Tags Posts tagged with "Volunteer"


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.

20th Street renamed Thomas Lateulere Street in memory of firefighter, good neighbor

Wading River Fire Department unveiled the new Thomas Lateulere Street sign on 20th Street Aug. 30. Photo by Robert Quaranta

By Kyle Barr

Under the newly-placed sign that says Thomas Lateulere Street high above their heads, family, friends, neighbors and volunteer firemen of the Wading River Fire Department could only remember the man the street was named after as a modest, kind and gentle soul who gave everything he had to the fire department and the community.

“It was great of the fire department to honor him like this — I never expected it, and the crowd that came, never,” Thomas Lateulere mother Joann said as she walked back to her house on the street now named after her son. “They all came to honor him, which was wonderful.”

Family memebrers, friends, members of the Wading River Fire Department and Riverhead Town were on site for the renaming of 20th Street as Lateulere Street, in memory of Thomas Lateulere, an ex-chief of Wading River Fire Department who lost a battle with cancer in 2016. Photo by Robert Quaranta

Volunteer firefighters, public officials, neighbors and friends of Thomas Lateulere, a commissioner and ex-chief in Wading River who died last July after a battle with cancer, all came to honor the man as his name was dedicated to the street where he grew up.

“He worked up until the last day he had to go to the hospital and he died,” said Latuelere’s former girlfriend Raegin Kellerman. “He was still there training students, and he was just a good man, a very good man. He loved it, too, it was a passion for him. He just enjoyed training his members on all these new advancements. He was all into new technology, new medical care and he did his research on everything. He just really loved them, it was a family to him.”

Lateulere had worked with the Wading River Fire Department and EMS for 35 years. He started when he was a young teen as a junior for the department, and he moved up through the ranks until he reached commissioner and chief. He was also one of the first paramedics to work with Suffolk County’s medevac helicopters, which are used to transport those in need of medical attention to a hospital.

“He was a really caring guy, cared about the members down here,” said current Wading River Fire Chief Kevin McQueeney. “He was the kind of guy that if your son was hurt, you wanted him to show up on the call — you knew that he was the best of the best. He is missed down here; he was a guidance down here.”

Neighbors who lived close to Lateulere said they felt safe with him nearby. Many of them knew him as “Tommy.”

“Almost everybody on this street had to call an ambulance at some time or another,” said Wading River resident and neighbor Chris Hopkins. “He heard it on the radio and he was there within two minutes He personally came twice in the middle of the night when I needed an ambulance, he was in my house within a minute taking charge of everybody, even telling the ambulance people to take good care of me. Everyone up and down our street he was there for. He was a shy fellow, but he was amazing; he was so amazing.”

Members of the Wading River Fire Department honored former chief Thomas Lateulere during a street-renaming ceremony. Photo by Robert Quaranta

Few roads have been dedicated to individuals, so Riverhead Town Highway DepartmentDeputy Superintendent Mike Zaleski said that it would be a nice way to remember the man who touched the lives of so many.

“I would say we might have dedicated fice streets to individuals, and I’ve been with the town going on 24 years,” Zakesji said.”It has to be very noteworthy, somebody special,. It’s well deserved here.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the steet renaming was the least the town could do.

“I mean he’s a 35-year volunteer and commissioner of the fire department, EMS worker and trainer — there are very few people in the world who excel at that level, especially to protect life safety,” Walter said.

Kellerman said that the street sign should also serve as a call for more people to volunteer their time to the local fire department and EMS, showing how the service of the men and women on call all day ever week does not go unoticed, and how the dedication and service can affect and save lives.

“They’re out at 2 or 3 in the morning helping people, and the rest of us are sleeping,” she said. “The ambulances, the fire departments, we need volunteers, we need volunteers to keep people safe.”

The name Thomas Lateulere is an addition to 20th street, so that maps will not be affected or changed, and so that the renaming doesn’t lead to confusion. Lateulere might have appreciated that — just another small sacrifice for even the smallest greater good.

“I think he would be shy and embarrassed by it, all this hoopla,” Hopkins said. “But I think he would secretly be quite proud.”

Scenes from Centereach's Class of 2017 commencement ceremony June 25. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Jill Webb

Leading Centereach High School Class of 2017 are valedictorian Demi Lambadis and salutatorian Kelly McLaughlin.

Lambadis divided her time between a busy academic schedule, student government involvement and extracurricular activities.

Since seventh grade, Lambadis has had it in the back of her mind that becoming valedictorian was “more of a personal goal as opposed to anything external.”

