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Centereach Fire Department

Centereach residents joined members of their fire department to remember those who were lost Sept, 11, 2001 in a memorial ceremony.

Held at the Centreach Fire Department’s headquarters on South Washington Avenue Sept. 11, the ceremony began with firefighter Bryan Elsesser singing the national anthem.

In addition to board of fire commissioners Chairman Thomas Doyle’s address to the crowd, a musical performance was provided by members of the Centereach High School Choir and a candlelight ceremony honored those who died.

Talat Hamdani was the first to light a candle in honor of her son Mohammad Salman Hamdani, who was a New York Police Department cadet and a first responder at Ground Zero.

After the ceremony, the fire department provided hamburgers, hot dogs and refreshments for those in attendance.

 

 

 

On March 22, the Centereach Civic Association hosted a St. Baldrick’s Day event at the Centereach Fire Department’s main firehouse on Washington Avenue.

The night included head shaving to raise money for pediatric cancer, and barbers and hairdressers from Rockabilly in Stony Brook and Blondie’s Salon in Centereach were on hand to shave the heads of men, women and children.

The event also included food, raffles and a performance by Irish step dancers from the Mulvihill-Lynch Studio of Irish Dance. A grand total of $28,608 was raised.

AnnMarie Pszybylski, from St. James, said she was prepared to have her head shaved March 20 at an event at R.C. Murphy Junior High School in Stony Brook to raise money for Alexa, a Murphy student who is a cancer survivor. When she found out the event was only for students, she reached out to the organizer of the Centereach event, Jennifer Bielmeier Dickson, to see if she could get her head shaved there and donate the money to Alexa’s team. The answer was yes.

“These children are the brave ones and the strong ones,” Pszybylski said. “If I was able to help in some small way, I’m thrilled and blessed.”

Pszybylski said when she arrived at the firehouse she met the team Soul Sisters for Sophia comprised of shavees Diane Miller, Liann Dennis, Linda Esposito-Azmitia and  Lisette Robustelli and volunteers Susan Smith and Renata Ptak. The women, who were raising money for a Dawnwood Middle School student named Sophia diagnosed with stage three nasopharyngeal carcinoma in December, invited her to get her head shaved with them. Miller said her team raised nearly $8,000, with Robustelli raising  more than $2,500 of the amount.

Volunteer firefighter Tanya Lee, above, after helping to extinguish a car fire. Photo by Dennis Whittam

By Tanya Lee

Living near Centereach Fire Department for the past 15 years, I have had my share of sirens and fire engines and ambulances driving past my house. There have also been many cold December nights with my kids waiting for the parade of fire trucks and Santa to make their way through the neighborhood with candy canes and cheer.

Volunteer firefighter Tanya Lee by one of the Centereach Fire Department Ambulance trucks. Photo from Tanya Lee

I always knew I could count on the volunteers to be there. I would think, “What a great bunch of people who are always going no matter what time of day it was.” I wondered why are they always rushing around for? Where are they going? Who are these people? Is this their full-time job?

Driving down my block one day, I noticed a huge sign in front of the fire department that read, “EMS and firefighters needed! Help your community. Inquire at the fire department.” I read the words and took that as a sign they were talking directly to me. This was the opportunity to get some answers about this organization. Being the curious and adventurous person that I am, I had no problem putting my blinker on and turning into the fire department parking lot.

I was like a kid in a candy shop as I walked into the beautiful red brick building with gleaming red fire trucks, ambulances and first responder vehicles. My heart was racing at the thought of meeting the people behind the sirens that went day and night. To this day, I don’t remember much of the process that happened inside; it’s all a corny, fuzzy memory now. But what I do remember is, as I left the building, I stopped in the middle of the parking lot, looked back over my shoulder at the impressive apparatus and thought, “Did I just sign up for the fire department? Am I going to be one of them? How am I going to make a difference here?” Sure enough, soon the call came from the chief letting me know my application was accepted. That’s where my journey began.

That first night I was given my gear, assigned to a company and given my training schedule. I was nervous, but to this day I have never regretted my decision to step up to the plate and help my community. The unsettled fear and nervousness turned into excitement and adrenaline the first time I stepped onto the ambulance and knew someone was in need of help. I finally had the answer as to who the people behind the sirens were — they were people like me. Ordinary people with families, young and old, single moms and dads, college students, business professionals. All ordinary people with one passion — volunteering their time to help their community.

