highway department do in Rocky Point.”

Late last year, the department completed a similar project along Broadway in Rocky Point.

In 2013, the town adopted a four-phase plan to revitalize Echo Avenue and received a Community Development Block Grant for the first phase. Last year, officials applied for more CDBG funding, but found out the hamlet no longer qualified for the grant.

Tricarico said the highway department went out to bid for new contracts and was able to get a better deal and was therefore able to match the 2013 grant and fund the project in its entirety — a total cost of about $240,000.

According to Stephen Normandin, director of design and planning for The RBA Group, the engineering group selected to oversee the project, starting at the intersection of New York Avenue, a four-foot-wide sidewalk will be constructed on the east side of Echo Avenue that connects all the way up to Handy Pantry. Then, a crosswalk will be created, by Devon Road and Caramia Pizzeria, that crosses over Echo Avenue and links up to another sidewalk on the west side of the street, ending at North Country Road. In addition, the triangle by Handy Pantry, which houses the civic’s “Welcome to Sound Beach” sign, will be extended in an attempt to slow traffic at the Shinnecock Drive and Echo Avenue intersection.

Normandin said the project does come with its challenges, as there are hills and existing guardrails and trees, and limited space within the public right-of-way.

“We are sensitive to the [private] properties,” he added.

If all goes according to plan, the project will commence in late August or early September and wrap up before the winter season. The road will be paved once the sidewalk and concrete work is complete.

A few residents, including Bea Ruberto, civic president and the driving force behind the project, requested some additional lighting by New York Avenue and Mesquite Tex Mex Grill. Currently, the plans don’t include new sidewalks and lighting on that side of Echo, but Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said her office would look in to it. However, an easement agreement between the town and property owner might be needed, which could delay the project.

“None of this is set in stone; the dollar amount kind of is, so wherever we can … cut from one area and add to another, we are certainly willing to do that,” Bonner said.

Stony Brook students field questions at their final project presentation. Photo by Phil Corso

Nick Fusco is still in college, but he already has a vision for the Three Village community’s de facto Main Street known as Route 25A. He and his classmates brought that vision to his neighbors Monday night to show what a little dreaming can do for the North Shore’s future.

“Our community could look like this,” Fusco said in front of a projected rendering of a reinvented Route 25A complete with greenhouse spaces, apartment housing, environmentally friendly landscaping and more. “We’ve come up with ways to improve safety, aesthetics and, most importantly, functionality.”

Fusco and about a dozen other Stony Brook University students presented at the Setauket Neighborhood House on Monday evening as part of a final project for Professor Marc Fasanella’s ecological art, architecture and design class under the college’s sustainability studies program. The conversation, “Keeping a sense of place in the Three Villages,” involved four students presenting PowerPoint slides showing off their reimaged Setauket and Stony Brook communities, utilizing existing infrastructure to help employ ecologically-friendly additions and make Three Village a community that retains young people.

A student rendering shows what could be of a vacant field near Stony Brook University. Photo by Phil Corso
A student rendering shows what could be of a vacant field near Stony Brook University. Photo by Phil Corso

“We looked at this as a tremendous opportunity for our students and for the community moving forward,” Fasanella said. “Are we dreaming? Of course we’re dreaming.”

The class built off the work of last year’s students, who brainstormed ways to bridge the gap created by the railroad tracks that separate the university from the greater Three Village community. Their proposals were met with great praise from residents, civic leaders and officials in attendance Monday. The ideas were bold, including anything from pulling buildings closer to the 25A curbside to make way for a greater “Main Street” feel to constructing a “green” multi-tiered parking garage near the train station for both retail space and commuter parking.

Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, applauded the students for daring the community to take a different look at the future of Three Village. His group helped to sponsor the event alongside the Three Village Community Trust.

In an interview, Nuzzo said the Route 25A corridor, especially near the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station, has a long and troubled history and could use a facelift to enhance safety for pedestrians, motorists and anyone living in the area.

Nuzzo, who also studied environmental design, policy and planning at Stony Brook University, was also once a student in Fasanella’s ecological urbanism course and underwent a similar exercise in which he dreamt up projects to connect the campus to the nearby community.

