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Jenni Culkin

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Bill Stewart's Kings Park hobby shop. Photo by Jenni Culkin

By Jenni Culkin

An entrepreneur from the North Shore is making his hobby into a new career.

Bill Stewart, the owner and sole employee of Filadelfos Toy & Hobby, decided after 20 years as an IT worker that he was looking for a job with more fun, stability and control over his profession.

“I decided to turn my hobby into a business,” Stewart said in an interview.

According to Stewart, “filadelfo” is a modernized form of the Greek “Philadelphia,” which means “brotherly love.”

Bill Stewart proudly shows off one of his favorite items at his Kings Park hobby shop. Photo by Jenni Culkin
Bill Stewart proudly shows off one of his favorite items at his Kings Park hobby shop. Photo by Jenni Culkin

Since 2010, Stewart has been selling his merchandise through the Internet. In late March of this year, Stewart made the leap to establish a physical shop on 12 Main St. in Kings Park. The shop stands parallel with the local train station, has an exterior decorated with pinwheels and whirligigs and plays 1980s music from inside the storefront.

The store’s interior is about 200-square-feet in size and fits comic book merchandise, model planes and cars, action figures, cards and so much more.

Stewart said he runs the shop simply “for the love of the stuff” that he sells and not to make excessive profit margins or achieve any goals of expansion.

The shop hosts sessions to play games such as the Magic card game and Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. On Saturdays at noon, Filadelfos already hosts a Dungeons & Dragons competition for residents.

If people are also looking for something that is difficult to find, they can ask Stewart whether or not he can find and sell it to them. Stewart sometimes makes purchases directly from the manufacturers.

Stewart is currently waiting for Shopkins, popular new toys that are modeled after food and have faces and online profiles, to stock his store with.

There are also plans to expand if his current shop experiences enough success.

Visit www.frchobby.com to find out more about Stewart’s store.

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The latest 100 names are read off before being unveiled as part of Nesconset’s own memorial wall in honor of those lost after lending helping hands in the aftermath of September 11 in 2001. Photo by Jenni Culkin

By Jenni Culkin

There was not a dry eye in the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park as the greater North Shore community came together to commemorate the lives of first responders who died from September 11-related illnesses.

The Nesconset park, at the intersection of Smithtown Boulevard and Gibbs Pond Road, was dedicated to victims of the horrendous terrorist attack and was crowded with hundreds of residents and families as 100 new names were added to its memorial wall on May 16.

“They are the reason we get out of bed,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, who acted as the master of ceremonies. “Thank you for allowing us to serve you.”

The wall already had more than 500 names, but those who spoke at the somber ceremony did so with the same sort of hurt felt when the attack first occurred in 2001.

“Like everyone here today, I pale in comparison to those who are going on the wall,” Martin Aponte, president of the park, said during the ceremony with a voice full of emotion.

The service featured various patriotic musical performances and words from elected officials.

“We thank you, from the bottom of our hearts,” said Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), “I commit to you that I will always stand watch over this park.”

Elected officials from neighboring towns joined the Nesconset community in honoring the lives of the 9/11 responders.

“We are truly a country of greatness and heroes,” said Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore).

Toward the end of the ceremony, the sons of fallen responders read the names that were going to be etched into the memorial wall. Each name was followed by a solemn bell toll.

Shortly after the names were all read, the sun started to show itself above the memorial park. Feal and those who played active roles in leading the ceremony made it very clear during and after the ceremony that they were grateful for the amount of people attending the ceremony despite the rainy weather.

“It’s humbling to see this many people come out,” Feal said. “For people to withstand Mother Nature truly showed the American spirit.”

Aponte said there are trees among the park’s foliage that are direct descendants of a tree that survived the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11. One of these trees was given to the Hauppauge Fire Department and another was also given to the Nesconset Fire Department as tokens of appreciation for each department’s contribution to the park.

A memorial ceremony is usually held, and is expected to continue to be held, every May during Memorial Day week and every September during the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The park has plans to eventually recognize and honor the service dogs that have passed away due to 9/11-related illnesses, Aponte said. There are also plans to place signs on the Long Island Expressway that lead travelers to the park from nearby exits but there are no definite dates at this time.

