Village Beacon Record

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From left, Valerie Sanks and Linda Scalcione with the many blankets donated this year. Photo from Scalcione

By Ernestine Franco

Everyone likes to curl up with a warm blanket as temperatures drop. So do the dogs and cats that live at the various animal shelters around Long Island. One Rocky Point woman is helping shelter animals keep warm one blanket at a time.

A few years ago Valerie Sanks and her son Matt decided to collect blankets that would be donated to the shelters for the animals.  During the holiday season in 2013 they collected 150 blankets.

In 2014 Sanks placed a post on her Facebook page requesting donations of blankets. By Dec. 17 of that year, her house was overtaken by 610 blankets, 600 cat-nip toys, and many boxes of dog biscuits and cat treats.

This year her goal is to collect 1,080 blankets and 2,000 cat toys as well as treats for all the animals that will be spending this holiday in one of the many shelters across Long Island. Throughout the year Sanks volunteers at the Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southhold shelters. The blankets and toys that she collects will be distributed to these shelters.

Linda Scalcione, a friend of Sanks and a Rocky Point resident, said that Valerie and her son “visit, help train and walk the dogs at the different shelters. Valerie goes above and beyond your average volunteer. She wants the dogs and cats that spend time at the shelters to be comfortable and for them to feel loved.”

If you would like to help Sanks reach her goal of helping shelter animals spend a warm holiday, friend her on Facebook or send donations to P.O. Box 262, Rocky Point, NY 11778. You can also send any blankets or donations to any of the three shelters: Brookhaven at 631-451-6950, Riverhead at 631-369-6189 and Southold at 631-765-1811. They all know Valerie Sanks.

Of course, if instead of donating a blanket, you want to provide a home for one of the animals, that would be great with Sanks. After all, all she wants is “for all the animals to one day have their fur-ever homes!”

Richard Panico, of Miller Place, speaks as the Friends of Karen’s honoree at the organization's Long Island Gala. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Richard Panico is a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.

So it took some convincing when Friends of Karen wanted to honor Panico, a Miller Place resident, for his charitable nature during their third annual Long Island Gala on Friday, Dec. 4, at the Stonebridge Country Club in Smithtown. The organization’s Regional Director, Nancy Mariano, approached Panico earlier this year, asking to spotlight him at the event. Initially, he wasn’t thrilled with the idea.

“I read this somewhere [that] if more than one person knows you did a good deed, it’s no longer a good deed,” Panico said. “So … to me it’s just not necessary to have that kind of ego.”

Panico got involved with Friends of Karen three years ago when he purchased the building on Perry Street in Port Jefferson that the organization operates out of. Currently, Panico’s company Symbio, which provides clinical trial management services for pharmaceutical companies, and Friends of Karen share the building. He turned his efforts toward helping the organization, which aims to offer emotional and financial support to families of children with life-threatening illnesses, but his efforts didn’t start with Friends of Karen.

In 2003, one year after Panico’s company was established, he kickstarted its annual bike-a-thon at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It held the fundraiser for seven years and raised more than $50,000.

“It was good for the company,” said Susan Swamback, an employee of Symbio. “It was good for all of us to feel like a team. … He loves that.”

Swamback also helped with the annual bike-a-thon, but the fundraising stopped after the company didn’t raise as much money as it had hoped, despite its efforts.

Over the past few years, Panico has donated skin creams to families that frequent hospitals and helped one child and his family attend a New York Mets baseball game. Panico’s nephew Tom McGuire added that his uncle also tries to help his family and friends.

During the gala, Mariano said Panico “is the kindest most generous father, husband and friend to all.” Mariano added that the organization was proud to acknowledge Panico at the event.

While the gala was a means to highlight people like Panico, it also helps Friends of Karen raise awareness and money to further its mission. In the organization’s 37 years, it’s helped around 5,500 sick children and their families. Panico said the organization works hard to achieve its goal, and even continued his own effort to help the organization during his honoree speech.

“If you are able to donate — if you’re able to buy raffle tickets, if you’re able to [participate] in the silent auctions, that would be fantastic,” Panico said during the gala. “If you can’t … tell your friends, spread the word.”

