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Stony Brook

Astrid Sprigman slides down the mountain during the Butternut race in Massachusetts. Photo from Jason Sprigman

Two young Stony Brook skiers are making names for themselves in the competitive skiing world, but competition is only part of the draw.

Sam and Astrid Sprigman have been sliding down the slopes for four years now, and although for the pair it’s mainly for fun, their competitive races have been paying dividends. Most recently, at the Otis Slalom Interclub race in Massachusetts, 13-year-old Sam placed third, while 8-year-old Astrid finished atop the podium.

“It feels good,” Astrid said of claiming the top spot. “Half the time I don’t even notice what happened or what my time is until my mom or dad come up to me and shout, ‘You’re in first.’”

Sam Sprigman bends his way down a hill. Photo from Jason Sprigman

Their father Jason Sprigman said those families who take part in the Tri-State Interclub ski season are part of a tight-knit community that is very supportive of one another.

“They’re screaming and yelling, banging drums and shaking cowbells and it’s incredible — she doesn’t even hear it,” he said of his daughter. “She comes down and starts critiquing her own performance, saying, ‘I don’t know, that didn’t feel that good. I think my turn on the fourth gate wasn’t that tight.’ And then I tell her, ‘you’re in first place Astrid, really?’ She’s so in her own world.”

The smooth skier said she’s always working on improving her technique, In fact, that’s all she focuses on while competing.

“I think about when I have to turn and thinking about my body position, making sure my head’s up instead of down and I’m always looking ahead,” she said.

That’s what she’s done since she first traveled around a mountain. Astrid said she recalls pulling on her father’s jacket asking to go on different trails during a family trip.

“When I see them doing what they’re doing and working so incredibly hard at an individual sport like this … it’s amazing to see them apply themselves in such a focused manner.”

— Jason Sprigman

“We went on the bunny slope and we were at the top of the hill and I said, ‘This is boring. I want to go on something more exciting,’” Astrid said.

Her father laughed remembering the moment.

“No patience this one,” he said.

Her brother was also hooked at a young age. Sam’s earliest ski trip was at 18 months old, when his family was in California.

“My dad and I were getting ready to go down the hill and he put me between his legs so he could guide me down the hill,” Sam said. “I looked up at him and said, ‘Dad, can you let go? I got this.’”

He said he didn’t ski for some time after that. His father was in the Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before Sam finally hit the slopes again.

“I remembered having a really good time skiing and it stuck with me all those years,” Sam said.

He too echoed his sister’s sentiment about being focused on improving. He said in reality, with all of the support, they’re their own harshest critics.

“When I’m in a race — when I’m at the top of the course — my instructor is there and I ask her what we talked about and what I need to work on, and I think about that my whole way through,” he said. “If I have a bad run, or Astrid had a bad run, the hardest person on us is ourselves. Everyone there is so supportive.”

The thing is, Astrid actually hasn’t had a bad run. The Under-12 competitor has placed first in every race she’s competed in this season — though she had to miss one because she was sick.

Astrid and Sam Sprigman display their trophies. Photo from Jason Sprigman

“You can’t ski race if you’re not 100 percent,” Sprigman said. “If you come around a turn doing 50 to 55 MPH, if you suddenly get a little bit nauseous that could be dangerous. She wanted to compete, but I just couldn’t let her. Besides the illness though, she’s taken first by a wide margin in every single race.”

Sam, a 5-foot, 10-inch, muscular skier placed third in the first competition of the season, at Butternut, came in seventh in Catamount and fifth at Otis Slalom. Last season, he qualified to be a part of the Piche Invitational, a Massachusetts state team, but the team didn’t have a slot this season. Astrid qualified to compete this year.

“There’s a wide number of kids that are moving on to higher levels of skiing from his year.” Sprigman said of his son’s Under-14 age bracket. “It’s one of the most competitive age groups in the Northeast. It’s an accomplishment the placements he’s been able to get. I’m very proud of him.”

The pair have one race left, at Bosque Mountain in Massachusetts March 5.

Sprigman said he enjoys the family aspect of the sport, being able to ski alongside his children, as compared to watching them on the sidelines during a football or soccer game. He said his main goal is to give them an ability they can carry with them for the rest of their lives, and now they’ll just continue to ski as long as they’re having fun.