The park’s upkeep and development is dependent upon donations that can be made on the park’s website, which is at respondersremembered.com. The Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce is also going to be hosting a golf outing to benefit the park in early August.

“We built this park so history does not get distorted,” Aponte said.

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Budget approved with nearly 77 percent of the vote

By Jenni Culkin

The Rocky Point Union Free School District’s proposed $78.78 million 2015-16 school year budget was approved Tuesday with great support.

The spending plan, which increased by 2.46 percent from the current year, passed with 788 votes compared to 237 votes against.

The budget maintains just about all programs and activities. However, as the district was faced with a large increase in special education costs, administrators moved to decrease the district’s Striving for Higher Achievement at Rocky Point, known as SHARP, at the elementary level. While the after-school component of the program is eliminated, summer SHARP will continue and after-school extra help will still be offered.

Residents also re-elected incumbent school board Vice President Scott Reh to the board, while Ed Casswell was elected and will fill Trustee John Lessler’s seat. Lessler did not seek re-election. Reh received 670 votes and Casswell received 588. Unsuccessfully, Donna McCauley garnered 452 votes.

More than 40 people waited patiently for the election and budget results in the Rocky Point High School Auditorium on Tuesday evening.

Reh, the 48-year-old athletic director for Mount Sinai schools, has served on the board for five years. He said he will “advocate for transparency” and “try to give every student the opportunity to succeed” during his next term on the board.

“My plans are to continue working with the current board,” Reh said.

In a phone interview Wednesday morning, Casswell, 50, said he was excited to be part of the team. The Center Moriches High School principal said he will draw his attention to a capital improvements bond referendum the board is considering moving forward.

Some residents have voiced concerns over social media that the election of both candidates — who were endorsed by the district’s teachers union — creates a singular point of view on the school board, as all the trustees come from education backgrounds or deal with educators.

In a phone interview, McCauley, who ran last year as well, expressed a similar concern. She said she plans on asking the board to reconsider its candidacy requirements and enact stricter requirements for public entities endorsing candidates.

“I have nothing against [the teacher union], but it creates an unfair advantage,” she said.

While this is her last time running, she vowed to stick around.

“I will continue to be involved in any way that I am able,” she said.

But Casswell said that as a trustee he is a parent first and believes everyone is looking out for the kids.

“We’re working for the betterment of our children,” Casswell said. “Under that premise, I don’t’ think I have any concerns about excluding any groups of individuals.”

Erika Karp contributed reporting.

Some of Toni Frissell’s work includes photographs taken of the Kennedy family. Photo from Leighton H. Coleman III

By Jenni Culkin

The artistic photography of the late North Shore resident Toni Frissell will be on display at the Village Hall in her hometown village of Head of the Harbor from May 29 to June 11. The Village Hall will be featuring some of Frissell’s rarest works from private collections.

Frissell was a prominent photographer on the North Shore of Long Island throughout the 20th century. Her work in photography included fashion pieces, wedding snapshots and various photojournalistic photos.

“She had a very good eye and a sense of style,” said Leighton H. Coleman III, the village historian for the village of Head of the Harbor. “They were very personal and engaging photos.”

Frissell also used her photographic talents to illustrate children’s books throughout the 1940s. According to Coleman, these books have become extremely valuable and highly sought after by collectors.

Frissell’s work was featured in vintage magazines such as Vogue and Life.

“She had her own career and she was a trailblazer in her career,” Coleman said in an interview last week.

Visitors can also expect to learn more about Frissell during their time at the event. A micro-exhibit of the history of the Frissell family, photographs of Frissell by other famous photographers and  a copy of “Toni Frissell: Photographs 1933-1967” authored by her daughter will be available to view throughout the exhibit.

Some of Frissell’s family members and former sitters will be attending the exhibit. Her granddaughter, who followed in Frissell’s footsteps, will be one of the people in attendance.

The Village Hall will begin hosting the historic exhibit on May 29 with an opening reception at 5 p.m. The exhibit will be open to the public every afternoon through June 11.