Demi Lambadis

She  graduates with 10 AP classes under her belt, along with three additional college-level courses. Her extensive AP course load has earned her recognition from the College Board as an AP Scholar with Honors.

In addition to academic success, Lambadis has served  as both the president and vice president for her class. She was also acting vice president of the school’s Leaders’ Club.

Agnieszka Taciak, an AP Environmental teacher at Centereach  whom Lambadis was close with, said she’s proud of the dedication her student continued to give to her curriculum.

“There’s no secret to it — she simply does work, and is very proud of the quality of the work,” Taciak said. “And she’s very humble about the approach to work.”

Dance is one of Lambadis’ favorite hobbies, and this year she’s once again on the road to nationals. She noted she also placed at every regional and national dance competition she entered.

Taciak recalls one instance where Lambadis’ work ethic stood out to her. The teacher had given an assignment over the same weekend her student had to travel to a dance competition.

“I was reasonably expecting that she would have to be asking for a time extension,” Taciak said, but was surprised when instead, Lambadis came into school that Monday smiling with the assignment ready in hand.

For students looking to be a future valedictorian, Lambadis said, “the main thing to focus on is to not worry about everyone else, and to worry about yourself.”

Come September, Lambadis will be a freshman at Lehigh University, studying biomechanical engineering.

Kelly McLaughlin

Salutatorian Kelly McLaughlin, like Lambadis, has completed an extensive amount of AP courses, finishing with 11, and adding four college-level classes onto that list.

Outside of academics, McLaughlin had a busy schedule. She balanced her time between serving as  president of her school’s National Spanish Honor Society and as an active member of the National Junior Honor Society.

Laura Melfi speaks very fondly of McLaughlin’s presence in her AP calculus class, regarding her as sometimes being a secondary teacher.

“Kids would ask her questions ‘Kelly, how’d you do this? What’d you do?’ if I was busy helping someone else,” Melfi said.

In the future, McLaughlin hopes to become a math teacher, citing her teachers, including Melfi, as inspiring her to take that career path. Melfi said she feels McLaughlin possesses the traits needed to be an effective math teacher.

“She doesn’t let her intelligence make her feel like she’s better than anybody else,” Melfi said. “She will help everybody and anybody.”

McLaughlin also sets aside time to give back to her community by volunteering as a tutor for students at the Middle Country Public Library. Her volunteer experience has landed her some tutoring jobs, usually in math and science.

McLaughlin said she enjoys being able to help out.

“For me to make someone understand it — that feels really good that I have that impact on them,” she said.

This experience will be handy as McLaughlin goes off to study mathematics and education SUNY Geneseo.

Community responds to call for help following car crash involving a volunteer fireman

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. is a volunteer fireman for the Sound Beach Fire Department. Photo by Stefanie Handshaw

By Kevin Redding

Friends, family and community members did their own quick responding for a beloved Sound Beach firefighter who suffered serious injuries in a recent car crash.

A GoFundMe page to support Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. was set up Dec. 23, one day after the 24-year-old volunteer was rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital following a collision with another vehicle on Route 25A and Harrison Ave. in MIller Place at 5 p.m.

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr.’s car following his crash on Route 25A Dec. 22. Photo from Sound Beach Fire Department

According to those close to him, McLoughlin Jr. was pulling into a lot to get a haircut when a driver ran a red light and broadsided his vehicle.

The online fundraiser hit its goal of $15,000 after just two days, and within 10, the fund exceeded the goal with $19,664. So far 350 people have donated, with individual contributions ranging from $5 to as much as $1,000.

The accident left McLoughlin Jr. with two broken vertebrae, and since he’ll be out of work for a minimum of three months, the money raised will go toward the surgery he needed to fuse part of his spine, future medical and rehabilitation costs and the eventual replacement of his totaled vehicle.

The Sound Beach native recently graduated from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut with a communications degree and has been juggling a second part-time job as a freelance cameraman for Fox 5 NY.

Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Thomas Sternberg spearheaded the campaign on behalf of the district, with the hope of giving back to someone he considers “a very dedicated man to the department and the community.”

“I was amazed at how many people stepped up to help him out … we’re very appreciative of anyone who has donated,” he said. “Jimmy has always been there when you need him. He’s always willing to train, always willing to help anybody.”

Sound Beach Captain Darran Handshaw, who compiled the GoFundMe page, said the speedy outpouring and money raised is a testament to McLoughlin Jr.’s character.