“We need to have this discussion over what we want for our de facto Main Street. If we don’t decide, the developers are going to decide for us,” he said. “What do we want as a community? It starts with stuff like this.”

And the students’ visions did not fall on deaf ears, either. Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) sat attentively throughout four students’ presentations and ended the meeting with encouraging words.

She said she was working alongside Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) to enact a comprehensive Route 25A study, which should be discussed in a community forum on June 30 in East Setauket.

“It’s our responsibility to engage and continue the visioning process,” she said, on behalf of civic leaders and lawmakers in the community. “We want to work on our ‘Main Street’ and put the community’s visions into planning.”

Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum speaks at a ceremony last week. Photo by Barbara Donlon

The North Shore Jewish community is one step closer to getting its forever home as the groundbreaking ceremony for its new center took root in Stony Brook on Thursday evening.

Rabbi Chaim and his wife Rivkie Grossbaum addressed the eager crowd at the ceremony at R.C. Murphy Junior High School to mark the new Chabad Merrin Center at Stony Brook, named after Edward and Vivian Merrin, who donated $1 million to the center.

“Our wandering has come to an end,” Chaim Grossbaum said at the ceremony last week. “The Merrin Chabad Jewish Center is the answer.”

Since acquiring its first space at the Lake Grove Jewish Center in 1990, Chabad Stony Brook has spent much of its last 25 years wondering where it would offer its services. The growing Jewish community was hard to fit in the current center and it often relied on rental space to get the job done, Grossbaum said.

Members of Chabad at Stony Brook join with community leaders to ceremoniously break ground. Photo from Motti Grossbaum
Members of Chabad at Stony Brook join with community leaders to ceremoniously break ground. Photo from Motti Grossbaum

The current space can fit roughly 80 people, far less than the 400 families Chabad Stony Brook serves. The new center, now in phase two of the $5.5 million four-phase project, will be able to accommodate far more families once it is completed, he said.

The new center will have a banquet room, a gym, Mikvah and spa, a library, a pool, a santuary and more. The building is expected to open in the summer of 2016, the group said.

“It will pretty much be multi-use in many fashions for the several programs we service the community with,” Grossbaum said in a phone interview.

The center will offer Hebrew school, pre-school, summer camp and other school programs. According to layout plans, there will be five pre-school rooms and two regular classrooms.

The new center will be right in the heart of the Three Village community it serves, Grossbaum said. The center will also have a hospitality suite for the Jewish community taking care of sick loved ones at Stony Brook University Hospital, the group said.

The rabbi said he is hoping the center attracts new families to help Chabad Stony Brook grow exponentially.

“We want to give them reasons to want to go,” Grossbaum said. “It’s hard to create atmosphere in a rental space.”

The rabbi highlighted many of the difficulties the group experienced while going from place to place over the last 25 years. He said the center would help expand on everything they currently offer to enhance services.

Sheila Skolnick, an attendee at Chabad Stony Brook, said the center’s kind and welcoming atmosphere would draw many people into the new center. Skolnick along with many others said she is eagerly waiting for the new center to be built.

“The Merrin Center will be our place and we’ll know where to go,” Skolnick said. “It’s really a place for Jews to congregate from all over.”

Construction of the new center is expected to begin shortly. Kevin Harney of Stalco Construction is leading the project and John Tsunis of Gold Coast Bank is financing it.

Officials broke ground Monday morning on a housing complex many hope will spur redevelopment in uptown Port Jefferson.

After four years of plans and approvals, developer Rail Realty LLC can get started on demolishing homes and buildings along Texaco Avenue to make way for 74 rental apartments, a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom. The Hills at Port Jefferson apartments will be constructed as two three-story buildings on several parcels along that street: One building will take the place of two vacant houses and the former Port Jeff Auto Spa car wash on the north half of Texaco, close to Sheep Pasture Road; while the other will be built in what is now a grassy field at the intersection with Linden Place. Resident parking will be underground, with a final parcel on the south side of Texaco and Linden, currently holding Stony Brook Electric Inc., to be used for additional parking.

