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By Julianne Mosher

For five years, the Engel family of Miller Place has been putting together a basketball tournament and barbecue in memory of their late son, Jake, who tragically lost his life in 2015 to a heroin overdose. 

But this year was special for the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope Barbecue – which sold out in just three days. On Friday, July 12, Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) stood with Jake’s family at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai to reveal the new name of the court that overlooks the harbor: The Jake Engel Memorial Basketball Court.

Inscribed with the words “Shine On” and an image of a man fishing, the notion for the memorial was decided last year. 

“Basketball and fishing are what Jake loved to do,” Bonner said. “This sign is a reminder of why we are here today and why we play this game every year.”

Shortly after Jake’s death, his brother and friends spontaneously organized a community basketball tournament in his name. Over the course of four years, the organization has raised over $40,000 that has been donated to Hope House Ministries, a Port Jefferson-based nonprofit organization that provides care and hope to individuals suffering
from addiction.

“Our main goal is to bring awareness of the opioid crisis we have here on Long Island and to bring the community together,” Jake’s mother, Karen Engel, said. 

The four-and-a-half hour event consisted of 28 teams of three to four players. Over a dozen volunteers helped with selling T-shirts, food and refreshments, along with a large raffle of donated items. Friday’s event raised roughly $12,000 and was the first year of the organization as a nonprofit. 

“This year’s tournament was really successful,” Geoff Engel, Jake’s brother, said. 

Four months ago, the family officially established the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope Foundation that looks to bring awareness, community and change to all people negatively affected by substance abuse in Suffolk County. 

“I want to thank the Engel family for taking such a horrible tragedy and turning it into something special,” Bonner said, “It takes a special person to do that.”

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SEPA Mujer shows their support for immigrants by donning yellow bracelets. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Everyone has an opinion on how to handle the border crisis. Having recently gone directly to the southwest border to talk about solutions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, recent migrants and local politicians, several things are clear.

Perry Gershon. Photo from SCDC

First, contrary to some of the national narratives, most border crossers today come to ports of entry and seek asylum. They do not dart or swarm the locations between ports of entry. Yes, there are some scrambling crossers, but the entire crisis has tipped toward ports of entry, which is why more efficiently processing asylum claims is so important and increasingly difficult.

Second, while human and drug trafficking are serious issues, these individuals do not comprise the bulk of current illegal crossers, even as numbers of Central American refugees continue to rise. Our border laws are designed to deter those sneaking into the country, not managing large volumes turning themselves in — hoping for asylum.

The bulk of those at our borders are economic migrants, some of whom may be entitled to asylum, but all of whom are fleeing a part of this hemisphere overwhelmed by public corruption, poverty, violent crime, drug trafficking and general disorder. 

This suggests a need not only for better processing of asylum claims, and more systematic ways of housing asylum seekers, but finding better ways to incentivize these economic migrants to stay in their countries of origin, rather than seeking escape, refuge and opportunity here. Rather than abandoning rule of law programs in these unstable Central American countries, we should be reinforcing stability and the rule of law.

Third, agents in places like Arizona speak with one, clear, consistent voice. They are legally able to monitor and enforce our border, and capture and turn illegal crossers over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but they are not responsible for processing, long-term detention or deportation. In effect, they are a small cog in a big machine, and what they face daily is both severe and growing. What they cannot control is the process of crafting a much-needed political solution.

Finally, no one can seriously discuss the border without discussing drug trafficking. Again, a dose of reality is vital. Drugs entering the United States over the southwest border include heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and fentanyl, as well as other synthetics. 

But these drugs are not typically hustled in the dark of night, between ports of entry, over big desert swatches. No, they are methodically trafficked through ports of entry — hidden in trucks and cars, and on rail cars. Many transporting these drugs are mules, beholden to powerful Mexican drug cartels. Poor people who desperately lack options often transport these drugs for the cartels or face death.  

Again, the answer must be multifaceted. First, we must work with the Mexican government to enforce their borders and get serious about stopping demand here. Second, we should provide more treatment for those seeking a way out of addiction. Third, and most important, we should be teaching kids to make smart and healthy choices by helping them never to feel desperate enough to turn to addiction.