Volunteers help out in the garden at the Bethel Hobbs Community Farm, located on Oxhead Road in Centereach. File photo

By Jenni Culkin

A small Centereach farm, about 11 acres in size, is reaching out to the community to raise the funds necessary to continue doing its good work.

The farm has been growing vegetables and other crops to donate to food pantries and people in need since 2007, according to Peter Castorano, one of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s caretakers, who lives in the sole house on the property.

“Ann started it all,” said Castorano.

That Ann is Ann Pellegrino.

The Centereach woman discovered the farm, which wasn’t too far from her house, after she sought a place to continue gardening and donating the crops to the poor.

Former Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Kathy Walsh and farm Director Ann Pellegrino put their backs into it at Hobbs Farm. File photo
Former Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Kathy Walsh and farm Director Ann Pellegrino put their backs into it at Hobbs Farm. File photo

Alfred Hobbs willed the farm to the Bethel AME Church, its owner since 1955. Pellegrino decided to take over the farm’s maintenance, although it is still owned by Bethel Church. She is now the vice president of the farm, which donates tens of thousands of pounds of crops to those in need each year.

The farm has recently experienced an invasion by wild deer, which are eating some of the farm’s crops. The deer eating the crops has significantly lowered the overall productivity of the farm.

“It costs a lot to maintain the farm,” Pellegrino said.

For this reason, an inaugural 4-mile run, which will take place on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 9 a.m., will help raise money for a higher fence to prevent further invasion by the deer population. Advanced registration is $20. In addition, it will cost $5 for children to participate in the Kids Fun Run. There will be awards for runners, music and raffles at the event.

“It’s a really great cause,” Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) said. “Hobbs farm is a hidden jewel in the area.”

According to LaValle, the run has been made official by USA Track & Field. It will be timed and kept track of like any other official race.

“We would like to make this a yearly event,” Pellegrino said.

The inaugural run is not the only way to make a difference.

There are only approximately eight regular volunteers at the farm, including Dottie Meade, Elaine Gaveglia and Jason Castorano. Castorano finds himself fixing the farm equipment and handling the maintenance of heavy machinery, like the tractor. Meade helps out with a plot of land designated to educating young children and helping them learn and grow.

Meade said regular volunteers included the Green Teens from the Middle Country Public Library, volunteers from Long Island colleges like Suffolk County Community College, Stony Brook University and Adelphi University and the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.

“We need volunteers, we need sponsors and we need the word out,” Pellegrino said.

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North Shore native revives homegrown business, using late wife as motivation for revamped brand

By Jenni Culkin

After two decades, a Smithtown-based fitness clothing line that once enjoyed stellar success in the 1990s is making a brute and swift comeback.

Robert Alario stands with a model showing off his BRUTE FORCE fitness clothing line. Photo by Jenni Culkin
Robert Alario stands with a model showing off his BRUTE FORCE fitness clothing line. Photo by Jenni Culkin

Robert Alario, who was born and raised in Smithtown, started bodybuilding as a junior high school student.

He used his weight-lifting skills to develop his wrestling team reputation, eventually becoming co-captain of the team.

“Fitness has always been at the center of my entire life,” Alario said.

Alario originally began selling his products under the brand name BRUTE FORCE INC., during 1988 at Macy’s through a licensing agreement. The brand was completely homegrown with a Smithtown resident using Smithtown businesses to help propel him to fitness clothing prominence on a local scale and beyond.

But Alario eventually decided to take a break from the business, citing a problem with the licensing agreement.

Alario officially began bringing the line back in 2013, raising funds from private investors and crowdsourcing.

Alario is making his way back to success in his business without a licensing deal this time.

“I’m setting the stage for a multimillion-dollar platform,” said Alario. “I’m going for it.”

BRUTE FORCE’s website will be up and running in mid-May. The World Gym in Ronkonkoma will also be selling the clothing.

“I call it fashion-forward fitness ware,” Alario said about his clothing line.

Alario continued to describe the clothing line as sexy, explaining that the clothes don’t conform to the status quo.