Ryan Gitto arrives at a groundbreaking ceremony in upper Port Jefferson prepared to work. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Ryan Gitto arrives at a groundbreaking ceremony in upper Port Jefferson prepared to work. Photo by Elana Glowatz

“This is the beginning of a renaissance and a jumpstart to upper Port Jefferson,” Rail Realty principal Tony Gitto said at the groundbreaking ceremony, after digging into the earth at the grassy field.

The shovel work was followed up on the car wash property next door, where Mayor Margot Garant climbed into an excavator and took the first crack at taking apart the building there. Concrete crunched as she closed the vehicle’s claws over a corner of roof and ripped it away from the rest of the building.

“I can get used to this,” she shouted from the operator seat.

Garant said that the apartment project will be “so important” to upper Port revitalization efforts.

The village has been working to enhance that troubled area around Main Street between North Country Road/Sheep Pasture Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks. An entire section of the village’s draft comprehensive plan is devoted to upper Port, with recommendations geared toward improving quality of life, making it more pedestrian-friendly and attracting developers and visitors.

Rail Realty got final village approval on its project last year. Under the conditions of that approval, the developer will make improvements to a pocket park near the apartments and improve traffic flow in the area by redesigning the intersection of Main Street and Sheep Pasture Road.

Tony Gitto breaks ground at the site of his upcoming apartment complex. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Tony Gitto breaks ground at the site of his upcoming apartment complex. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The housing complex will be constructed in phases, with the first phase being the northern apartment building, the second being the other building, and the third being the parking area across Linden Place.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency gave financial assistance to Rail Realty on the project, including sales tax exemptions on construction items, a mortgage tax exemption and a 10-year property tax abatement through which the owner will pay taxes on roughly the current value of the site, as opposed to the increased value of the property once work is complete.

The IDA aims to boost the economy within Brookhaven Town by assisting businesses in locating or expanding in the area.

IDA Chairman Fred Braun said Monday, “Cleaning up a semi-blighted area is the first step,” and Long Island needs rentals both in the area of Stony Brook University and elsewhere.

A scene from a previous “I Did The Grid” event in East Northport. Photo from Megan Scherer

By Julianne Cuba

This Memorial Day weekend, for the eighth year in a row, the streets of East Northport will be filled with joggers and walkers honoring the lives of fallen soldiers.

On May 23, the Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer memorial “I Did the Grid” four-mile competitive run, one-mile fun run and four-mile recreational run/walk honors the life of Chris Scherer and all men and women who gave their lives to serve the U.S. The run will begin at Pulaski Road Elementary in East Northport.

Scherer, who was a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, was born and raised in East Northport. He lost his life while serving in the province of Al Anbar in Iraq on July 21, 2007.

The late U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris Scherer. Photo from Megan Scherer
The late U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris Scherer. Photo from Megan Scherer

In his memory, the Scherer family started the Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer Semper Fi Fund, and on Memorial Day in 2008, held the first annual run to honor their son and all fallen warriors.

“Put your personal achievements away for the day and come to honor them [fallen soldiers] because it is Memorial Day weekend and that’s what we should be doing … take a little time to think about the men and women who have died serving our country and the families they left behind,” Scherer’s father Tim Scherer said.

Scherer said that his son was a great kid who loved life and wanted to help his fellow Marines. In their final phone call before his death, Scherer said his son asked him to send lighter boot socks that wouldn’t make him sweat as much. Just before he hung up, his son asked if he would be able to send socks for other Marines, too, because many didn’t have families.

The father said he sent out an email asking for contributions.

“It was just an email, I never thought I’d get anything, but in four days I had $2,500 to buy supplies for the troops, so we sent over 100 packages but he never got one of them … it was just heartbreaking.”

It was through his son’s own desire to help his fellow Marines that the Scherer family got the idea for the fund and run, he said.

Scherer said his son’s greatest quality was his loyalty for everything he loved — his family, his friends, his lacrosse team and the U.S. Marines.

