Your Turn

The author, second from right, hiking at Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, with fellow WWOOFers, from left, Matt Cook, Greg Mizar and Camille Horace. Photo by Melanie Glissman

By Stacy Santini

This is the last installment of a four-part series. Miss part three? Read it here.

Jack Kerouac did it, John Steinbeck did it; there is something to be said about being on the road. Not for everybody, there are countless moments when the vexation of it all can be overwhelming. Living out of suitcases and spending more time crouched over a steering wheel than being vertical most definitely takes a toll, but for me, those inconveniences were small in comparison to what I was feeling and the perspective I gained. 

“My life is my message.”
 Mahatma Gandhi

After so many years of ignoring the spirit that now guides me, I felt completely and utterly free, treasuring every mile of my journey. Revelation upon revelation unfolded itself and I got to know a person that had been a stranger for all too long — myself.

I unfolded my crumpled-up bucket list and placed check marks where there had been blank spaces, and WWOOFing it in New England served as a springboard to extraneous adventures I took advantage of while I was away.

During my time in the Northeast, I was able to reconnect with my family in Concord, New Hampshire, and stay with dear friends I don’t often get to see in Exeter. Sitting around dinner tables, breaking bread and talking to familiar faces was a comfort.

I felt empowered and strong as a result of farming and did not feel out of my comfort zone when I read poetry at an open mic in Portland, Maine or dined al fresco in Saratoga Springs. There were strange faces along the way that quickly became native as I was invited to join them to observe jam bands at local venues.

Friendships were made and alliances amongst my fellow WWOOFers were welcomed. I took my Southern California comrades from Owen Farm to Melanie and Matt’s organic farm in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, to hike and assist them in turning sap into maple syrup in the sugar shack.

Charlie, my morkie, and I traveled west to our beloved Catskills, walked part of the Appalachian Trail and held fort in New Paltz for several days, shopping at Groovy Blueberry and chowing down with a women’s motorcycle club at The Gilded Otter.

Returning home was not easy, as there was so much more I wanted to explore, but I have learned to trust timing, and without hesitation I know that Charles Crawford and I will one day again be road warriors embarking on the unknown. I am not sure whether or not I thought I would return to Long Island a farmer, but regardless, I knew I would come home different and better for this undertaking. Mission accomplished.

Stacy Santini is a freelance reporter for Times Beacon Record Newspapers. If you would like to find out how to become a WWOOFer, visit www.wwoofusa.org.

by -
0 724
The starting line at the Tunnel to Towers 5K race was lined with American flags. Photo by John Davies

By Jane Koropsak

My feet hit the floor at 4:30 a.m. and for one fleeting moment I wondered why I was up so early on a Sunday morning.

Then, I remembered. Today, Sept. 27, I would participate in the Tunnel to Towers 5K fundraiser in New York City to honor every firefighter who gave the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001, including Stephen Siller, the New York City FDNY firefighter for whom the fundraiser is named.

On that fateful day that changed our nation forever, Siller put on 60 pounds of gear and ran from the Battery Tunnel to the Towers, and 14 years later I was joining thousands of others in retracing his steps.

Duffle bag on my shoulder filled with water, snacks and extra clothes, I headed to the Mastic Fire Department to meet up with some of my colleagues from the Brookhaven Lab and friends from the fire department for our journey to Brooklyn, where the 5K begins.

While waiting for the race to start, standing amid 30,000 people, my eyes teared up during a beautiful rendition of “God Bless America.” The anticipation filled my senses and I wasn’t sure what to expect, as this was my first time at this event. When I saw nearly 7,000 American flags lining the starting line of the race — each flag representing a member of the military who has died for our nation since Sept. 11, 2001 — the tears came once again. It was heart-wrenching.

Soon, we turned a corner and walked under an arch of red, white and blue balloons to start the 5K through the Battery Tunnel. I walked, others ran, and as we all entered the tunnel, we heard hundreds of people chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” in unison.

Cheerleaders lined the streets. Musicians played on corners. It all gave me goose bumps and prompted me to pick up my pace. Before I knew it, I started running — something I don’t typically do. When we reached the end of the tunnel, we saw streams of sunlight and were greeted by 343 firefighters in their formal uniforms, each holding a flag with an image of a firefighter who perished on 9/11 — 343 heroes who never went home. I proudly high-fived each firefighter standing in line along the route, saying thanks over and over and how much I appreciate all they do every day.

