Features

Three Mount Sinai children began making music on the piano at a young age. Now their youth ensemble is making memories with residents across the North Shore.

Playing at veteran homes and senior centers, the North Shore Youth Music Ensemble, created by brother and sister Claire and Joshua Cai, focuses on giving back to the community through the arts.

“I know many people who do volunteer work, and I thought music would be a different thing to do,” Claire Cai said. “I feel happy when I play. It’s really nice to know that they appreciate our music and that they give us their time to play for them.”

The 17-year-old learned the violin and the piano at the same time from her mother Dana, who teaches the violin and viola to young students at her home. Claire Cai said she switched her focus to solely the violin almost 10 years ago because she thought there would be more opportunities.

The North Shore Youth Music Ensemble’s, from left, Daniel Ma, Joshua Cai, Claire Cai and Claire Xu performed at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
The North Shore Youth Music Ensemble’s, from left, Daniel Ma, Joshua Cai, Claire Cai and Claire Xu performed at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

One came knocking when she was accepted into the Juilliard Pre-College Division, which is for elementary through high school students who exhibit the talent, potential, and accomplishments to pursue a career in music. It’s a competitive program, yet the young talent only had to audition once. This month marks her fifth year in the program. She will graduate next year.

“It’s really inspirational,” she said. “I get to meet a lot of people there and I learn a lot from the teachers. It’s a good thing to surround yourself with other people who come from all around the world with different talents.”

Joshua Cai, 14, first learned the piano and violin, but after being rejected by the Juilliard program, switched to playing the viola. He was accepted into the school the following year.

“My sister was always the one that was better than me so it was satisfying to do the same thing as her,” he said.

Their father, Yong Cai, used to play the violin years ago and is currently a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory. While his oldest daughter Mattea no longer plays, she is attending The University of Texas at Austin, majoring in architecture, and she and her younger sister both draw. The father said he believes music was important for his children to learn.

“We just thought that they should learn to play music — it’s always a good thing for young kids to not only enhance them talent-wise, but it can help develop their personality and it’s a form of training your brain in some sense,” he said.

Claire Cai performs in 2014. Photo from Yong Cai
Claire Cai performs in 2014. Photo from Yong Cai

When he heard his children were creating an ensemble he was thrilled.

“It’s a way for them to appreciate how music can help others,” he said.

The two teamed up to create the core trio with friend Daniel Ma, who plays the cello.

“It’s fun playing with my friends,” the 14-year-old said. “It feels like any other performance, but you know you’re performing for seniors, and that makes you feel good about yourself.”

The trio sometimes performs with Claire Xu on violin and Xavier Tutiven on viola. Most recently, at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai, Xu played classical songs with the trio. Duet Katherine Ma and Rachel Zhang also performed for the crowd.

“It’s really nice because we’re able to spread our enjoyment of music to other people,” Joshua Cai said. “It shows up on their faces.”

Claire Cai’s favorite piece to play is Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Opus 96, “American,” because of its spirited vibe, while Daniel Ma enjoys Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik for its classical elements, she said. At the most recent event, the ensemble also performed a more contemporary piece to close out the performance — “You Raise Me Up,” which was made popular by Josh Groban.

From left, Yong Cai, Joshua Cai and Xavier Tutiven perform over the holiday at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Photo from Yong Cai
From left, Yong Cai, Joshua Cai and Xavier Tutiven perform over the holiday at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Photo from Yong Cai

Michele Posillico, the manager for the senior center, said she loves when the ensemble comes to perform.

Their playing was “magnificent, over the top,” she said. “The parents’ hearts must be so full of joy to see their children play like that. It’s just remarkable. The seniors enjoy it. What this group of players from the younger generation is doing, their accomplishments, it fills their heart with happiness and love and pride. I just loved it — it brings tears to my eyes how they play.”

Yong Cai agreed, and added that he gets overly excited watching his children play.

“I take videos all the time,” he said with a laugh. “I go to all of their concerts when I can make it. They come to my house to practice and they really enjoy playing music. I have a huge collection of their performances. Some of which I post on YouTube.”

Although their parents instilled an appreciation for music in them, the musicians couldn’t imagine a life without it.

“It’s always been a part of my life and I don’t know what I’d do if I ever gave it up,” Joshua Cai said. “It’s the foundation of my everyday life. I’ve never experienced my life without music.”

To book the North Shore Youth Music Ensemble, email Yong Cai at yong.q.cai@gmail.com, or call 631-403-4055.

The lineup of the Veterans Comedy Assault Team. Photo by Bob Savage

Already working with homeless veterans, when VFW Santora/Bonacasa Memorial Post 400 Commander John Rago was approached to start a comedy act to benefit veterans, he said the decision was a no-brainer.

Under Project9line, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that helps veterans reintegrate back into civilian life and helps those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, founder Patrick Donohue came up with the idea and had veteran comedians come in and teach a class to other veterans on how to perform and write his or her own material.

In March of 2015, the Veterans Comedy Assault Team performed for the first time at the Sayville VFW Post 433. According to Rago, despite it being a snowy evening, they had to turn people away because of how packed the venue was. That’s when the group realized that they had something special.