“This is not just about Chris,” his father said. “The race is named after him but we run for over 6,800 fallen warriors … no service person is left behind. Everyone who has given their life is represented on Memorial Day, because that’s what Memorial Day is.”

Scherer said that instead of giving out awards, the run asks participants to look up the names of the four fallen soldiers on their bibs, from either Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. The bibs are given out before the run. Upon completion, each participant will ring a bell to signify that no fallen warrior would be forgotten, he said.

Meghan Scherer, the late Cpl. Scherer’s sister, also said that each year, they alternate giving out either a coin or pint glass, which were two of her brother’s favorite things.

“Challenge coins in the military are usually given when someone does something extraordinary, so we feel that they should receive a coin, because they’re doing something amazing by remembering these men and women,” she said.

His sister said she and her other siblings — an older brother, Tim, and twin sister, Kaitlin — were all always so close.

“Nobody ever picked on my sister or me because they knew Chris would always have our backs,” she said. “Chris would pick on us but it was never anybody else. We were always protected from the start and that’s what he did, he protected us as a Marine.”

Matt Baudier, 34, from Northport, was an Eagle Scout with Scherer and was his mentor for a few years, he said.

“As his mentor, he always looked up to me, but the day that he deployed, he became my hero,” he said.

Baudier said the run is a good way to honor Scherer and all fallen soldiers.

“One of our taglines is, ‘We run for those who stood for us,’” he said.

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Setauket Neighborhood House. File photo

By Bonnie Connolly

Despite living on Main Street in Setauket for 28 years, I only had a nodding acquaintance with the Setauket Neighborhood House. Then for several weeks last summer I watched as a new porch went up on the house. I thought, “Wow, that construction is a big deal. Keeping up this old house must cost a fortune.” For the first time I wondered who owned the Neighborhood House, and how the resources to maintain the building were generated. Well, this is what I discovered.

Construction of the Setauket Neighborhood House began prior to 1720 and the building was located on Setauket Bay. In 1820 Dr. John Elderkin purchased the house and had it moved to its present location. He added on to both ends of the original house, and it became Ye Old Elderkin Inn. In the 1860s the well-regarded inn serviced a stagecoach line.

When Dr. Elderkin died in 1885, the house was passed on to his niece, Julia, and then on to Julia’s niece, Augusta Elderkin and Augusta’s husband, Captain Beverly S. Tyler. The Tylers named their inn The Lakeside House and it operated until 1917.

Eversley Childs purchased the inn in May of 1917, and in the fall of that year the Neighborhood House was dedicated to the community. The Setauket Neighborhood Association was formed to maintain the house and the grounds. In 1979 the association formed a committee to restore and preserve the house.

Membership in the association is one way you can help to maintain this wonderful site. There are four membership categories ranging from $25 to $100.

Another way to support the house is to attend the annual Taste of the Neighborhood event on Friday, May 15, from 7 to 10 p.m. Last year’s successful event was able to raise funds to build a new front porch. This year’s benefit is to build a new ballroom floor.

The gala event will feature signature dishes from local restaurants that will be accompanied by beer and wine. Blythe Merrifield will be singing with Bob Boutcher on piano, and her daughter Liz Merrifield will be singing with Pat Morelli on guitar. There will be raffle baskets and prizes, and Robert Roehrig and Patricia Yantz, both members of the Setauket Artists, will be donating a painting for the raffle where all proceeds go to the SNH. Both artists will have many of their paintings for sale during the event and for a week afterward.

Tickets are $30 online at www.setauketnh.org or $35 at the door. For more information, call 631-751-6208.  Come join us while we celebrate this beautiful building and raise money for a new ballroom!

Erin Henderson training for inaugural Suffolk County race

By Julianne Cuba

Erin Henderson runs in the Tallahassee Marathon in which she finished third. Photo from Henderson
Erin Henderson runs in the Tallahassee Marathon in which she finished third. Photo from Henderson

Each morning before caring for her 12 children, Long Island native Erin Henderson sets out for her daily run, which can cover anywhere from 10 to 20-plus miles. These days, part of Henderson’s training includes preparing for Suffolk County’s inaugural marathon on Sept. 13, 2015.