Five kilometers from the start and I was no longer the same person.

When I boarded the bus early that morning I knew how brave these men and women are. I knew that they go to work every day not knowing whether they or a fellow firefighter may not make it home, and I knew that their passion is only felt by a few. You see, I am the sister of an FDNY captain and I am the daughter of a volunteer firefighter who gave the ultimate sacrifice 26 years ago while fighting a fire in my hometown of Sayville. I know personally of their sacrifices and the countless hours they spend training and helping others. During Tunnel to Towers I felt the indescribable deep passion of what it must be like to be a firefighter. And, on the bus ride home, I had time to tuck away the memories of the day for an entry that will have a dog-eared page in my journal.

I salute all of our firefighters, emergency responders, police and military personnel.

I promise I will never forget.

The author works in the Media & Communications Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Farm dog Tucker, the author and her morkie, Charles Crawford up at the crack of dawn. Photo from Stacy Santini

By Stacy Santini

This is the third in a four-part series. Miss part two? Read it here.

As epic as this pilgrimage was for me, I would be remiss if I did not consider the impact this all had on my pup. There were numerous Steinbeck moments as my morkie, Charles Crawford, and I greeted each day. It is with complete certainty that I can say I would not have made it through WWOOFing without my little companion. Not only was he a constant reminder of where we came from, but because of him, I was always home and never lonely.

As I delved further into my self, I witnessed Charlie discover parts of his personality I am not sure he knew existed. His patience was tested on a daily basis as he mingled amongst his peers at Owen Farm. While I was out in the pasture, he would spend his time under Ruth’s watch in the kitchen, befriending our fellow WWOOFers’ long-haired black Chihuahua, Shao. After several initial teeth-baring scuffles, they became companions and would follow each other around, exchanging the alpha role frequently.

Dealing with so many different furry personalities, Farmer Chuck learned how to defend himself against a playful, but aggressive, young yellow Labrador named Tucker and how to avoid the predatory, mountain lion-like feline, Pickles. Always leaning toward the side of caution, I was constantly aware of his whereabouts, as Karl the cow and the Arabians were eager to trample little beings in their way. Charlie held his own, but every night as we fell into bed, we both took slumber comforted by knowing our door was locked and it was only the two of us.

Although WWOOFing at Owen Farm was mostly comprised of labor, there were hilarious moments that, to this day, will make me giggle. One morning, when I was wheelbarrowing the hay out to one of the furthest fields, one of my comrades unbridled the horses too quickly. They came charging for me and I just started running back and forth as fast as I could, dumping all the hay to the ground. I must have looked like a player in a PAC-MAN game as I glanced back and caught Camille and Greg rolling on the ground with laughter.

One evening, late at night, as Charlie and I were cuddled up sleeping, we were awoken to the sound of our latch door lock being jiggled. It was pitch black and stillness had settled on the farmhouse hours beforehand. We were frozen with fear and overwhelmed by visions of Freddy Krueger. I was not prepared to meet my death in this manner and finally gained the courage to put the light on and open the door. In front of me stood the largest cat I had ever seen attempting to open the door with his paw. Surreal, to say the very least.

When our time at Owen Farm came to an end, we said our good-byes, travelled a bit, and headed to the foothills of the White Mountains. Patch Farm in Denmark, Maine, was to be our next WWOOF retreat. Swinging to the other side of the pendulum, Patch Farm is a demesne in its infancy, focused on planting and cultivating organic crops. Owned by a passionate young farming couple, BrennaMae Thomas and Brandon McKenney, arriving there was like reaching nirvana when it comes to rural living.

From the exterior, the residence was a quintessential New England country farmhouse. But when you entered, it resembled a SoHo loft. Together, the couple had renovated and created an immaculate art deco space that was not only comfortable, but so aesthetically appealing that it should have been photographed for Architectural Digest. My room, which was large and refreshing, all white, with a fireplace and views of the White Mountain range, was a welcome change to my prior living conditions. We had plenty of running water and were able to shower or soak our weary limbs in the big claw foot tub on a daily basis. This may not seem extraordinary, but trust me, in the world of New England organic farming, it is a luxury.

Complying with my overall experience, this ambience still brought the unexpected. My bedroom was filled with ladybugs. Hundreds of red wings speckled with black spots clung to the plastic covering our windows, reaching for sunlight. At night, they would drop down and become our bed partners. There was something very joyful about living amongst these little beetles.