Tanya Lee, second from right, stands with her fellow volunteers at Centereach Fire Department. Photo from Tanya Lee

I have always had a passion for helping people, but never thought in my wildest dreams that I could do so through the fire department. I kick myself for not joining years ago. Don’t get me wrong — being a member is not a piece of cake. The training is intense, we don’t always get along — as with many families — and some nights you could question your decision. But for the most part, there is encouragement and support behind those red bricks, and I can’t even list the countless friendships I have created. If you’re really in tune, you will realize a sense of accomplishment and growth within yourself that you probably never knew you had.

It took me one week in the department to know I needed to up my game and my training. Having a full-time job and being a single parent, I started night school and within three months was certified as an emergency medical technician. Within the next year, I stepped up my game further and went firematic and learned the firefighting side of the department. I am a 50-year-old female, and I am proud to say I am a volunteer interior firefighter and EMT for the Centereach Fire Department. I’m also proud to say my son has followed in my footsteps and is also an EMT and firefighter in the department.

My training will never stop, and I look forward to every minute of it. I love what I do. If you ever thought you’d like to do it but had doubts or apprehension, inquire at your local fire department. You might find this is a perfect time to reinvent yourself.

Tanya Lee is director of sales and marketing for Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, and volunteer firefighter and EMT for Centereach Fire Department. She is also a former resident of Smithtown and Hauppauge.

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.”

Kids get their heads shaved at the annual St. Baldrick's event at Centereach Fire Department March 16. Photo by Doug Dickerson

By Kyle Barr

On the night before St. Patrick’s Day, hair rained down onto the floor of Centereach Fire Department. People clapped and cheered as blonde, brown and even green-dyed hair fell from amused faces before being swept away during the annual St. Baldrick’s charity event to raise money for childhood cancer research March 16.

Area local Aimee Jackson watched her teenage son Zachary get shaved, the first head of the night to go bald. It was his fourth time participating, and every year the duo has tried to raise more and more money.

“The first time he did it he was little — 5 years old — we both did it,” she said. “He’s shaving in honor of his twin brother, Kendall, who passed away just before their fifth birthday.”

Zachary Jackson has his head shaved in honor of his twin brother, Kendall, who died of cancer at age 4. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Middle Country Youth Civic Association and Centereach Fire Department joined with local sponsors to host the fourth annual event. Before the buzzer even started sounding, the team of brave bald-headed
community members raised close to $30,000. By Monday, the event had raised over $47,000, close to twice the original $25,000 goal, according to event organizer Doug Dickson. The largest donor was 12-year-old Austin Vero, who raised over $15,000 alone.

“Thank God for our barbers — with all the hair on the ground, they bring their own guys, they’re sweeping all the time,” Dickson said, laughingly.

The night was full of Irish flavor with the inclusion of FDNY Emerald Society bagpipers and Irish step dancers from Mulvihill-Lynch Studio of Irish Dance in Lake Ronkonkoma. Attendees were decked in green from head to toe, including Rob “Squid” Wilson, who was one of many prospective head-shavers to dye their hair green.

Wilson has been hosting local St. Baldrick’s events for 16 years. This year, he dressed in a bright green shamrock coat and a green tiara.

“My team is the Squid and the Squires,” Wilson said. “Each team is a bunch of clowns like us who are doing it for the right reasons.”

He and his friend Tom Duffy have been involved and shaved their heads every year since their first rodeo.

“It’s important to show kids it’s not a big deal to get their heads shaved,” Duffy said. “My big thing is I feel if [scientists] can cure cancer with kids — they can cure cancer.”

Members of the Suffolk County Police
Department shave their heads at the event. Photo by Doug Dickerson

Several staff members at the fire department joined in the shaving spirit, including Assistant Chief Joseph Feola.

“It’s a huge event — one of the bigger events we have,” Feola said. “It’s great to see all this support from the community.”

Nine barbers and hairdressers volunteered their time to shave heads, including the owner of Rockabilly Barbers of Stony Brook’s Vinnie Ferrara. He and his crew of barbers have also been involved in the event for 16 years.

“The greatest thing about it is that we’ve been doing it for so long and seen so much money raised,” Ferrara said. “It just goes to a great cause.”

“The people are so into it,” owner of Centereach-based Blondie’s Creations Inc. Mary Beth Mastando said. She and her team have been shaving heads at the event for three years.

“The community gets together, and everybody helps,” Mastando said. “They’re excited to be shaving their head, and I’m the one doing it, so that’s pretty cool.”

The Centereach St. Baldrick’s organizers are accepting donations until next year’s event. To join in the cause, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/10953/2018.

Centereach Fire Department teamed up with Operation Christmas Child to collect shoeboxes filled with gifts to be donated to needy children. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

It wasn’t quite Santa’s sleigh, but it was large, red and carried presents, so an ambulance was good enough for the Selden Fire Department, which took over Santa’s duties last week and stuffed 100 shoeboxes with gifts for poor young children all over the world.

Volunteers help fill a Selden Fire Department
ambulance with shoeboxes for Operation Christmas
Child. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Most of these boxes are going to go to kids who never even get a gift,” Selden Fire Department Treasurer Vincent Ammirati said. “This is something that will put a smile on a face, and this is the fire department — everything we do here is for other people. All we do is try put a smile on people’s faces.”

The shoeboxes were collected as part of Operation Christmas Child, a function of the evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. The organization takes the shoeboxes from drop-off points in local churches before sending them to distribution centers that will ship them to poor communities in Africa, South America, Asia and others. The shoeboxes are labeled by age and gender, and usually contain toys like inflatable soccer balls or stuffed animals, but mostly they contain hygiene products like soap and toothbrushes along with school supplies like books and pencils.

All seven companies within the Selden Fire Department helped contribute to the stack, with some companies acting as a group and other members of the fire department contributing indipendently.

Children in Uganda receive shoeboxes of gifts from
Operation Christmas Child last year. Photo from
Danielle McCarthy

Volunteer firefighter and Operation Christmas Child Long Island Coordinator Danielle McCarthy headed the fire department’s collection drive. She said she got the idea of filling an ambulance full of shoeboxes from watching the Los Angeles Police Department and how a funeral home had pulled in with a hearse full of shoe boxes.

McCarthy has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for more than a decade, first packing boxes before becoming a local packing leader, and then area coordinator. In 2012 McCarthy travelled to Uganda to help hand out shoeboxes.

“As we put shoe boxes into their hands and they opened up those boxes I saw their delight,” she said. “To look at them having physical needs met, to be able to see the joy that came to them from these simple things like school supplies and toys and that sort of thing, that impacted me. But what really impacted me even more, and what keeps me packing shoeboxes, were all the kids standing outside the place who didn’t get shoeboxes because there wasn’t enough to give to everybody.”

Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas
Child were collected with gifts to be
donated to needy children.
Photo by Kyle Barr

Every box also comes with a picture book called “The Greatest Gift,” put inside after each is packed. The book depicts a number of biblical stories told in that country’s native language. There was a $9 fee for every package, which pays for both the book and shipping costs. The fire department pulled together $900 to go toward this cost.

“Every one of these shoeboxes to us is not just a gift that we’re giving to a child, but around Christmas time Jesus is a gift we try to give, too,” said Victor Rossomano, an Operation Christmas Child Suffolk County-area coordinator. “It’s in their language and their culture. We try to keep it within their culture; we try not to send America to them, we want them to be who they are.”

Ammirati helped McCarthy drive the shoeboxes to the drop-off point at the Grace Gospel Church in Patchogue. He said he plans on using his officer status with the Suffolk County Volunteer Fireman’s Association to try and spread the idea out to all the different fire departments in the county.

“It’s a great way to show our community presence with the fire department and also for Operation Christmas Child,” McCarthy said. “It’s taken a few years to get this rolling, but when we challenged the fire department to fill the ambulance, as you can see, the guys stepped up.”

The 100 boxes kicked off national collection week, which ran from Nov. 13 to 20. In 2009, Suffolk County gathered 7,100 boxes, but the number has grown. The group is hoping to have 20,000 boxes packed this year