Times of Middle Country

One Newfield high school student is driving in style thanks to Make-a-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County.

Right before Newfield High School’s homecoming game Sept. 22, the nonprofit presented 17-year-old Conor Wesch with a special wish — his grandfather’s 2006 Chevy Impala SS restored. The Newfield senior was referred to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December. The nonprofit grants the wish of those between 2 ½ years- and 18-years-old and battling a critical illness.

Kellie Ryan, community relations manager for MAW in Suffolk County, said Wesch was told his grandfather’s car, which had sentimental value for him, wouldn’t be completed until a few weeks later. The nonprofit wanted to surprise him at homecoming because the Middle Country Booster Club and members of the community raised funds for the car refurbishment.When Wesch heard the announcement before the homecoming game to come down to the field, Ryan said he sprinted to his car and was surprised and delighted.

In addition to the Middle Country Booster Club making Wesch’s dream possible, local businesses contributed time and material to refurbish the Impala. Michael Calvitto, owner of Class Act Auto Collision, restored the vehicle, while Pioneer USA, Grand Prix Auto Stereo & Alarm, Reliable Rim Repair Inc., and Miller Place Auto Upholstery have contributed to its restoration which included new upholstery, rims and a stereo sound system.

Wesch, who received his driver’s license in July, envisions himself driving his new car to the beach and enjoying road trips with friends, according to a MAW press release.

 

The Centereach girls varsity soccer team edged out the Huntington Blue Devils for the win, 2-1, Sept. 20 while on the road.

This improved Centereach’s record to 4-1 in Division I competition. Watch the Cougars play as they host Riverhead at 6 pm. Friday and also host Brentwood Sept. 24 at 4 p.m.

The loss drops Huntington to a 1-3-1 record. The Blue Devils will travel to Central Islip Sept. 22 at noon before coming home to host Newsfield at 4 p.m. Sept. 24.

SUNY students work together with the nonprofit Nechama to repair roofs in Puerto Rico. Photo from Joseph WanderVaag

As Puerto Rico continues to recover a year after Hurricane Maria left devastation in its wake, some college students reflected on lasting memories of their missions to the island to offer help and support.

Joe VanderWaag helps to repair a roof in Puerto Rico. Photo from Joseph VanderWaag

This past summer more than 650 State University of New York and City University of New York students along with skilled labor volunteers helped to repair homes on the island through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, according to the governor’s website. During a 10-week span, five deployments of volunteers worked on the island with the goal of repairing the roofs of 150 homes. By the end of the summer, the volunteers fixed the roofs of 178.

Peter Velz, SUNY assistant vice chancellor for external affairs, said since October 2017 the university system was working on engagement with Puerto Rico. On March 16 students from SUNY Alfred State and Geneseo went down for a week.

He said he believes the interaction with the homeowners was probably the most impactful for the students, and the residents they met in Puerto Rico tried to pay them back the best they could.

“It wasn’t paying them back financially,” Velz said. “Kids would make them bracelets or kids would make them pictures or the families would make them lunch. I really think that was probably the most lasting impact for the students, was working in the homes with the homeowners and providing them shelter.”

Rebecca Mueller, one of 21 Stony Brook University students who volunteered, traveled to the island in July, as did Joseph VanderWaag, who attends Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus.

“I wish there was more that we could do. But I think that the main goal for the organization, while we were there, was to make it livable at that point.”

— Rebecca Mueller

Mueller, 23, of Coram, a graduate student working toward her master’s in social work, said when she received an email from SBU looking for students to travel to Puerto Rico she knew she had to help.

“I knew things there still weren’t that great from hearing different stories, and I felt like not as much help was given to them as it should have been,” she said. “So, when I saw an opportunity where I could actually help to do something, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.”

VanderWaag, 20, of Smithtown, who is in his last semester at SCCC, echoed those sentiments.

“It was so devastating to see that these were our citizens not really getting any help,” he said.

Traveling to Catano and surrounding towns where her group was working, Mueller said she saw houses with no roofs, windows or doors. She worked on three homes during her stay, and said the students would climb to the top of roofs and roofers with the nonprofit NECHAMA — Jewish Response to Disaster showed them what to do.