Outside of the six goats and twelve chickens, Patch Farm is all about growing and sustainable living. My hosts were extremely rousing about their work and breathed, ate and slept farming, but moderation was their motto when it came to WWOOFers. We did not commence our chores until after 7 a.m. and ate a hearty breakfast and only worked until about one or two in the afternoon. The rest of the time was ours to rest, explore, study and enjoy the simplicity of rural living.

Not to say that the work we assumed was not difficult, as it was, but I often felt as though I was at an agricultural college with BrennaMae as my professor. She was extremely knowledgeable regarding all aspects of sustainable living and permaculture. We would be walking amongst the fields and she would start to zealously jump around as she had just noticed some type of clover growing underfoot.

With enthusiasm, she taught us about crop rotation, the benefits of landscape cloths, and major vegetable families and how they work together. In a very short time I was able to identify Allium, Brassica, Cucurbita and Solanaceae genus groups. We planted seeds in their “state-of-the-art” greenhouse and watched as they germinated and cotyledons began to show.

After some time out in the field and our nose in books, such as “The Earth Care Manual: A permaculture Handbook for Britain and Other Temperate Climates” by Patrick Whitefield, BrennaMae gave us an assignment to design her new permaculture herb garden.

Permaculture is about creating edible landscapes that emulate the symbiotic interactions in a natural ecosystem. After hauling rocks into a tractor to clear the fields for planting — a back-breaking endeavor — or attempting to fold up 350 feet of slippery land-covering in mud, I would retreat to the family room to draw blueprints of mandala and keyhole gardens, my contribution to BrennaMae and Brandon’s potential edible oasis.

Although learning to farm was my main objective, I allowed time to travel and investigate the Northeast. With Charlie riding shotgun, my Jeep Patriot carried us from Portland, Maine back to Saratoga Springs and New Paltz and so many places in between.

Like what you’ve read? Check out the final installment here.

Stacy Santini is a freelance reporter for Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Look for her adventures at Patch Farm in Denmark, Maine, in the next issue of Arts & Lifestyles.

The author chops wood on Owen Farm. Photo from Stacy Santini

By Stacy Santini

This is the second in a four-part series. Miss the first installment? Read it here.

Once my decision and logistics were finalized, the preparing began and believe me, this was no easy feat for a woman who had spent most of her life tucked into neatly landscaped neighborhoods and luxury vehicles that had never seen a dirt road. It is mandatory to have the right clothing, gear and provisions for this type of living. In retrospect, I know that it would have been impossible for me to have survived mud season in New England without my neoprene muck boots, North Face rain attire and Cabela’s thermals. With every item of clothing I packed, varying weather conditions were always a factor, and my Jeep Patriot became the keeper of six large suitcases and numerous plastic bins; my vehicle overflowing with my expectations and a little fear, well, maybe a whole lot of fear. I also had a little Morkie, Charles Crawford, to consider, and he had his own impedimenta.

I selected two farms to call home during my time as a WWOOFer, and they could not have been more different. My first agrarian family was the Owens. Ruth and Derek were an elderly couple running a well-established 180 acre farm, Owen Farm, in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, for more than forty years. The property included 30 acres of cleared land primarily used for pasture, a small orchard and 1 acre for planting and gardening. When I pulled up to their large colonial farmhouse on April 1st at 4 p.m., there was still snow on the ground, chickens running amuck and the property was buzzing with activity. I was greeted by fellow WWOOFers, a young Southern California couple named Camille and Gregg, who had arrived two weeks earlier, and as Gregg swooshed past me carrying a pile of wood, I became acutely aware that I was indeed doing this; I was about to become a farmer.

Adjustment is an understatement to describe my first few days at Owen Farm. Dignity took a back seat as I slowly but surely acquired humility and a work ethic not often seen by the rest of society. At this time of year, while most of the ground was still frozen, our main duties involved caring for the animals, which included cows which are milked by hand, sheep, pigs, poultry and horses, three of which were Arabian.