File photo

A Rocky Point woman was killed on Saturday evening after walking into the road, according to police.

The Suffolk County Police Department said a 2000 Chrysler Voyager hit 49-year-old Theresa Swedberg when the pedestrian walked into the car’s travel lane, as it was going north on Hallock Landing Road near 3rd Avenue.

Swedberg was pronounced dead at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, police said, while the driver, a 21-year-old Miller Place resident, was not hurt in the crash.

Police impounded the Chrysler for a safety check.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 7th Squad are investigating the collision. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-852-8752.

The blighted Oxygen Bar property in Rocky Point could soon be demolished. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Rocky Point may soon have one less eyesore in its downtown business district.

After four years, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the town finalized its purchase of Rocky Point’s Oxygen Bar property. The Town of Brookhaven acquired the land for $525,000 — a sum $275,000 less than the property owner’s asking price.

On May 9, 2011, the town shut down the business after four people were involved in a non-fatal shooting on the premises. The bar’s Place of Assembly permit, which allows people to gather and conduct activities at the location, also expired.

For several years, the owner of the Oxygen Bar property rented the establishment to various operators and promoters. Cafe Brianna was one of many businesses that used the establishment before the Oxygen Bar, but that eventually closed due to limited parking. When the bar came into town, initially the CVS across the street allowed cars from the neighboring business to park in its parking lot, but that agreement changed after the shooting.

As the area strayed from a family-friendly location, the town hoped purchasing the property would help revitalize the area — something Bonner started working on before she got into office.

According to Bonner, the bar’s poor business plan contributed to its failure in the business district.

“It’s one thing to always have a dream,” Bonner said. “It’s another thing to meet and discuss your business plan.”

The bar owners held wet T-shirt contests, gentlemen’s nights and other events to attract residents to the premises, but their attempts were unsuccessful. Since the bar closed in 2011, the property has remained vacant.

Now, the town may demolish the building before spring. The plan is to landscape and beautify the property after tearing down the building. The project would add to the property’s infrastructure improvements, which the town finished last year.

“This is wonderful for Rocky Point,” Bonner said. “[The bar’s] always been a blight and an eyesore even when it was operating.”

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Fred Drewes holds up Christmas books he reads to children around the holidays. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Although he is retired, Fred Drewes’ plate is still pretty full.

The former biology and environmental science professor at Suffolk County Community College now has an entire park to tend to.

In 1988, Drewes was granted a sabbatical to do a hamlet study of Mount Sinai. He projected what he would like the community to look like in 25 years and suggested a central locale for a park.

“It was an ‘Ivory Tower’ idea,” he said. “I thought a central park would help bring people together and provide a focal point for community activities. Bonding with neighbors and friends and being refreshed by a park environment.”

With the help of Lori Baldassare, the then Mount Sinai Civic Association president, among other members, the civic purchased a 0.8-acre property with a New York State grant in 1999, and in 2001, Suffolk County purchased the adjoining 17.2 acres with the help of the newly formed Heritage Trust, a nonprofit, of which Baldassare is the president.

“He was very passionate about the community,” Baldassare said of Drewes. “Fred had a vision and he followed through on it.”

Although he was on a bike trip to 44 countries around the world at the time that the piece of property was purchased, Drewes dedicated his trip to the cause, and it was dubbed a Ride for a Park. While in his travels, he frequently wrote letters to a third-grade class and had pieces published to share his story, while also spreading word of the soon-to-be new park and help raise funds.

Fred Drewes plants a vegetable garden. Photo from Fred Drewes
Fred Drewes plants a vegetable garden. Photo from Fred Drewes

Not long after his return, in 2003, the park began to be developed, and from there, Drewes’ vision began to come to life.

An adventurer, the 79-year-old Mount Sinai resident traveled by bike, walked and camped on a seven-month backpacking trip around the world, hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and traveled around East Africa and South Africa, even living in Tanzania for two years while teaching at a college there, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

“I enjoy experiencing and seeing the landscapes of different places and enjoy those views,” he said. “I also enjoy the interactions that I had with people along the way.”

Those feelings fueled his desire to create similar experiences within his park, he said. Working closely on the landscape, he created a scenic environment and a Heritage Center that houses local activities for families and children.

“On any given day during the week, you probably would find him at the park,” Baldassare said. “You have to look at the park to see; his contributions certainly make a difference at Heritage Park. Without them, it wouldn’t be the same place.”

Bob Koch, of Koch Tree Services in Mount Sinai, said Drewes originally got him involved in working on the landscaping to help amend soil issues with the ground being so compacted that it made it difficult for plants to grow. Koch installed the Christmas tree that’s decorated every year, worked on the Parade of Flags event by planting each state’s tree along the Avenue of America and recently planted some young cherry trees down part of the pathways.

“Most of the things that I’ve done was Fred’s mind-set, and I was the muscle behind it,” Koch said. “It was his ideas and thank God we have him, because he prevented a Home Depot from going there and now it’s a beautiful walking park.”

Along with the Parade of Flags event, Drewes also reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to children around the holidays while they eat cookies and sip hot cocoa. He also works with the Boys’ and Girls’ Scouts and local Eagle Scouts with different projects at Heritage.

Koch said Drewes went to a lot of local businesses to get them involved in the park, which helped further integrate the community to its new central location. He planted many native trees like sugar maple, serviceberry, river bitch, dogwood, white pine and red oak and made a smiley face out of daffodils that emerges in the spring.

“I see his eyes light up when it’s filled with people using the park on a summer day,” Koch said. “I think we’re all very fortunate. For me, he was the guy that was instrumental in getting me involved in the park. I love him dearly. I’m appreciative for him getting me involved.”

To show his appreciation, Koch installed a Quercus bicolor tree with a plaque underneath it that reads: “Fred Drewes, a visionary who has tirelessly worked to make this park a reality.”

Drewes said the mission of Heritage Trust is to preserve the flavor of the area’s rural heritage and feels rewarded that people are complimentary and gracious in their comments about the work he’s done to preserve and showcase it.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback — it makes us want to continue our efforts in the park,” he said. “I relish and always enjoy my volunteer work up there because it gives me the opportunity to have a hobby, because I enjoy working on the landscaping that I do there, but also to see people enjoying the park; the walking paths; the landscape; the pass of activity to have quiet moments with family to have kids run around in a free-spirited way,” Drewes said. “I spend a lot of time and effort at the park and I’m gratified that I’m able to do that still at my age.”

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Lisa Lally, above, hands out Miller Place sports T-shirts. Photo from Lally

By Clayton Collier

Before Lisa Lally retired last month, the longtime Miller Place athletic director had some parting words of advice for her successor.

“She said to remember to find time for family and make time for myself along the way,” said Ron Petrie, current Miller Place athletic director and head football coach. “It’s a very easy job to get lost in.”

Lisa Lally, above, hands out Miller Place sports T-shirts. Photo from Lally
Lisa Lally, above, hands out Miller Place sports T-shirts. Photo from Lally

The 2010 Section XI Athletic Director of the Year said it was for a similar reason that she decided to retire from the position she held for 13 years.

“You are problem solving constantly,” Lally said. “I enjoy that, but I think it requires a tremendous amount of focus and a tremendous amount of time away from other aspects of your life, and I think I was ready to focus in on other things.”

Deputy Superintendent Seth Lipshie, who has known Lally for more than 25 years, said his longtime co-worker’s efforts did not go unnoticed at Miller Place.

“In athletics, Lisa has incorporated a strong emphasis on sportsmanship while striving to be successful in competition,” he said. “The thing that drove Lisa the most was her priority she placed on what is in the best interest of the student-athlete. She derived as much pleasure in the success of her coaches and players as anyone in Miller Place.”

Nearly 150 people attended Lally’s retirement reception on October 27 at Willow Creek in Mount Sinai. Petrie said attendees included a wide variety of current and former colleagues from her more than 30 years with the district.

“It was a really nice event to celebrate not just her time here working, but also the life that she leads and the respect that she has gained over that period of time,” Petrie said.

Lally grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, playing basketball and softball in high school, after the passage of Title IX before her freshman year, and won the 1978 female athlete of the year at Greenwich High School.

