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Alexa Siragusa learns how to salsa at the first fundraiser in 2017. Photo from Liz Kotseas

Many parts of Puerto Rico are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Maria more than two years after the storm, and North Shore residents are lending a helping hand.

“I felt like we could gather a great group of people to support Puerto Rico.”

— Liz Kotseas

A salsa-dancing fundraiser will be held at The Bates House in East Setauket Dec. 8 to raise funds for The Ocean Foundation. The nonprofit works to support, strengthen and promote organizations dedicated to reversing the destruction of ocean environments.

“We’re helping to restore their natural barrier which has been devastated,” said Liz Kotseas, one of the event’s hosts and organizers.

Jason Donofrio, external relations officer of The Ocean Foundation, said the organization focuses on nature-based solutions, and all the proceeds from the event will go toward its sea grass growth program, which will help plant sea grass and restore mangrove forests in Jobos Bay, a federally protected estuary in Puerto Rico.

“They are sort of the island’s first line of defense,” he said.

Former Stony Brook University student Danny Rodriguez, who will also be hosting the event in part Dec. 8, inspired the idea when he organized a fundraiser at Stony Brook University’s Student Activities Center to raise money for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico back in Nov. 2017. The initial fundraiser, like the Dec. 8 one, included salsa-dancing lessons and music.

Rodriguez, who lives in Mount Sinai and teaches Spanish at Longwood High School, said in 2017 that he wanted to travel to Puerto Rico, but his studies made it difficult to travel there.

“That’s what my heart really wanted to do,” he said.

With experience with fundraisers in the breakdancing world, and a dancer himself, he approached Aurelie Vialette, an associate professor and director of graduate studies at SBU, who helped him organize the 2017 SBU event. He said the only date available was right before Thanksgiving when many students were already leaving to go home for the holiday, but despite the bad timing, about three dozen attended and around $300 was raised.

“Everything came together on very short notice and all worked out pretty well,” he said.

“I think how we respond to a community that is part of the U.S., that is in our own backyard, says a lot about us as Americans and what it’s like to live in the U.S.”

— Jason Donofrio

Kotseas, a Setauket resident and a member of SBU’s Department of Linguistics, said she heard about the 2017 event through a flyer at the university and decided to bring her niece, Alexa Siragusa. The cause is personal for Kotseas as she has family in San Juan and Caguas, Puerto Rico. She said there are still many residents who haven’t fully recovered, including some who still have tarps on their roofs.

At the 2017 event, she approached Rodriquez about holding one at a bigger venue in the future.

“I had the Three Villages in my mind,” Kotseas said. “I felt like we could gather a great group of people to support Puerto Rico.”

Rodriguez said he was glad Kotseas recommended the Three Village area after his dance students from On the Edge Performance Center in Port Jefferson, where he teaches, performed this summer at the Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand event, which raises money for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Rodriguez said he was impressed with the students’ success.

“I feel like this has the same type of potential to bring that same community together,” he said.

Donofrio said this was the first time someone has raised money for the foundation with a salsa dance fundraiser, adding that oftentimes people forget that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S.

“This is not some war-torn country or some developing nation far across the world, this is U.S. territory,” he said. “So, I think how we respond to a community that is part of the U.S., that is in our own backyard, says a lot about us as Americans and what’s it like to live in the U.S.”

Rodriquez credits Kotseas and Tammy Colletti, who will also host the fundraiser, for doing most of the work. Kotseas added that the Copiague-based Promise of Hope Foundation, which Colletti is co-founder of, made the event possible by sponsoring it. She said so far Pentimento Restaurant, Waverly Liquors and Olde Towne Gardens have provided food, cheer and services, respectively.

“The support from local businesses has been wonderful and really shows the generous spirit of our community,” Kotseas said.

Tickets for the salsa fundraiser are $75 each. The event will include food, wine, beer and other refreshments as well as dance lessons and entertainment. Those interested can email Kotseas at The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket.

Annual museum tree lighting set for November 30

Keri Hollander and her family purchased a small live spruce 30 years ago as their first Christmas tree. After the holiday, they planted it in their front yard in Centereach. Now it’s 40 feet high and they offered to donate it to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum for display in the Vanderbilt Mansion Courtyard.

When the museum holds its 32nd annual Tree Lighting event on Saturday, November 30, the Hollander family will be there to turn on the lights. The free family-friendly event, from 4 to 6 p.m., draws several hundred visitors each year.

The program will include performances by the Northport Chorale and singer Eva Erickson, carol singing, ornament-making for children, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus (a great photo opportunity). Visitors can enjoy treats provided by Lidl, Long Island’s next new grocery store. Stop by the Lidl food truck for free snack samples.

J.G. Brands Christmas Tree Sales, Inc., of Woodside, Queens, also donated a tree. The 15-foot balsam will stand in front of the arc of thousand-year-old Carthaginian columns at the entrance to the Vanderbilt Estate.

Sponsored by Northwell Health, the event includes a raffle basket ($129 value): Vanderbilt Family Membership, a one-hour photo session (plus 10 prints) at the Vanderbilt with Janelle Brooke photography, and lots of Vanderbilt gift items and children’s toys from the Museum Gift Shop.

Holiday visitors who purchase tickets for guided Mansion tours will see the magic created by local designers and garden clubs, who deck the halls each November. This year, in addition to the beautifully transformed rooms, visitors will see a spectacular installation in the lobby of the Museum’s Memorial Wing – Enchanted Flight of the Cardinals by the designers at Ethan Allen in Huntington Station, N.Y.

For many years, the Museum was able to harvest large pines and spruces from the wooded areas of the 43-acre Estate. In September, the Vanderbilt announced it was seeking a local family that could donate a sizeable tree for this year’s celebration. The Museum agreed to cut it down and transport it to the Mansion.

 Keri Hollander responded, and wrote an email to Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt’s operations supervisor: “I believe I have, on my front lawn, the perfect holiday tree for your Mansion’s Courtyard. It’s approximately 30 years old and was our family’s first Christmas tree. We thought it would be fun to buy a tree that we could bring into the house – it was only about six feet high at the time – and then later plant it in our backyard.

 “Right after Christmas, we planted it ‘temporarily’ in the front of the yard with plans to move it in the spring. Well, 30 years later, it still stands in the middle of our front lawn. If you will have it, we would be very happy to donate it to the Vanderbilt Museum.”

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt, said, “We’re very grateful to the Hollander family and to J.G. Brands for their generosity. The J.G. Brands tree will welcome visitors at the gate. And the Hollanders’ spectacular spruce will be the delightful holiday centerpiece for the Vanderbilt Mansion – part of the magic of the grand house, which is decorated every year by local volunteer designers and garden clubs.”

For more information, call 631-854-5579.

Ron Hoffman with LIM’s Sarah Abruzzi, Regina Miano and Neil Watson. Photo from LIM

The Long Island Museum, located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook, kicked off the holiday season with its premier fundraising event, the annual Holiday Celebration Gala and Silent Auction, on Nov. 9 with over 150 people in attendance. The tradition raises funds necessary to support the museum’s award-winning educational programs and exhibitions. 

Betsy Palmedo and Neil Watson. Photo from LIM

The museum’s History Museum was transformed into a decorative winter wonderland with an enchanting display of hundreds of decorative works by local artists and artisans, including ceramics, paintings and a beautiful selection of home goods and fine art. 

Now in its 26th year, the event honored Ron Hoffman of Bliss Restaurant in East Setauket with the Community Leader Award and North Shore Pro Musica with the Patron of the Arts Award.

Hoffman has been dedicated to the Three Village community since becoming a local business owner in 2003 when he first purchased Village Bistro. “Ron Hoffman has the ability to make everyone feel like family when they walk through the door of his restaurant,” said Neil Watson, executive director of the LIM. “But his generous nature goes beyond his business establishment. Ron has been a loyal supporter of the museum for many years. He truly puts his heart and soul into Bliss’ surrounding community.”

Founded in 1980, North Shore Pro Musica has been bringing live chamber music performances to the Three Village community for the past four decades and has been recognized for innovative programming and diversity of repertoire.

“I’m so grateful to the leadership of North Shore Pro Musica,” commented Watson. “Not only does this group continue to make a contribution to the cultural life of Long Island but North Shore Pro Musica is also making the Long Island Museum a destination for an entirely new audience.” 

Betsy Palmedo, founding member and director of North Shore Pro Musica accepted the award on the group’s behalf.

The Great All Nighter is back at the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington. On Friday, Nov. 29 the theater will host a Black Friday Flea Market/Bazaar from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. with dozens of vendors selling oddities, rare albums, artwork, handmade jewelry, books, unique clothing and more. Come hunt for unique gifts while supporting local businesses and artists. For more information, visit

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Kmart in Bohemia

And another store bites the dust. Transformco, parent company to Kmart, announced plans to close 96 Sears and Kmart stores including the Kmart at 5151 Sunrise Highway in Bohemia by February 2020. The statement was made on Nov. 7. 

“Since purchasing substantially all the assets of Sears Holdings Corporation in February 2019, Transformco has faced a difficult retail environment and other challenges,” the company wrote in a press release. “We have been working hard to position Transformco for success by focusing on our competitive strengths and pruning operations that have struggled due to increased competition and other factors. To support these initiatives, our owners (along with a third-party investor) have recently provided the company approximately $250 million in new capital.” As a result, the company made the “difficult but necessary” decision to close the businesses. Going out of business sales at the stores are expected to begin on Dec. 2.

Once Kmart closes in Bohemia, the only remaining Kmart on Long Island will be in Bridgehampton at 2044 Montauk Highway. The Farmingville Kmart closed this fall. The Sears location at Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove is not among the locations announced for closure.

Stock photo

Time to bake a pie!

The Village of Port Jefferson and Torte Jeff Pie Co. (218 East Main St., Port Jefferson) are teaming up to host Port Jefferson’s first Traditional Pumpkin Pie Bake Off and Eating Contest at the Village Center, 101 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. 

Participants for the bake off must submit an application no later than Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. There is no entrance fee. Pies must be delivered to the Village Center by noon on Nov. 23. Each entry must present two pies — one for the tasting and one to be auctioned off after the contest to help raise money for the local food pantry at Infant Jesus R.C. Church. Pies will be judged for taste, texture, crust and appearance. First-place winner of the bake off will receive a $250 cash prize and lottery tree. 

There will be two pie eating contests —  one for adults and one for children under the age of 16. There is a $10 pie eating entry fee and all participants must also register by Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. For an application and more information, call 631-473-4724 or visit

Save the date! The St. James Model Railroad Club will hold its 35th annual Holiday Open House at the Mills Pond House, 660 Route 25A, St. James on Friday, Nov. 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. View a 38-by-48-foot O-scale train layout featuring 11 trains running simultaneously with animated accessories, bustling towns, a colorful circus and amusement park. Admission is $2 adults, 50 cents per child. The event will coincide with a holiday market at the Mills Pond Gallery. For more information, please call 631-862-6575.

A roaring good time was had by all!

By Martina Matkovic

 Entering the door of the Bates House in Setauket on Oct. 20th was like stepping back in time to the year 1929 and the era affectionately referred to as “The Roaring Twenties.”  Before  you could pass through the door, however, you had to say the secret password,  a nod to the  prohibition  laws and “speakeasys” that marked the time.  “Iris sent me” was chosen for its reference to the club’s official flower.

The occasion  celebrated the 90th birthday of The Three Village Garden Club whose first meeting was documented  by member  Arlene Oliver as she assiduously  combed through a treasure trove of  archival material of the past 90 years.   An “ahah” moment came with  the  discovery of  the minutes of the very  first meeting!

An octet of string musicians from Ward Melville High School  offered a selection of lovely classical repertoire as  guests “whet their whistles” with a signature cocktail  called  “Buck’s Fizz” and  enjoyed passed  hors d’oeuvres  as they made their way to  a display of historic memorabilia and a printed   timeline  of  the club’s 90  year history,  complimented by events taking place simultaneously in the world.

Large, potted  palms, reminiscent of the times,  decorated the area and guests were able  to pose for a photo in front of a large, wall-sized, authentic 1920’s  mural of couples socializing  outside of a  speakeasy. 

A veritable fashion parade of various styles of  dress of  the  period was on display as women guests appeared in  low-waisted dresses,  Cloche style hats,  feathered headpieces, strappy shoes, elbow-length gloves and pearls, pearls and more pearls.

As guests took their seats at beautifully set tables, each with a color-coordinated centerpiece of flowers designed  by Pat Bany,  and Elegant Eating   catering a  variety  of light fare.   Remarks were delivered by Kathy  Walczak,  chairperson of the event;  current president, Karin Ryon,  highlighting  important events in the club’s history; and newly elected president of  Federated Garden Clubs of New York State,  our own Vikki Bellias.  

While dessert of  “Al Capone” cake was being served, guests enjoyed musical entertainment  by  The Algorhythms, a  barbershop quartet who sang  popular tunes of the day, followed by a  demonstration of  signature dances  by  Arthur Murray Dance Centers.

The celebration was a fine tribute to the members of a venerable organization who  have served the community well in a variety of ways for  ninety  years. Carry on 3VGC!!

Martina Matkovic is a member of  The Three Village Garden Club which welcomes new members. For more information, call 631-689-8484

All photos by Lynette Zappulla



John T. Mather Memorial Hospital of Port Jefferson honored three of its own at its One Enchanted Evening gala at East Wind Long Island in Wading River on Nov. 1. 

Neurosurgeon Dr. Sumeer Sathi (second from left), section chief of neurosurgery and the medical director of neurosciences at Mather Hospital, and Dr. David Shenouda (center), cardiologist with Three Village Cardiology and former medical board chairman, each received the Theodore Roosevelt Award. The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council created the Theodore Roosevelt Award more than 50 years ago to honor those who demonstrate exceptional volunteer commitment to a member hospital and its community.

Dr. David BenEliyahu (second from right), administrative director of the Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital and Mather’s Chiropractic Collaboration program was honored as the hospital’s Community Honoree as thanks for supporting the hospital and its programs over the years.

With them are Mather President Kenneth Roberts (far left) and Mather Chairman Leo Sternlicht (far right). The 54th annual event raised funds for the Contessa Nadia Farber Emergency Pavilion at Mather Hospital.

Photos by Stuart Vincent