The author at 5 a.m., on the first day of WWOOFing it in New Hampshire. Photo from Stacy Santini
The author at 5 a.m., on the first day of WWOOFing it in New Hampshire. Photo from Stacy Santini

My first introduction to animal farming was the very afternoon I arrived when I observed Camille feeding Hallelujah, the resident pig who was the size of a small freight train, a “sumptuous” bucket of composting leftover veggies. At 5 a.m. the next morning, I had the pleasure of meeting Karl, the alpha cow. As she entered the barn for the first of her two daily milkings, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of this mammal. Our daily chores began before sunrise and would include gathering eggs at the chicken coop several times a day, feeding the cows and sheep, wheelbarrowing hay out to pasture for the horses and mucking stalls. When these obligations were filled, we would have special projects, like building fences and uprooting the 4 feet of manure and bedding in the sheep shelter.

The ground was frozen solid in the awakening sunrise hours but would melt somewhat by afternoon. Our footing was constantly challenged during our chores and it was not uncommon to be walking and soon find out that one of our appendages was wearing just a sock as the last step had stolen our boot which was being suctioned into the mud.

Our work on the farm monopolized most of our waking moments. Our main relief from these enjoyable but arduous tasks was mealtime. We ate family style three times a day and everyone would gather in the farmhouse kitchen at the big oak table. Missing a meal was frowned upon, as Ruth, the revered matriarch of this homestead, would spend the majority of her time at her century-old black wood-burning stove cooking creations from what was available from the farm and cupboard or reinventing leftover dinner from the night before. We feasted on stews, farm-raised pork, fresh greens and topped it all off with homemade dressings and cheese.

The word “waste” was not part of our lives or vernacular at Owen Farm. Every scrap, every egg shell, every bone was utilized, whether turned into compost or recycled, and we were very aware of the ramifications of squandering. After lunch, we would take an hour or so before returning outdoors to learn about wet felting, knitting and how to make condiments such as butter.

Ruth and Derek Owen were two of the most beautiful, stoic individuals to cross my path. I learned much from them and was grateful for the rare moments Ruth would take on the role of nurturing Mother. I started to look forward to Derek’s dry, humorous one liners with relief, as much as I welcomed his worn overalls as they would approach me, knowing I was having difficulty with a task. But their lifestyle is in such stark comparison to what I am used to that adapting was one of my greatest challenges.

Having little running water, only a compost toilet and very little time for hygiene, I struggled to let go of routines that are so much a part of my daily existence. Blow dryers, make-up and freshly washed towels did not exist during my stay. The Owens consider those things frivolous, unnecessary, and I must admit, as much as I missed my creature comforts, there was a certain freedom in letting all that go.

Dwelling under these conditions is not for the faint of heart and as I did my damnedest to acclimate, Charles Crawford, who was now being referred to as Farmer Chuck, was fighting his own battles . . .

Like what you’ve read? Check out part three here.

Stacy Santini is a freelance reporter for Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Look for her adventures at Owen Farm in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, and Patch Farm in Denmark, Maine, in the next two issues of Arts & Lifestyles.

by -
0 537
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone makes his way down the marathon route in a previous running event held in the county. Photo from Bellone’s office

By Steve Bellone

Suffolk County is home to more than 90,000 veterans, the largest population of veterans in any county in New York State. They have selflessly served their country, in war and in times of peace, making sacrifices to ensure our safety and protect our way of life.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone makes his way down the marathon route in a previous running event held in the county. Photo from Bellone’s office
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone makes his way down the marathon route in a previous running event held in the county. Photo from Bellone’s office

We all have a duty to make sure that veterans are not overlooked when they return to civilian life. Too often, veterans return home from service in need of our assistance and recognition for a job well done.

I am proud that the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency and our many local veterans organizations work tirelessly to meet the needs of veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, lack of quality housing and job assistance. No veteran should have to fight another battle to receive needed services and adjust to civilian life.

The fact is, there is so much more we need to do to support our veterans. That is why I helped organize the first ever Suffolk County Marathon and Half Marathon to Support Our Veterans.

This event will kick off from Heckscher State Park, this Sunday, Sept. 13 and travel through many of our amazing downtowns. Every dollar that we net from this marathon will help fund services which will benefit our Suffolk County veterans community.

As a veteran myself, I will be participating in the event as one of the thousands running it. But, there are so many ways to be involved.

You can join in this effort to support veterans by running, volunteering or cheering on others who are participating in this great cause. In addition to the race, The Taste of Long Island festival will show off locally produced wine, food and drinks, with entertainment provided by bands made up of veterans. Among the thousands of runners are many veterans and active-duty members of the services.

I encourage you to go to www.suffolkmarathon.com to learn more about how you can be part of history and honoring our great veterans community. I look forward to seeing you out there.

