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Selden

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks about the expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program to Suffolk and Nassau community colleges at a press conference in Selden April 4. Photo from Lee Zeldin

Students who have served and their families are receiving some transitional support.

U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford) announced the expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program to Suffolk and Nassau County community colleges. The initiative, through the Department of Veterans Affairs, helps veterans, service members and their qualified dependents succeed in school using a coordinated delivery of on-campus benefits assistance, including referral services and peer-to-peer counseling. The program is intended to lead students to graduation and prepare them to enter the workforce in viable careers.

Services may be accessed by:

  • Service members and veterans eligible for any of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs educational programs, including Post 9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill
  • Service members and veterans attended training through the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program
  • Eligible dependents of veterans who are in receipt of VA education benefits, including spouses attending school through the Post 9/11 GI Bill and eligible children

“Our nation’s servicemen and women put their lives on the line to protect us, and when they return home, they have earned nothing less than our unwavering support when transitioning back into civilian life,” Zeldin said during an announcement of the program’s expansion at Suffolk County Community College April 4. “The expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program means local veterans here at Suffolk and Nassau will have access to an even wider rage of tools at their disposal to help them transition into their new lives after military service.”

Suffolk County is home to the largest number of veterans in the state. SCCC serves more than 700 military-connected students annually across three campuses, and NCCC serves more than 300.

Students like retired Air Force Master Sgt. Olivia McMahon benefit from the program, and she said she’s thrilled to hear that what she was once provided remote access to will now feature a more personal connection to resources and benefits.

“As a single working parent and veteran, I cannot stress enough the importance of this program,” the SCCC student said. “It allows us to reach our educational goals and further educate our community.”

VetsSuccess on-ampus counselors provide:

  • Adjustment counseling to resolve problems interfering with completion of educational programs and entrance into employment
  • Vocational testing
  • educational and career counseling
  • Expedited VR&E services
  • Support and assistance to all veterans with VA benefits regardless of entitlement, benefit usage or enrollment status

Christopher Holder, the VetsSuccess on-campus program counselor, was at the April 4 press conference to talk to veterans about his position in the program and share firsthand experience with re-acclimating to society.

“As a veteran, as a disabled veteran, I have made the transition these students are making now,” he said. “I hope that my experience on both sides, as a veteran and as an administrator, will help these veterans make theirs.”

During the event, Zeldin and King presented SCCC Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Christopher Adams, with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the expansion of the program and to honor the veterans it serves.

“Suffolk County Community College has a long history of assisting student veterans and maximizing their benefits and achieving their educational goals,” Adams said. “They deserve it and we are honored to be able to recognize their service to our country in this way.”

VetsSuccess on Campus began as a pilot program in 2009 at the University of South Florida in Tampa and has expanded to such an extent that SCCC and Nassau are now two of 99 colleges in the nation with the program.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police arrested a Riverhead man during multiple inspections of vape businesses in the Town of Brookhaven at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 24.

In response to community complaints, 6th Precinct crime section officers in conjunction with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Enforcement-Tobacco Regulations Unit conducted investigations into the sale of e-liquid nicotine products to minors at four businesses.

Bradly Reed, 20, employed with Vapor Nation, located at 978 Middle Country Road in Selden, was arrested and issued a field appearance ticket for the alleged second-degree unlawfully dealing with a child. He is scheduled to appear at First District Court in Central Islip at a later date.

Additional businesses in Selden and Miller Place were inspected for the sale of e-liquid nicotine products to a minor. The following establishments were in compliance:

  • Smoke Shop at 1070 Middle Country Road in Selden
  • Aura Vape Smoke Shop at 1110 Middle Country Road in Selden
  • The Cloud Vapor Lounge at 745 Route 25A in Miller Place

Robert Van Helden. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police arrested a Rocky Point man who allegedly robbed a bank in Port Jefferson Station.

A man entered TD Bank, located at 86 Nesconset Highway, on Jan, 19 at 6:30 p.m. and presented a note demanding cash. The teller complied with the robber’s demands and the suspect fled on foot. Numerous officers and detectives from the 6th Precinct responded and located the suspect, Robert Van Helden, a short time later at the Home Depot in Selden.

