Events

Bikers rev up holiday cheer for children at Wading River campus

Santa Claus swapped his signature red hat for a black helmet and led hundreds of bikers from Babylon Town Hall to Wading River Dec. 4 to kickstart the holiday season for children and young adults in need.

For the past 30 years, the staff members and young residents at Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York have welcomed the Long Island Harley Owners Group to their Wading River campus for what has become Long Island’s oldest toy run.

The group bands together with other motorcycle clubs across Long Island to deliver gifts to the children of the not-for-profit charity organization. Little Flower, founded in 1929, provides programs and services to children, families and adults with behavioral and developmental disabilities living in the area, and offers residential services and compassionate alternatives to state-run institutions.

“I’m very thankful,” said Russell, 15, of Syosset. “They come out and they use their time, and play with us and do different things with us on their own time when they could be sitting at home.”

There are approximately 100 students between the ages 10 and 21 living on the Little Flower campus in cottage-style homes. Most of them are there primarily for educational purposes. The students are special education children with a variety of challenges who are referred to the organization by local school districts.

They struggle with mental, developmental and behavioral problems, but because the student body at Little Flower is relatively small, there’s more of a hands-on approach to catering to their individual needs.

“I’m very thankful. They come out and they use their time, and play with us and do different things with us on their own time…”

—Russell

Corinne Hammons, CEO of Little Flower, said the organization strives to help and embrace the kids as they are. She said often students come from tough circumstances and have challenges that can’t be helped at home or in local schools. She said she’s very proud to partner with the Harley group and have its longstanding support.

“We don’t take this partnership for granted at all; every year they could choose any charity and they keep choosing us, and we’re very grateful,” Hammons said. “The idea of them coming to us wanting to give is very meaningful for the kids, who sure look forward to it each year.”

While the Harley Owners Group is involved with several charities throughout the year — including veteran fundraisers — members of the group consider this particular event the one they look forward to most all year. It’s also the only event that non-Harley-Davidson owners can join.

Bob Brinka, director of the Long Island Harley Owners Group, said what keeps the group coming back year after year are the smiles on the children’s faces.

“Doing this for kids that don’t have a lot is really important to us … this is the one that’s most dear to our hearts,” Brinka said. “We look forward to making people’s lives a lot nicer and giving the kids something they don’t have. Because we have, we can give.”

He said this year the group had 276 registered motorcycles for the ride plus another 30 that joined them along their route.

Those at Little Flower watched in glee as bikers arrived in traditional fashion to the campus. The parade of Christmas-decorated bikes roared down a long driveway, each one equipped with a pile of gifts all donated by members. They brought everything from giant stuffed teddy bears to skateboards and remote control cars.

Maureen Fox, vice president of external relations for Little Flower, said for the kids, the event is all about the “spectacle” of seeing the bikers arrive.

“Doing this for kids that don’t have a lot is really important to us … this is the one that’s most dear to our hearts”

—Bob Brinka

The event went inside to the gym on campus, where children were excited to hop on stage and meet with Santa, played by Harley Owners Group member Nick Klopsis, and choose from the big pile of gifts. Chili and drinks were available, as well as holiday-themed entertainment. Some members joined children on stage to perform impromptu choir bell renditions of Christmas songs.

Thom Kister, a 12-year Harley Owners Group member, pointed out a beaming girl carrying a teddy bear off the stage and said he bought the gift three months prior to the event.

“It’s all about the kids and seeing their faces on the stage,” Kister said. “And when we do the precession, coming up, just having everybody out there waving really fills you up and makes you feel good. This is so different from everything else we do because it’s open to all the biking community. We love it and we love doing it.”

Chris Evel, a member of 30 years, echoed Kister’s sentiment.

“Nobody helps the community like the bikers,” he said. “Whatever [the kids] need, that’s what we’re here for. It could be anywhere on Long Island — we’ll be there to help.”

According to Fox, before the bikers hop back on their motorcycles and hit the road, some of them deliver gifts directly to the developmentally disabled residents on campus who are unable to get to the gym.

Alex, 16, of Bellmore, said not just the event, but the entire month of December is special for him and the rest of the children at Little Flower.

“It’s a nice thing that [the Harley Owners Group] does because it’s all volunteer … they didn’t have to come here,” he said. “This month is probably the best month for everybody here because we had the Christmas tree lighting a few days ago, and then next week we have a party, so all the kids are happy that we’re doing this.”