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. holding his Firefighter of the Year award with Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Thomas Sternberg. Photo from Sound Beach Fire Department

“He’s done so much for the community and he’s just an all around great guy,” Handshaw said. “He’s always a reliable firefighter, always on the first engine and somebody that I count on when I get into a fire.”

McLoughlin Jr. has a lifelong commitment to the fire department — in fact, it’s in his blood.

His father, James McLoughlin Sr., currently serves as fire commissioner for Sound Beach and was once the chief.

“When he was born, I was a fire chief,” his father said. “He was part of the department from the time he took his first breath, and there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t stop there for one reason for another. As long as he’s in town, he’s there.”

McLoughlin said it’s heartwarming to see all the support his son has in the community.

“He’s one of the go-to people when somebody needs help,” he said. “Ever since he was a child, Jimmy was very community-oriented.”

McLoughlin Jr. joined the junior fire company when he was 13 years old and served in it for five years while simultaneously climbing the ranks toward Eagle Scout. He graduated from Rocky Point High School in 2011 and on his 18th birthday, he joined the fire department and maintained his responsibilities there whenever he came home from college for summer and winter breaks.

“He got his fire academy training squeezed in while going to college; he just lives and breaths the fire service,” McLoughlin Sr. said. “Even people who went to school locally weren’t able to maintain their fire responsibilities and quotas, and he was able to do it while going to school out of state.”

As driver on one of the fire engines, McLoughlin Jr.’s responsibilities are to maintain the truck, make sure it’s in working order and train every individual that comes into the department. To this day, his father said, anyone who needs to learn how to drive or pump one of the engines, “they go to Jimmy to learn how to do it.”

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. is a freelance cameraman for Fox 5 NY. Photo from Jimmy McLoughlin Jr.’s Facebook page

In 2014, McLoughlin Jr. was recognized for all his contributions and ability to balance his fire services and academics when he was chosen by the department as Firefighter of the Year, the fire department’s highest honor. He also received his engine company’s award the same year, which is given out by the fire department for demonstrating a certain level of skill performance and recognizes one’s ability to work within a team.

According to the GoFundMe page, he’s “performed so many heroic acts of kindness for the community.”

In 2015, he fought a large house fire inside a fellow firefighter’s family home. McLoughlin Jr. manned the hoseline, went inside the house and stopped the fire that had spread through the basement and most of the main floor.

Afterward, he filmed and produced a video with the family who lost almost everything in the fire in which they shared their experience with the community to teach key fire safety lessons. The video has since been seen all over the world and has been an integral part of Sound Beach’s fire prevention efforts.

According to his father, McLoughlin Jr. is out of surgery and resting at home. He has been able to walk and move around, but because of the procedure, he has to wear a collar support for the next six to eight weeks. He’s still in a lot of pain.

McLoughlin Jr. might have a long road to full rehabilitation ahead, but his usual spirit remains intact.

“He’s determined,” McLoughlin Sr. said. “He’s got a positive outlook … it’s not ‘am I gonna be on my feet?’ it’s ‘when I’m back on my feet.’”

PSEG employees volunteered time to help clean up the grounds of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding

Long Island PSEG employee Meredith Lewis wanted to help clean up the grounds of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, so she organized volunteer efforts to do just that.

The cleanup was part of PSEG’s Community Partnership Program, which provides sponsorship to any employees passionate about contributing within their community.

PSEG volunteers rake leaves at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding
PSEG volunteers rake leaves at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a Shoreham resident, Lewis said she wanted to help make Wardenclyffe – which has become something of an eyesore the past few decades – a place the community can go to and be proud of, especially the area that will become the center’s welcome site.

The location where Serbian-born inventor Nikola Tesla’s last remaining laboratory in the world stands was designated as a world historic site the following day, so timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Lewis and her merry band of helpers – made up of about 25 people between those from PSEG and the Tesla Science Center.

“It feels really great that people want to take time out of their personal schedules and give back to the community,” Lewis said. “We want a nice place for people to go and honor Tesla. It’s very exciting to have somebody who has such a historical significance be in our community and to be able to clean up the site, which really was a dumb beforehand, and make it what it is today. It’s nice and helps the community.”

Her volunteers rakes leaves, trimmed low brush and shrubs, cleared out vines attached to the fence that separates the grounds and the road, and got the area ready for planned irrigation in the spring.

PSEG volunteers rake leaves at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding
PSEG volunteers rake leaves at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham Dec. 10. Photo by Kevin Redding

Even her kids Brayden, 7, and Brooke, 5, were taking part.