Major Case detectives charged Van Helden, 32, with third-degree robbery. He is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Jan. 20.

Gift of hearing made possible through nonprofit program Senior Dreams Come True

Sally Lepis gets fitted for new hearing aids at the McGuire Hearing Center in Centereach. Photo from Seiden Communications

Thanks to a nonprofit program, one Selden senior is calling her new hearing aids a dream come true.

Sally Lepis, who lives independently at St. Joseph’s Village, a subsidized housing complex, was granted her wish for new hearing aids by Senior Dreams Come True. The nonprofit program founded and run by the elder law firm Genser Dubow Genser & Cona in Melville benefits low-income seniors on Long Island by granting wishes — from helping a senior meet basic needs to fulfilling a lifelong dream. The program especially looks to grant wishes for seniors who have given back to their communities or helped others in their lifetime.

With significant hearing loss, 102-year-old Lepis could not afford to replace her more than 25-year-old hearing aids. Whether speaking to one person or in a group, she has difficulty communicating.

To fulfill Lepis’ wish, Senior Dreams reached out to David Carr, owner and director of McGuire’s Hearing Centers, which is headquartered in Centereach with 10 facilities in the New York City and Long Island areas. He agreed to donate two of the most advanced, custom in-canal hearing aids plus four appointments with the audiologist to do testing, programming and fine tuning of the devices. The total cost for the hearing aids and services is $7,500.

“I was intrigued with this important program to help seniors and the amazing story of Mrs. Lepis and her family,” Carr said. For many years, he has helped seniors in need throughout the U.S. by donating hearing aids to the less fortunate through a program he started called the Foundation for Sight and Sound.

Often referred to as “Mother Teresa,” Lepis has remained the anchor for her family, maintaining a positive attitude no matter what personal hardships she goes through. When she was 57, her husband died. She also lost her twin sister at a young age and raised her then 14-year-old niece Olivia Schmidt in her home.

“No one is more deserving of a Senior Dreams wish than Sally,” Schmidt said. “[She] has devoted her life to caring for many family members and friends while coping with her own sadness and losses she has endured.”

Lepis worked as a seamstress from a young age and only recently got rid of her Singer sewing machine. When her husband died, she worked at B. Altman Department Store in Manhasset as a sales clerk before retiring.

Before she stopped driving at age 95, Lepis did her best to care for friends by driving them to doctor’s appointments. She even saved a friend’s life when she found her stuck in a bathtub for several days.

“Mrs. Lepis has given so much of herself over the years to friends, family and those in need in her community,” said Jennifer Cona, managing partner of Genser Dubow Genser & Cona. “She is exactly the kind of person for whom Senior Dreams Come True seeks to grant wishes.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Selden Sept. 10.

Jared Tepperman was riding a 2001 Honda motorcycle northbound on Boyle Road when his motorcycle struck a 2010 Honda Accord, which was also traveling northbound, at the intersection of Hemlock Street at approximately 4:10 p.m.

Tepperman, 21, of Smithtown, was transported via Selden Fire Department ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Honda, Stacey Rios, 44, and her passenger, Daniel Loria, 45, both of Selden, were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Detectives are seeking the identity of another motorcyclist who was involved in the incident and fled the scene prior to police arrival.

Both vehicles were impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

A dog is rescued from flood waters of Hurrican Harvey in Texas. Photo from Mark Freeley's GoFundMe

After internet sensation Storm, an English golden retriever, saved a drowning fawn from Port Jefferson Harbor, now owner Mark Freely is looking to help others.

Last Chance Animal Rescue is teaming up with Freeley’s North Shore Injury Lawyer and volunteer Jeff Segal, owner of Boom Event Source, to help thousands of animals affected and displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

Freeley is an animal adoption event leader, foster and pro bono attorney for Last Chance Animal Rescue on Long Island. He said the organization has a truck leaving next Wednesday, Sept. 6, being driven by Segal’s friend transporting all needed supplies to Texas, according to an email from Freeley.

There is a need for donations of dog and cat food bowls, leashes, collars, collapsible crates, cat litter and disposable litter pans.

“Last Chance has already stepped up to donate many of their existing donations to help these animals who are in dire need,” Freeley said of the Southampton-based nonprofit. “Donations will help us to send these items to Texas, and purchased items can also be donated to us.”

Items to be donated must be handed in no later than Sept. 5. Items can be brought to Freeley’s law office at 144 Woodbury Rd. in Woodbury from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., to Boom Event Source located at 11 Michael Avenue in Farmingdale from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or to the Last Chance adoption event at the Selden Petco Sept. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A truck will be dropping off supplies to the George Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, which is housing over 400 animals and 8,000 people, to San Antonio Pets Alive Rescue and some will also be dropped off at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey, which will be taking in 200 displaced rescue animals from the Texas flooding.

“They are so desperately need our help, and as much as possible,” Freeley said. “The animals of Texas are counting on us.”

Freeley has already collected $2,200 from 41 people in less than 24 hours after creating a GoFundMe page to help the cause. The current goal is $3,000.

“Thank you for helping these poor animals,” Danielle DiNovi said with her donation.

“God bless the victims of Hurricane Harvey,” wrote Geri Napolitano with a contribution to the cause, “both big and small.”

Dog owners like Kevin Harrigan and Taylor Gittin who are watching their dogs Cassie and Ruby play can look forward to using fresh water stations at Selden Dog Park thanks to a grant secured by Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Dog owners in Brookhaven have something new to bark about, as the Town of Brookhaven received a grant to make improvements to the Selden Dog Park.

Last week, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) announced the town was one of just 25 local municipalities out of 215 from across the country to receive pet supply manufacturer PetSafe’s annual Bark for Your Park grant — a $10,000 prize. Most of the funds will be used to install new water stations and water fountains inside the dog park, and the rest will go toward minor improvements.

Taylor Gittin and his dog Cassie play at Selden Dog Park. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We have a lot of dog owners that want a place where they can bring their dog who can run around with other dogs who live in the area,” LaValle said. “That’s where this all started — a lot of dog lovers out there who needed a place to go.”

Selden resident Taylor Gittin has already visited the park several times with his 1.5-year-old dog Cassie since recently moving to the area from Chicago.

“There were some parks in the neighborhood, but they were concrete, so its nice that there are trees and she can run on [the sand],” Gittin said of his old park compared to the one in Selden. “A few times coming here I forgot water bottles from home because I’m used to other dog parks having [fountains], so that’s the biggest thing for me [the town could improve on].”

Not including villages and private property, the town currently supports two off-leash dog parks — in Selden and Middle Island. The Selden Dog Park will receive sprinklers, and new plants will help beautify the entrance. Slats will be added to the entrance gate so excited dogs don’t crowd the entrance as new owners enter.

“We’re always looking to save taxpayers money, and going out and getting these grants, whether it’s for infrastructure or parks, is something we really focus in the town because it offsets our costs,” LaValle said. “It’s these little extras that the residents want and the residents need that helps keep the tax bills down. We beat out municipalities from all over the country, so this was a great thing.”

“A few times coming here I forgot water bottles from home because I’m used to other dog parks having [fountains], so that’s the biggest thing for me [the town could improve on].”

—Taylor Gittin

The Bark for Your Park grant began in 2011 as a social media contest that would earn just over 40 applicants PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist Justin Young said in an email. In 2016, the contest was transformed into a grant-giving campaign. There are 25 grants available in different funding levels — communities building a new park can apply for a $25,000 grant, communities performing maintenance on existing parks can receive $10,000 and communities that desire new equipment can get $5,000 worth of park accessories through park furnishing company Ultrasite, a partner of PetSafe.

“The program is all about finding enthusiastic, pet-loving communities that support green spaces, with civic leaders and community organizations who want to improve their communities and encourage responsible pet ownership,” Young said in the email.

Centereach resident Kevin Harrigan is a regular to the park and takes his three dogs Ruby, Max and Jasper for a walk around Selden almost every day.

“This dog park is a God send,” Harrigan said. “From my perspective, there’s a lot of people like me — I’m in my 60s, I’ve been living in this community for 20 years and I pay my taxes every year. I have three dogs. I can’t bring them in the parks, can’t bring them in school areas. I pay the taxes to pay for all these things and I can’t enjoy any of them. [A good amount] of the population are out here without kids, so for a lot of us, dogs are our kids.”

File photo

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Selden Aug. 27.

Charles Ciapi drove a motorcycle out of a parking lot and onto Route 25 when he was struck by a 2013 Hyundai SUV traveling eastbound at approximately 9:45 p.m. Ciapi, 50, of Selden, was transported by ambulance to Stony Brook University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, according to police. The driver of the Hyundai, Julia Leyboldt, 19, of West Sayville, was not injured.

Both vehicles were impounded for a safety checks. The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-8548652.

Bethel Hobbs Farm's Run the Farm 4-mile challenge kicks off. Photo from Councilman Kevin LaValle's office

By Kyle Barr

For Ann Pellegrino, the founder of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach which donates 90 percent of its locally grown vegetables to area food pantries, the mission hits close to home.

“Years ago I was a single mother with three kids working two different jobs, and I’ve had to go to food pantries a couple times,” she said. “But when you go to the typical food pantry, you get boxed stuff, stuff that doesn’t have any nutrients, stuff that doesn’t have any vitamins in it, it’s just stuff to fill your belly.”

Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach holds an annual community race to raise money for the farm. Photo by Kyle Barr

Because the mission is so important to her, when government funds ran dry, she needed help.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) stepped in with an idea to host a local race to bring the community together while helping to raise funds for the farm.

LaValle called for help from Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and Hobbs Farms volunteers and the annual Run the Farm Four-Mile Challenge was born.

Now in its third year, more than 200 runners of all strengths and abilities came out on a warm, humid day Aug. 19 to support the farm. In total, more than $7,500 was raised.

“This is the last remaining farm in Centereach — It’s not only a part of our history but an active part of our history,” LaValle said. “You have kids 5, 6 years old, you have college kids, high school kids, seniors that are out there volunteering. It brings so many people together in this community for a great cause.”

The runners lined up at the start in front of the Oxhead Road Elementary School and waited for the horn. Their route took them in a loop that ended on the west side of the farm where they were greeted by cheering family members, friend and volunteers. Tall yellow sunflowers and green vegetables could be seen growing beyond the archway to the farm and a sign saying “Love Grows Here.”

“I was remarried and I was able to step back a little bit because people were there for me,” Pellegrino said. “I wanted to give back to people stuff that wasn’t just packaged.”

The Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s founder, Ann Pellegrino, donates most of the produce to local food pantries. File photo

The volunteers at Bethel Hobbs farm are often community members, with a handful of student volunteers from Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University.

“I live three houses down from here, so I’m always here helping out when I’m not in college, and when I’m not busy during the semester I stop by and do some help inside the community,” said SCCC student Bershell Hall. “I think it’s really great what they do here, because they have health standards, people in the community can come here and pull for their own usage.”

Kraig Rau placed first in the race with a time of 22 minutes, 52 seconds. He strode across the finish line with a body and face streaming with sweat, and he gladly took the water bottle from a volunteer’s outstretched hand. Rau grew up in the community and graduated from Centereach High School.

“It’s my second time here; I was here last year,” he said. “I think it’s a great event, it’s the local community here. I live a mile away so I run here and then I just run home.”

The run was sponsored by several groups, including a few large-scale food chains like Whole Foods and ShopRite. A group of 21 employees from the Selden ShopRite showed up to support the event.

“The farm is vital to the infrastructure of the island and Middle Country, and we’re very fortunate to have it,” said Charles Gallagher, the owner of the Selden ShopRite. “We need to make sure we continue to support it, it’d be a real shame if it went away.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a construction worker in Coram Aug. 14.

Gloria Taylor was holding a sign to slow or stop traffic on the east side of northbound Route 112, which was under construction, when a 2000 Isuzu box truck traveling northbound drifted to the right near Pauls Path at about noon. The truck struck Taylor, 55, of Islip. She was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital in critical condition.

The driver of the Isuzu, Dominick Sconzo, 19, of Selden, was not injured. A safety check was conducted on the truck, owned by Casa Piazza, located at 509 North Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station.

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