Patrick Donohue, found of Project 9 Line, gets the crowd going. Photo by Bob Savage
Patrick Donohue, found of Project 9 Line, gets the crowd going. Photo by Bob Savage

“I thought it was going to be one and done, but we had so much fun doing it and got such a big response that we realized we had a good product that we could keep going with,” Rago said.

The group performed a few more shows and held another training class this January before performing at the Centereach VFW Post 4927 — a bigger venue was needed due to another sold-out show.

One of the comedians, “Tugboat” Manny Erias, who performs his own stand-up act three nights a week, helped the team get into the Broadway Comedy Club in New York City.

“I kept saying, ‘We’re a block and a half away from the Ed Sullivan Theater,’” Rago joked excitedly. “Soon. One day.”

The group also performed at Comix Mohegan Sun, a comedy club on the grounds of the casino in Connecticut, and most recently held a benefit show at the Moose Lodge in Mount Sinai after Rago was approached by a veteran and recent divorcee with three children, who was on the verge of becoming homeless.

“I moved here from Florida and went through a divorce,” said the mother, who asked to remain anonymous. “I used all my savings. I tried to do the best I could. It became difficult.”

She reached out to the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program under the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and was turned away because she exhausted all of her resources. She said the VA told her because she wasn’t homeless yet, there was nothing else they could do for her, and that even if she was to become homeless, assistance was not guaranteed.

Audience member Elizabeth Trabold laughs during the show. Photo by Bob Savage
Audience member Elizabeth Trabold laughs during the show. Photo by Bob Savage

That’s when she called Rago’s office at the Suffolk County United Veterans Association for Mental Health and Wellness, where he is an outreach coordinator. When he heard about her situation, falling behind three months on her rent, he thought holding a comedy show to benefit her was the perfect solution.

So Rago made a call to Ron Romanska, who used to work at the Suffolk County Veterans Services Agency as an officer and is now involved in the Coalition of Veterans Organizations and a member of the Moose Lodge.

“I told him the story and that I wanted to do a comedy show and he said, ‘Okay, you want the Moose Lodge? You’ve got it.’ Just like that,” Rago said.

During the comedy show Aug. 27, which more than 100 people attended, the Veterans Comedy Assault Team raised nearly $2,500. The Moose Lodge chipped in $500 and the owner also handed Rago a personal check for $100, on top of the raffle prizes being donated from different stores and businesses.

“There’s nothing like making somebody laugh — it’s so much fun,” Rago said of the events. “Guys in the audience who suffer from PTSD tell us that for the hour and a half they had not a care in the world because they were laughing. It’s therapy.”

It’s also therapy for those involved, like Erias, a retired U.S. Navy Reservist who suffers from anxiety and depression, and goes to the Association of Mental Health and Wellness camps for help coping with his condition.

“We donate our time, money, energy and resources into this and it’s a great success,” he said. “There’s nothing better than helping someone else out by being able to do what we love. It’s the best feeling in the world. And you do it without looking for a return. I’m broke … I’m going for disability, my mother just passed away and I have so many things working against me to keep me down, but I go up there, and for me, it’s a coping skill. I make people laugh, and forget about life for a while.”

By Rebecca Anzel

Melonie smiled as she watched her son Justin-Joseph, or J.J. for short, land several backflips on the trampolines at West Hills Day Camp in Huntington on Saturday. The activities at Suffolk Aspergers/Autism Support and Information’s first annual Family Fun Day — zip lines, face painting, sand art and a water slide, in addition to the trampoline park — were the perfect outlet for J.J.’s vast supply of energy.

J.J. is on the autism spectrum — Melonie is, too. “People look at us differently,” she said. “For me, it’s important for J.J. not to have that painful experience.”

SASI, a not-for-profit support group that provides special needs families with helpful resources, provides that sense of community Melonie wants for J.J. Founded in the living room of co-founder Stephanie Mendelson on Dec. 4 of last year, SASI has grown from 12 parents to over 700 families throughout Suffolk County and across the rest of Long Island in eight months.

Co-founder Priscilla Arena said Family Fun Day was meant to be an event for children on the autism spectrum to have carefree fun, and a way for families to bond.

“[I’m excited] for our kids to make friends — to see them smile. Here, they’re part of one community.”

—Priscilla Arena

“[I’m excited] for our kids to make friends — to see them smile,” she said, tearing up. “Here, they’re part of one community. They are the popular kids in SASI.”

Mendelson and Arena, both from Mount Sinai, have children on the autism spectrum. They found there was a lack of resources on Long Island for families and formed SASI as a support group to fill that void.

“Parents found themselves lost, confused, hopeless, alienated, isolated and alone,” Arena said. “SASI created an environment where they could come together and share their stories and experiences.”

To its members, SASI provides information about available resources, advocacy, financial and emotional support. On the last Friday of every month, the group hosts speakers at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson — so far, families have heard from a representative from Parent to Parent, a state planning attorney, a Medicaid broker and a parent advocate for education.

The group’s first speaker, special education advocate Danielle Brooks, was at Family Fun Day giving free advice to families. She said SASI is a special organization because it built a caring network for families in a short period of time. The event, she said, was a great opportunity for children to have fun in a safe environment.