Products from Alario’s BRUTE FORCE clothing line are being manufactured locally in a factory in Bellmore. But what motivates Alario most of all, he said, is bringing the clothing line back to life in the wake of his late wife Angela, who died from a pulmonary aneurysm after undergoing a surgery several years ago.

Angela was once a model for Gold’s Gym television commercials and was enthusiastic about fitness just like Alario. Alario restarted his business, calling her the inspiration for the new and improved line of clothing.

The tags on each piece of clothing even bear the words, Inspired By Angela.

“She’s amazing in every way,” Alario said about his late wife, explaining that she was always encouraging him to get back to his business. “I learned a lot from her and I see through her eyes.”

Alario currently lives in Miller Place with the hope of moving back to his hometown of Smithtown sometime soon to spread the word of his comeback. He has two stepsons, Angela’s sons, who are planning on becoming doctors.

BRUTE FORCE has huge plans, including plans to eventually expand into footwear to go with the clothing line. Alario can be reached at 800-326-9059.

“This is not a small-time thing,” Alario said. “We’re going to make it big.”

Taste of Long Island will feature wine and beer tastings, among other events. Stock photo

By Jenni Culkin

One of Long Island’s most prominant annual culinary events is featuring famous chefs and reviewers as a new addition for its 12th year.

Tonight, Thursday, April 23, the Larkfield in East Northport will be hosting A Taste of Long Island, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. This year, three celebrity chefs, 2013 “MasterChef” winner Luca Manfe, Rob Burmeister from “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant Barret Beyer, are going to be attending the event. Throughout the night, the chefs will be available to mingle and chat with the other attendees.

More than 25 restaurants have signed up and the number has been steadily growing, including eateries like California Pizza Kitchen, The Crossroads Cafe, the original Fireside Caterers, Nisen Sushi and many more.

New to this year’s event, the entries from the participating restaurants will be divided into four categories: most creative dish, best table presentation, tastiest dish and people’s choice. The celebrity guests will judge the people’s choice category during the evening.

“There’s wine and beer tasting, there’s going to be entertainment music in every room and amazing raffle baskets,” said Loriann Pineo, executive director of the East Northport Chamber of Commerce, the group organizing the event.

The proceeds from this event will be used to benefit important causes at groups such as Rotary International, Visiting Nurse Service and Hospice of Suffolk and the East Northport Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $75 each. They will be $85 at the door.

Call the East Northport Chamber of Commerce for your tickets at  631-261-3573.

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File photo by Michael Ruiz

By Jenni Culkin

Adolescents from the Three Village Central School District were asked to use their creative talents to write or illustrate a children’s book to the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library and the results are in.

They launched the first-ever Helen Stein Shack Book Award to showcase the young writing and artistic talent, calling for teens in the Three Village school district to create a children’s picture book.

In the library-sponsored contest category for grades seven through nine, Leah Cussen won the grand prize with her book, “Lenny the Lion.” The book told the tale of a lonely lion who leaves his family in search of a new one because he feels like he doesn’t belong.

In the end, the lion learns that his family loves him the way he is, despite any differences they might have. Anny Weisenberg and her book, “Red Boots for Rainy Days” as well as Samuel Kim and his book, “Freddy the Fish and the First Day of School” both received honorable mentions.

For grades 10 through 12, Wendy Wahlert and won the grand prize with her book, “Lilabet.” In her book, a little girl who lives in a black and white world has a love for colors. She embraces what makes her unique and shares her color with everyone.

Kiera Alventosa and her book, “Heal Our Mother Earth” as well as Sarah and Karen Jiang and their book, “Pengy Goes on an Adventure” both received honorable mentions.

“We are so incredibly impressed with the high caliber of some of the entries — the vibrant colors of the artwork and the way they wrote with young children in mind,” said Lisa DeVerna of the library. “The two grand prize winners even had wonderful lessons built into their stories.”

The winners will be recognized at a reception on April 26 at 2 p.m. at the library. A $500 scholarship will be awarded to both of the grand prize winners.

All of the winners, including the honorable mention winners, will have their books bound and made into an e-book.

