By Sara-Megan Walsh
One sign of late Commack resident Christopher Raguso’s lasting impact on his community may be his ability to inspire hundreds of Kings Park residents and businesses to donate.
“It’s what happens when one of our community is down, our community helps pick them up.”
— Tony Tanzi
Kings Park residents and area businesses donated supplies to help the Fire Department of the City of New York host funeral services for the U.S. airman and New York City and Commack firefighter March 31.
The FDNY reached out to the Kings Park Fire Department while planning for Raguso’s service, according to Kings Park Fire Chief John Gallo, requesting assistance to provide for the anticipated attendance between 3,000 and 15,000 mourners. It sought donations of bottled water, soda, food and paper goods to help feed the volunteer fighters and military personnel who would be attending the ceremony.
“As soon as we heard the terrible news, we were there to support them in whatever Commack or the Raguso family needed,” Gallo said.
Kings Park Fire Department has provided this list of area businesses and organizations who donated or contributed to the funeral services held March 31:
Albrecht Viggiano Zureck & Company, P.C.
Ancient Order of Hibernians
Andersen’s Deli & Catering
Andrews Excavating Inc.
Boy Scout Troop 410
Ciro’s Italian Restaurants & Catering
Cookies & More
Duke’s K9 Spa
Edelweiss Delicatessen & Caterers
Emilio’s Italian Kitchen
EMF Gourmet Italian Market
The Fresh Market
G Weld Fabrication & Welding Inc.
Kings Park Chiropractic
Kings Park Fire Department
Kings Park Hardware
Kings Park Moms
Knights of Columbus
La Scala Ristorante
Long Island Cares
Milano Fine Men’s Fashion
NY Auto Giant
Plycon Transportation Group
Pizzaiolo Gourmet Eatery
Prime Wine & Liquor
111 Deli Catering
Sterling National Bank
St. Catherine’s of Siena Medical Center
St. Johnland Nursing Center
Superior Ice Rink
Uncle Wallys Bake Shoppe
The request hit close to home for Kings Park firefighters. Raguso’s brother-in-law, Andrew DiChiara, is a volunteer with the fire department.
Gallo said he immediately reached out to neighboring fire departments in East Northport, Hauppauge, Nesconset, Nissequogue, Northport and St. James for help. As the estimates of those attending Raguso’s funeral increased, the fire chief said he called Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, to see if local businesses would be willing to contribute. An email blast sent out to the chamber’s membership quickly went viral. Kings Park Moms group and the nonprofit organization Angels Without Faces reposted the message on their Facebook pages.
“The people in this community took it and ran with it,” Tanzi said. “That’s indicative of Kings Park as a whole. It’s what happens when one of our community is down, our community helps pick them up.”
Long before Kings Park firefighters had posted they would be accepting public donations at 7 p.m. March 30, their storage warehouse was already filled with pallets of bottled water. A steady stream of residents pulled up in minivans and SUVs to donate cases of soda, potato chips and Girl Scout cookies saying simply “for Raguso.” Tanzi said about 50 pallets of water and more than 60,000 disposable drinking cups were collected.
The sheer volume of supplies began to raise logistical issues of how to best move them to the funeral site. Kings Park Hardware sent over a forklift to help lift and maneuver pallets, according to Tanzi, while Plycon Transportation offered free use of their trucks to drop off the goods around town.
The fire department’s Main Street headquarters and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5796 hall on Church Street both opened their doors as rest stops during Raguso’s funeral. The FDNY also set up garbage pails filled with water bottles on ice for mourners along the funeral procession route.
“On behalf of the Kings Park Fire Department, I would personally like to extend my appreciation to all the residents of our community for their extremely generous and outstanding show of support,” said John Gallo, chief of the Kings Park Fire Department. “The Raguso family, Commack Fire Department and FDNY are all thankful to all of you who assisted in supporting Chris’ funeral. It is this outpouring of support that makes our community special and Kings Park a beautiful place to live. God bless America and God bless our military.”