SASI also hosts a birthday party club for its member’s children, who range in ages from kids just shy of 3 years old to adults in their late 20s. Arena said children on the autism spectrum have difficulty making friends, so sometimes there are not many others to invite to a child’s birthday party. The group is also working on a lending library, which will help members borrow books donated to the organization; a job skills program; life coach program and blue pages resource handbook, which would help parents find services they need across the island.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she is “thrilled and excited” that Arena and Mendelson founded SASI. Instead of complaining about a lack of resources, she said, the SASI co-founders work hard to address issues.

“I think SASI will be able to address problems and advocate with a stronger, louder voice.”

—Sarah Anker

“I’m really supportive and beyond happy that Priscilla has taken this concern and made it into a centerpiece to gather around — creating this organization so people have a place to go for information and resources,” Anker said. “I think SASI will be able to address problems and advocate with a stronger, louder voice.”

The group has also gained the attention of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is sponsoring a bill to ensure Americans with disabilities have access to necessary health-care equipment.

“In Congress, one of my top priorities is ensuring that all Americans with disabilities have the resources they need to live independently and happily,” Zeldin wrote in a statement. “I thank the Suffolk Aspergers/Autism Support and Information group for their work in our community to help children and adults with disabilities.”

Family Fun Day was held at West Hills Day Camp in Huntington, a facility famous for its autism-friendly Gersh Academy. The facility donated the space for the event, which Anker said had about 800 attendees.

In addition to the attractions, the event also had refreshments from Crazy Crepes, Mr. Softee and Kona Ice. Families could purchase t-shirts or raffle tickets to win one of many donated baskets.

The event was just the first of many more to come, Arena said. “We’re new, but we’re just getting started.”

For Melonie, Family Fun Day was the perfect way to spend time with her son.

“It’s everything to see smiles on all the kids faces,” Melonie said. “They don’t get this a lot.”

by -
0 2855
Michael Larson was appointed the new assistant principal of Commack High School. Photo from Brenda Lentsch

By Joseph Wolkin

A new administrator will be walking the halls of Commack High School next week.
Michael Larson was appointed assistant principal of Commack High School this week, after working at the school since 2007.

Larson said he has been set on being an educator since he graduated high school.

Growing up, Larson wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in life. Over time, his love for American history developed into a greater passion for social studies, and eventually it led to him wanting to share his knowledge with others.

Working through the rankings at Commack High School since 2007, Larson went from serving as a secondary social studies teacher, to teaching history, economics and government to being named the school’s newest assistant principal.

Effective Aug. 15, Larson took over the position previously held by Commack High School’s newest principal, Leslie Boritz.

“I’m honored and humbled and honored to serve Commack in this capacity,” Larson said. “One of the things I’ve learned about working in this district for the past few years is that the leaders work very closely together.”

Last year, Larson was promoted to coordinator of student affairs, a position he says helped develop his friendship with Boritz. The job consisted of overseeing discipline and attendance, working with students who have conduct or attendance issues, along with any potential problems with student life at the high school.

“His experience working one-on-one as both a class and student council advisor and as coordinator of student affairs and attendance has provided insight into the culture and views of our children at the high school.”

—Donald James

No longer in the classroom when he was given the new role, Larson admittedly missed developing relationships with kids, which he worked with for 180 days out of the year. However, he said he was able to find a way to still connect with Commack students, even if he was no longer in the classroom with them.

“Having those experiences last year really helped advance my development as an administrator,” Larson said. “The fact that I’m now working as an assistant principal with some of the people who played an instrumental role in my development is truly a blessing.”

The Stony Brook native attended Stony Brook University for his undergraduate degree in 2004, and received a graduate degree from Plymouth State University in special education in 2006.

Superintendent Donald James said Larson will do great things for Commack.

“Michael is a dynamic educator, who is compassionate and committed to our students,” he said in an email. “His experience working one-on-one as both a class and student council advisor and as coordinator of student affairs and attendance has provided insight into the culture and views of our children at the high school. Michael’s commitment to the students, their parents and his fellow staff members is evident in his many accomplishments at Commack High.”

The decision to make Larson the school’s newest assistant principal, along with naming Boritz as the principal, was part of a ripple effect caused by the retirement news of Commack’s last principal, Catherine Nolan.

In June, Boritz was named as the school’s new principal, replacing Nolan, who retired after holding the position for the last five years. She was the assistant principal at the school since July 2011, in addition to serving as the assistant principal of Commack Middle School for 11 years.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Commack High School is ranked as the 87th best high school in New York out of over 1,200 listed.

Larson lives in Stony Brook and will continue making the approximately 20-minute commute daily to the school that has given him the opportunity to advance in the education world. For that, he said he is indeed thankful.

“The priority for me this year is the continuation of the excellence that has come to represent the Commack School District,” he said. “I want to make efforts to continue an excellent program that’s great in athletics, academics, extracurricular and co-curricular, and expand on the opportunities we’re presenting our students and enhance them as we move forward.”

Rose Andrews gives children a tour of her family’s farm. Photo by Doreen O’Connor

By Erin Dueñas

Nineteen-year-old Rose Andrews has no idea what it means to be bored. Part of the sixth generation of Andrews who work the land at Andrews Family Farm in Wading River, there is work to be done from sunrise till sunset.

