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St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church

Brianna Florio, on right, was honored by the Sound Beach Civic Association and president Bea Ruberto, on left, for her community involvement. Photo from Sound Beach Civic Association

A Sound Beach Girl Scout recently solidified the organization’s highest honor by helping children who live in a temporary shelter feel a little more at home.

Brianna Florio, an 18-year-old Sound Beach resident and a member of Rocky Point Girl Scout Troop 2945, has been working since last year to better the lives of 16 children who reside at Halo House in Sound Beach, a shelter for families in crisis.

While staffers within the home — which gets its funding from the Department of Social Services — do all they can to help the four families currently living under one roof get their cases under control, find employment and locate more permanent housing, helping young children adjust to their new environment is a constant challenge.

Brianna Florio will be receiving her Gold Award next month after working with children at Halo House in Sound Beach to paint a mural to make the place feel more like home. Photo from Brianna Florio

So when it came time to pick a community outreach project in summer 2016 to fulfill the requirements for her Gold Award, the Rocky Point High School graduate, who learned of the shelter from one of her troop leaders, set her sights on making it more kid-friendly.

“I knew this would be a good fit for her,” said Donna McCauley, her troop leader who first became aware of the Halo House through St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach. “Brianna is very dedicated, has a very generous spirit and is always ready to help anyone in need. It also gave her a way to express herself creatively, which she’s very good at.”

Florio utilized her artistic talent and painted a large mural on the wall in the shelter’s dining room depicting animals having a tea party, installed a bench to be placed in the property’s yard and hosted a toy and book drive at her high school. Through that event, Florio brought multiple boxes of donated entertainment for children of different ages to the Halo House — items that are sorely needed, according to shelter manager Joe Pellegrino.

“[Brianna] definitely helped bring the kids a sense of community within the neighborhood of Sound Beach,” he said, adding the children in the shelter were eager to be involved in her mural project. “The younger ones would wait for her to come, and when she got here, they would say, ‘Can you paint a snake? Can you put a hat and bowtie on it?’ It betters the children’s state of minds when they’re at the shelter, because they get a sense that it’s a home and not just a place they’re forced to live in.”

Pellegrino said the mural has become a center of pride in the home and is even used as an educational tool to teach the children about the different animals depicted.

“It really warmed my heart to see the kids and their smiling faces and just how excited they were about it,” Florio said of the mural. “It was really nice to see it all finished, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it.”

She will officially receive her Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County council in December.

Although it was an independent project for the Girl Scout, Florio was able to acquire paints and various supplies through local donations, like from Costello’s Ace Hardware of Rocky Point. She also received support from her school district, where she was a member of the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club, a group that cooked for the homeless and performed songs at senior citizen homes during the holidays.

“Brianna is very dedicated, has a very generous spirit and is always ready to help anyone in need. It also gave her a way to express herself creatively, which she’s very good at.”

—Donna McCauley

“I think if anybody is deserving of a Gold Award, it’s Brianna,” Rocky Point High School Principal Susann Crossan said. “What sets her apart from everybody else is she has a constant concern for other people. She’s been involved in so many activities within the high school that involve giving back. She was an extremely well-rounded and kind student.”

Florio’s project was also no surprise to Nancy Kloska, the director of an aftercare program for children at Mount Sinai Elementary School, where Florio currently serves as a mentor helping students with homework, playing games with them and leading fun activities.

“She’s warm, approachable, responsible and the kids really love interacting with her — Brianna always has a large group around her,” Kloska said. “I think she just brings out the best in the kids and is such a positive role model. I can’t say enough good things about Brianna. I think she’s wonderful.”

Florio was bestowed a certificate of appreciation by elected officials and community members for her Gold Award efforts during a Sound Beach Civic Association meeting Nov. 13. Civic president Bea Ruberto later said in an interview that Florio is a shining example of upstanding youth in the community.

“We were so proud to honor Brianna at our meeting — she’s very community-minded and is always there to help and give back,” said Ruberto, pointing out that Florio has helped with the civic’s pet adoption efforts and contributed a drawing in honor of the civic’s 40th anniversary. “We often hear about all the kids who behave badly and do this or that, and we really make an attempt in the civic to showcase the good kids. She’s a very fine young lady.”

Florio is currently pursuing a career in computer science and game programming as a freshman at Stony Brook University.

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.

Jack Law with his wife Kim and his two children, Max and Seth
With a simple swab of your cheek, you can be added to bone marrow registry.

HELP SAVE A LIFE!  St. Louis de Montfort Church, 75 New York Ave., Sound Beach will host a “swab drive” to find a bone marrow donor for Sound Beach resident Jack Law, and the many others on the National Registry with life-threatening blood cancers, on Thursday, November 30 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A newly retired Air Force officer, Law was recently diagnosed with AML Leukemia. His doctors agree that a bone marrow transplant/stem cell transplant is his best option. Call the church at 631-744-8566 for further details.