“A lot of people might not let their kids participate in a sport like this because it’s fairly high risk, but they have a high degree of confidence and they understand the risk involved, and do a really good job of weighing them out and skiing appropriately,” he said. “When I see them doing what they’re doing and working so incredibly hard at an individual sport like this and I see my son really aggressively attacking a hill and putting it all out there and my daughter bending herself over backward to take an extra half a second off her time, it’s amazing to see them apply themselves in such a focused manner … It feels really good to see them not only becoming great skiers, but making amazing friendships while engaging in a fairly high level of competition.”

7-year-old uses Disney award, projects to continue to brighten lives of pediatric patients

Kayla Harte poses by character Band-Aid boxes she collected from students at W.S. Mount Elementary School for pediatric patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Three Village school district

She may only be a 7-year-old, but Kayla Harte already has a huge heart. For the last two years, with the hopes of cheering up young patients, the second-grader has been a frequent visitor to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital’s pediatric oncology department.

Kayla’s mother, Robyn Harte, said when the W.S. Mount Elementary School student started visiting the patients, she would bring homemade get well cards and care packages. She began drawing cards with Minion characters from the film “Despicable Me” on them after she heard they were some of the children’s favorite characters, and she would always be looking for new things to bring them.

Kayla Harte with other donations she received as part of her Band-Aid and toy drives. Photo from Robyn Harte

“Every time we would go and deliver the items she would see that they would be so well received,” her mother said. “The coordinators would tell her how much the children would appreciate it and enjoy it, and it really motivated her to do more.”

During the summer while watching television, Kayla saw a commercial for the Disney Summer of Service grant through Youth Service America and asked her mother if she could apply for it. In November Kayla was one of 340 young leaders in the country awarded a $500 grant.

The money was given to Stony Brook Children’s Child Life Services Department, and Kayla and Director Joan Alpers decided it would be used to buy character bandages and musical toys for the patients. The young volunteer planned to match the grant by starting a project called Friends for Child Life, and she felt that boxes of Band-Aids as well as toys would be easy for people to bring to her, especially her fellow students.

“It makes me feel like she has this gift that she wants to give to other children, and she’s so genuine about it,” her mother said. “She really wants to help other children. She wants to make them feel better. It’s just such a lovely thing for me. It makes me feel really proud and very inspired.”

To kick off her character Band-Aid and musical toy drives, Kayla first asked friends and family members by emailing or texting them a video she and her mother created. Before she knew it, she received approximately 70 boxes of bandages and six musical toys. Her Girl Scout Troop 337 also donated items, and during Random Acts of Kindness Week at her school, fellow students joined the cause and she received close to 100 Band-Aid boxes that week, according to her mother.

“It makes me feel like she has this gift that she wants to give to other children, and she’s so genuine about it.”

— Robyn Harte

Kayla said she was excited when she heard she received the grant, and she’s happy with the amount of donations she has been receiving, especially since she is three-quarters of the way to her goal of 200 character Band-Aid boxes and 40 musical toys.

“I can’t wait to see the happy people at the hospital,” she said.

Even though her project for the Disney grant ends March 31, she plans to continue the drives on a smaller scale. The second-grader, who wants to play for the Mets one day, said once you start volunteering your time it feels so good that, “you can’t even stop doing it.”

Her mother said she and Kayla’s father, Dennis, are proud of how she ran with the project.

“I’m really proud of her,” she said. “I think she’s setting a really good example for other children her age to let them know that you don’t have to be a teenager or a grown-up to make a difference.”

Barbara and Herman Lee with Barbara’s mother Ethel Lewis. Photos from Geral Lee.

By Geral Lee

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is unquestionably synonymous with Black History Month. He courageously confronted social inequities and racism in the midst of an adverse anti-black administration largely due to J. Edgar Hoover who had been appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation, renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935. Few could compete with Hoover’s power and he went virtually unchallenged for half a century.

Hoover opposed making Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. His smear campaign attempted to label Dr. King as a communist and a homosexual. He ordered illegal wire taps of Dr. King’s hotel room to try to justify his stance and used the power of government to satisfy his own bigotry toward blacks. Dr. King persevered.

Herman Lee in his Navy days (circa 1941). Photo from Geral Lee

There were many other individuals way before Dr. King who challenged the system in the name of justice. I am certain their actions helped define his political strategies. These people — and God bless them — were not just slaves, demonstrators or rioters.    

I must include Glenn Beck in this article. I am not suggesting he is an authority on black history. As the colorful conservative that he is, his question as to why the many contributions of black people continue to remain hidden from the mainstream is a legitimate one — and yet another reason to celebrate Black History Month.