Up by 6 a.m., Andrews’ days begin by collecting eggs from the farm’s hens. Throughout the day, she might cut sunflowers to sell at the stand, deliver fresh-picked corn, zucchini or tomatoes to a neighboring farm, help customers or tend to the animals, including goats and rabbits.

“Being bored just doesn’t exist when you farm,” said Andrews. “There’s not much you can do after sundown, but even then you are planning for the next day.”

Working alongside her three older brothers and her parents, the constant work that goes into farm life doesn’t faze the Wading River resident in the least. She currently attends the University of Connecticut, where she studies agriculture and natural resources and agribusiness. Before graduating from Shoreham-Wading River High School in 2015, she said she recalls hearing classmates make weekend plans to hit the mall or the beach. But being in the family business, Andrews knew she would be at the farm instead.

“It’s just always been what my life is — the constant responsibility of the farm,” she said. “Being a farmer, it never stops.”

Rose Andrews works the Andrews Family Farm stand in Wading River. Photo by Erin Dueñas;
Rose Andrews works the Andrews Family Farm stand in Wading River. Photo by Erin Dueñas

According to Andrews, she’s never resented the farm life and constant workflow to maintain it, even while others her age might be out at a party or with friends.

“I’ve always been pretty different and I feel fortunate to be brought up this way,” she said. “I never cared what other people do. This place doesn’t make me feel like I’m missing anything. It’s my favorite place in the world.”

Andrews credits her parents with instilling a strong work ethic in her, calling them the hardest working people she ever met.

“They brought us up that family matters and the farm matters,” Andrews said. “It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you love what you do.”

Her mother Denise Andrews concedes that there was little downtime for her kids growing up farmers. “There was no such thing as sleeping in past 7 a.m.,” she said. “The kids never had time for video games or television.”

Her children joined her at work on the farm as soon as they were old enough — a playpen was a common sight at the stand when the kids were still babies, and as young children, they pitched in.

Those early days working the land helped inspire Rose Andrews to begin Farm Days with Rose, a tour offered monthly to children interested in seeing how the farm operates.

“I want kids to see the farm as I did — as the best place in the world,” she said. 

But there’s a larger lesson she is trying to spread through the tours. She wants people to know where food comes from and why others should care, especially, she said, because when she talks to children about farming, most don’t know where their food comes from, or even what certain vegetables are.

Andrews added that the kids are fascinated to see that an onion is pulled right from the ground.

“They always love that and it’s something people should know,” she said.

Her mother also tries to educate people any chance she gets about food origins and why buying local is better.

“The food we sell here at the farm traveled 20 feet,” she said. “That should make you feel safe. The stuff from the grocery store could have traveled halfway around the world before you get it. That has such a big environmental impact.”

“Family matters and the farm matters. It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you love what you do.”

— Rose Andrews

According to the Rose Andrews, sustainability is one of the most important issues facing farmers and consumers alike.

“How can we sustain the environment and still feed a massive population around the world?” she asked. She thinks purchasing local food is one way to do that.

She also noted the benefits of keeping dollars in the local economy, as well as the higher nutrient content of preservative-free produce that is fresh picked. Then there’s the flavor.

“There’s a big difference in taste,” Andrews said. “Farm fresh is just better taste-wise.”

Longtime customer Claudia Schappert of Wading River is a big fan of that taste difference. She said the tomatoes she gets from Andrews Farm are her favorite.

“They are so sweet and delicious — I make fresh sauce from them,” she said. “[The Andrews] are just the best people with incredible produce and flowers.”

Schappert also added that she feels like she has watched Rose Andrews grow up over the years.

“I would describe her as a gentle soul,” she said, noting that her granddaughter has been on one of Rose’s farm tours. “She has become so knowledgeable in her profession and her dedication to eating good food.”

By Rebecca Anzel

In an unassuming shopping center on the corner of North Country and Sound Roads in Wading River, across from the duck pond, is one of the area’s best coffee shops. It has only been opened for six weeks, but there is already a stream of locals who stop in to Hudson Market every morning for the proper cup of coffee the sign out front promises.

The space is small and smells deliciously of fresh coffee — a far cry from the accounting office the space once was. Owner Anthony Coates, who was involved in politics in Suffolk County for about 40 years, transformed the yellow-tinged off-white walls and moldy shag carpeting into a quaint, sunny spot to get a cup of coffee and read the day’s newspaper or a book, which he says many come in to do.

Hudson Market is just one of North Brookhaven’s new eateries that has quickly become a community favorite — the Flying Pig Café on 25A in Miller Place and Go Burger on the same route in Mount Sinai are other spots that opened within the past few months and have been embraced by locals. Two other new food businesses to the area are Lemongrass Asian Fusion in Mount Sinai and Burrito Palace and Grill in Miller Place.

The summer season is often the busiest season for restaurants. Aside from supplying other dining options, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) pointed out that with new eateries come new jobs. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants in New York are expected to add the highest number of summer jobs of any other state — over 44,400 of them.

“We appreciate the diverse food options that’s opened up in our community,” Bonner said. “It’s a good thing.”

That idea — of opening a restaurant that served something not offered by another place — is what led Marianne Ferrandino to open the Flying Pig Café with her husband Jack Schwartz six months ago. The pair owns another restaurant in Center Moriches, called the Country Cottage, but they live in Miller Place.