Steve Bellone is the Suffolk County Executive.

by -
0 657
Stacy Santini holds a newborn lamb in the sheep shelter at Owen Farm, Hopkinton, N.H. Photo by Camille Horace

By Stacy Santini

This is the first in a four-part series.

I started WWOOFing this past spring, and no, I do not mean I acquired a new pastime of barking like a dog. I joined a movement that is gaining worldwide momentum and, in some way, is a reminder of the days when joining the Peace Corps was all the rage. I walked through my fear; left my home, family and friends, and entered the world of farming in rural New England. Along with my little dog, Charles Crawford, I boarded the Port Jefferson ferry, kissed suburbia goodbye for several months and embraced a self-imposed challenge that would change me, my value system and perceptions about the world forever.

WWOOF-USA is an entity that gives people the opportunity to work and live on farms throughout the United States and is rapidly injecting awareness into our culture about sustainable living and helping our nation rid itself of an extremely self-entitled and wasteful mindset. One of their key goals is to integrate farming, food, culture and environment.

The WWOOF program began in the United Kingdom in 1971, by Sue Coppard ,under the name “Working Weekends on Organic Farms,” as an opportunity for London city dwellers to experience the growing organic farming evolution in the countryside. Her idea blew wind onto a smoldering brush fire, and today, WWOOF programs, currently known as “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms,” has expanded to more than 100 countries, each acting independently.

Becoming a WWOOFer is rather simple. One registers online and then arranges their stay with a host family. The website is extremely user friendly and feedback from other WWOOFer’s is inclusive. A prospective WWOOFer’s key task is to identify exactly what type of experience they wish to have, whether it is comprehensive organic farming, working with animals or beekeeping, and of course what part of the world they wish to have this experience in.

The riptide that was my final motivation to embark on this journey was sudden, but the ebb and flow of the currents encouraging me to have this experience were occurring for years.

As a music lover and journalist, I have the privilege of witnessing some of the most creative music being produced. As a result of being a part of the Grateful Dead community for as far back as I can remember, I have had the opportunity to be exposed to bluegrass and roots genres. In recent years, I can, without reservation, say that I have become a dedicated fan of bands like The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Carolina Chocolate Drops and my ultimate favorite, Railroad Earth.

This affinity has lend itself to meeting some of the most down-to-earth, creative and impassioned people in the country. Coming from all walks in life, I found that there was a common denominator, a thread that linked them all together — their love for the earth and their desire to experience nature in the here-and-now.

One such couple’s adventures, Melanie and Matt, whom I now count among my closest friends, became the template for my expedition.

I started to pay close attention to their travels, observed them via social media, living and WWOOFing off the grid in Kodiak, Alaska. I admired their tenacity as they boated amongst whales, built greenhouses and preserved fruit. They were standing in the middle of their dreams and living with freedom and purpose. Their return to New England to run Tracie’s Community Farm, a small, organic farm in Fitzwilliams, New Hampshire, provoked a visit, and it was here I witnessed firsthand the meaning of “the good life” and how it had been hubristic of me to keep walking down a road to “someday.” I quickly noted that my “someday” had arrived and it was time to step out of my comfort zone and follow in their footsteps.

And so my Thoreau-like journey commenced. I started to hike with the Adirondack Mountain Club in the Catskills and began my planning to become a WWOOFer.

Like what you see? Read part two here.

Stacy Santini is a freelance reporter for Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Look for her adventures at Owen Farm in Hopkinton, N.H., and Patch Farm in Denmark, Maine, in the next three issues of Arts & Lifestyles.

A recent mission trip to Cuba left a mark on a local student. Photo from Thomas Hull

By Thomas Hull

Cuba is one of the most intriguing islands in the Western Hemisphere. The people have almost nothing in the way of material goods, having been thoroughly oppressed by their communist regime, but they are so happy and content with their lives. I got the opportunity to witness all this during a mission trip from the U.S. to Cuba earlier this year.

There is a strong sense of community in the lives of Cubans. To provide one example, the drivers of mass transport vehicles also carry supplies, at no extra charge, that can help fellow Cubans at whatever destination they are headed. The people of Cuba work hard for what they have, and there is a unity among them because of this — even people of different professions help each other. Students who attend college are allowed access to the Internet and have email addresses, but very few others do. The students share their email addresses, sometimes as many as twenty people using one address, so that their fellow citizens can stay in touch with loved ones. I witnessed a very busy Cuban missionary from the opposite side of the island assisting a worker in mowing the lawn just because the worker seemed to be having difficulty. That is such a rare thing to see in most places, but it isn’t strange at all in Cuba.