In one of his tapings, “Glenn Beck Founders’ Fridays Black American Founders” (Fox News), that I listened to on YouTube, he mentioned Peter Salem, a hero in the Battle of Bunker Hill who saved scores of American lives. During the Battle of Lexington, white and black parishioners who worshiped together were commanded to fight. James Armistead served as a double spy. And is that Prince Whipple, the black crewman, in the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware? I am not so sure because many blacks fought in the American Revolution. Freedom was not an automatic option.       

There have been unsung black heroes making all kinds of contributions throughout American history. The members of the 333rd Battalion, for example. The Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company of Baltimore, Maryland, which was one of the largest and most successful black businesses in America in the 1870s.   

“Dirty Little Secrets About Black History: Its Heroes & Other Troublemakers” by Claud Anderson reveals that in the late 1800s, blacks invented and filed for patents on a number of transportation-related devices. Andrew J. Beared invented an automatic train car coupler. Albert B. Blackburn invented a railway signal. R.A. Butler invented a train alarm. Although many inventors were fresh out of slavery and the literacy rate among slaves was 50 percent, black inventors filed hundreds of patents for transportation devices. The Safe Bus Company was a black-owned city-chartered bus line in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from 1930 to the 1960s.   

Black history celebrates regular people engaged in positive activities. Here are some examples:

My father Herman Lee resided at 34 Christian Ave., Setauket, between 1956 and 2011. He was employed at the Setauket yard of the Brookhaven Highway Department in the 1960s and promoted to foreman in the 1970s. He did carpentry/home improvement projects for Three Village homeowners; among his regular clients, the Windrows and the Strongs. In World War II he served on the USS Hornet CV-12. After he became a chaplain for the VFW along with his wife Barbara Lewis Lee who was a practical nurse and historian in her own right. They sent all of their four children to college: Barbara, Herman, Geral and Peter.

Barbara, Herman, Geral and Peter Lee. Photo from Geral Lee

Uncle Sherwood Lewis was an employee of Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO). He came up with an idea that saved the company more than $100,000 a year according to a Newsday article dated April 23, 1977. He, too, was raised on Christian Avenue and now resides in Massachusetts.

Grandmother Ethel Lewis, valedictorian of her high school graduating class, resided at 32 Christian Ave. with her husband Howard Lewis. They subdivided their property so my parents could build their house on Christian Avenue.

Aunt Hazel Lewis, salutatorian of her graduating class, was employed at Peck & Peck in New York City back in the day — a high-end boutique clothing store for women.   

Aunt Pearl Lewis Hart received an associates degree in accounting in her 40s, was promoted to supervisor of the payroll department at SUNY Stony Brook and, until her death last month at age 92, was living in her own home on Christian Avenue.

Uncle Harry Hart, Pearl’s husband, owned his own excavation and contracting business from the 1940s to the 1980s. He acquired land on Christian Avenue and rented to many local folks.   

Remembering a few of Dr. King’s principles of nonviolence can help provide the foundation for a healthy society: “Nonviolence is a way of life for brave people; attack problems, not people; know and do what is right even when it is difficult.”     

I know there are many individuals who believe in these principles.

Black History Month means different things to different people, but if it can fill in the gaps, identify injustice, encourage positive dialogue and provide a platform for people to work toward understanding one another, it is a valuable ongoing process.

Geral Lee returned to her Setauket home in 2013 to be with her father after living in Rhode Island for 12 years. She taught physical education and health in Hempstead early in her career and received a personal invitation from her primary school coach Jack Foley, who later became athletic director for Three Village schools, to teach at Ward Melville. She served in the Peace Corps in Senegal, loves dogs and cats and currently relieves stress as a reflexologist.

Javon Harrington. Photo from PIO

Suffolk County Police arrested a man in Selden Feb. 11 for driving under the influence of drugs after a two-vehicle crash.

Javon Harrington was operating a 2003 Infiniti on North Evergreen Drive at a high speed when he went through a stop sign at Pine Street and struck a 2009 Dodge, and then a tree. Harrington, 20, of Coram, and his passengers Elijah Quinitchette, 24, of Coram and Eddie Bray, 20, of Coram were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via Selden Fire Department Ambulance. Bray suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Harrington and Quinitchette suffered minor injuries.

The 19-year-old man driving the Dodge, and his two passengers, were also transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via Selden Fire Department Ambulance for observation.