A burger from Go Burger in Mount Sinai. Photo from Go Burger
A burger from Go Burger in Mount Sinai. Photo from Go Burger

“I felt that there was something missing from the area,” Ferrandino said. “There was a need for somewhere nice to go for breakfast where you could have a nicer experience than just going to a diner.”

Modeling the new restaurant’s concept after Sarabeth’s in New York City, the Flying Pig Café serves upscale American comfort food with new specials each week, but offers it in a much different setting, with ceramic pigs and canvas paintings modeling the large spotted pig statue outside. For breakfast, customers can get traditional eggs, omelets and pancakes, but they can also get the Café’s more playful breakfast burger, granola crusted French toast and crab Benedict. Ferrandino recommended the famous cinnamon bun pancakes.

Mario Gambino and Marie Desch said their first experience at the Flying Pig Café was a great one. They described the menu as “extensive,” and after looking it over, settled on omelets. “We would definitely come back,” Desch said, looking over at Gambino as he nodded in agreement. “It is very clean inside and the decor is nice.”

The lunch offerings at the Flying Pig Café are just as creative as the breakfast ones — the cranberry almond chicken salad is a best seller, and the half-pound burger options are popular as well. Ferrandino said the burgers are made with a custom blend of ground beef and served on a big brioche bun. She added that the Flying Pig Café also uses artisanal breads baked especially for them.

Breakfast and lunch are the two most popular meals — breakfast on the weekends and lunch during the week. Both are served seven days per week, with dinner offered Thursday through Saturday. Ferrandino recommended the homemade herbed meatloaf and gravy, braised short ribs and half herb roasted free range chicken.

“Our portions are enormous,” she said. “We want people to feel they’re getting a really good value for their money.”

Prices at the Flying Pig Café range from $4 to $12 for starters and salads at $7 to $18 for entrees. Dinner is a bit more expensive.

Serving good food to customers is also something the owners of Go Burger value. Christine Donofrio, who owns the joint with her husband Philip, said their motto is “fresh, quality and family friendly.” She said the burgers are delivered fresh every day from a top New York meat distributor; the potatoes are the top-grade ones available each season and are fresh cut each day; and the ice cream, the only thing ever frozen, is from a company that specializes in the treat.

“We only use the freshest, best ingredients,” Donofrio said. “We strive to get and provide the very best so families can come out for good food and not spend a million bucks.”

Go Burger started as just a food truck on Middle Country Road in Ridge near a pizzeria the couple owns. The Donofrios were looking to open another truck but realized they would be limited in the amount of food they could serve because any new truck would not be parked as close to one of their other businesses. When an opportunity arose to buy the L.I. Burger brick-and-mortar location in Mount Sinai, they took it.

Customers from their truck come to this location for dinner — Donofrio said they love that they can sit inside and eat. This location allowed for an expanded menu from the one on the food truck. Starters, such as onion rings, sweet potato fries and a cup of chili, were added to the restaurant’s menu, as were salads and desserts.

“There was a need for somewhere nice to go for breakfast where you could have a nicer experience than just going to a diner.”

— Marianne Ferrandino

The real deal ice cream sandwich, made with in-restaurant baked chocolate chip cookies and ice cream, is the most popular of the newly added desserts. A customer favorite that was carried over to this location is Go Burger’s milkshakes, which come in the traditional flavors of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry as well as the weekly specials Donofrio concocts.

“Everything here is customizable — it’s all up to you,” she said. “Build it the way you want it.”

Nothing on Go Burger’s menu is over $9, unless a customer adds a lot of extra toppings to a burger. The restaurant is opened daily, but if you’re in the Ridge area, you can still find the food truck if you’re looking for a quick fix.

For Anthony Coates, opening Hudson Market was a “labor of love.” He was running for Riverhead Town Supervisor in 2015 and jokingly said that if he was not successful, he would open a shop in the strip across from the duck pond.

Hudson Market specializes in coffee — it is the only thing made in-house. Coates said he searched high and low for the best quality coffee beans he could find, and he cycles between the blends he found, such as variety coffee roasters from Brooklyn. He also searched for the best types of coffee prep machines to brew the “hearty” cup of coffee he was after.

Coates organized this business, where prices range anywhere from $2 for a regular cup of coffee to $4 for specialty coffee drinks and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., with few moving parts so it was easier to run.

“Everything here is miniaturized,” he said, smiling.

After looking around at other businesses in the area, he decided Hudson Market would exclusively focus on making excellent coffee beverages as opposed to also preparing bagels or breakfast sandwiches, which customers come in asking for sometimes. “I didn’t want to set up a ‘me too’ business,” he said.

Customers can purchase baked goods, such as muffins, scones, biscotti and cookies, made by D’Latte in Greenport. Hudson Market also carries bottled drinks, New-York-style hot pretzels, cinnamon buns (but only on the weekends) and pies during the holidays. Neighborhood children ride up on bicycles in the afternoons and scrape money out of their pockets for candy he stocks specifically with them in mind.

His inspiration was the many businesses that were community touchstones in the Three Village area where he grew up.