Lally graduated from Southern Connecticut State College in May 1982, with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education. That summer, Lally moved to Long Island and soon began working as a substitute teacher and the junior varsity girls’ basketball coach at Miller Place. By September 1983, Lally had earned a full-time physical education teaching position.

She also coached field hockey, softball and volleyball in her career with Miller Place, but she indisputably had the most success coaching basketball, being named coach of the year five times — three times with the JV team and twice with varsity, winning the league championship in each of her last two years as coach.

In July 2002, Lally was named an assistant principal at Miller Place High School, a position she said did not suit her well.

“I was out of my comfort area in a lot of respects,” she said. “I was being asked to oversee a lot of areas that I did not feel I had working knowledge about.”

So when the position of athletic director became available just two months later, Lally saw an opportunity to move to a field she felt more comfortable in. Still, Lally said she had her hesitations in making such a “big leap” to athletic director, or the “right leap” as she describes it looking back.

“I was afraid of the job itself, initially,” Lally said. “Like wow, this is big. But I also knew it was part of my bloodline; it was who I was; it was something I knew.”

Every job comes with its own challenges, and an athletic director certainly is no exception. Lally said the most difficult part of her job early on was having to cut costs.

“Athletics, while it’s a very vital part of our school community, it’s also one of those areas that can be cut, because it’s not mandated,” she said. “So learning how to cut lots and lots of money out of a program without annihilating an entire program; it was very, very difficult.”

Petrie, who had the opportunity to observe Lally’s work in his roles as both the football coach and the assistant athletic director, said she was balanced to all athletic programs, both large and small.

“If we couldn’t afford to go out and get a high-end piece of equipment or put off getting new jerseys for a year or so, it was understood because nobody else was getting it,” he said. “It was pretty flat across the board and she was fair with it. I never felt we were being overlooked or not prioritized.”

It was that approach that Petrie said earned Lally respect amongst her peers in the district.

“Fairness was something that was always associated with how Lisa handled things,” he said. “She made sure that all kids were considered in any decision she was making.”

Lally’s involvement in high school athletics has not just been limited to Miller Place school district. Lally served on the Section XI executive board from 2003 until this past fall, and was president from 2006 to 2008. Lipshie said Lally’s service on the Section XI board provided a great benefit to the advancement of the Miller Place athletic department.

“She has been deeply involved in athletics on both the county and the state level, serving as the section president and the section representative on the state level,” he said. “Through Lisa, Miller Place has had a voice on legislation and has provided Miller Place with the most current information that impacts our student-athletes.”

With several construction projects and new facilities being put in place at the time of her retirement, Miller Place school district had Lally and Petrie work alongside one another beginning in July. It was through this time, as well as Petrie’s tenure as the football coach, that Lally said makes her confident in Petrie as her successor.

“We’ve been together through some really high points and some real low points, and I think you learn about a person’s character during those low points,” she said. “Frankly, his stock has only gone up over these past four months. Watching him making decisions and dealing with staff and students, I think he is going to be terrific, and I think he is going to bring the program to a level I hadn’t even thought about.”

Though retired, Lally hasn’t completely separated herself from involvement in athletic administration, regularly teaching a required course on Section XI. In doing so, Lally says she can enjoy her time with family, while also still making an impact.

“I’m keeping my feet in the game, but not quite as actively as I had in the past,” she said. “I’m not looking to just wither on the vine. I can pick and choose what I’m involved with; we’ll see how this retirement thing works out.”

A man has pleaded guilty to murdering his girlfriend outside their apartment and then firing on officers in a subsequent standoff, during which he held his two children hostage.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday that Jose C. Rodriguez will soon be sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for his two charges, second-degree murder and attempted aggravated murder of a police officer.

At the time of the shooting, in November 2013, the Suffolk County Police Department said officers responding to several 911 calls about hearing gunshots found a woman, 36-year-old Kimberly Sellitto, lying on the front lawn of the apartment in the Brookwood at Ridge complex, off of Middle Country Road. They moved her body to safety, but authorities later determined she was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Rodriguez, who is now 34, fired several shotgun rounds at those responding officers while he was barricaded in the apartment with his two children, the DA’s office said.