Sixth Squad detectives arrested Harrington and charged him with driving while ability impaired by drugs. He was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Feb. 12.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is ongiong.

February Food Drive

To help give back to the community, Coach Realtors of Stony Brook and Port Jefferson will hold its 4th annual food drive during the month of February for the benefit of the Infant Jesus Food Pantry, Open Cupboard, in Port Jefferson. “Unfortunately during the winter months, the local food pantries are in desperate need of supplies,” said food drive organizer and realtor Debbie Battaglia.

Nonperishable items, including canned foods such as soups and vegetables, diapers and dry or canned pet food, can be dropped off at the Stony Brook office, which is located at 1099 North Country Road, Stony Brook. For a full list of needed items or to arrange a pick-up, email Debbie at dbattaglia@coachrealtors.com or call 516-297-6127.

A motor boat heads toward Shipman’s Point at West Meadow Beach. File photo.

The history of West Meadow beach is a contentious one. Cottages leased to private citizens left a large portion of the beach unavailable to the public throughout the years. A headline in the Port Jefferson Echo newspaper June 19, 1930, read “West Meadow Beach Cottages To Be Ousted By January 1940.” According to Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), removal of the cottages was a cyclical issue. Every decade or so there was a public outcry for a return of the beach to all Brookhaven citizens.

“This had become the norm by the 1960s,” he said.

When Englebright proposed legislation in June 1996, there was significant opposition from cottage owners who fought to keep the beach as it was. Since state legislation could only be established over the Brookhaven Town-owned property with the town’s express permission, a document called a “home rule message” had to be obtained before the legislation could move forward. Under then Town Supervisor Felix Grucci (R), the town agreed.

Even so, the opposition from cottage owners continued.

Bipartisan legislation [then Senator James Lack (R) sponsored the bill in the New York State Senate] was signed in 1996 stating West Meadow Beach “be preserved, protected, enhanced, and studied while simultaneously being made available for use by the general public for educational and passive recreational activities.” It stipulated the cottages be removed “on or before Jan. 15, 2005.” Removal of the cottages would be funded by payments from cottage owners for the use of the land over the following eight years. Interest accrued on the account, holding these payments were to be transferred annually into a separate account, previously established by the town July 6, 1993, called the West Meadow Beach capital restoration fund. This money was to be kept separately, overseen by a nonprofit Stony Brook community fund.

“When my husband Peter died last year I wrote to the town offering to fund the installation of a bench in his memory.”
—Muriel Weyl

The Stony Brook community fund became The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in 1996 and, according to a long-term board member of the organization, the town never came to them with a proposal. Since then it’s unclear who has been overseeing this money.

Attorney George Locker, a Stony Brook University graduate and former member of the Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy, believes the town is in breach of the statute.

“When the [Stony Brook community fund disbanded] instead of finding another third party to handle the funds, the town took control of the money,” Locker said. “The only thing I could find [after requesting all filings related to this account] was an invasive species plant removal.

“It took 20 years to elevate the Gamecock Cottage. At least one cottage was to be turned into a nature museum.

“[According to information provided by the town’s Department of Finance] the money is earning [virtually] no interest. The town has a fiduciary duty to grow the money in some safe way.”

Brookhaven Town spokesperson Jack Krieger provided the following information about investments in an email.

“The New York State Comptroller and New York State Municipal Law define what type of investments are acceptable for a municipality to engage,” he said. “The special New York State Law governing the WMB endowment made no special provisions for investment of the monies; therefore, the investment of the monies have been subject to the municipal law guidelines. The interest rate for the endowment account, and all town bank accounts, are monitored constantly by the finance department.”

Stony Brook resident Muriel Weyl said she is distressed by the lack of bench seating along the paved walk out to Shipman’s Point.

“When my husband Peter died last year I wrote to the town offering to fund the installation of a bench in his memory,” she said. “He was an oceanographer, and a founder of what is now the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook and I thought it would be fitting. They would not do it.”

She said she loves spending time at West Meadow Beach, and now that she uses a wheelchair she can be seated while enjoying the walk. When she was still walking, she said it was difficult because there were not enough benches to enable her to make it out to the Point. Even now, she said, “it would be nice for the person pushing my chair to have a place to sit.”

Krieger said there was a period of time several years ago where the town allowed residents to dedicate a bench with a memorial plaque if they paid all of the costs for the bench and its installation. This has since been discontinued.