“I wanted to make a little slice of that here by the duck pond,” he said. “Improving the community really starts at the most basic level, and it does my heart good to have a business here.”

Kylar Intravaia at a press conference with Girl Scouts of America CEO Anna Chavez and Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo from Jenn Intravaia

Skylar Intravaia was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 9, but never let her high-functioning form of autism hold her back.

“A lot of that has to do with how we dealt with her diagnosis,” her mother Jenn Intravaia said. “We immediately brought her to the library to learn about her diagnosis. We told her she’s not broken — she’s just different. We told her she may have to learn things differently, or learn to do things differently, but that she can do anything she wants to do. That’s how we’ve approached everything. And she’s done fabulous.”

Skylar Intravaia at her Gold Award ceremony. Photo from Jenn Intravaia
Skylar Intravaia at her Gold Award ceremony. Photo from Jenn Intravaia

So fabulously that she graduated from Rocky Point High School this past weekend, and also earned her Girl Scout Gold Award after completing 80 hours of volunteer service on a self-made project that makes a difference in the community.

Skylar Intravaia’s project was fitting for the senior. She realized that there were more students at various points on the autism spectrum in her community than she first thought, and wanted to help kids the way she was helped, in learning to adjust to and deal with her diagnosis.

“I know I had trouble socializing with other kids and making friends when I was younger, and as I got older, I was able to understand that better and I had many more friends,” she said. “Now I’m much more social, but a lot of kids on the autism spectrum don’t get that. I knew I wanted to do something.”

What resulted was the creation of a recreation night. Letters were handed out to nearly 60 kids in the area, and those who wished to attend got together to hang out outside of school, whether it were playing games and just socializing or going out to play laser tag or make plaster paintings.

“I just wanted to figure out something that would help everyone get through what I was facing, because I knew it was so hard for me to get those social skills,” Intravaia said. “I knew it would make things easier while also being really fun.”

The project became so successful that kids would come up to her in the hallway asking when the next meeting was, or she’d receive emails from parents saying how much fun their children had or how much the program was helping.

Skylar Intravaia, on right, and her young Girl Scout friends. Photo from Jenn Intravaia
Skylar Intravaia, on right, and her young Girl Scout friends. Photo from Jenn Intravaia

Although running into some difficulties, as the North Shore Youth Council stopped letting her hold meetings there, she received help from the girls at CreativeZone in Rocky Point, who let her move the meetings there for free.

“Despite some of the challenges along her journey, she was able to come up with some ways around those, and I’m very proud of her,” said Donna McCauley, one of Intravaia’s troop leaders and the service unit team registrar and Gold Award coordinator for Rocky Point. “I was really impressed with her ability to advocate for herself and problem solve along the way. I knew she was going to incorporate that into her project, because it needed to be something they’re passionate about. She’s very mature, reached out and asked for help, and I was really proud to see her accomplishments.”

Following receiving her award, Intravaia said she had many unique opportunities, such as meeting Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Suffolk County Legislature Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and opening NASDAQ.

Anker said she was honored to have met someone so motivated.

Jenn and Skylar Intravaia after Rocky Point graduation last week. Photo from Jenn Intravaia
Jenn and Skylar Intravaia after Rocky Point graduation last week. Photo from Jenn Intravaia

“I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Skylar for receiving her Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts,” she said. “She’s amazing. Through her hard work and dedication, she has overcome challenges in her life to help others and is a source of inspiration for her community.”

Intravaia has benefited immensely from Girl Scouts. She’s been known to always help others, whether it be offering to fold laundry for the elderly, stopping to pick up items dropped by a passerby, or beautifying her community.

“She’s been able to do anything she’s set her mind to,” Jenn Intravaia said.

Her daughter will be attending St. Francis College, where she will live this fall, and continue to help those around her.

“She’s learned about community service, how to accept people, it’s been a wonderful experience,” Intravaia said. “She was able to speak to her classmates about what it’s like to have autism, and explained how her brain just operated differently. She started speaking at assemblies and started to become an advocate. I think part of that is because of Girl Scouts. She learned not to hide. She’s a very strong-willed girl. It’s allowed her to be successful.”

Above, the cover of Darlene Sells Treadwell’s new book

By Colm Ashe

Above, the cover of Darlene Sells Treadwell’s new book
Above, the cover of Darlene Sells Treadwell’s new book

In terms of social prevalence, bigotry and sexism have decreased dramatically over the last century. However, many still remember a world where minorities and women were considered second-class citizens. Darlene Sells Treadwell is one of those people.

In her new book, “The Bittersweet Taste of the American Dream,” the 74-year Setauket native tells the true story of her grandmother — a Native American with African roots and a special knack for cooking who fell prey to a cutthroat corporate money game.

Treadwell, who currently resides in Georgia, will be traveling to Long Island this weekend to present copies of her book to the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library and the Three Village Historical Society. She will hold a book signing event where she will share her family story with the attendees. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Treadwell by phone.

What can you tell me about your grandmother?

Her name was Ms. Emma Francis Calvin Sells of Old Field, Long Island, New York, and she was apart of the Setauket Indian Tribe. She was also of African American descent. She was the daughter of Clifford and Abby, and married Charles Augustus Sells of Setauket on Jan. 11, 1917, at the age of 18. She was my heroine in the kitchen. I always imagined her as a Black Native American Julia Child. If she was around today she would be on all these new cooking shows! Instead, she died heartbroken and disillusioned from her trust in the big buys and the industry… that they would do the right thing.

How did the cooking industry take advantage of Grandma Em?

They stole her recipe. They began the process slowly, never blatantly, but persistently eased knowledge of the recipe away. I have a letter from The National Biscuit Company asking her to bring in four bags and to identify the ingredients. She even tried to reach out to her hero, Jackie Robinson, to intervene when she realized she’d been had. This transgression prevented her from accumulating her rightful place in history. I have all of the proof in the book: letters between attorneys and employees at the National Biscuit Company, names and signatures, her recipes.

When did she realize her recipe had been stolen?

1949. She was at the supermarket when she saw the first ever Ready-to-Use Corn Bread Mix on the shelf — with her recipe on the back of the box. She dropped to her knees crying in the middle of the aisle, realizing the last 12 years of working with the National Biscuit Company to make her dream a reality were nothing but a scam.

How was the story passed on to you?

When Grandma Em died at the age of 74, we slowly went through her list of belongings. We came across a blue hat box. And this was handed to me, that’s how I wrote the book. Upon opening, I unfolded years of sentimental holdings to her heritage, her recipes and her lost dreams. It was given to me to decipher what went wrong and slowly, piece by piece, I carefully, and tearfully, read her notes and recipes. And I could feel her frustration and pain and suffering as she waited patiently for news from patent attorneys and inventors. I read and wept as they lead her on and on, sent her to their New York offices in vain, to sit and wait and wait. From 1937 to 1949.

Why did you want to write this book?

I want to make peace with this injustice and I want to see if they want to right a wrong. No civil attorney can help me because the companies can change one ingredient and it’s no longer litigable. Plus, it’s too late. That corporation (now called Nabisco) benefited from the free labor and ideas of my little old grandma. I wanted to give Grandma Em the power and the humanity that was denied to her that time in history. I just wanted to … publicly honor her ingenuity and entrepreneurial achievements. I’m the last surviving member of the family. I’m 74. When I’m gone, that blue hat box is gone. I wanted to write the book so she could receive her accolades. I did not want to die with her story untold. I don’t want to publicize myself. I really just want to give honor to my Grandma.

Will you be holding any book
signings in our area?

I’m doing a book signing at the Three Village Historical Society. They have an exhibit on the Setauket Indians now — the tribe my grandmother was apart of. I’ll be there on Sunday, July 3, from 2 to 4 p.m., but the reading starts at 3.

You can join the Times Beacon Record at Darlene’s book signing as she recounts this tragic, yet hopeful story of a local Setauket legend who deserves her place in history. The Three Village Historical Society is located at 93 North Country Road in Setauket. For more information, please call 631-751-3730.

Tommy and Sue Sullivan pose for a photo in front of their soon-to-be old, Superstorm Sandy-damaged house prior to revamping. With hard hats on, the two prepare to help Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County help renovate their home. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Tommy Sullivan has always been paying it forward.

So when Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk reached out to help renovate his Sandy-damaged home, he said he was overcome with emotion.

“We’re really overwhelmed by this,” Tommy Sullivan said of he and his wife Sue’s reaction to the help and support they’ve received. “It was looking hopeless for us for a while. We couldn’t have done this ourselves. It was just way, way too much work and, again, we’re just so overwhelmed and happy and just very, very grateful.”

The effort to help the Sullivan family started when members of the VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point heard about the damage done to the Rocky Point home. When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, the house sustained roof damage that could not be repaired. As time went on, the damages became worse, which rendered the house unlivable for Tommy Sullivan, a U.S. army veteran, and his wife Sue, a substitute teacher. The family was forced to spend several nights out staying at friends’ homes.

The front of the Sullivan's house shows the exterior and roof damage brought on by Superstorm Sandy. Photo by Desirée Keegan
The front of the Sullivan’s house shows the exterior and roof damage brought on by Superstorm Sandy. Photo by Desirée Keegan

But John Rago, outreach coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs project known as the Suffolk County United Veterans group, stepped up to help the Sullivans find sanctuary when he met Diane Burke, executive director and CEO at Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County at a luncheon in Patchogue back in March.

At a meeting for the Community Development Corporation of Long Island, Rago explained the program’s support and services for veteran families, which included a rapid-rehousing and homeless prevention program for veterans.

“We were reaching dead ends all over the place and I happened to be sitting at the luncheon across from Diane and I introduced myself,” he said. “I asked her if she did teardown and rebuilds, and she said yes, so I started to tell her about Tommy and before I even finished she said, ‘We’re in.’”

Burke said she was more than happy to help who she saw as such a well-deserved recipient.

“I thought, ‘We have to make this happen,’ and we just put the pieces together and we’re here to support a local veteran to recreate a place to call home,” Burke said of the initiative. “Not only did Tom serve our country, but he continues to serve our community, so that is absolutely what we’re about. It’s great to partner with somebody who understands volunteerism and actually lives it.”

Tommy Sullivan was a member of the West Point band for three years when he served during the Vietnam War. He is an original member of Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge, a musical group best known for their million-selling rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “The Worst That Could Happen,” and has been performing solo since then at charity organizations and events.

Some events include Long Island State Veterans Home’s annual Golf Classic, Wounded Warrior Project events, Rocky Point high school’s Veteran’s Day and 9/11 ceremonies. Just last Friday, the veteran sang at cancer benefit for a friend with brain cancer.

“When people with a good cause call, we never turn it down, because that’s it’s own reward,” he said. “Whenever I get a call, especially from the vet’s organizations, I’m there. I set up my stuff and I sing, and it feels great to have this support. We’re all the same kind of people here and it’s special because it’s all about the heart. Everyone here has a big heart and we’re just very happy.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who said she knows the Sullivans as longtime residents, said the work Tommy Sullivan does for his community is extraordinary.

“It’s a very exciting time for all of us to be able to help them because they’ve helped so many people through their advocacy and their volunteering,” she said. “He has the voice of an angel. It’ll bring goose bumps to you. It really, really will.”

The councilwoman also said she sees the family as more than deserving of this renovation.

“They pay it forward all the time,” Bonner said. “They never ask for anything in return, and they’ve fallen on some difficult times — probably from volunteering so much and not asking for money. Helping is so easy to do, and it’s the best part of my job. I believe it is part of the main reason why we have public service, such as council people.”

The work for the eight-week project began on Oct. 19 with several different projects including reframing and reroofing; the installation of new electric, plumbing; new interior fixtures; remodeling to the flooring, kitchen and bathroom; and new windows and doors throughout the home.

“I’m very happy that they decided to help Tommy and Susan out and I can’t wait until we give them the keys to their brand new house,” Rago said. “It’s nice to help a veteran, especially one that gives back so much to the veteran community.”

Sue Sullivan said she was excited to remain in the couple’s same home they’ve lived in since 1996, and said the love and care she has received is what she believes life is all about.

“Everyone taking care of everybody — we dedicate our lives to that,” she said. “This is the most wonderful thing that could happen in our lives besides marrying each other. As community members, we want everyone to know we’re here for them for anything. If you need us, we’ll come. Everything that everyone is doing and the way they’re contributing, they’re our family now, and that’s just a forever family.

Family is the most important thing in Mario's life. She celebrated her 108th birthday in February. Photo from Elaine Campanella

Much has changed since Anna Mario lived in her first-floor Brooklyn apartment back in the 1920s.

In those days, people were friendlier, they said hello to each other, and they were more attached to their friends and neighbors, according to the 108-year-old, who now lives in St. James Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

“People are more independent now. They don’t help each other, they think they are better than you,” Mario said. “I don’t want to be better than anyone, I want to be what I am and I’m happy,” she said.

A positive outlook has always played a part in her life, according to Mario’s daughter Elaine Campanella of Hauppauge.

“She’s got a good attitude,” Campanella said. “She believes that anything you do, you do with happiness. She says if you smile, the world smiles back at you.”

One of seven children, Mario was born in New York City in 1907. She worked in the garment industry as a machine operator in a factory that made pajamas.

“I worked most of my life and I loved every minute of it,” she said. “We made the most beautiful nightgowns.”

Mario’s husband passed away in 1975, but she stayed in Brooklyn until 1990 when she moved out to Port Jefferson Station. Campanella said her mother remained active after the move, taking bus trips to Atlantic City and participating in senior clubs, even becoming president of one.

According to Campanella, no one in Mario’s family has lived past 100 years old, let alone 108. Mario’s father died when he was 80 and her mother at 62.

Campanella doesn’t think there is a secret to her mother’s longevity, but she did say she always cooked well and she rarely took medication except for the occasional dose of Tums. Her faith always remained important to her.

“If anyone was in trouble or sick she would say a prayer and say it was in God’s hands,” Campanella said.

She said her mother always lived a simple life, never shying away from crises but always handling it as best she could.

“She always tells everyone that if you have a problem, you deal with it. If there is nothing you can do, then you move on.”

Mario lived on her own until she was 106 years old, doing all of her own cooking and cleaning. Heart problems that year put her in the nursing home, where she has been ever since.

“I have a nice life here,” Mario said of the nursing home. “Everyone is friendly and I have a nice time. If I can’t be home, this is the place to be. They make me feel at home.”

She occasionally leaves the nursing home to join her family for holidays and special events, she said.

According to Lori Sorrentino, recreational therapist at St. James, Mario keeps busy practicing tai chi, socializing with friends, dancing in her wheelchair at facility dance events and playing Bingo, one of her favorite pastimes.

Sorrentino called Mario “very spunky,” adding that she has had a great attitude since coming to the facility over a year ago.

“She is very funny and very inspirational. She is just full of life and age does not stop her,” Sorrentino said. “She always says that its good friends and family that keep her going.”

Mario’s family includes four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Campanella said her mother hates to see the younger generation glued to iPods and cell phones.

“It’s just not social — she sees it as detachment,” Campanella said. “It hurts her.”

At her 108th birthday celebration last month, Mario made a toast to her family, urging them to avoid that detachment.

“She made everyone cry when she said how much she wanted the family to stay together,” Campanella said. “Family is what she loves about life. That is her philosophy.”

Social

9,214FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,131FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe