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Miller Place Fire Department

Members of Miller Place Fire Department, EMS volunteers and community members come together at Stop & Shop in Miller Place to raise donations for those in need this holiday season. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Local families in need have a group of Miller Place volunteers, generous strangers and a big red bus to be thankful for this holiday season.

Cold, windy weather did nothing to stop Miller Place Fire Department members from gathering outside Stop & Shop at 385 Route 25A for five hours last weekend. In fact, the dozen volunteer EMS members, engine company officers and firefighters were all smiles as they collected 800 pounds of nonperishable items from passing shoppers, whose contributions were packed into a fire department bus and dropped off to St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach the next morning.

Former Miller Place captain of EMS
Debi Rasweiler, on left, collects
donations. Photo by Kevin Redding

Canned food, condiments, paper towels and much more stock the shelves at the church’s food pantry for Miller Place, Sound Beach and Mount Sinai families struggling to make ends meet. The donations will help them have a proper Thanksgiving.

“The outpouring is always incredible — people here are just amazing,” said Debi Rasweiler, a former captain of EMS at the fire department and organizer of the 7th annual EMS Stuff-A-Bus Nov. 17, which ran from 3 to 8 p.m. “Last year we stuffed the bus from floor to ceiling, rear to front. It just grows every year.”

During the event, shoppers on their way into the supermarket were handed a list of items needed for the pantry — including pasta, dry cereal, canned vegetables, soaps and toothpaste — and asked to donate if possible. It didn’t take long before residents wheeled their carts over to the bus to chip in. Some dropped off one or two items while others outdid themselves, handing over full bags of groceries and cash.

“I just think we all have to give back,” said Shoreham resident Peggy Debus, who donated peanut butter, jelly and cereal. “When people stop giving back, the world gets very bad.”

John Barile from Mount Sinai, who handed over paper towels, said he takes any opportunity he can to help others who need it.

“If everybody gave something, we would never have any problems,” Barile said.

“If everybody gave something, we would never have any problems.”

John Barile

When asked what inspired her to donate multiple items, another shopper simply said, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Stephen Rasweiler, Debi’s husband and a lifelong volunteer firefighter, voiced his appreciation for the community as he held up a donated bag of yams and turkey stuffing.

“This is somebody’s Thanksgiving dinner just in one bag,” he said, beaming. “This time of year is very stressful, the economy’s tough for a lot of families and we know we’re helping a lot of people. It’s sad that this is needed but it’s been a great department and community effort.”

It was the Rasweiler’s daughter Jessica who initially brought Stuff-A-Bus to the community seven years ago after being involved in a similar event with her sorority at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. When she came home from college, and joined the fire department as an EMT, Rasweiler was determined to adopt the donate-and-transport event.

She got local businesses to sponsor it and went door-to-door from Setauket to Wading River to spread the word. As a full-time nurse at St. Catherine of Siena in Smithtown, she was unable to be at this year’s event, but said over the phone that the event’s continued success makes her heart smile.

“I wanted to do more for the community,” she said. “I knew we could do something greater than just wait for the whistle to blow for any kind of call that we get at the fire department. I just can’t believe it and it’s amazing the community has just latched onto it. It’s a very special event.”

For Bobby Chmiel, 2nd Lieutenant of EMS, the Stuff-A-Bus is a highlight every year.

St. Louis de Montfort’s outreach coordinator Jane
Guido shows off her new inventory as a result of the
annual Stuff-A-Bus event. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s not just residents helping people, it’s helping people they might know,” he said. “They could be your friends or neighbors. The community in Miller Place and Sound Beach will unite around a common cause. When it’s one of our own that needs help, especially during the holiday season, we’re there.”

On Nov. 18, the big red bus delivered its boxes upon boxes of items to the church. The various foods were stacked into the church’s pantries and will be given out to families, many of whom the church takes care of year-round.

“It’s a blessing and I can’t thank them enough,” said Jane Guido, St. Louis de Montfort’s outreach coordinator. “The families are very appreciative because a lot of them wouldn’t’ be able to put that kind of spread on their table for a holiday. It’s just too costly. People are so generous — we get plenty of stuff that holds us through the year — without their help, our pantry would be bare.”

After all the boxes were brought inside, Debi Rasweiler announced that on top of the food, one resident who asked to be anonymous donated $1,400 worth of Visa gift cards.

“It was a single parent who had been needy for a long time,” Rasweiler said.

An emotional Guido hugged her.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you everybody,” Guido said.

Carol Hawat will continue to serve the Miller Place Fire District. File photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place residents voted against change Dec. 13 when they took to the fire district and cast their vote in the commissioner race.

Carol Hawat, who has served in her position since 2001 on the board of fire commissioners, won her fourth five-year term with 242 votes against her challenger Guy Schneider, a lifelong firefighter in the community, who received 71 votes, according to Miller Place Fire District. This is the second time Hawat beat out Schneider, who ran against the incumbent in 2011. Schneider could not be reached for comment.

A full-time EMT supervisor at the Rocky Point Fire Department, Hawat has been an advocate for bringing more ambulatory services to the Miller Place community since she was first elected to the position.

Carol Hawat has been voted to serve Miller Place Fire District for a fourth consecutive five-year term. File photo from Carol Hawat

Her extensive background in the EMS field has been a much-needed skill set, with 60 percent of the district’s total calls requiring urgent medical care, whether for those involved in motor vehicle accidents or in-home injuries, among others.

Hawat said she hoped to continue serving as commissioner because she considers herself the voice for the medical portion of the community. She said providing people with good quality care has been a lifelong passion.

“I feel like I make a difference,” she said. “I was raised to not walk by somebody who needs help … [I] help whoever needs it. … When I go on calls to a person’s house, they’re at their worst, they’re in pain, they’re worried, they’re scared … and to be able to help them, provide a friendly face and comfort and get them through that and bring them treatment, is very rewarding.”

Under Hawat’s leadership, the district provides top-of-the-line medical equipment, such as blood-pressure monitors, and 24/7 advanced life-support care — lifesaving protocols that extend support for its patients until hospital medical treatment is available. She said she’s helped supply whatever has been needed in the district, from new ambulances to fire trucks.

Rocky Point District Manager Edwin Brooks, who has known Hawat for many years as EMT supervisor, said it’s clear she’s the right person for the position.

“She’s very conscientious, very dedicated to her job, she’s hardworking and she cares,” he said. “Obviously she won by almost a 3-1 margin, so she must be doing her job. She’s been commissioner for quite a while.”

Josh Hagermann, Miller Place department chief, said Hawat is good for the community.

“I think she’ll [continue to] do well at the job she was elected for, and she’ll be helpful to the community,” he said. “She’s a very likable person.”

Hawat holds numerous CPR seminars at local schools and community centers to provide more education and awareness on what to do in emergency situations, and moving forward, she aims to do something similar to help stop the frequency of heroin overdoses in the area.

“I’m looking to be able to do classes on my own and go out there and provide more awareness of the drugs, educate people on how to know if someone is involved and provide Narcan [an opiate antidote] training at schools,” she said. “We have Narcan in the ambulance already.”

Her new five-year term begins Jan. 1, and will run through Dec. 31, 2021.

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Miller Place Fire Department responded to a structure fire at 5 Ariel Court in Rocky Point. Photo from Miller Place Fire Department

Miller Place Fire Department responded to a structure fire at 5 Ariel Court in Rocky Point to assist Rocky Point Fire Department early on the morning of Dec. 12.

Responders, in conjunction with Rocky Point Fire Department, helped extinguish the flames. Photo from Miller Place Fire Department
Responders, in conjunction with Rocky Point Fire Department, helped extinguish the flames. Photo from Miller Place Fire Department

A fire destroyed the home of the Sanvitale family, who, with their dogs Tilda and Lucky, were unharmed.

A Go Fund Me page was created for the family, to support them after losing their home amidst the holiday season.

The Go Fund Me page was created by David Mathias, and, in one day since it was created, has been shared 228 times and raised $3,125, as of press time, with the help of 56 donations. The target goal is $5,000.

With the donations, some messages were left from members of the community. Richard and Samantha Rishkel wrote “If you need anything, let us know.” Kate Graf added a message, “Sending love and positive energy from Florida,” and Ashley Haskell said, “Sending healing energy.”

To make a contribution, visit www.gofundme.com/sanvitale-house-fire-support-fund.

 

The Miller Place Fire Department hosted its annual open house Oct. 16.

Miller Place Fire Department’s Station 2 hosted fire prevention and safety demonstrations, along with other family-friendly activities to help promote fire prevention month.

The open house helped highlight y the different community trucks and tools used to fight fires and keep the public safe. Suffolk County’s sheriff’s department was also on sight helping to talk to young children about safe driving and the hazards of drunk driving.

File photo

A late night house fire on Parkside Avenue in Miller Place Thursday night killed a 70-year-old man inside, Suffolk County police said Friday.

Authorities said a 911 caller reported the fire at 106 Pakrside Ave. around 11:50 p.m. Thursday night. That was when members of the Miller Place Fire Department discovered the man, whose identity was being withheld until authorities could notify his next of kin, and pulled him out of the blaze.

Police said the fire department took the man to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, where he was pronounced dead.

Detectives said they did not believe the fire was criminal in nature.

Firefighters from other departments, including Rocky Point, Sound Beach, Mount Sinai and Middle Island also responded to the fire to help extinguish the flames, the county police department said.

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