“Every marathon means a lot to me because they all represent weeks and months of hard training, commitment and dedication,” she said. “Getting to race through my home town and having friends and family there will make it that much more special.”

Henderson, who grew up in Selden, moved to Afton, Wyoming, with her husband, Josh, and their three biological sons in 2000.

Two years after settling in Afton, the Henderson clan began growing. Since 2002, Henderson and her husband have adopted nine children —  five girls and four boys. Three of the kids were “older child adoptions” and five were “special needs adoptions.”

Today, the Hendersons’ perfect dozen includes Mercades, 19; Nathan, 18; Ryan, 17; Destinee, 17; Shane, 15; Benjamin, 14; Maggie, 13; Amanda, 13; Marcus, 11; Belane, 11; Solomon, 9; and Noah, 6.

A horseback riding accident left Henderson unable to have any more kids. But with three boys the couple decided to adopt because they wanted a girl.

The Henderson family. Photo from Erin Henderson
The Henderson family. Photo from Erin Henderson

“Our motivation was all pretty much what we wanted, and then when we got over [to Vietnam] we saw so many kids who didn’t have families, and it kind of flip-flopped,” she said. “And it’s cliché to say it’s life changing, but it just was, to see all these kids without parents. We never set out to have 12 kids; it was all one at a time. We just saw a kid that was waiting and they were meant to be with us.”

The Hendersons’ youngest child, Noah, is from Ethiopia and has cerebral palsy. When Noah first joined the family at nine months old, the Hendersons were told he would never sit up on his own.

“He’s a miracle … now he climbs, and goes to school and doing really well,” she said. “He gets into everything. He knows some words and he does some science.”

When she’s not spending time with family, Henderson is either training for marathons herself or training others as a Road Runners Club of America certified running coach and a USA Track & Field certified coach.

Erin Henderson and her husband, Josh. Photo from Henderson
Erin Henderson and her husband, Josh. Photo from Henderson

Henderson, who just turned 38, said she went for her first run in April of 2009 after realizing she needed to start taking care of her own body. It started with a Wii Fit the family received as a Christmas gift from her husband’s sister in December 2008, she said.

“I knew I was overweight at that point,” she said. “The first time you use it, it makes a cartoon character of you, and it inflates or deflates your character. It literally like blew up; it said I was obese. For some reason, just seeing that on screen, I thought, ‘OK enough. It’s time to do something about it.’”

Henderson said she used the Wii Fit for about four months before heading outdoors to run. Just about a year and a half after that, Henderson ran her first marathon in December 2010. She has now completed 17 marathons, including ones in Boston, New York City, Las Vegas, Walt Disney World and Hartford. And she’s certainly not done yet.

Henderson’s running coach, Ray Nelson, is from Cranston, Rhode Island. He’s been coaching Henderson for just over a year now, and the two communicate mainly via phone and email and sometimes in person before races if their schedules allow it.

“She is an extremely hard worker, very diligent in her training and willing to make sacrifices to try to get in her best shape possible but at the same time without shortchanging any of her family. She definitely has her hands full,” Nelson said.

Erin Henderson will run in the first Suffolk County marathon. Photo from Henderson
Erin Henderson will run in the first Suffolk County marathon. Photo from Henderson

Henderson’s husband, a graphic designer and Wyoming native, said supporting each other enriches their relationship, and he can’t imagine his life now without his family.

“Most people don’t set out to do what they think is impossible,” he said.  “My wife is different — she dives right in. She goes in and gets it.”

He also added that he was always a football player growing up, never a runner, but through supporting and running with his wife he was able to run the NYC marathon last year.

“I wouldn’t have ran that marathon had it not been for my wife running,” he said. “I would never have said to myself, ‘you know what? I think I’ll train for a marathon.’”

Henderson said a few of her accomplishments include winning a half marathon, qualifying for the Boston Marathon and taking third overall in the Tallahassee Marathon.

But Henderson’s greatest accomplishments in life all involve her family, she said.