For more information on the Myths & Facts of donating bone marrow please visit
https://bethematch.org/support-the-cause/donate-bone-marrow/donation-faqs/

Thank you for your support! Please consider liking and sharing posts from this page to help spread awareness of this event.

Jim and Katie Ford at Good Shepherd Hospice when Katie received a promotion. Photo from Good Shepherd Hospice

By Ernestine Franco

On June 15, at 12:57 p.m., Jim Ford’s Facebook post said, “The journey continues. I’m off to Good Shepherd Hospice later today.” Just three days later, Sound Beach lost one of its best and brightest lights.

James Francis Ford was born in the Bronx on Dec. 3, 1947. He attended William Howard Taft High School and in 1967 he enlisted in the Air Force, where he was a mechanic and worked maintaining airplane while stationed in Charleston, South Carolina. Ford and his wife, Nancy, initially moved to Bayport. Again on Dec. 3, but in 1976, they moved to Sound Beach.

Jim Ford was a member of the Sound Beach Fire Department, holding various different positions. Photo from the Sound Beach Fire Department
Jim Ford was a member of the Sound Beach Fire Department, holding various different positions. Photo from the Sound Beach Fire Department

In Bayport, Ford served in the fire department as lieutenant of the Hook and Ladder Company, so when his family moved to Sound Beach, it was only fitting he’d join the Sound Beach Fire Department. There he became a lieutenant and made his way up the ladder to attain the rank of captain of Engine Company 1, a position he was very proud to hold. Over the years he held many positions in the department, including lieutenant and captain of the Fire Police Squad, president of the department for five years. He served on numerous committees, and was a life member of the department as well as president of the benevolent fund.

For the past 10 years, Ford could no longer be a responding member of the department. “While in and out of hospitals,” his good friend and ex-Chief Bob Pulick said, “being on the inactive list didn’t stop Jim from still being of service.” In fact, Pulick said, “he was single-handedly responsible for about 75 percent of all the funds the department received each year.”

Ford’s commitment to the community was not only through the fire department. He was also very active in his church, St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach, where he was a Eucharistic minister and an usher. He also coordinated baptisms with his wife.

A valued member of the Sound Beach Civic Association, Jim is remembered fondly by the Civic president Bea Ruberto.

“In April, the Civic held a Vets Memorial lasagna dinner fundraiser.” Ruberto said. “Because of his health issues, Jim couldn’t eat the lasagna, but he bought a ticket, then brought his own dinner, because he wanted to show support for our vets.”

Jim Ford and his wife Nancy at a family wedding. Photo from from Nancy Ford
Jim Ford and his wife Nancy at a family wedding. Photo from from Nancy Ford

What will be remembered by most people, though, is not just all that he did, but who he was. Patty Pulick, a lifelong friend, remembers meeting the couple nearly 40 years ago.

“He had a great smile and laugh, and was always thinking of everyone else before himself, many times taking me to physical therapy whenever I needed a ride,” she said of Ford. “If I called their home wanting to speak to Nancy and Jim answered, he always said, ‘Hey you’ and I would laugh. He was a wonderful guy and I still can’t believe he is no longer with us.”

The Pulicks and the Fords enjoyed a special bond as parents. Katie and Danny Ford and Kim Pulick came from the same adoption agency in Korea — Katie and Kim within days of each other.

“I will miss our birthday lunches at such gourmet restaurants as Wendy’s, McDonald’s or George’s Kitchen,” Bob Pulick said.

Ford was very proud of his daughter Katie, who was a member of the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard. When he was already at Good Shepherd, Air Force officers came to his bedside to officially promote his daughter, a veteran of two tours in Iraq, to technical sergeant. With that promotion, Katie now outranked her father, to which Ford answered, “If I could get out of bed, I would salute you.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also fondly remembers Ford.

Nancy and Jim Ford, and their grandchildren Colin and Andy. Photo from Maureen Ford Chorma
Nancy and Jim Ford, and their grandchildren Colin and Andy. Photo from Maureen Ford Chorma

“I think I have one word that describes him,” Bonner said. “He was a gentleman. He was a warm, kind and funny person, with an upbeat attitude right to the end. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone.” Bonner said she will miss getting a hug from him, something he did every time they saw each other.

Jim and Nancy Ford celebrated their 45th anniversary on May 22. Both very caring and loving people, they were well known for their humor. They had fun together. Nancy remembers her husband being called “the mayor of the fire department and the mayor of their block,” and Nancy said she now knows he is the “mayor in heaven.”

Jim was the beloved husband of Nancy; loving father of Maureen Chorma (Timothy), Kathleen and Daniel; adored grandfather of Andrew and Colin; and dear brother of Michael Ford, Mary Walsh and Kenneth Ford. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated at St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach. Internment followed in Calverton National Cemetery. Donations may be made in his name to Good Shepherd Hospice, Hope House Ministries or the Grumman Memorial Park.

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