He said he had no answer as to the question why there are not more benches.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) recently sent a letter to Englebright offering to work together to solve issues regarding funding and oversight of the West Meadow Nature Preserve.

Public hearing at Town Hall will be Farmingville Feb. 6 at 4 p.m.

Rendering of the shopping center. Image from Brookhaven Town

Setauket developer Parviz Farahzad applied to the Brookhaven Town Planning Board for site plan approval to construct a 24,873 square foot retail center, known as Stony Brook Square LLC. The proposed shopping center is located on Route 25A near the Stony Brook railroad station. The plan includes site improvements for parking, lighting, drainage and landscaping.

J. Timothy Shea Jr., a partner in the real estate group of Certilman, Balin, Adler & Hyman LLP, represented Farahzad and Stony Brook Square at a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Dec. 14. The developer requested front yard setback variances for three of the proposed buildings as well as an addition to an existing building, from the required 25 feet to 11.5 feet; and a height variance for one of the buildings, from a permitted 35-foot height to a 60-foot height. The extra height will be used to raise a clock tower in the middle building at the rear of the center.

“We thought it was a nice feature,” Shea said during the proceedings.

A list of 10 recommendations made by the 25A Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee were read into the hearing record.

Eight homeowners or residents spoke in the public comment portion of the hearing. They expressed concerns regarding traffic safety on the busy road, environmental issues and the viability of adding retail space when there are so many unoccupied stores in the area.

“My first concern is safety,” Professor Erez Zadok of Stony Brook said. “On this stretch of road … people drive fast; over the limit. It’s dark. Additional traffic will make things worse.” He spoke of environmental concerns as well and questioned the need for additional retail space. The nearby Three Village Shopping Plaza currently has four available spaces according to Kristen Moore, spokesperson for Brixmor Properties, and there are three vacant units just down the street.

Several people spoke out against the granting of a variance that would nearly double the permitted height of the proposed clock tower.

Michael Vaeth viewed the tower as a marketing ploy.

“Currently, especially in the winter months, I have a view of the university and the train station,” he said. “I’m objecting to the 60-foot height. That would be the tallest building in all of the Three Villages — including Ward Melville High School.”

Vaeth’s neighbor Maureen Bybee said she didn’t see the need for the clock tower.

“I want to express my objection and opposition to the clock tower. It doesn’t seem to add anything … and it certainly will have an effect on the neighbors,” she said.

David Pauldy also asked the board to reject the height variance for the tower.

“It would have an effect on the neighborhood behind it,” he said. “It would be extremely visible and it would change the character of the neighborhood.”

The zoning board is allowed 62 days to rule on the request for variances, which gives the board until Feb. 14 to make its decision whether or not to grant the variances.

A public hearing is scheduled Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall in the board meeting room for residents and business owners to continue to voice their opinions on this development.

Stakeholders gather to review documents at a meeting held last year in preparation for the 25A corridor land use study. File photo

The next phase of the Brookhaven Town Planning Department’s land use study for the Route 25A corridor from the Smithtown border heading east to the Village of Poquott is set to begin.

An invitation-only focus group for business owners and tenants of buildings along the corridor will be held Jan. 31, according to Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). Letters were mailed previously to these stakeholders.

Community Visioning Meeting Schedule

•Stony Brook Community Vision Meeting:

Saturday Feb. 4, from 2 to 5 pm

•Setauket /East Setauket Community Vision Meeting:

Saturday Feb. 25, from 10 am to 1 pm

•All Hamlets Wrap Up Meeting:

Saturday March 4, from 2 to 4:30 pm

All meetings will be held at the Stony Brook School, 1 Chapman Parkway off Route 25A, opposite the Stony Brook railroad station. Groups will meet in the Kanas Commons.

Councilwoman Cartright requests community members wishing to attend any of the sessions RSVP by the Wednesday before the scheduled meeting.

Email jlmartin@brookhaven.org or telephone the office 631-451-6963.

Beginning Feb. 2 there will be community visioning meetings aimed specifically at interested parties in the Stony Brook and Setauket/East Setauket portions of the corridor. (See meeting schedule below.) A final meeting will provide a wrap up, including all hamlets along the corridor.

The community visioning meetings will be led by a consulting firm, BFJ Planning, hired by the town to facilitate the land use study.

A proposed shopping center in the vicinity of the Stony Brook railroad station will not be discussed in the land use study, Cartright said. It is scheduled to be reviewed by the Planning Department Feb. 6. The developer, Parviz Farahzad, had previously presented a request for specific zoning variances to the Zoning Board of Appeals Dec. 14, 2016. The board has 62 days to render its decision.