Emergency Service Section and Hostage Negotiation Team officers got Rodriguez to release his two children, police said at the time. Later on, the man fired multiple rifle rounds at officers.

None of the officers were hurt, police said, but bullets struck an armored SCPD vehicle.

The officers fired back, also not injuring Rodriguez. The man subsequently surrendered and was taken into custody, a couple of hours after the incident began.

The children were not hurt, and were released to the custody of their mother. Sellitto was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although Rodriguez originally pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been remanded to jail since the murder, he pleaded guilty during a pretrial hearing in Riverhead this week, the DA’s office said. He was scheduled to be sentenced in State Supreme Court to 30 years to life in prison on Jan. 8.

Three’s company
A 40-year-old woman, a 38-year-old man and a 58-year-old man all from Huntington were arrested for multiple charges inside a 1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo on High Street in Huntington at 10:15 a.m. on Nov. 28. Police said the woman had cocaine and 19 hypodermic needles with heroin residue on them. She was charged with two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Police said the 38-year-old man was driving with a suspended license, was in possession of prescription pills without a prescription and had five glass pipes in his possession with cocaine residue on them. He was charged with loitering, unlawful use of a controlled substance and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. The 58-year-old man also has prescription pills in his possession without a prescription as well as needles and glass pipes with heroin residue, according to police. He was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful use of a controlled substance and loitering.

Boxed out
An unknown person took cash from a cardboard box inside a resident’s home on Bayberry Drive in Huntington on Nov. 24 at 9 a.m.

Infinite crimes in an Infiniti
On Nov. 28, police said a 49-year-old from Huntington Station was speeding in a 2000 Infiniti and engaging in reckless driving on New York Avenue and West 22nd Street in Huntington. They also said he drove into oncoming traffic, through red lights and a railroad gate. He was arrested at 12:23 a.m. and charged with second-degree criminal mischief.

Knock out
Police said a 22-year-old man from Huntington Station punched another man several times, causing swelling and pain on the corner of Main Street and Wall Street in Huntington at 2:45 a.m. on Nov. 26. He was arrested and charged with third-degree assault with intent to cause physical injury.

Doing time for the time
On Nov. 26, police said a 62-year-old man from Huntington stole a black Lifestyle watch from Rite Aid on Main Street in Huntington at 12:15 p.m. He was arrested and charged with petit larceny.

No brain on Brian Court
An unknown person stole a laptop, baseball bat and assorted baby items from an unlocked 2015 Nissan Altima parked on Brian Court in Northport on Nov. 23 at 9 a.m.

She knows the drill
A 30-year-old woman from East Northport was arrested at the 2nd Precinct on Nov. 24 after police said she stole on multiple occasions. According to police, she stole multiple drills and DeWalt combo kits from Home Depot on New York Avenue in Huntington on Oct. 4 and Oct. 18. She was charged with petit larceny.

You’ve got mail
Police said an unknown person damaged a letter in a resident’s mailbox on Sunken Meadow Road in Northport by tearing it in half on Nov. 25 at 8:30 a.m.

Crisis on the corner
On Nov. 24, police said a 29-year-old woman from East Northport was in possession of prescription pills without a prescription and heroin on the corner of Town Line Road and Pulaski Road in East Northport at 2:25 p.m. She was arrested and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

NoPro
An unknown person stole a GoPro Silver from a 2003 Saturn VUE parked on Larkfield Road in East Northport after they broke in through the passenger side window on Nov. 26 at 11 a.m.

Jewelry in jeopardy
Police said an unknown person stole jewelry that was left on a table at the Smithtown Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing Care at 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 29.

No license on the LIE
A 23-year-old woman from Calverton was arrested on the Long Island Expressway in Commack at 3 a.m. on Nov. 30 after police said she was driving without a license and had a hypodermic instrument and marijuana on her. She was charged with fifth degree criminal possession of marijuana and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Woes at Walmart
On Nov. 24, a 34-year-old woman from Brentwood was arrested after police said she took children’s clothing, health and beauty items and food from a Walmart on Crooked Hill Road in Commack at 3 p.m. She was charged with petit larceny.