The property is adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park off of Landing Road in Miller Place. Photo by Erika Karp

By Jenni Culkin

A parcel of wooded land next to Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place is up for grabs, and the community isn’t letting the land be developed without a fight.

The 5.4-acre parcel, which backs up to the more than 64-acre county park off of Landing Road, has value to the residents of Miller Place, and according to Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), constituents have been making it clear that the land needs to be preserved.

A website and Facebook group, operating under the name Friends of Cordwood Landing, was launched a few months ago, and the group has been advocating for the land’s preservation. A representative from the group could not be reached for comment.

Back in December 2014, Anker began the process of acquiring the land from its owner, Rocky Point developer Mark Baisch, of Landmark Properties. The legislature unanimously voted to start the acquisition process so that the county could protect the area, which Anker described in a phone interview on March 17 as “residential,” from possible commercialization or industrialization.  The county has hired appraisers to determine the land’s worth. According to law, the county can’t pay any more than the appraised value.

Anker said she would like to see the land become a part of the waterfront property of Cordwood Landing.

“I am a true environmentalist,” Anker said. “I will do everything I can to advocate and move this parcel forward through the acquisition process.”

According to Town of Brookhaven planning documents, Baisch submitted a request for a subdivision back in January. In a recent phone interview, Baisch said he would like to build homes on the land. However, if the county’s offer is sufficient, he said he would sell the land.

Anker said the proposal to acquire the land is currently in its early stages and is awaiting approval from the Environmental Trust Fund Review Board. If approved, the proposal will head to the Environmental, Planning, and Agriculture Committee, of which Anker is a member. She expects the proposal to get there by April.

In 2013, the county tried to purchase the land from its original owner, but the owner refused to sell.

Annual St. Baldrick’s event brings in five figures after students shave heads to benefit good cause

Commack High School students and administrators take turns trimming their hair or shaving it off completely to benefit cancer research. Photo by Jenni Culkin

By Jenni Culkin

A line of students from Commack High School trailed from the school’s gymnasium doors to the next hallway.
The students eagerly waited to cut their hair for a worthy cause while the room buzzed with music, pizza, smoothies, an auction and the countless surprised faces of the brave people who lost inches of hair to raise money and awareness for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“Hey, free haircut!” one student joked.

According to St. Baldrick’s official website, the event, which took place on March 6, raised $75,304.50 by the end. During the event, students played all kinds of volunteering roles to join the fight against cancer.

“It’s a great cause,” said David Malinovsky, an 11th-grade Commack High School student who had his head shaved. “It’s one of the most special things that we can do besides giving money.”

Even some of the female students hopped into the chairs to get their hair cut significantly shorter. Some female students even decided to have their entire head shaved for the cause.

“My uncle recently died of cancer,” said Carrie Fishbane, a 12th-grade student who had her entire head shaved. “I’m doing this in memory of him.”

Others decided not to lose their precious locks but to still help out in other ways.

“I think it’d be fair for a change if everyone else had no hair,” says Kyle Critelli, a 10th-grade student.

Critelli volunteered to sweep hair from the gymnasium floor. Other students got involved by selling food, drinks and merchandise that would all benefit the students.

Even nonstudents from the community got involved in the effort. Tara Forrest, a professional hairdresser with 17 years of experience, has been volunteering to cut hair for St. Baldrick events for three years.

“My whole family does it,” Forrest said with excitement,

Forrest said she was first inspired to donate her time and effort after one of her young son’s classmates was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She told her son Michael that his classmate’s remission is credited to “people like us that raise money.”

With that inspiration, Michael, who is now in second grade, has helped to raise roughly $10,000 through St. Baldrick’s within three years.

But the Forrest family was not the only one to let a personal situation inspire them to participate in charity work.

Lee Tunick, a math teacher from Commack High School, became the advisor for Yodel Kadodel, an extracurricular club at the school that raises awareness and money for cancer research with various activities throughout the year. The club has been running a St. Baldrick event for the past six years. Since then, roughly $450,000 has been raised.

“I have a friend whose daughter is sick,” said Tunick. “You feel so helpless from one parent to another. You want to do something to help if you can.”

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