What lessons can we draw from recent conversations from those on the front lines of our southwest border? Several are obvious. First, we need to have a more organized and efficient system to process the vast number of asylum seekers.

How do we do that? We need more administrative asylum judges, even if reassigned from other tasks temporarily. We need smoother, faster interfaces between CBP, ICE and the judicial system. In managing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services treatment of unaccompanied minors, who go from ICE to HHS after 20 days, we need more effective ways of protecting and processing claims. 

We need to work more closely with the Mexican government to agree on how to house the large numbers, optimally on the Mexican side of the border, which will prevent having to place large numbers of asylum seekers across the United States to await hearings. Finally, we should be asking Mexico to consider becoming a “safe third country” for asylum seekers, which would allow Central Americans to win asylum in Mexico also, reducing pressure on the U.S. border.

Last, and most important, we need to rethink how best to restore rule of law, stability, economic opportunity and foreign investment in Central America, to incentivize economic migrants to remain where they live, and to create opportunities and security there. This requires international engagement, and sustained commitments to neighbors. 

In the end, that investment will help us all. That is what going to the border taught me.

Perry Gershon is a national commentator on business, trade, policy and politics. A congressional candidate for New York’s 1st District, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s in business administration  from University of California, Berkeley.

File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested a Centereach man May 22 following a narcotics investigation. Police said the man was trying to sell drugs at a playground with his daughter beside him.

During the course of the investigation, detectives apprehended Chaleek Williams for possession and intent to sell crack cocaine on the playground at the Oxhead Road Elementary School, located at 144 Oxhead Road, allegedly with his two-year-old daughter present. Williams was also allegedly in possession of a quantity of MDMA. As he was being placed under arrest, police said Williams became combative and had to be restrained by officers.

Williams, 25, of Centereach, was charged with multiple counts of possessing a controlled substance with intent to sell, as well as dndangering the welfare of a child and resisting arrest.

Williams was overnight at the 3rd Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip May 23.

The child was released into the custody of family.

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Police conducted a warrant search on the home located at 535 High Street March 28. Photo from a Port Jeff resident
Police conducted a warrant search on the home located at 535 High Street March 28. Photo from a Port Jeff resident

Port Jefferson Village officials were notified March 28 of Suffolk County Police executing a search warrant on a house on High Street over allegedly possessing narcotics.

Suffolk County Police Narcotics Section detectives conducted an investigation regarding 535 High Street in Port Jefferson, and executed a search warrant at the residence March 28, police said.

Police arrested Richard Shelton, 33, a resident of the home. Shelton was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance for allegedly possessing cocaine. Shelton was set to appear today, March 29 at Suffolk County First District court in Central Islip. There is no attorney information available for Shelton as of March 29.

Police said the investigation is ongoing.

A crowd packed the auditorium of the William H. Rogers building to speak on legalized marijuana Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

When it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana, the debate continues in Suffolk County.

More than 100 people filled the Suffolk County Legislature chambers Feb. 25 for a public hearing on the legalization of recreational marijuana and its potential impact. The over two-hour meeting fueled a contentious debate between attendees, with supporters pointing to the tax revenue the county could gain from possible legalization and the health benefits attributed to marijuana. Opponents argued that it is a quality of life issue and their view of the plant as a gateway drug, supporting the idea of the county opting out. 

“When it comes to the young developing brain there are no such things as safe drugs.”

— Kym Laube

County legislators on the health committee held the hearing to gather input from the community as New York State inches closer to legalization. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) expressed his support for legal recreational cannabis in his inaugural address in early January. 

John Durso, president of Local 338, a union that represents close to 300 workers in the NYS medical cannabis industry, said he supports legalization and views it as a potential source of economic development in the county — if done right. 

“As we got to know more patients, caregivers and medical professionals, we learned even more about the benefits of medical cannabis,” Durso said. “In easing symptoms for those who are ill or those who suffer from chronic pain, [it gives them] the ability to live more fulfilled lives.” 

Durso added the legalization of cannabis is an opportunity to expand beyond the 5 percent of the New York population who are currently enrolled in the state program and allow more to benefit from its effects. 

Kym Laube, executive director of the nonprofit social services organization Human Understanding and Growth Services, said instead of focusing on just one drug we as a county need to address all drug use for the sake of children.

“When it comes to the young developing brain there are no such things as safe drugs,” Laube said. “Schools across Long Island are fighting this — I just don’t think we are ready today to allow this to come [into the county].” 

At first, her stance was a strong no for recreational marijuana, but now with legalization potentially on the horizon she hopes it can be delayed as long as possible. 

“Let’s think of how we can build our drug prevention infrastructure,” she said. “Let’s ensure before we roll this out that every youth has access to prevention as much as they have access to drugs.” 

Troy Smith, deputy director of the Empire State NORML, an advocacy group for the regulation and safe sale of marijuana, said he is not advocating for legalization, rather regulation to an existing industry and safe access to the plant. 

“I would like to urge you all to just say ‘no’ — don’t opt out,” he said. 

Smith said many law-abiding citizens partake in the consumption of marijuana, and legalization would lead to the existing business being regulated better so customers are protected. He also added by opting out the county would forfeit tax revenue and benefit drug dealers and criminals. 

David Falkowski, owner of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton, which grows industrial hemp and sells CBD oil, echoed Smith’s sentiments of not opting out. 

“I would like to urge you all to just say ‘no’ — don’t opt out.”

— Troy Smith

“If by chance the county feels like it needs to opt out, I just ask them that this decision is not left up to a small board of temporarily appointed representatives and that it goes to a referendum vote,” he said. His sentiments were followed by loud applause from pro-legalization supporters. 

Some residents expressed concerns about quality of life and potential second-hand smoke hazards. If the county chose not to opt out, one resident asked representatives to outlaw and prohibit smoking in multiple unit-dwelling buildings to avoid the issue of people getting a contact high. 

For Kimberly Miller of Deer Park, marijuana isn’t all about getting high — it is more personal. 

As a recovering alcoholic and sexual assault survivor who suffers from depression, anxiety and PTSD, Miller said, for her and others like her, microdosing marijuana fills the gap traditional medicine doesn’t provide.

“Today I’m here asking you to fill one last gap for me,” she said. “Legalize and regulate marijuana, like you do with alcohol and tobacco. Let me buy it from a reputable business and let me pay taxes on it. Build some commerce. It’s a win-win for both of us.” 

Commack HIgh School. Photo from Google Maps

Suffolk County police officers arrested a man who works as an evening custodian for the Commack School District after a search found he had a stash of illegal guns and drugs inside his Patchogue home.

Patrick Musumeci, 30, was arrested Feb. 6 by police officers and faces 24 drug- and weapons-related charges.

Patrick Musumeci. Photo from SCPD

Following an investigation, Suffolk’s 5th Squad Special Operations Team and Emergency Section Service officers along with 5th Precinct Gang Unit officers executed a search warrant on Musumeci’s home on Wilmarth Avenue at approximately 5:35 a.m.

In the raid, officers found 16 guns inside the Patchogue home, including one Glock semiautomatic handgun, a Taurus semiautomatic handgun and four assault rifles, with ammunition. Two of the guns, a Smith & Wesson pistol and Ruger pistol had both previously been reported stolen. In addition to the guns, officers seized five sets of brass knuckles and a switchblade.

In addition to the weapons, Suffolk County police officers seized quantities of both prescription opiates and illegal drugs from the Patchogue home. The drugs found included oxycodone, Xanax, concentrated cannabis, marijuana, morphine pills and packaging materials.

Musumeci is charged with three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree, six counts of criminal possession in the seventh degree, two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia in the second degree, criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree, five counts criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, four counts criminal possession of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree.

Commack school officials reacted to news of Musumeci’s arrest by posting a letter to district residents on its website.

“The district has found no evidence to date that he ever brought a weapon or drugs onto school property,” reads the district’s statement. “To date, we have not found any suspicious activity on school property.”

Prior to being hired, Musumeci was fingerprinted and underwent a background check by New York State, according to the district. He was cleared, and state law would have required the district to be notified of any subsequent arrests, of which they claim to have received none.

Commack school officials said the district also has conducted an extensive search of the employee lockers, areas of the buildings the evening custodian was responsible for overseeing and reviewed buildingwide video footage in the wake of the allegations.

“The district and its outside security consultant will continue to review its safety and security plans and determine whether or not additional precautions are warranted,” read the district’s statement.

Musumeci was arraigned Feb. 7 in 1st District Court in Central Islip. He was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond, which had not been posted as of Feb. 13.

Commack school officials said their investigation into the matter is ongoing and the district is fully cooperating with the Suffolk police department.

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Carlos Encarnacion, Santiago Tavarez and Juan Lopez-Enriquez are charged with allegedly operating a drug ring out of a Port Jefferson Station barber shop. Photos from DA's office

Three men involved with the Man Cave Barbershop in Port Jefferson Station have been indicted for allegedly selling narcotics, including heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, which they allegedly marketed as heroin, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D).

Juan Lopez-Enriquez, 41, the barber shop’s manager, along with fellow barber Carlos Encarnacion, 33, and shop regular Santiago Tavarez, 64, allegedly used the premises of their shop to both cut and sell narcotics at approximately one kilogram a month, making approximately $50,000 a month from these drug sales, according to Sini.

“The Man Cave gave barbershop customers a choice of hair styles and a choice of drugs,” Sini (D) said at a press conference where his office unsealed the 53-count indictment of the three individuals Oct. 24. “When they should have been focusing on cutting hair, these defendants were in the back room, cutting fentanyl and cocaine.”

Starting in January, law enforcement from the District Attorney’s Heroin Task Force, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, New York bureau of the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the Suffolk County Police Department began investigating the alleged drug ring, using physical surveillance and electronic surveillance such as wiretapping. The police forces executed search warrants Oct. 4.

A search of the barber shop premises along with the other locations affiliated with the defendants revealed a hydraulic kilo press, two scales, packaging materials, approximately 20 grams of cocaine and approximately 200 grams of powder cutting agent, which is used to dilute narcotics to make them more profitable, according to the district attorney’s office.

Islip-based Attorney Robert Macedonio, who is representing Lopez-Enriquez, did not respond to a request for comment by press time. The defense attorneys for Tavarez and Encarnacion could not be reached.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D) said several deputy sheriffs worked undercover to aid in the business’ surveillance.

“Deputy Sheriffs are working in close collaboration with the District Attorney’s Heroin Task Force, and this multi-agency effort is getting more drugs off our streets and making our communities safer,” Toulon said.

A loaded semi-automatic handgun and a box containing 38 cartridges of ammunition, which allegedly belonged to Lopez-Enriquez, were also seized. The alleged dealer is also being charged with criminal possession of a firearm.

If convicted both Lopez-Enriquez and Tavarez face eight to 20 years in prison for the top count of first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. Encarnacion faces a maximum of three to 10 years with several counts of second- and third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

“With fatal overdoses on the rise, law enforcement remains diligent in its pursuit to arrest those criminals seeking to fill their pockets on the vulnerabilities of others,” said Angel Melendez, the special agent in charge of HSI New York.

Man Cave Barbershop has since closed its doors, though review sites like Yelp show overall positive reviews from customers.

Bail was set for Lopez-Enriquez at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond; $200,000 or $400,000 bond for Talverez; and $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond for Encarnacion. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jacob Kubetz.

A free alcohol testing kit comes with one urination cup and test strip. Photo from Suffolk County Sheriff's Office

A new Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department program is looking to keep kids safe this prom and graduation season, while creating a way for parents to more easily open a dialogue with kids about underage drinking and drugs.

“We just want everyone to be prepared,” Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. said. “It’s a celebratory moment for people graduating high school and moving on, and they feel a little empowered.”

On May 22 the sheriff’s office announced it is passing out free alcohol and drug testing kits.

“This is not supposed to be a punishment, and I don’t believe that was ever the purpose. It’s important to show kids that they can have fun without being high or drinking.”

— Janene Gentile

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for people in the United States between the ages of 15 and 24 is motor vehicle crashes. In Suffolk County, the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes are driving while ability impaired by alcohol or dugs and reckless or distracted driving.

The test kits include standard urine test that contains a single cup and stick that changes color depending on the presence of alcohol.

“We want parents to ask tough questions and [have] tough discussions early on so that they don’t get the knock on the door by a police officer telling them that their child is in the hospital or telling them that their child was driving while intoxicated,” Toulon said. “We would rather let them take care of their children so that law enforcement does not [have to] get involved.”

The North Shore Youth Council already offers these kits. Executive Director Janene Gentile said she doesn’t see the kits as a punitive measure, but as a way for parents to more easily talk about the topic with their children.

“Drinking is cultural in our society, but it’s an adult choice and not a young person’s choice,” she said.
“This is not supposed to be a punishment, and I don’t believe that was ever the purpose. It’s important to show kids that they can have fun without being high or drinking.”

Local schools have long tried to curb drug and alcohol use at prom while still trying to ensure graduating classes celebrate the final days before graduation.

Frank Pugliese said in his first year as principal of Shoreham-Wading River High School, he hopes his students can enjoy prom while staying safe.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but please be responsible in your actions so you do not harm yourself or anyone else.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

“We strongly advise all students to always make appropriate decisions,” Pugliese said in an email. “With that being said, we have great students. The vast majority make smart choices regardless of the policies in place, and we trust that they will continue to do so on prom night.”

Smithtown High School West participates in the county District Attorney’s Office new Choices and Consequences program that shows the dangers of reckless and drunk driving. Members of the DA’s office will be in the high school June 18.

In a letter to students, Smithtown West High School Principal John Coady said anyone caught drinking during prom will be suspended and kicked out. Prom tickets will not be refunded, and the student may be barred from the graduation ceremony.

Fifty alcohol and 25 drug testing kits were sent out to numerous schools to kick off the program. The kits are also available free at each Suffolk County legislator’s office and will remain offered through the North Shore Youth Council.

Each alcohol testing kit costs .74 cents while drug testing kits are $1.50. The $5,000 program is being paid for with asset forfeiture funds.

“I would like for all of them to enjoy the moment,” Toulon said of seniors attending prom and graduation. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but please be responsible in your actions so you do not harm yourself or anyone else.”

Two Dix Hills men arrested as a result of a long-term investigation

Dix Hill residents Wesley Snider and Steve Polizzi were arrested by New York State police for allegedly possessing more than 500 pounds of marijuana. Photo from NYS Police Dept

New York State police announced the arrest of two men who allegedly had more than 500 pounds of marijuana stored in two East Northport facilities.

The state police’s Troop L narcotics unit, based in Farmingdale, along with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office arrested two men for allegedly possessing drugs after a long-term investigation. Police executed search warrants at a Dix Hills home and two storage facilities, located at 2083 and 2091 Jericho Turnpike in East Northport. The officers found more than 500 pounds of marijuana, which was estimated to have a street value of more than $2 million. In addition, there was more than $200,000 along with multiple vehicles and real estate properties seized as result of the investigation, according to state police.

State police arrested two Dix Hills residents Steve Polizzi, 57, and Wesley Snider, 28. Polizzi is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal possession of marijuana, one count of second-degree criminal possession of marijuana and one count of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.  Snider is charged with one count of first-degree criminal possession of marijuana and one count seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Both men were arraigned May 10 in First District Court in Central Islip, and will be held in Riverhead county jail in lieu of bail. Attorney information for the defendants was not immediately available.

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Bridge of Hope Resource Center founder Celina Wilson is planning to turn a family owned home on Roe Avenue into a shelter for at-risk girls ages 16 to 21. Image from Google Maps

As the old cliché goes, it’s impossible to know when opportunity will knock, just be ready to answer the door when it does. Opportunity knocked for Celina Wilson about 30 years ago, both literally and figuratively. She went on to dedicate her life’s work to the opportunity that was standing at her front door.

The Port Jefferson Station resident founded Bridge of Hope Resource Center with her husband, George, in the late 1990s, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through family communication. The organization for years has been holding seminars, forums, workshops and other similar events to educate the community and arm parents with strategies for connecting with teens and young adults. Wilson and the organization’s overarching ethos is that education and prevention are the best means for keeping kids from falling victim to the ills lurking in society, like drug addiction and depression. In 2018, Wilson is hoping to advance Bridge of Hope’s mission a step further.

Wilson’s in-laws lived in Port Jefferson Station for about 30 years, but 10 years ago, after her husband’s mother died, her father-in-law, John Wilson, decided to move out of the longtime family home on Roe Avenue. The home was left to Bridge of Hope to use as an asset, sheltering families in crisis who had a hard time finding a place to live. Wilson said the only stipulation was the tenants needed to find work and contribute to the rent. Over the course of the last decade, Wilson said three or four families have stayed at the home.

Now, she plans to repurpose it to serve as a shelter for at-risk girls between 16 and 21 years old. The shelter — which will be called John’s House, to honor Wilson’s late father-in-law — will be a place for girls who run away from home or pose a risk of doing so due to conflicts with parents or guardians. While at the home, those staying in the five beds will be supervised and subjected to counseling and other programs in an effort to restore open lines of healthy communication with parents.

The inspiration for the home was several decades in the making for Wilson.

She was living with her now-husband’s family in the same Port Jeff Station home about 30 years ago, she recalled, when a 16-year-old boy knocked on her door. Even though it was 10 p.m., the then-21-year-old answered.

“He was wondering if he could sleep in our house,” Wilson said. “He was tired. He had a fight with his mom, and I’m figuring, ‘He must have knocked at plenty of houses. Why ours?’ We didn’t understand. But he asked us, ‘Please, just for the night, can I just come in?’ What went through my mind was, ‘If we don’t let him in, he’s going to be in the street and who knows what?’”

In the morning, Wilson remembers waking up wanting to hear more of his personal story, but by that time, he was already gone.

“What went through my mind was, ‘If we don’t let him in, he’s going to be in the street and who knows what?’”

— Celina Wilson

“I realized then, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s so many young people out there, I wonder what his mom was thinking, if she knew he was somewhere safe,’” she said. “The story repeats itself if we fast forward, but it’s
different today because of what our young people are facing.”

Wilson said the home will be funded by donations and some money from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, which will also help in placing some of the girls in the home, though space will be available to accommodate the weary traveler like the one who knocked on her door 30 years ago.

“We feel the house is going to be a place where families can send their teens and work on situations that they themselves cannot work on in the home, and prevent them from running away,” Wilson said. “The goal is to reunite that youth back with their family.”

She said the length of stay for occupants will be determined on a case-by-case basis, with an eye toward sheltering those most in need, though she estimated many will be allowed to live there for up to 18 months. Each of the tenants will be expected to participate in counseling sessions and work toward agreed-upon goals, all while Bridge of Hope will be maintaining contact with the families to try to rebuild lines of communication. Wilson said the organization will follow up with the tenants even after they leave the home to make sure they stay on track as they grow up and prepare for independence.

One representative from the resource center will live permanently at the home, who Wilson referred to as the “house mom,” though aides, case workers and other specialists will also be on hand on a rotating basis seven days a week. She said tenants will be supervised at all times and expected to be at the home unless they’re at school, work or an organized activity.

She said admittance into the home will have nothing to do with demographics, as family conflict is common among all segments of society.

“It could be anyone’s child that is out there on the street,” Wilson said. “It could be my child.”

One community member who was helped by Wilson and Bridge of Hope said she sees the organization’s founder as the perfect person for an initiative like John’s House.

“She made things happen for me,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. She said Wilson and the
center worked with her for five years, assisting in finding work and getting her life on track while dealing with a physical disability. “She’s right for these kids. A lot of young people don’t have a place to go.”

She called Wilson a good person and a woman of her word, adding she wished the founder would run for political office.

Wilson said she contacted the Suffolk County Youth Bureau, an entity under the county executive’s purview dedicated to ensuring effective management of county funds for youth services, for assistance in
establishing policies for her initiative. She said the organization also conducted an inspection at the house, which will undergo minor renovations prior to her October target date for opening.

Though members of the bureau’s leadership declined to comment on the dealings with Bridge of Hope, one of its responsibilities includes monitoring and evaluating youth programs, research and planning; information and referrals; and training and technical assistance for community-based youth organizations, according to its website.

Wilson said she sees John’s house as a fitting tribute for the man it’s named after, who migrated to the United States from Jamaica in the Caribbean. He worked for years as a custodian at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital.

“He left such a legacy here and abroad that we thought it appropriate to call it John’s House because he lived a life of service, kindness and love to his fellow man,” she said.

To donate to help Wilson’s cause, visit www.gofundme.com/xtzv6n-hope-for-her.

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