According to Cartright, the business zone change for this property was made more than 10 years ago. More recently, public comment was heard at the zoning board meeting and, she said, changes based on community comments may have been made by the developer in response.

“One caveat,” Cartright said, “this is a long term plan. They’re building a shopping center there now, but the community would like [to revisit the site in the future] if there’s ever an opportunity [to do so].”   

The study was authorized by a town resolution Jan. 14, 2016, which included the establishment of a 20-member Citizen’s Advisory Committee including representatives of all identifiable stakeholder groups.

St. George's Golf Course in Setauket. File photo

Suffolk County Police responded to an incident in which a woman crashed into a building structure on a golf course in Setauket Jan. 3.

Alyssa Chaikin, 19, was traveling east on Sheep Pasture Road at about 5:40 p.m., when she lost control of her 2003 Jeep Liberty on the wet pavement, struck a wooden guardrail, went through a chain-link fence and down an embankment. She crashed into the side of a building located at St. George’s Golf Course, at 134 Lower Sheep Pasture Road. The Jeep caught fire and the building structure, which houses a bathroom and is used for selling refreshments, caught fire and was destroyed. There was no one in the building or on the golf course at the time.

Chaikin, of Stony Brook, crawled out of the vehicle and was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via Setauket Fire Department Ambulance with non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation is ongoing.

Kate Calone checks out an end table at the organization’s warehouse in Port Jefferson Station. File photo by Susan Risoli

Furniture is a necessity. It allows a family to sit at a table and eat together. It gives children a place to do homework. It provides the opportunity to open one’s home to guests. It’s essential for a good night’s sleep.

People transitioning from homelessness, domestic violence shelters, military service or displacement following a disaster need more than just a roof over their heads.

Inspired by a youth mission trip to a furniture bank just outside Washington, D.C., Kate Calone wondered if such a service would fly on Long Island. For some, this might have been a daunting task, but Calone set about researching and planning. She organized a feasibility committee and piloted the group to take off.

The Open Door Exchange is rounding out its second year of operations, having served more than 300 Long Island families and individuals in need. Referred by social service agencies and nonprofits, people can “shop” with dignity, by appointment at the organization’s rented Port Jefferson Station warehouse, which is configured to resemble a furniture store. All pieces are free of charge.

For her compassion, determination and leadership in helping Long Islanders in need, Calone is one of Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for 2016.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, Calone spent six years as an attorney before entering the Princeton Theological Seminary. When she and her husband Dave, who ran against Anna Throne-Holst in the 2016 Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District and Suffolk County judge, returned to Long Island to raise their three children, Calone worked at the First Presbyterian Church in Northport before joining the Setauket Presbyterian Church as associate pastor, to work with the Youth Group.

Residents walked on the Greenway Trail to raise funds and awareness for Open Door Exchange. File photo by Susan Risoli

When she returned from D.C., she told retired Setauket businessman and church member Tom Kavazanjian her idea and asked if he’d be interested in helping. Having great respect for Calone and her worthwhile cause, he said yes.

“Kate’s leadership is unique,” he said. “She leads with a quiet confidence and is one of the most unassuming and selfless people I know. Everything she does, she does with such grace.”

With a lot of planning — and the help of a group of dedicated volunteers — Open Door Exchange was launched in January 2015, recounted Stony Brook resident and retired school teacher Diane Melidosian, who was also an early recruit.

“This was no easy undertaking,” she said. “Since there is no cost to the recipient, all costs associated with this program are handled through fundraising, grant writing and contributions.”

There were lots of logistics to be worked out and the committee used A Wider Circle, the furniture bank in the outskirts of D.C., as a model.

East Setauket resident Bonnie Schultz said being a part of the creation of Open Door Exchange energized her.

“I’d never been part of a startup,” she said. “It’s exciting. And [the organization] has grown by leaps and bounds. The amount of furniture that goes in and out of [the warehouse] is incredible.”

She said even some clients come back to volunteer.

Another member of the exploratory committee, Stony Brook therapist Linda Obernauer, said the youngsters who traveled on the mission played an important part in advancing the idea of a Long Island furniture bank.

“Kate got more interested as the kids got into it,” she said, adding that Calone has served as a role model to many of them. “People who are ‘of the fiber’ do the right thing. Kate doesn’t have to have accolades, she helps people because that’s who she is.”

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