Rebecca Mueller, above right, and a friend get ready to patch leaks with cement. Photo from Rebecca Mueller

Two of the buildings she worked on had second stories before Hurricane Maria, but the upper levels were destroyed by the storm, and the volunteers had to turn what was left into roofs by scraping up tiles, finding cracks, grinding them to open them up and then sealing with cement. The volunteers then primed and sealed the new roofs to make them waterproof.

“I wish there was more that we could do,” Mueller said “But I think that the main goal for the organization, while we were there, was to make it livable at that point. Because they couldn’t even live in the houses because every time it rained water was pouring through the ceiling.”

Mueller said she also helped to clean out one man’s bedroom that was unlivable after water damage from the storm. The room had mold and bugs, and his bed, clothes and other items needed to be thrown out.

VanderWaag said the homeowners he met didn’t have a lot of money so whenever there was a leak they would go to the hardware store for a quick fix to patch the roof. When the students weren’t working, he said they would talk to community members about the hurricane’s devastation and the response from the U.S.

“They are a mixture of upset, angry and feeling just almost betrayed,” he said.

VanderWaag said he’ll always remember how appreciative the homeowners were and how one woman cried after they were done. Her husband who was in his 70s would try his best to fix the leaks by carrying bags of concrete up a ladder and patching the leaks.

“It was a huge burden lifted off their shoulders,” VanderWaag said.

“They are a mixture of upset, angry and feeling just almost betrayed.”

— Joseph VanderWaag

Mueller said one family cooked lunch for her group and others working on the house next door every day. She said the students had time to sightsee, and when one tour guide heard what they were doing, he offered to take them on a free tour of the south side of the island. Both she and VanderWaag also visited Old San Juan and saw historic military forts during their trips.

“It really was a life-changing experience,” Mueller said. “Even the people I met from the other SUNY schools, we became so close so quick.”

Pascale Jones, SBU international programs coordinator, joined students for a week to help out. She said when she saw the students in action, she was amazed at how much they already knew about construction and found the whole experience to be humbling.

Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jones said she is used to seeing a certain level of devastation but was surprised to see the state of some of the homes.

“It’s Puerto Rico and these are U.S. citizens,” Jones said. “So, I did not expect this devastation so long after the hurricane’s passing. To think, U.S. citizens are living in a way that I would almost equate to a third world country.”

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Centereach High School hosted the William Floyd Colonials varsity field hockey team Sept. 15 with the Cougars beating the Colonials 6-1.

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Suffolk County Police Department 6th squad detectives are investigating an incident in which a man and woman were shot in Centereach and later died from the injuries.

The 6th Precinct officers responded to a 911 report of two injured people in a car on Washington Avenue at approximately 8 p.m. Sept. 11, according to police. When officers arrived they found the woman in the driver’s seat of a 2014 Kia Soul with a gunshot wound to the head and the man in the passenger’s seat with a gunshot wound to the head. A firearm was recovered inside the vehicle.

Police have identified Erick Horton, 48, of Coram, and Stacy Rountree, 48, of Coram, as the of the incident. Horton and Rountree have both died from their injuries following the shooting, according to police.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about the incident to call 631-854-8652.

This post was updated Sept. 14 following updates from the police on the victims’ status.

Children remove the tarp covering the sign in front of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook. Adrienne Lauren Photography

A Three Village community group once again is taking a stand against injustice.

On Sept. 9, after their Homecoming Sunday service, members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook unveiled a sign that asserts the congregation members stances on social justice and human dignity issues. The unveiling wasn’t the first time the congregation declared its beliefs for all to see. In 2016, the members erected a Black Lives Matter sign. During the months it was displayed, the sign was vandalized numerous times and residents against it sent various emails, according to the Rev. Margie Allen. The sign was eventually taken down.

Visitors attend the unveiling of the sign. Adrienne Lauren Photography

Allen said the current sign, just like the former, is located in front of the building and placed so drivers traveling north on Nicolls Road can see it. The sign reads: “Love is Love; Climate Change is Real; Black Lives Matter; No Human Being is Illegal; Women’s Rights are Human Rights; and All Genders are Whole, Holy & Good.” A different color of the rainbow highlights each line on the sign.

The UUFSB acquired the sign from the Unitarian Universalist Association, according to Allen. Town hall meetings were held at the sanctuary to discuss whether or not to erect a sign, and the congregation was able to choose it from several options and then modified the colors and changed the order of the declarations.

“This banner is the fulfillment of multiple votes of the congregation to put up a sign that will let our community know that we believe — we affirm — the worth and dignity of every human being,” Allen said, adding while it includes the black lives matters message, it broadens the example of who deserves access to the American Dream.

On the day of the unveiling ceremony, Allen said the congregants sang and held a procession from the sanctuary to the sign, listened to a few introductory words from Barbara Coley, co-chair of the Racial Concerns Committee, and then children cut the ropes of the tarp that was covering it. Each statement was read by an individual, and the crowd echoed it. Before heading back to the sanctuary, Allen led the group in a dedication prayer.

“I’m just really proud that the congregation as a whole has made a powerful effort to figure out how to have the kinds of conversations that we actually need in every community in our country and nationally,” Allen said. “The kind of conversations in which people who have different views come to understand the places where their views overlap and then agree to stand in those places that overlap as a community so our voices as a whole can be heard.”

Chris Filstrup, president of the board, said the board members strongly supported the installation of the sign, and congregation members were discussing a new sign for a year. He said he hopes drivers passing by will read it, enjoy it and think about the points.

“It’s a statement,” he said. “It’s our statement. These are the things which are important to us.”

He said he admires Allen for encouraging the congregants to do something, and he said the board is committed to it staying.

“We have a policy,” he said. “We’re not putting it up to invite vandalism or anything, but if there is, we will involve the authorities. We’re going to keep this sign up one way or another.”

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue High School hosted Centereach in a boys soccer nonleague match Sept. 1 prior to the start of their respective league schedules. The teams tied 1-1.

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Students in the Middle Country Central School District returned to school Sept. 5, and readers responded to our request for first day of school photos.

Setauket Elementary School students were ready for the first day of classes, Sept. 5. 2017. File photo by Rita J. Egan

It’s back to school time, and we want to help you commemorate the occasion. If your child attends one of the following school districts and you’d like to submit a photo of their first day of school attire, them boarding or arriving home on the school bus, or waiting at the bus stop, we may publish it in the Sept. 6 issues of Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Just include their name, district and a photo credit, and send them by 12 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5 with the subject line “Back to school,” and then be sure to check Thursday’s paper.

Email The Village Times Herald and The Times of Middle Country editor Rita J. Egan at rita@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Three Village School District
  • Middle Country School District

Email The Times of Huntington & Northports and The Times of Smithtown editor Sara-Megan Walsh at sara@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Huntington School District
  • Northport-East Northport School District
  • Harborfields School District
  • Elwood School District
  • Smithtown School District
  • Commack School District
  • Kings Park School District

Email The Port Times Record and The Village Beacon Record editor Alex Petroski at alex@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Port Jefferson School District
  • Comsewogue School District
  • Miller Place School District
  • Mount Sinai School District
  • Shoreham-Wading River School District
  • Rocky Point School District

Happy back to school!

On Aug. 23, the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook hosted a 4-on-4 volleyball tournament with local fire departments, including Setauket, Centereach and Selden, competing to win and raise money for the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation. The money raised will help to buy “bailout systems,” which are personal escape kits, for fire departments in need all over the country.

The winners of the $1,000 prize money were members of New York City Fire Department’s Watkins Station Engine 231/Ladder 120 — Darren Fenton, Patrick Tulley, Connor Norman and Anthony Edrehi. The tournament winners and John-Paul Sabbagh, from the Terryville Fire Department who won the event’s 50/50 raffle, donated their winnings back to the foundation.

The event cost $20 to enter, and the tournament was judged by John Tsunis, owner of the hotel; Joe DiBernardo Sr.; and Leah Dunaief, publisher of Times Beacon Record News Media. Dan Keller from Stony Brook University’s athletics department served as referee.

Tsunis said the hotel hopes to make the tournament an annual event, adding, “It was a lot of fun to have all the firefighters there and all the community members we recruited to play.”

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