Huntington Town and Northport Village hosted holiday parades this past weekend to get into the Christmas spirit. Live reindeers, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and fire trucks dressed up in lights paraded through Northport, while over at Huntington, fire departments from all over the North Shore competed in a float contest.

On Dec. 4, the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society’s Postman Pete collected letters from local children to give to Santa.

Children of all ages were welcomed to visit the historic William Miller House for cookies, refreshments and caroling led by local high school students, while mailing that all important letter to the North Pole. Postman Pete was on hand to stamp the letter and personally see that the letters get to Santa. Children will also receive a letter back from Santa.

Raffles and other proceeds from the event will benefit restoration of the 1720 home.

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Port Jefferson’s 21st Annual Charles Dickens Festival was Dec. 3 and 4 across the village. Visitors came out and experienced all of the sights, sounds and activities during Port Jefferson’s annual Charles Dickens Festival Dec. 3 and 4. Street performances, parades, a gingerbread house contest and several showings of A Christmas Carol at Theatre Three were just some of the fun attractions during the two-day holiday festival.

Parade will begin on Main Street in Setauket near the Emma S. Clark Library and elementary school

An electric float in 2014 carries parade participants. Photo from Cheryl Davie

After a one-year hiatus, a long-running holiday tradition is returning to Setauket.

It was ‘lights out’ for the Electric Holiday Parade last December, when a couple of glitches prevented the popular event from taking place. Cheryl Davie, longtime organizer of the event, which has been around for two decades, said there were budgetary cutbacks at the town level and a permit deadline was missed.

Billy Williams, a civic-minded local businessman and a member of the Setauket Fire Department, Three Village Kiwanis and the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said he heard of the issues last November — just not soon enough.

“I remember moving to the area in the late ’90s and bringing my kids to the parade,” he said in an email. “I thought it was a great hometown experience. I was saddened when I heard it wasn’t happening last year.” But by the time he found out, he said, it was too late to make it happen. So he decided to pick up the pieces and planned to resurrect the parade this year.

Davie immediately offered her assistance and expertise and the two became a team. Williams joked he is the producer and Davie is the director. She’s in charge of “the script” and running the show. He’s responsible for making sure the funding comes through.

“I have put together a team of small businesses and individuals who wanted to produce a great parade,” Williams said. “We have about 20 sponsors that have generously donated to offset the cost of producing the parade. State Farm [Williams’ business], Shea & Sanders Real Estate, Four D Landscaping and Shine Dance Studios are the major sponsors — with many others contributing as well. Each has made donations of money, time and/or other needed goods and services for the event.”

Lights will blaze again when the parade kicks off Sunday, Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. There will be floats and marchers, lights and music, decorated conveyances of all kinds, entertainment, hot chocolate and cookies — not to mention the arrival of Santa Claus on the Setauket Fire Department float — according to Davie.

“We have a lot of floats signed up,” Williams said. “Thirty-five have registered so far. We are also hiring a professional marching band to perform as well as providing many other great attractions for the kids. We have Wolfie from Stony Brook University attending, as well as the SBU pep squad.”

Williams said the Three Village school district will also be well represented. Many of the elementary schools are building floats — at all grade levels — which is a change from previous years when only sixth-graders were invited to create floats. The Ward Melville Jazz Band will also perform.

Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, dance academies, preschools and local businesses have registered online to participate in the parade of lights. Registration will remain open until Dec. 10.

“The more, the merrier,” said Davie, referring to participants and spectators alike.

No article about the Electric Holiday Parade would be complete without a shout out to one of the original founders and supporters. Michael Ardolino was a member of the small group that established the parade 21 years ago. Today he is very happy and proud.

“I’m so excited the parade is back,” Ardolino said in a telephone interview. “I’m so proud it’s going to continue. So pleased with the new group that has stepped up to create this year’s parade. I’m looking forward to coming and enjoying it with my granddaughter. The tradition continues.”

For more information about the parade — or if you’d like to sign up — visit www.3vholidayparade.com. Staging for the parade will begin at 3:30 p.m. along Main Street in Setauket near the Emma S. Clark Library and the Setauket Elementary School. Kick-off is at 5 p.m. sharp.

A decorated mantle rings in the holidays at a Northport home during a previous tour. Photo courtesy of the Northport Historical Society

By Melissa Arnold

For many families, nothing says it’s the holiday season quite like admiring the neighborhood in lights. If you agree, then Northport is where you’ll want to be on Sunday, Dec. 11, as they celebrate their annual holiday tour.

The self-guided tour is a highly anticipated event in the village with several hundred attendees coming out last year, according to Tracy Pfaff, director of the Northport Historical Society.

Previously called “Homes for the Holidays,” the tour has been renamed “Deck the Halls Holiday Tour” this year to reflect the inclusion of more than just decorated homes.

“Our inclusion of historic sites as well as private homes is a different spin on the house tour concept,” said Pfaff, who assumed the role of director earlier this year. “It allows us more freedom to welcome vendors, offer refreshments and entertainment without inconveniencing a homeowner.”

The iconic 1883 Thompson Building will be one of the stops during the holiday tour. Photo courtesy of the Northport Historical Society
The iconic 1883 Thompson Building will be one of the stops during the holiday tour. Photo courtesy of the Northport Historical Society

The iconic Thompson Building, located on Woodbine Avenue, is one of the properties set to be decorated to the nines for the tour. While there, visitors will be treated to live music and the opportunity to purchase a variety of gifts from local vendors. The building served as headquarters for the Thompson Law Book Company when it was first built in 1883, Pfaff said.

The company quickly became the largest employer in Northport — well-educated lawyers, writers and editors came to work at the company and would later settle in Northport, which led to the construction of homes, businesses and facilities to support the growing population.

Brú na Bó, a store featuring art, home decor, furniture and more designed by local craftsmen, will also be a stop on the tour this year. Located at 33 Scudder Ave., the property was completely transformed after once serving as storage space for the Thompson Law Book Company.

Another stop on the tour is the historic Lewis Oliver Farm, which is located on Burt Avenue. Since the 1800s, the farm has raised a variety of animals, including cows, alpacas, sheep, geese and more. In the past, it was also a dairy farm. While dairy production has ceased now, the farm is still home to a variety of animals and features a country store.

A scene from a previous house tour. Photo courtesy of the Northport Historical Society
A scene from a previous house tour. Photo courtesy of the Northport Historical Society

Of course, elaborately decorated homes are still a crucial part of the tour, with three families graciously opening their doors to visitors for the occasion. Each home is decorated exclusively by the residents, and each has its own unique story, Pfaff said.

“The houses we showcase on this tour are a combination of historically significant and beautifully decorated for the holidays. Naturally, there are only so many homes that have significant ties to [the village’s] earliest days, but every home still has a story to tell and a part to play in the history of Northport, including the recent past and today,” she said.

Tour attendees will receive a map on their arrival identifying the locations of each decorated home and building. They are free to travel from place to place at their leisure between noon and 4 p.m. Volunteers will greet visitors at each stop to share information and answer questions. There will be something different to enjoy at each stop on the tour, including entertainment, sweet treats, raffles and opportunities for shopping.

“Northport is such a charming town with an interesting history, beautiful homes and exquisite harbor views,” Pfaff said. “This tour is a perfect way to experience it.”

“Deck the Halls Holiday Tour” will be held on Dec. 11 from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets purchased by Dec. 10 are $31, $26 members. Tickets purchased on the day of the tour are $36, $31 members. For more information or to order tickets, visit www.northporthistorical.org/events or call 631-757- 9859.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, center, will be accepting donations for care packages to be sent to members of the military. Photo from Leg. Anker's office

During December, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) will be hosting a military care package supply collection for Operation Veronica at her district office in Mount Sinai.

Operation Veronica is a not-for-profit veterans organization that collects supplies and sends care packages to the brave men and women who serve in the military overseas.

Volunteers fill boxes with handmade items and other supplies to support active duty military personnel.

Suggested donations include hand warmers, merino wool socks, granola bars, playing cards, Gatorade chews, protein bars, lemonade and iced tea powder, magazines, wet wipes, K-cup pods, powdered coffee creamer, pocket-sized salty snacks, Pepto-Bismol tablets, full-sized body wash and shampoo, and small funnels to fill water bottles.

“I commend Janet Godfrey, the executive director of Operation Veronica, and the many volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure our brave men and women in uniform feel appreciated and supported,” Anker said.

Donations will be accepted at Anker’s office until Dec. 31. The office is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is located at 620 Route 25A, Suite B in Mount Sinai. For more information, call Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.

Parents listen to learn ways to discuss depression and suicide prevention with their kids during a seminar at Shoreham Wading River High School Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We need to change the way we think about mental health and teen depression .. .and we can start in our homes by keeping an open and honest communication and letting our kids know that it’s okay to say that they’re not okay.”

Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding
Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

That’s what Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told an audience of parents at a seminar at Shoreham-Wading River High School Nov. 30, to help identify warning signs and risk factors for suicide in teens, understand the role of treatment in reducing risk and open a dialogue with their children about the topic.

The school district was impacted by two separate incidents of suicide in October and November. Both were high school freshmen. The school’s administration has been doing all it can to raise awareness and education for both students and parents alike ever since.

The AFSP gives different versions of the seminar throughout the country. Morrison’s presentation spoke specifically to parents. Those in attendance said it was much needed.

“It’s important with all the things that have been going on here,” Thomas McClintock said. “I know they wanted to address it with the children, but it’s good for the parents too, because a lot of us are in the dark on this type of thing. It’s not something you expect or anticipate in your own child.”

Morrison explained suicide has become the second leading cause of death among youth between the ages 10 and 24 in the U.S. after accidental injuries and yet, she said, “we aren’t really talking about it.”

“That’s where a lot of the issue is,” Morrison said. “We need to be more comfortable talking about one of the leading causes of death and why this is happening and how we can prevent it. This isn’t meant to frighten anybody, but to let you know the scope of the problem.”

According to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health risk behaviors that contribute to causes of death for teens, 17 percent of high school students reported having seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year — 13.6 percent reported having made a plan for a suicide attempt in the previous year, and eight percent reported having attempted suicide one or more times in the last year.

“We need to be more comfortable talking about one of the leading causes of death and why this is happening and how we can prevent it. This isn’t meant to frighten anybody, but to let you know the scope of the problem.”

— Ann Morrison

Morrison said suicide is a mental health issue and marginally preventable.
The thought comes about when multiple factors come together, so it’s not related to just one cause, but underlying risk signals to look out for in teens are out-of-character bouts of depression, anxiety, aggression and agitation.

She said parents must act if they notice drastic changes in their children’s behavior, which might include withdrawal from activities they normally enjoy, isolation from friends or social media, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, unexplained rage, or giving away their prized possessions — something that commonly happens when someone is preparing to commit suicide.

“It can be very easy sometimes to mistake mental health symptoms for typical adolescent behaviors,” she said.

Also listen for statements like “I should go kill myself,” “I have no reason to live” and “everybody would be better off without me.”

Morrison stressed to the parents the key to helping prevent suicide among teens is to have a strong and supportive home, where it’s okay to reach out for help.

“You have to be a role model and let them know that in your home, it’s okay for open communication no matter what it is that they want to talk about,” she said. “We need to not be afraid to reach out and ask them if they’re okay. … Make sure you talk to them in private, [and] not at the dinner table, in front of siblings or handled very nonchalantly. Listen to their story, get them comfortable to talk to you, express care and concern. Don’t dismiss their feelings. What we think is a small problem to them might be a bigger problem in their mind.”

Debra Caputo, counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding
Debra Caputo, counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

Debra Caputo, who works as a counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, echoed the importance of listening. As someone who answers crisis calls on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, she said just simply listening to someone wrestling with mental health issues is helpful to them.

“When people call, we’re basically just listening and validating their feelings,” she said. “What they’re feeling is real. If we listen non-judgmentally and understand what they’re going through, it can make a world of difference. We want to reassure them they’re not alone and help is available.”

Morrison said that if there’s a true feeling that a child may be at risk or having suicidal thoughts, it’s okay to directly ask them if they are.

“It’s a scary question to ask or think about asking, but we know that when we ask, it opens that conversation,” Morrison said. “And should a child actually have those thoughts, in most cases, they’re going to feel comfortable telling you. Thank them for having the courage to talk to you and contact a mental health professional for an evaluation. Take it seriously. Don’t wait to act. Be calm. Listen to them.”

If you or your child is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The hotline is available 24 hours a day.

For more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and their services, visit afsp.org.

You can watch “More Than Sad,” a film presented by the AFSP that dramatizes four situations of high school depression, at www.afsp.org/our-work/education/more-than-sad/.

The pile of donations from this year’s Kevin’s Holiday Angels Toy Drive. Photo by Kevin Redding

The spirit of giving was in full effect inside Phil’s Restaurant in Wading River Nov. 29, as toys of all shapes and sizes piled up, ready to be delivered to children in need.

The large crowd of family, friends and community members gathered at the Cheers-esque sports bar to donate toys to the Kevin Williams Foundation’s 11th annual “Kevin’s Holiday Angels” Toy Drive.

Mike and Patti Williams started the foundation in 2002 as a reaction to the passing of their 24-year-old son Kevin, who worked as a bonds salesman for Sandler O’Neill in Manhattan and was on the 104th floor of Tower Two when tragedy struck on Sept. 11, 2001. He was supposed to be married 10 weeks later. Patti Williams said that Kevin was “such a generous person” and always made others happy.

Mike Williams, his daughter Kelly and wife Patti host a toy drive in memory of son and brother Kevin. Photo by Kevin Redding
Mike Williams, his daughter Kelly and wife Patti host a toy drive in memory of son and brother Kevin. Photo by Kevin Redding

“He was the kind of person that, when you walked into the room, he would give you this smile that made you feel like the most important person,” she said.

Kevin’s childhood friend Brian Baumeister thinks that he would’ve loved how many lives this foundation has touched.

“He was just super big-hearted … such a genuine guy,” Baumeister said. “He always had your back. And he was such an unbelievable athlete.”

Because of their son’s love for sports, the Williams devoted their organization to sending children, who couldn’t afford it otherwise, to sports camps or register them to play on teams in the area as a way to “do something with his love.” Five years in, they received a call from Long Island Youth Mentoring, one of the many organizations they worked alongside, which asked them to help a local family that had recently been evicted from their home. The Williams took care of them and made sure the family had a holiday that year. It wasn’t long before they started helping other local families in similar situations.

This led the Williams’ to start the toy drive, which targets the wishes and needs of children in the area — some of which range from video game consoles to clothes to even simpler needs. Patti Williams said one family had children asking for towels to sleep on because they didn’t have beds. This year, 28 families were on the list and the pile of donations at the restaurant grew taller by the minute.

“You can’t just stay in that dark place. You have to decide — and it’s not easy — what to do to make life better for others. Then that becomes your focus and really helps you through the grieving process.”

—Patti Williams

“Our community has been there for us since the beginning … we are just so blessed,” Patti Williams said. “When you’ve had such a tragic loss in your life, you have to make a decision. You can’t just stay in that dark place. You have to decide — and it’s not easy — what to do to make life better for others. Then that becomes your focus and really helps you through the grieving process.”

Mike Williams said he couldn’t believe how many people showed up to the toy drive this year, especially on a dreary, wet evening. When you surround yourself with loving people, he said, that’s what happens.

“We’re reaching out and trying to help people,” he said. “We wake up in the morning and say ‘All right, how can we turn this into something good?’”

On Christmas Eve, he recalls showing up to the residence of a family in dire straits. In one room, there was a metal bunk bed for the kids, similar to what would be seen in a military confine. The floor was covered in clothes and was nearly impossible to walk on. They asked the mother what she was planning on doing for Christmas dinner, and when she said nothing, the Williams’ assured her the family would have a proper dinner.

When they returned the next day, Mike Williams said he was in shock.

“The beds were made like West Point cadets made them,” he said. “There wasn’t anything on the floors. The woman looked 30 years younger, and I remembering thinking ‘look at the transition we made with just one little family by caring. They were thrown away, and thought nobody cared.’”

Wayne and Patty Fellrath volunteer their time to help deliver the toys. Photo by Kevin Redding
Wayne and Patty Fellrath volunteer their time to help deliver the toys. Photo by Kevin Redding

It’s Patti Williams’ hope that the families they’ve helped get back on track, get out of their own dark places and “pay it forward” to others in need.

She said while she and her husband are the orchestrators of the toy drive, there’s a huge community effort that goes into the donations, and wrapping and delivering them.

The Wading River Fire Department donates the community room to serve as gift-wrapping space for the 60 to 70 volunteer wrappers, and Wayne Fellrath, a retired New York City firefighter, grows out his white beard and delivers toys dressed as Santa, with his wife Patty dressing as an elf.

The Fellraths said it’s heartwarming they can bring joy to children who aren’t well enough to leave their homes and see Santa.

“Patti [Williams] called me up and asked ‘Did you get your flu shot this year?’” Wayne Fellrath recalled. “I said ‘Yeah, what’s wrong?’ She said the doctor told her in order to have a visit from Santa, everybody had to have a flu shot. And I was never happier in my life to have gotten a flu shot.”

Among the large pile of donated goods children in need can look forward to is a 150-piece art set, basketballs, bedding, an XBox One and a Power Rangers toy set. On the morning of Dec. 17, the pile will be brought to the firehouse to be wrapped and shipped out.

Current fire district leader is seeking fourth five-year term

Guy Schneider will be taking on Carol Hawat for her commissioner position of the Miller Place Fire District for the second time. Photo by Kevin Redding

The heat is on at the Miller Place Fire District this month, as retired firefighter Guy Schneider challenges incumbent Carol Hawat in an upcoming commissioner vote.

Hawat, recognized in April as EMT of the year by Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), has held her position as one of five on the Board of Fire Commissioners since 2001. As her third five-year term comes to a close, she said she hopes to continue serving as commissioner and bring to the job her experience as a full-time EMT supervisor at Rocky Point Fire Department — a perspective that’s proven to be especially beneficial in Miller Place as 60 percent of the emergency calls to the fire district require medical care. Motor vehicle accidents and home injuries make up most of the calls to which volunteers respond.

Having been born and raised on Long Island in a family of police officers, Hawat said that helping people and working for the community has always been part of her life.

In 2008, she helped initiate an Advanced Life Support program in the community, which has provided people with a set of life-saving protocols that extends support until a victim receives full medical treatment at a hospital. Hawat feels she’s made a difference by bringing EMS to the table at the district and takes pride in the fact that the budget has been handled well and taxes haven’t been raised in years.

Guy Schneider. Photo by Kevin Redding
Guy Schneider. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I just love what I do … I want to continue providing quality care and safety to the people of Miller Place,” Hawat said. “This is where my children were raised and grew up. I have strong ties here and I like helping others. I feel like I have a purpose … giving back to the community. It’s what I was raised to do.”

She also stressed her urgency to put a stop to the rise in heroin overdoses on the North Shore. She said while Narcan, the opiate antidote used to treat overdoses, is supplied in the ambulances, she hopes to provide more awareness and training to schools in the future.

Schneider has been in fire and rescue service for more than four decades, and at 64 years old he’s still responding and volunteering every day. He volunteered for 12 years as a firefighter at the Babylon Village Fire Department starting in 1970, served as a hull maintenance technician in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War between 1971 and 1975, and was at the Holtsville Fire Department briefly before working at FDNY Firehouse Engine 60 and Ladder 17 between 1984 and 2004.

He said he sustained some disabling breathing problems in the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001, and so he decided to slow down and move to Miller Place from Sound Beach. He’s been a volunteer at the Miller Place Fire Department ever since, mostly as “chauffeur,” driving the fire apparatus and getting the volunteers where they need to be.

He said what pulls him out of bed — sometimes at 3 a.m. to a call — is that he wants to help people.

“I’m still on the first engine to a fire,” Schneider said. “I’ve been to just about every fire in Miller Place since I’ve been here. Always first too. That’s me.”

Schneider ran against and lost to Hawat in 2011 but said he’s running for commissioner this year because “it’s time for a change.” He believes strict term limits should be implemented to commissioners because after a while complacency has a tendency to kick in.

Carol Hawat. Photo from Carol Hawat
Carol Hawat. Photo from Carol Hawat

“I want to try to get in there and spice things up,” Schneider said. “Right now we’re working with 27-year-old pumpers, which should’ve been taken out of service a long time ago. It’s gotten to the point where [the current commissioners] are holding on to all the old stuff, because they’ve been around for 15 or 20 years. We need someone with a little more finesse, to try to get in there and work things out.”

He said he has great respect for Hawat and considers her a great EMT but wants to be more active within the district.

“I love Carol, she’s great to work with, but it’s time to move on,” Schneider said.

Hawat said that she doesn’t understand why Schneider has run against her twice when there were two open spots on the five-person board in the previous five years for which he didn’t run.

“I feel like I’m more qualified because of my experience in what I do in the fire department and I’d like to continue doing that … it’s a service for the community,” Hawat said. “I know there’s equipment he feels the firemen aren’t getting and things like that, but it’s not true.”

Josh Hagermann, Miller Place department chief, had good things to say about each candidate.

“I think [Carol] has done a very good job … she’s fair, helpful and has made sure the community is getting the best care,” Hagermann said. “And Guy is very active and he’s a very reliable apparatus driver for us. He’s got a very good firefighting background as well. So, we have two good candidates running for one position.”

Community members can cast their votes Dec. 13 from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Miller Place firehouse, located at 12 Miller Place Road.

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