Karl Sidenius, a longtime volunteer for the center, said he got involved in the effort because he was sick of seeing what had become of the property.

“I knew this had been Tesla’s lab and to drive by here every day or so and see the mess really disturbed me,” he said. “If we can get this cleaned up today, it would be a big help in maintaining the property.”

Gene Genova, vice president of the Tesla Science Center, said the help was great. Ever since the property was bought in 2013, he said, hundreds of volunteers come out to the site and help clean up.

He said there are big plans to turn the abandoned house and building on the property into a visitor’s center and a community events center, respectively.

“When we get volunteers who are passionate about helping us,” Genova said, “it furthers our cause to make things happen faster.”


Several board members at this Port Jefferson hospital have been serving for decades. Photo by Alex Petroski

In the National Football League, it is widely believed that team success can be traced back to a long, stable relationship between head coach and quarterback. The longer those two have been working together and in perfect harmony, the likelihood for success usually goes up.

The board of directors at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital have followed a similar blueprint, and they couldn’t be happier with the results. Mather’s board chairman is Kenneth Jacoppi,  and he has held that position for about 10 years, though he began serving on the board in May 1977. Konrad Kuhn joined the board a year later. One year after that, Harold Tranchon joined. All three remain on the board of directors to this day.

“Honestly, when you have board members who have been there for a long length of time they have institutional memory and a long understanding of [the] changing field of medical care,” hospital President Kenneth Roberts said in a phone interview.

He has a long tenure as well: This June marks the 30th anniversary of when Roberts took over that post. Prior to becoming president he served four years as the vice president.

Jacoppi, 78, who was the president of his senior class at Port Jefferson High School and later went on to become a lawyer, reflected on his near 40 years at Mather and his lifetime in the community in a phone interview.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would serve this long,” he said.

Jacoppi referred to others on the board as his “Mather family,” and said that his fondness and pride for his community have contributed to keeping him in the position for so long.

During the decades under the current leadership team, Mather has earned a Magnet designation for nursing excellence, achieved the highest patient experience scores in Suffolk County, been recognized as the only hospital in New York State to earn nine consecutive A ratings for patient safety and quality from the Leapfrog Group and established a new graduate medical education program, among many other accomplishments.

“You have a stability you don’t have in most organizations,” Jacoppi said. “We obviously want to provide the best possible care to people in the area.”

‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would serve this long.’
—Kenneth Jacoppi

Jacoppi added one of the things he’s picked up in his experience over the years is to be “a bit more laid back and patient.” He referred to himself when he started as a “hard-charging young lawyer” who had to learn to listen to other viewpoints and think about the effect decisions would have on doctors and the community.

Clearly Jacoppi and the rest of the board have figured out a way to stay on top of their game in what he and Roberts both referred to as an extremely challenging time for health care.

“In the old days, the volunteers held grand card parties under the huge old tree on the Mather lawn that helped raise money to provide exceptional health care for the community,” Jacoppi said in a statement from the hospital.

Times may have changed, but the Mather board of directors has not.

Jim Feeley has been living in Centerport for most of his life. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

A Centerport resident has planted deep roots in the community where he grew up.

Jim Feeley has been an active volunteer in the Centerport Fire Department for the past 50 years, joining in June 1965.

During his tenure he served as chief of the department twice and a volunteer  EMT on the Centerport Rescue Squad. He was a member of the board of fire commissioners and the president of the Town of Huntington Fire Chiefs Council. Last year he was named Firefighter/EMT of the Year in the 18th Legislative District.

His parents built their house on Fleets Cove Road in Centerport, and Feeley met his wife Joan while walking along Fleets Cove Beach.

“I loved living across from the golf course,” Feeley said in a phone interview. “I used to hunt and explore the grounds with my brothers.”

Feeley is a 1964 Harborfields graduate, and his wife is a graduate of Walt Whitman. When it came time to decide where to raise a family, they both agreed they wanted to continue living in Centerport.

Feeley said he remembers the exact night when he decided to join the Centerport Fire Department, back in the spring of ’65 while shooting pool with his brother at an old bar in Centerport, at just 19 years of age.

“I learned a lot about my neighborhood,” he said. “There will always be someone to help you out; someone you can trust.”

Over the years, Feeley said he had been proud of the department for its active drill team, which has participated in many tournaments, and the camaraderie and closeness of the department as a whole.

According to Feeley, the fire department used to organize multifamily camping trips in the 1970s and ‘80s, and members of the Northport Fire Department even got involved.

“These are the same guys I’ve been meeting for coffee for the past 50 years,” he said. “Everyone has each other’s back. I don’t know where else you would find that.”

Feeley reflected on some of the big fires he’s worked on in his half century with the department.

“In 1966 at Gidyes Inn in Centerport, we worked on a fire for 25 hours,” he said. Gidyes Inn used to stand on Main Street where the U.S. Post Office now stands.

Feeley remembered a fire in 1972 where he and many of his family members left the table at Thanksgiving dinner to go put out a fire on Little Neck Road. The fire had gotten so big that embers were landing on boats floating near the house, which was located on the water.

Feeley’s brother, two daughters and two nephews also volunteer at the Centerport Fire Department. His wife is a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the department.

In his off time, Feeley said he enjoys gardening at the Huntington Town’s garden plot in Greenlawn on Dunlop Road and participating in the Knights of Columbus in Greenlawn.

Feeley was recently recognized for his years of service by Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) at a February Suffolk County Legislature meeting.

“James Feeley is an outstanding example of a true public servant,” Spencer said in a statement. “It is a privilege to be able to recognize and thank him for his inspiring service to our community.”

Photo from HCFAS

Emergency medical workers rushed on Tuesday to rescue a young man who had been hit by a car just feet from their station.

The Huntington Community First Aid Squad said an “agitated young man” in front of its Huntington Station headquarters got the attention of the on-duty dispatcher at about 3:45 p.m. and pointed to the nearby intersection of Railroad Street and Lowndes Avenue. Several members at that point could see another person lying motionless in the street, and the squad dispatched an ambulance and a first-responder vehicle to the intersection.

The crew found an unconscious and unresponsive male around 18 years old who had been hit by a vehicle while trying to cross the street, the HCFAS said in a statement. “The crew members quickly immobilized the victim and performed a trauma examination.”

After being moved to the ambulance, the victim regained consciousness, the HCFAS said, and could communicate with the EMTs. According to the squad, he had possibly suffered a head injury.

The victim was transported to Huntington Hospital.

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The Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company serves Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and Mount Sinai. File photo

Village officials have blocked the local ambulance company from billing residents for service, three months after an explosive debate on the practice.

A few residents argued during a Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees meeting in November that it was unfair, after paying ambulance district taxes, they received bills for ambulance rides when their insurance companies either denied a claim or left them with a hefty deductible to pay. But the board insisted such bills were not the intention of the plan enacted several years ago to help their emergency medical organization recoup expenses.

Faced with rising costs in the ambulance district — which includes Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and Mount Sinai — the board authorized the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company to bill patients’ insurance companies for service within their jurisdiction, using the collected funds to offset ambulance taxes.

The bills being sent later on to patients, according to PJVAC Deputy Chief Rob Stoessel, originated because his group and its third-party billing company are obligated to ask for the balance if the insurance does not cover the entire cost. In November he described the requirement as a “good faith attempt.”

Before insurance, the fee on a call for emergency medical care is $900, with an additional $18 for each mile the ambulance transports a patient. Stoessel said that amount takes into consideration both medical and nonmedical expenses like gasoline.

Both he and Mayor Margot Garant agreed that when the billing program was created, the idea was for patients to receive three notices for bills, with no consequences for not paying — as the ambulance company does not have a mechanism for collections.

“The insurance companies, God bless them — collect every nickel from them,” Garant said in November. But “we didn’t want the resident to be pursued for any of the fees.”

Residents who received the bills complained that wasn’t common knowledge, and they were concerned about their credit ratings.

Monica Williams was denied Medicare coverage for her treatment.

“I don’t really think that any village resident … should be looking at a bill like that,” Williams said in November. “It’s surprising. It’s disappointing.”

She called it “being billed for the same thing twice.”

But Williams saw a solution on Monday night, when the Board of Trustees voted to ban the ambulance company from billing residents.

The previous law that allowed the company “to bill, directly, village residents for the use of its ambulance services … is hereby rescinded,” according to the measure members approved at their meeting. It also forgives all unpaid balances currently hanging against residents.

PJVAC will still be able to collect funds from the insurance companies.

Garant said there would be consequences “if we hear of any resident getting any more collection documents from the ambulance [district].”

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Diane Burkhardt, a member of the North Shore United Methodist Church for the last 11 years, is seen below smiling with children she helps through the organization Life and Hop Haiti. Photo from Hal Low

Don’t let its size fool you — the North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River may be small, but the variety of outreach and support programs it has reaches across the Island.

“Sometimes there are certain people who are going through a difficult time and I think extending a hand and caring helps restore some hope that things are going to be okay,” said Diane Burkhardt, a member of the church for 11 years who is a retired Shoreham-Wading River middle school teacher. “People are so appreciative and thankful, which makes the whole experience gratifying and fulfilling. It makes you really appreciate what you have, which is humbling.”

Burkhardt said she is fortunate enough to be the team leader for the church’s outreach program, working on volunteer efforts like the Helping Hands Fund, which includes a food pantry that assists about 50 families in the Shoreham-Wading River area on a regular basis, and its back-to-school project, which provided school supplies to 30 children in need this past September.

Volunteers also deliver food to people’s homes, drive those in need to doctor’s appointments, help out with the church’s thrift shop, and deliver meals to and spend time with residents of Maureen’s Haven, a shelter service for homeless adults on the East End.

The North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River is involved in a myriad of projects from helping its church members to the needy across Long Island. Photo by Giselle Barkley
The North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River is involved in a myriad of projects from helping its church members to the needy across Long Island. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“Food is tangible, but what comes with it is the intangible quality of hope,” Burkhardt said. “I’m one of a dozen or so active members that are retired and put in a lot of hours because we feel we were all given gifts and skills that can be put to good use helping people.”

Linda McCall, of Center Moriches, has been attending North Shore United Methodist for four years and said she most enjoys spending her time helping those at Maureen’s Haven in Riverhead, while also volunteering through Helping Hands to provide gifts to children and meals to families around Christmas.

“It’s a very small church, and for such a small church we have so many outreach programs going that I found it almost impossible not to get involved,” she said. “It’s one of the things that keep me happy to be here on the Island. I moved here from Las Vegas, so I don’t have any family here, and the church has become my family. Volunteering fills my days with joy and happiness.”

Priscilla Hartman, a Shoreham resident who has been attending services for the last 35 years, said that as the church’s team leader for its membership care program, she finds it rewarding when she can help someone.

The program helps church members get to the pharmacy when they are temporarily ill, don’t have transportation or otherwise can’t leave the house. Volunteers also cook for them or clean their houses.

“It’s a great feeling when we’re helping a homeless person or someone who is down on their luck and seeing them get back on their feet,” she said. “I’m glad that my church is very ministry-oriented. I think it’s a good way for us to act. We’re a small church, but there’s nothing too large for us to take on.”

One example is the church’s partnering with Life and Hope Haiti, an organization founded by Lucia Anglade of West Babylon, who formed the Eben Ezer School in her hometown of Milot, Haiti.

Donna Eddy, who runs a craft group and is also involved with Maureen’s Haven and the thrift shop, said it’s these relationships people make with other community members and those they help that count in life and define who they are.

“I think we are all wired to need and to learn from each other,” she said. “You can’t love, have forgiveness, experience kindness, faithfulness and unselfishness unless you’re involved in the community. People need other people.”

And one person everyone at North Shore United Methodist agreed they need, is Burkhardt.

The North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River gets together food for the less fortunate during the holidays. Photo from Hal Low
The North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River gets together food for the less fortunate during the holidays. Photo from Hal Low

“She has an incredible amount of energy and her enthusiasm is infectious,” Pastor Hal Low said. “Nothing ever seems to daunt her. She’s an inspiration to others, including myself.”

Eddy agrees.

“She’s focused, driven and she makes you want to be the best that you can be and give all that you can, because that’s what she does,” she said. “She’s a wonderful model She gives selflessly her time, her energy. If you need something, Diane will be there. You can count on her.”

But Burkhardt doesn’t want to take any of the credit, because she said without the rest of the organization, there would be no outreach ministry.

“I’m part of a whole congregation and I couldn’t do anything alone,” she said, adding that other churchgoers also help by recycling cans and bottles to raise money for lunches for the children in Haiti for instance. Members are also currently providing dinner to children whose parents are both in the hospital while the father is ill, and have been helping transport a man in Bellport, previously of Maureen’s Haven and a home in Middle Island, to and from Sunday services since 2011.

Burkhardt said that she frequently recalls things Shoreham resident and longtime churchgoer Doris Olson used to tell her when she was heavily involved in outreach in her younger years.

“Whenever I’m dealing with someone that can maybe be hard to deal with, she always said, ‘God made that person, too,’ and that brings me right back in touch with what I’m really doing and why I’m going it,” Burkhardt said. “Every day, try to be a blessing to someone else.”