To follow Erin’s journey, visit her blog at www.seemomrunfar.blogspot.com.  To find out more about the Suffolk County Marathon visit www.suffolkmarathon.com.

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Stock photo

Boy Scout Troop 45 and Cub Scout Pack 41 are hosting a pancake breakfast fundraiser to help make their activities sweeter.

The breakfast will take place on Sunday, May 17, from 8:30 a.m. until noon, at the Port Jefferson firehouse on Maple Place.

Scouts are selling tickets for the breakfast. Those tickets are $5 each and may be purchased at the door on the day of the breakfast fundraiser. Children under 6 are free.

All proceeds from the pancake breakfast benefit troop and pack activities and help defray the cost of summer camp for individual Scouts.

Both the troop and pack are sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church of Port Jefferson.

Kaylee Corrar, 4, held a food drive to benefit the group’s food pantry. She is pictured with her sister, Abby, 3. Photo from Katie Corrar

A 4-year-old Selden girl has warmed the hearts of many after organizing a spring food drive that helped feed close to 70 needy families in the Middle Country community.

Kaylee Corrar, a preschool student at Unity Drive Pre-K/Kindergarten Center in Centereach, was discussing an upcoming Disney cruise with her parents when they explained to her how lucky she was. Kaylee questioned what it meant and her parents explained that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. That’s when the idea hit the 4-year-old.

Through the Kaylee Cares Spring Food Drive, Kaylee Corrar helped feed nearly 70 families in the Middle Country community. Photo from Katie Corrar
Through the Kaylee Cares Spring Food Drive, Kaylee Corrar helped feed nearly 70 families in the Middle Country community. Photo from Katie Corrar

“She stood up and said she was going to feed the homeless,” her mom, Katie Corrar, said.

Kaylee hosted a two-week-long food drive in March called the Kaylee Cares Spring Food Drive to benefit the Selden Centereach Youth Association’s Helping Hand Food Pantry in Centereach.

“I heard that people was homeless,” Kaylee said. “I feel bad.”

Kaylee’s mom and grandmother, Janet Taggart Corrar, of Yaphank, helped spread the word through social media and before she knew it, Kaylee was receiving boxes of food from family all over the country. Boxes filled with canned vegetables, pancake mix, syrup and more came from Kansas, Florida and Pennsylvania.

“It felt good when opening boxes because I really wanted to feed the families,” Kaylee said.

With some help from grandma, her parents and her 3-year-old sister, Abby, Kaylee filled their living room with food. The family even did some shopping of their own, visiting Trader Joe’s, ShopRite and Target where they bought meat, fresh vegetables and toiletries.

Taggart Corrar even reached out to her friends at Gallagher Bassett Services, an international insurance agency with a location in Melville. The office ran a food drive in Kaylee’s honor and raised enough food to fill a third van with goods.

Kaylee Corrar, 4, poses with her certificate of appreciation from the Selden Centereach Youth Association. Photo by Barbara Donlon
Kaylee Corrar, 4, poses with her certificate of appreciation from the Selden Centereach Youth Association. Photo by Barbara Donlon

According to Sal Bush, the youth association’s executive director, the pantry was in desperate need of the food. He said Kaylee’s donations helped feed between 60 and 70 local families.

“I kid you not, this little girl was instrumental in getting this food,” Bush said. “We were fortunate enough that Kaylee came to the realization that people were hungry.”

The Middle Country school district and the Selden Centereach Youth Association recognized Kaylee’s hard work at a April 22 school board meeting. Mother Corrar couldn’t contain the pride she had for her daughter.

“I feel our heart is bursting with pride,” she said. “I’m not surprised, she’s always been like this. She’s caring and always goes out of the way.”

Taggart Corrar called herself Kaylee’s biggest fan.

“As a grandma, I can’t not have tears,” she said. “It’s very moving and inspiring to see a 4-year-old do this.”

The family hopes to make the food drive a tradition. And while Kaylee will help out, she also plans to tackle another issue.

“I’m going to recycle and pick up garbage at the beach because I don’t want the animals to get sick.”

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