Mazda madness
An unknown person stole change from a 2007 Mazda parked on Tanglewood Drive in Smithtown and a 2015 Mazda parked on Crescent Place in Smithtown on Nov. 23 at 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Motor Parkway mistakes
A 30-year-old woman from Bay Shore was arrested after police said she was driving without a license on Motor Parkway in Smithtown in a 2015 Hyundai on Nov. 25 at 11:30 a.m. She was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

U-wrong on U-turn
On Nov. 24, a 37-year-old woman from Deer Park was arrested after police said she made an unsafe U-turn in a 2015 Ford and then drove straight in a right-turn-only lane at midnight on Jericho Turnpike in Commack and then discovered she was driving drunk. She was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Blurred Lines
A 27-year-old man from Port Jefferson was arrested on Nov. 26 at 12:50 a.m. after police said he failed to maintain his lane of traffic on Main Street in Smithtown while driving a 2006 Ford and then discovered he was driving drunk. He was charged with driving while intoxicated.

A man of substance
A 27-year-old man from Port Jefferson was arrested for criminal possession of a controlled substance on Nov. 28. Police said the man had two bags of heroin, as well as cocaine and a hypodermic needle. He was arrested on the corner of Gaymore Road and Ardmer Drive in Port Jefferson Station.

Passport to jail
Police arrested a Port Jefferson Station driver for criminal impersonation on Nov. 24, after the 39-year-old woman allegedly used another person’s passport when officials pulled her over and issued her a ticket. She used the identification to sign her permission for authorities to search the vehicle, according to police. She was arrested at the scene, on Route 25A in Rocky Point.

Swimming in a cell
Police arrested a 23-year-old man from Port Jefferson for petit larceny on Nov. 27, four months after he stole pool-cleaning supplies from Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies on Veterans Memorial Highway in Commack. The crime happened on July 13, and officers arrested the suspect at his residence.

Jewelry heist
A 35-year-old woman from Miller Place was arrested for criminal possession of stolen property at her home on Nov. 25, about a month after she allegedly tried to sell more than $1,000-worth of stolen jewelry on Middle Country Road in Coram.

What a tool
On Nov. 23, a 38-year-old man from Ronkonkoma was arrested for petit larceny after he stole assorted tools from a mechanic at the Double “N” Automotive shop on Mark Tree Road in Centereach.

Drunk munchies lead to crash
A 20-year-old man from St. James in a 1998 Subaru hit another car in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant along Route 347 in Stony Brook on Nov. 25, and police said while he was being interviewed about the crash, they discovered he was intoxicated. The man was arrested for driving while ability impaired.

Lax security
A 31-year-old woman from Northport was arrested for grand larceny on Nov. 27 after she disabled the security devices on several pieces of merchandise at the Kohl’s on Route 25A in Rocky Point and then left the store without paying. Officials arrested the woman at the scene.

Taking a bonus
Police arrested a 51-year-old man from Blue Point on Nov. 28 when he attempted to steal money from a cash register at the Walmart on Nesconset Highway in Setauket. A Walmart employee detained the man, who also worked at the store. He was charged with petit larceny.

Clothing kidnapper
A 27-year-old woman from Bay Shore was arrested on Nov. 28 for petit larceny after she entered a store on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook and walked out with an armful of clothes. Police arrested the woman at the scene.

Forgot a stamp
Police said someone broke a mailbox and its post on Jefferson Boulevard in Port Jefferson Station on Nov. 25. According to officials, the homeowners heard a crash outside their home when their mailbox was damaged.

Breaking bottles
An unidentified man hit another man with a bottle on Nov. 26, lacerating his cheek. The suspect fled the scene, on Route 25A in Port Jefferson.

Fishy excuse
On Nov. 29, an unknown man ordered $258 worth of sushi from a restaurant on Route 25A in Miller Place, but when the man went to pick up the food, he told restaurant employees that he left his wallet in his car. The man took the food and fled the scene without paying.

Dirty crime
Between 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 25 and 10 a.m. on Nov. 26, an unidentified person stole three dirt bikes from a residence on Lower Rocky Point Road in Sound Beach.

Hungry robber
According to police, someone kicked and broke the front glass door of the Centereach Deli on Middle Country Road, then pried the door open to enter the store and stole cash. The incident happened on Nov. 29.

Grinch
Someone stole a Santa Claus lawn decoration from a residence on Liberty Avenue in Selden, sometime between Nov. 28 and 29.

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Donations from the 10th Annual Kevin’s Ange’s Toy Drive will be wrapped on Dec. 19 before volunteers deliver them to the families in need. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After Sept. 11, 2001, the Williams family wanted to so something special to remember their son Kevin who died on that day, and after 15 years, they’re still honoring him.

Community members packed themselves into Phil’s Restaurant in Wading River to help support and donate toys to the Kevin Williams Foundation’s 10th annual Toy Drive, which was held on Dec. 1, from 7 to 10 p.m. The toy drive is an expansion of the Williams service to the community.

Fifteen years ago the family created Kevin’s Angels, which helped send children to a sports camp or play for a team. However, after schools and organizations like Long Island Youth Mentoring sought the family’s help for other families in need, the Williams started the toy drive to continue their outreach. For the Williams, giving back to the community and offering a helping hand during the holidays is a way to remember their son.

“We knew that we had to share his zest for life,” said Patti Williams, Kevin’s mother. “What better way than creating a foundation; and we could give to children and hopefully change the direction of some of their lives.”

Kevin Williams worked for Sandler O’Neil, a financial company based in Manhattan. The 24-year-old was on the 104th floor of Tower Two when tragedy struck and the building collapsed. Williams was to be married 10 weeks after Sept. 11.

Patti Williams takes donated gifts. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Patti Williams takes donated gifts. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In 1995, Williams graduated from Shoreham-Wading River High School and had a passion for academics as well as sports. In high school he was the captain and the most valuable player of his basketball, baseball and golf teams. Several years ago, Shoreham-Wading River renovated its varsity baseball field and renamed it after Williams. The field offers the family and other community members with a safe space to remember a loved one and reflect on Sept. 11.

This was the fifth time Phil’s Restaurant, owned by Phil Marcario, donated the space for the toy drive. Since Marcario’s wife grew up with Kevin Williams, the two are like family. Together, they made the night more than just a toy drive.

“We really wanted to make it a night where people could mingle and talk instead of just dropping off a toy,” Marcario said. “You could come and kind of spend time together, which is what the holidays are really all about.”

According to Mike Williams, Kevin Williams’ father, the toy drive helps around 30 families annually. They’ve also helped 1,025 underprivileged kids attend sports camps in the past 15 years. Despite their efforts, the family said the community is what really helped get to this point in their lives.

“We have a great faith, but we also surround ourselves with an abundance of love,” Mike Williams said.

While the Toy Drive was created in light of a tragedy, Shoreham resident Steve Malandrino said the Williams are one of few families who have turned a bad situation into something positive. Malandrino was once Mike Williams’ student when he attended Miller Place High School in the 1970s. Thus far, he’s attended nine of the 10 toy drives.

In addition to the abundance of community support, turning a negative situation into something positive also helped the family get through tough times.

“Anyone who’s gone through a tragedy, especially losing a child — you have a decision to make,” Patti Williams said. “You somehow have to get yourself from that point of not wanting to wake up in the morning because it’s another day of pain, to finding an avenue where you can make lives better for others.”

Francis Barrios mugshot from SCPD

Police arrested a homeless man for sexual assault on Tuesday night, after he allegedly attacked a taxi driver on a trip that started at a local hospital.

The Suffolk County Police Department said that the female cab driver picked up her passenger at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson that evening, but during the trip he assaulted her and the taxi crashed into a fence on Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai. The suspect, 34-year-old registered sex offender Francis Barrios, then sexually assaulted the driver.

Police did not release the name of the taxi company, to protect the identity of the victim.

Officers had initially responded to the crash scene when a passing motorist called 911, according to police, but the responders arrested Barrios after further investigation. He was charged with first-degree criminal sexual act, first-degree attempted rape, second-degree strangulation and third-degree assault.

Attorney information for Barrios was not immediately available and he could not be reached for comment. He was held overnight and scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.

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