The average person in Cuba earns the equivalent of $20 per month, which isn’t nearly enough to feed a family, even though many items are cheaper there. At the end of our mission trip, we left all our clothes and supplies to give to the Cuban people. The local church distributed the clothes to families that most needed them.

Usually only people with money or connections own cars down there. The very lucky Cuban families who own cars care for them meticulously and pass them down through generations. Most of the cars we saw in Cuba were manufactured in the United States in the 1950s and were imported before former leader Fidel Castro came into power during the revolution. It was amazing to see cars from my grandparents’ generation in such abundance.

The original intent of my mission trip had been to build a classroom for the Las Palmas Bible Institute, a church camp in Cuba. Since Cuba is a communist country, it has no official religion, but Christianity is very strong throughout the island. The wonderful parishioners shared what little food and supplies they had with our group when we arrived. But the Cuban government decided at the last minute to revoke our building license, an unfortunate but common occurrence, so we spent the two weeks doing small jobs to make the lives of the people at Las Palmas a little easier — we rewired the buildings, repaired roads, fixed the sewage system and painted.

My whole experience in Cuba was enlightening. It was an honor to be able to witness firsthand such brotherhood among people. In nearly all aspects of their lives, the people band together to survive the hardships of life under a tough regime. It will be interesting to see how this unity among the Cuban people is affected by the changes that are soon to come, with the island being opened to the western world.

Thomas Hull is a Port Jefferson resident and rising senior at The Stony Brook School.

by -
0 696
Wacky Chad, the stunt comedian, gets some air in the company of West Meadow Beach visitors at last Wednesday’s Jewish festival. Photo by Peter DiLauro

By Carin M. Smilk

It was a real scorcher, according to those who attended the sixth annual Jewish Summer Festival, referring to Wednesday’s, July 29, event at West Meadow Beach in East Setauket in the midst of a heat wave that marked a week of 90-degree weather.

But it also turned out to be the largest turnout yet, with more than 500 people attending of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations.

The festival was sponsored by the Chabad Jewish Center of Stony Brook, which serves the Jewish community on Suffolk’s North Shore from Smithtown to Port Jefferson, and is co-directed by Rabbi Motti and Chaya Grossbaum. On tap was live music in the form of the high-energy Jewish rock band Yellow Red Sky; family entertainment, including a moon bounce, face painting and the award-winning stunt comedian Wacky Chad; and a kosher barbecue with all the trimmings, as well as cotton candy and Italian ices for the kids and grown-ups, too.

“There was something for every generation to appreciate,” said Jodi Casciano of Port Jefferson. “It was an evening full of warmth and connectedness — very good for the soul. The kids all had a blast, and the live music was phenomenal.”

The feeling of connectivity was alive throughout the event. In fact, the band dedicated a song in tribute to the four young women who were killed last month in a tragic limousine crash in Cutchogue: Smithtown’s Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, as well as Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack.

One of the more colorful notes of the three-hour festival occurred when the beach balls were distributed as an event giveaway. They were donated by Gayle Stock of Setauket, owner of TakeStock Inc., who declared the evening “fabulous” and is already planning to return next year.

Marty Gerber, a retiree from St. James, has been involved with Chabad for about a year and went to the festival for the first time. He said he was surprised by the size of the crowd, noting that “the tent area was overflowing.”

There were rows of chairs arranged under the shade of the tent, he described, and some even brought their own to position on the beach. The food was tasty, Gerber said.

“It’s a very good place for kids to have fun, and for the parents to relax and socialize,” Gerber said.

And that was the whole point.

“The goal is simply to bring the community together in unity for an upbeat Jewish experience,” said Rabbi Grossbaum. “It was a ‘feel good’ time for everyone there. A special shout-out goes to the main corporate sponsors, without whom it would not be possible.”

They included Jefferson’s Ferry, the Suffolk Center for Speech, Fairy LiceMothers, 3 Village Wellness, Nguyen Plastic Surgery, Gourmet Glatt, Gurwin Jewish and the Times Beacon Record Newspapers.

The event ended around 8 p.m., with the seasonal sky bringing its own sort of closure: a spectacular sunset over the beach.

by -
0 519
Photo from SBU

By Greg Monaco

Stony Brook University’s Seawolves may sport the color red, but our campus is getting “greener” every day.

The University is devoted to creating a more environmentally friendly campus by learning and implementing new sustainable practices, a mission sparked in 2007, when Stony Brook signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Since then, they’ve made major strides by improving transportation, planting and energy-usage efforts.

These efforts put Stony Brook University on The Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll, a recognition given to only 24 schools. The Princeton Review also ranked Stony Brook No. 4 in its “Top 50 Green Colleges of 2015,” making this the sixth consecutive year The Princeton Review recognized the University.

In April 2013, the University unveiled its state-of-the-art SBU Wolf Ride Bike Share system to provide a zero-emission commuting option on campus. Originally consisting of four solar-powered stations and 48 bicycles, the program has grown to eight stations and 63 bikes, and students have enjoyed more than 14,000 rides.

To encourage the use of alternatively fueled vehicles, the University installed 10 electric vehicle charging stations on campus. To date, more than 700 cars have been charged with a total output of 2.596 MW.

The National Arbor Day Foundation named Stony Brook University a Tree Campus USA recipient in 2013 and 2014, recognizing our dedication to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship. The University boasts a robust planting program, designed to beautify the campus and engage students, faculty and staff in learning sustainable planting techniques during the Office of Sustainability’s hands-on Growing Red Days.

The University is committed to reducing its energy usage by undergoing a large, interior-lighting retrofit, encompassing more than 35 academic buildings. The project as a whole will replace more than 55,000 interior light fixtures with new energy-efficient lamps.

With the help of students, faculty and staff, Stony Brook University will continue to develop a more eco-friendly environment, serving an ongoing goal of securing a sustainable future for the university campus, the community and the world.

Greg Monaco is the Sustainability Coordinator at Stony Brook University.

Bilingual Buddies mentors students in the Bridge program at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. Photo from Sabrina Palacios

By Sabrina Palacios

To this day, I can still remember my first experience with mentoring. I was in kindergarten, and just like all of the other kids, I was brimming with excitement to meet my new buddy. The moment all the “big kids” walked in was indescribable. I was overcome with joy, from having the opportunity to meet kids much older than me, but also still a bit fraught with shyness because, well, these kids were “big kids”! Once I got over that fact, I was able to really form a friendship with my new mentor. Every week she visited me, and over time she helped teach me the values of responsibility as well as staying dedicated to my schoolwork. Even now, I still use those lessons in my every day life, and I can easily say that a great part of that can be attributed to having such a positive role model in my life at such a developmental stage.

At its most basic level, mentoring helps because it guarantees a young person someone to look up to and learn from. A child is not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges. By participating in a mentoring program at Huntington, Bridge class students — those who are new to the country and sometimes to even a formal school system — now have the opportunity to feel included in their school community as well as be understood by their fellow classmates.

Sabrina Palacios photo from the author
Sabrina Palacios photo from the author

Our mentoring program, Bilingual Buddies, has become the key for gradually integrating these students in the most natural way possible, while also building their relationships with those around them. As for the mentors, we have equally benefited from the program because we are given the chance to learn about cultures and backgrounds contrasting to those that we have always known. Additionally, mentoring has given each individual a role in becoming strong role models, hence giving us a sense of responsibility and respectability that we must learn to uphold.

In its early stages, Bilingual Buddies has become a blossoming mentoring program. I, along with 24 of my peers, have helped take part in developing a partnership with the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School Bridge class with the goal to better acclimate the students to their new lives and future as students of Huntington.

The very first day we walked in to meet the kids was nothing short of delightful. Seeing each child’s face light up with happiness was quite honestly the most gratifying moment I’ve ever had both as an individual and a mentor. And I can undoubtedly say that my peers felt the same. Being a part of such a rewarding program has given us, and the students, the chance to create lasting, positive friendships. Even more so, it has given us the opportunity to be the true bridge between these new students and their community.

It can go without saying that while it is our job as mentors to leave an impact on the lives of these children, it is truly the children themselves who will impact us and our community. Hopefully we will be able to see more of this growth and positive change as the program develops from where it is today.

Sabrina Palacios is a rising senior at Huntington High School, and the founder and president of Bilingual Buddies.

Social

9,212FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,136FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe