Reanna Fulton, above, with her sons Blake, left, and Bryce on Memorial Day 2021. Photo from Reanna Fulton

In April, members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3054 in East Setauket voted for their first female post commander, Reanna Fulton.

Fulton, bottom row center, met President George W. Bush in May 2003. Photo from Reanna Fulton

Fulton, 41, has been with the post since 2004. Former post commander Jay Veronko, who moved to Florida before the end of 2020, said she was the right person for the job.

“Reanna, regardless of her gender, was the obvious choice for commander as she was one of the most motivated and involved members of the post while I was commander,” Veronko said. “She felt, as I did, the future of the post was in getting younger veterans to join, more community involvement and to maintain our great relationship with the Three Village Dads, Rotary Club and Daughters of the American Revolution. The fact she was the first female commander of the Setauket post is noteworthy, but I believe the membership that voted her into the leadership position saw, as I did, the best path forward for the post was in her election to post commander.”

After Veronko left, Fulton served as commander pro tempore until June when her term officially began. As a member for almost two decades, she said after she joined another woman also became a member but after a while she left, so Fulton remains the only female.

When she first joined she said it was a bit uncomfortable, but she said it was due to not having any connections at the time, and the members feeling strange that a female was around.

Fulton, who is also junior vice commander of the Suffolk County VFW, said in addition to hoping to add more women she wants to recruit more veterans in general.

“We’ve taken a different perspective on what we envision our posts to be, because for so long it’s been this hidden gem in the community,” she said. “When I grew up, I never knew it was there until somebody recruited me.”

She said post members hope the community outreach will “bridge that gap between the old perception of what the VFW was to what we envisioned it now for us to be more family oriented.”

Fulton lives in Setauket with her husband Chris and sons Blake and Bryce, and said she looks forward to them being involved.

In June the post hosted an event for its members and families, which was different from the annual chicken barbecue fundraiser it holds every August for the community, an event that is not planned this year due to COVID-19.

“It was more about us as a group of veterans so that we can invite our families down and get to meet each other and have those relationships,” she said.

Military service

The new post commander first came back from deployment in 2003 after serving in the U.S. Navy on active duty during the 9/11 era. She said at the time veterans like her weren’t sure how they would be classified. To join the VFW, vets need to have been deployed overseas and have received a recognized campaign medal. Eventually the military campaign was deemed War on Terror.

Reanna Fulton when she was on active duty. Photo from Reanna Fulton

The 1997 Ward Melville High School graduate entered the Navy in 1998, and after leaving active duty in 2003, she was in the Navy reserves from 2006-09.

The vet said she tried college for a bit after high school, but she knew joining the military was her true calling after being inspired by her father.

“One of the reasons that I did join the Navy in the first place — it wasn’t like it came out of the blue — my father was in the Navy during Vietnam, and then my grandfather was in the Army in the post-World War II occupation of Germany,” she said. “So for me, I always had that in me and knew that and that was one of the reasons I was so interested in it because of my father.”

In July of 2002 she was deployed on an aircraft carrier and was stationed in the Persian Gulf for six months as part of Operation Southern Watch.

“Just to keep an eye on things,” Fulton said. “That was during the time there was some tension in Afghanistan.”

Around Christmas time they were ready to return home, but they were given orders to turn around. She was in the Middle East for Operation Iraqi Freedom and finally returned to the States in May 2003.

She said when she first enlisted she never imagined anything like 9/11 and the aftermath. She was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen by the terrorist group al-Qaida in October 2000.

“My first thought was, oh my God, I’m leaving for a ship in like three months,” she said.

Fulton said she knew things like that could happen, but it wasn’t something she thought about all the time.

“Aircraft carriers like mine — USS Abraham Lincoln — are fortunate enough to have many ships and a submarine in our battle group to protect us,” she said. “Our mission was first to monitor what was happening in the Middle East and then later to get our airplanes up with bombs for ‘shock and awe’ and the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.”

She said while serving she was mostly on the carrier, the crew did stop off in Bahrain twice. While the country is more lenient than others in the Middle East about what women should wear, it is more conservative than the United States.

“It’s interesting because you’re briefed every time you get off in a different port, so you knew as a woman what to wear,” she said. “We had to wear a shirt that was completely buttoned up with long sleeves and long pants with shoes. You couldn’t show any skin. We were allowed to show our faces. So, that was how we had to leave when we left — off the base, that’s how we had to look.”

Joining the military, Fulton said she wanted to gain discipline so when she returned home she could go back to college, and that’s what she did. She holds a master’s degree and a postgraduate administrative certificate for education at Stony Brook University. Currently, she’s a supervisor of technology for a local school district, and she’s enrolled in her third year of the doctoral program in leadership and organizational change at Baylor University.

For women looking to join the military, Fulton has advice.

“Expect the unexpected, and just stick to your goals,” she said. “What are you there for? What do you want to get out of it?”

This is a philosophy she applies as the new commander of VFW Post 3054, and she’s looking forward to  meeting  community members, especially veterans and their families.

Join us in celebrating local women’s successes

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As you know, March is Women’s History Month, honoring the contributions of women to history, culture and society. Did you know that women in the United States of America could not own property until 1862? You probably know from all the recent centennial publicity that women are able to vote only since 1920. But did you know that a woman could not have a credit card in her name until 1974? Now that is a startling statistic because it is not plucked from the dustbins of history but rather, for us of a certain age, a contemporary one. After all, I started The Village Times, the first newspaper of Times Beacon Record News Media, on April 8,1976. Getting a credit card then, whether for business or personal use, was a big complicated deal and how to run a business without one?

You might say we women in the workplace have indeed come a long way. And even though women still earn only 81cents for every dollar men earn, we can be pleased with our success so far. I’m saying “pleased,” but not yet “satisfied.”

Women’s History Month grew out of Women’s History Week, first celebrated in Sonoma County, California, in 1978 to acknowledge the singular contributions of women that had been largely ignored in most history books. The idea spread to other communities and President Jimmy Carter adapted it by presidential proclamation to a national observance in 1980. Since 1987, it has been celebrated annually by congressional resolution for the entire month of March in the United States, made to overlap International Women’s Day on March 8.

Today there are some 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. Compare that to 402,000 women-owned businesses in 1972. Further, they generate 1.8 trillion dollars a year. There are 114% more women entrepreneurs than 20 years ago, starting roughly 1,821 new businesses every day, and that plays a significant role in the United States economy.

We want to call your attention to these female success stories on a local level. You probably don’t think of who owns the business when you shop in a store or use a service, nor should you. We women have proven ourselves adept at business and professional management, and seek nothing more than the same opportunities to support ourselves, our families, our employees, and to serve the public that men have enjoyed over the centuries.

Still, considering how far we have come today, we can’t be faulted in any demonstration of business success, such as in this section, for having a little extra gleam in our eye.


METRO photo

Kitchen remodels are among the most popular home renovation projects, whether they consist of swapping out cabinet hardware or doing major demolition. 

Due to the sheer amount of time families spend in the kitchen, not to mention the number of tasks performed in this space, it is easy to see why Remodeling magazine consistently ranks kitchen renovations as projects that will enable homeowners to recoup a high percentage of their investments. 

When investing in a kitchen project, it is important to incorporate items that are coveted. 

Deep, double sinks: Having a double sink enables you to soak dishes in one side and then wash on the other. It also makes it easy to wash and prep produce for meals. 

Kitchen island and bar stools: Even though many meals are enjoyed around the table, there’s something to be said for the convenience of a kitchen island and some well-placed bar stools for quick breakfasts or snacks.

Smart kitchen storage: Work with a contractor to include storage solutions built into cabinetry and the pantry. Slide-out shelving, nooks for a paper towel roll and custom-designed areas to store stand mixers and other necessities can make kitchens more functional.

Outdoor access: If possible, design a kitchen so it is easy to access the backyard via sliding doors. This can make outdoor entertaining or even coffee on the deck much easier.

Under-cabinet lighting: Fixtures installed under cabinets provide both ambient lighting and task lighting. Such lighting makes it easier to see what you’re working on as well, as even well-placed overhead lighting can fail to illuminate dark corners and spots on the counters.

Convenient warming drawer: This appliance provides backup to the oven. It’s a slide-out drawer that can keep prepared foods out of the way and warm until they are ready to be served. This is particularly handy for holidays and other entertaining.

Beverage station: Designate one area of the kitchen to beverages, such as coffee and tea. Or make the area an informal bar. This can limit traffic in the kitchen to a single area.

Kitchen remodels are exciting to envision, and several choices can make these high-traffic spaces even more coveted.  METRO

Dlisah Lapidus, Grace Brouillet and Mia Schoolman are the founders of Junk Dump magazine.

Looking for a way to connect young artists during a time when schools are unable to hold art shows, three Ward Melville High School students decided to give creative teens a chance to share their work, not only on the web but also in print.

In December, a new magazine called Junk Dump premiered. The publication was founded by Grace Brouillet, 17, of Port Jefferson Station, Dlisah Lapidus, 16, of Setauket, and Mia Schoolman, 16, of Stony Brook. Brouillet and Schoolman are seniors, while Lapidus is a junior set to graduate a year early.

Featuring artwork, photography, fashion designs and writings, the magazine has no ads, as the girls put up their own money to have it published. They used the online service PrintingCenterUSA to have it printed.

The three said the hope was to recoup some of the outlay by charging $10 for the full-color magazine. While they printed 75 issues of the first edition, titled Distorted Time, they had so many people interested that they are planning to print more of their second issue which is set to be released in February.

Schoolman said they chose the name Junk Dump because they wanted the magazine to be a place where artists could share anything, even if their piece wasn’t completed. Or, as she described it, “a place where artists can dump their work and show the raw side of their artwork.”

“We love unfinished or unpolished work, and you never get to see that in exhibits or art shows,” she said.

It’s no surprise that the girls became interested in creating a publication. Schoolman said she’s into studying the fine arts, and she and Brouillet are interested in graphic design. Brouillet is also editor-in-chief of the school’s yearbook. Lapidus said her interests lie in journalism and fashion design.

Lapidus said the objective was to show all talents whether one is an artist, writer, photographer or designer.

“That was really the goal — we wanted to just give every person who had some creative aspirations a place where they can express themselves and get some recognition for it,” she said.

The magazine features work from teenagers all over the country and the world, even as far as Turkey and Scotland. The three invited people to contribute via Snapchat, and the submissions have also led to an Instagram page and website. Schoolman said they also messaged some young artists directly.

Lapidus said they wanted to include young artists from all over the world as they recognized that with current restrictions due to COVID-19, many don’t have a place to express themselves, something they have witnessed firsthand with school art shows not taking place during the pandemic.

“It would be really interesting to see in this digital age that we have, and where face-to-face contact is restricted,” Lapidus said. “I think we can form a community through this magazine that doesn’t have to just be restricted by geography. It doesn’t have to be just in this area. We can even connect people here to all over the world.”

The high school students plan to publish the magazine every other month, and next year when they’re in college they still intend to produce more issues, Brouillet said.

“I think this is something that we’re all really passionate about and love doing, and we all feel it’s making a difference in our own lives and other peoples’,” she said. “When we go off to college, we’ll be able to build a community even bigger and keep it growing.”

Even though the girls run a website and social media accounts, presenting work in print is important to them, especially to Lapidus, a self-described avid reader, who said she’s always connected more with print media than online.

“It’s just not the same as holding paper in your hand,” she said.

She added so many magazines are online, but during the pandemic having a print version made sense.

“I thought when physical contact is taken from us with this pandemic, it’s important to bring print back in some way, and I think that having a physical print magazine connects people even further,” Lapidus said.

Schoolman said Lapidus’ passion for print, along with her and Brouillet’s graphic-design abilities are a good match.

“I think that when we first started the project, not many people really knew what we were doing,” Schoolman said. “We said we were making a magazine but obviously we didn’t have the physical copy in our hands [at the time]. I think when people actually see us go into publishing, printing our own magazine, it’s so important to kind of combine the digital world with the physical world.”

For more information on Junk Dump magazine, visit www.junkdumpmag.com.

Huntington Hospital, will soon be home to a new caregiver program center due to a philanthropic gift from Charles and Helen Reichert. Photo from Northwell Health

Thanks to Charles and Helen Reichert, a center for a new caregiver program at Huntington Hospital, part of Northwell Health, will be ready by the first quarter of next year.

To be named the Reichert Family Caregiver Center, the philanthropic gift came this month to give the new program a space to help patients, their families and the community.

“The program was designed to support the family caregiver — the people taking care of their own loved ones that carry with them the stress, possible burden, the need for information and resources or emotional support,” said Cheryl Miranda, the hospital’s director of patient and customer experience. “For them, it’s almost like CPR for the family.”

She said the families dealing with their loved ones who are in the hospital are known as the silent patients.

“They do an amazing job to try to take care of their family members,” she added.

The caregiver program was implemented before COVID as a pilot, which is made up of different components, all to connect those caring for the chronically ill with programs and resources that can relieve their burden. The center will work within the hospital to help families with ongoing care after discharge.

“Once we have the new center, we’ll have the ability to give people space in real time,” Miranda said. “Someone will be there to be with them, hold their hands and let them cry.”

From emotional support to other resources like food delivery options, the center plans on walking the family through whatever they need when they leave the hospital.

“Our social workers and case managers, as great a job as they do with the patients and their families, it’s a short time they’re with them,” Miranda said. “This allows us to be connected with them and bring continual support throughout this community.”

And because of the Reichert family, the hospital can now fund the center and a full-salaried social worker to help out. Known for their philanthropy throughout the community, the Reicherts have been instrumental in implementing new technologies and services throughout Northwell Health.

Previously the Reicherts donated to  Northwell Health Reichert Family Imaging at Huntington in Greenlawn and the reception area of the Huntington Hospital Emergency Department, as well as supporting the hospital’s Center for Mothers and Babies. The Reichert family’s donations also funded the purchase of the hospital’s first 3D mammography machine.

“The Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation is committed to building stronger and healthier communities,” Charles Reichert said. “We are proud to partner with Huntington Hospital to create this much-needed program that will provide support, assistance and respite. You don’t realize how important a caregiver is until you become one.”

By Melissa Arnold

The holiday season is fast approaching, and it’s time to start thinking about that shopping list. But before you visit those online retailers and big box stores, consider supporting local businesses hit hard by this year’s closures and safety restrictions.

In the Three Village area, Gallery North has teamed up with their neighbors at The Jazz Loft and Three Village Historical Society for a festive holiday experience that has a little something for everyone on your list.

Each year, Gallery North celebrates local artists with Deck the Halls, a group exhibit and art sale. Now through Dec. 20, visitors can admire the work of more than 70 artists covering a variety of subjects and media. The sale includes over 100 pieces of art, with a range of prices making it easy to find a unique gift that fits any budget.

This year, Gallery North executive director Ned Puchner was eager to put together a larger, yet safe and festive event that could bring the community together again.

“Frankly, a lot of people are still understandably concerned about going out and shopping,” said Puchner. “We had a lot of success with the Farmers and Makers Markets over the summer, and one of our board members joked that while she didn’t do hot weather, she’d volunteer in a heartbeat for a winter event.”

The idea grew from there. Puchner reached out to Steve Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society, and Tom Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft, brainstorming ways they could collaborate.

They were inspired by the beautiful, timeless holiday markets in New York City, and decided to transform the historical society grounds into a marketplace of their own. The outdoor marketplace will open for four Saturdays after Thanksgiving, allowing local artists and vendors to set up shop in a festively decorated atmosphere.

Browse the gallery store for paintings, photography and sculptures, then shop outdoors for handcrafted pottery, jewelry, wood and metal creations, clothing, glassware, spice blends and much more.

Along the way, grab a bite to eat and some dessert or warm up with a hot drink from local food trucks.

“Throughout the pandemic we’ve been encouraging people to shop local and support local businesses as much as possible, because everyone is struggling. We can’t help everyone, but we all have ways we can chip in,” said Healy. “[The local organizations] have a great rapport, and we’re always looking for new ways that we can support one another.”

The Jazz Loft’s Equity Brass Band will perform a wide selection of New Orleans jazz standards along with jazzed-up versions of holiday classics. You’ll find them playing in their tent and parading through the grounds on market days as weather permits.

Over the summer, you may have seen the band marching through the streets on one of their Spirit Tours — musical appearances meant to uplift the community and provide cultural enrichment in a time where entertainment has been difficult, if not impossible.

“There’s been a blessing in all this — because we [musicians] are all out of work, people that normally don’t have the time to come and work with us are suddenly free. We’ve had great camaraderie develop from this experience,” Manuel said. “Jazz has always been the soundtrack of America. People have come up to us extremely moved to hear music after being cut off from art for nearly a year.”

At the core of the exhibit and holiday market is the desire to bring a little normalcy and good cheer to the season.

“It’ll give you a little taste of the holiday season while keeping people safe and socially distanced. It also supports local artists, musicians, chefs and entrepreneurs during a time that has been devastating for people who earn their livelihoods performing and creating,” Puchner said. “We want to renew our connection with the community and restore a spirit of togetherness. We’re all still here.”

The Deck the Halls exhibit is on display through Dec. 20 at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. A virtual reception will be held via Zoom on Nov. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Participating artists for the Deck the Halls exhibit include:

Lucia Alberti, Kelynn Alder, Andrea Baatz, Fred Badalamenti, Steve Behler, John Benevento, Joan Branca, Sheila Breck, Nancy Bueti Randall, Natalie Butkevich, Esther Marie Caponigro, Donna Carey-Zucker, Joseph Cooke, Jody Cukier, Linda Davidson-Mathues, Julie Doczi, Daniel Donato, Michael Drakopoulos, Paul Edelson, Patty Eljaiek, Lily Farah, Meagan Flaherty, Kimberly Gerber, Ray Germann, Helaine Goldberg, Holly Gordon, Larissa Grass, Jan Guarino, Anne Katz, Marceil Kazickas, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Julianna Kirk, Randy Kraft, Barron Krody, Jillian Kron, Charles Lembo, LOVID, Mary Lor, Kathleen Massi, Michael McLaughlin, Meagan Meehan, Eleanor Meier, Olivia Menghini, Jim Molloy, Riley Mulligan, Annette Napolitano, Rhoda Needlman PSA, Gail Neuman, Susan Oliverio, Cynthia Parry, Mel Pekarsky, Alicia R. Peterson, Doug Reina, Brianna Sander, Oscar Santiago, Lori Scarlatos, Kate Schwarting, James Slezak, Judith Stone, Angela Stratton, Schery Markee Sullivan, Paul Thomas, Joanne Touch, Joe Ventimiglia, Mary Waka, Marlene Weinstein, Gil Yang, Patricia Yantz, Nicole Zinerco, and Stanley Zucker.

The Holiday Market will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket and Gallery North. Please note: Masks and social distancing will be required, and there will be no public restrooms.

For questions about the market or to register as a vendor, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org/holiday-market.


Ava Della Pietra
Three Village teen talks Broadway experiences, new music release

By Melissa Arnold

Ava Della Pietra

Fifteen-year-old Ava Della Pietra says she started singing as soon as she could speak. She loves performing no matter what form it takes, and her talents in music and theater have already given her incredible platforms. The Three Village local has toured with national theater productions and made her Broadway debut in School of Rock in 2015. These days Ava is focusing on her own music. Her new lyric video featuring her current single, ‘Optimist’, showcases her bright spirit and catchy songwriting skills, along with natural, powerful vocals. While she’s not quite sure yet what she’ll do after high school, one thing’s for sure: Ava’s future is a bright one.

Were you interested in music from an early age?

Yes, definitely. Everyone in my family played an instrument at some point -— I play piano, violin, guitar, bass and ukulele. My mom is also very musical, and I got involved in theater when I was very young. People would come up to my parents when I was 4 years old during a community theater production and they would say, “You need to get an agent, you need to try to get on Broadway.” After hearing it a couple of times, my parents started to take it more seriously, and my mom reached out to an agent. Eventually I got my first audition when I was six, and then when I was seven I got my first professional role as Little Cosette in the national tour of Les Miserables. Things kind of skyrocketed from there.

Where did you get your start? What local groups did you perform with?

My first performance was with a local community theater company called Performing Arts Studio in Port Jefferson (PAS), and then with Productions Over the Rainbow.

Why do you enjoy performing?

I really love seeing people’s reactions in the audience. As a songwriter, I appreciate being able to interact with the audience and look straight at them. I also love meeting people after shows and hearing what they have to say about my music. It inspires me to keep writing.

Who are some of your favorite singers?

I love Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran. Lately I’ve also been enjoying Conan Gray.

What was it like being on Broadway and touring nationally at such a young age?

It was a great experience to have early on because it gave me a big boost of confidence in my abilities and taught me you can do anything you put your mind to. One of my favorite parts of that time was that celebrities would often come to see the show, then come backstage to meet the cast. I’ve gotten to meet Barbra Streisand, Stevie Nicks, and Jack Black. They each had their own perspectives to share. On Broadway, I played a swing in School of Rock, which meant I needed to study several roles and be ready to go on with sometimes a minute’s notice, even in the middle of the show. It’s really exciting and gives you such a rush of adrenaline.

You’ve written dozens of songs. Is it an easy process for you? Do you have a songwriting routine?

Songs tend to come to me at random moments, or when I’m feeling a strong emotion. Sometimes a melody or verse will come to me while I’m out writing my bike, and finish it up when I come home.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I like to write on themes that people can relate to — friendship, self-confidence, supporting one another, positivity, looking on the bright side. A lot of pop music today is negative, and I’m looking to make the kind of music that will make people feel good, and want to get up and dance.

What inspired you to write ‘Optimist’?

I wrote “Optimist” because there are a lot of problems that face society today. Optimism is about realizing that we are one community, and together, we can have hope for a better future. With everything going on in the world, we all need a little optimism right now.

What is your favorite line from the song?

My favorite line from my song is “Every cloud has a silver lining; look up, and we will find it.” This line captures the essence of my song since it talks about how we must take action, rise above, and know that we will be alright.

What type of response is the song getting?

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback! A bunch of radio stations are playing my song, and I’m getting notes from fans on social media or through my website talking about how much my song means to them. One guy sent me an audio recording of himself crying. He told me how my song brought him to tears because he really needed to hear some positivity. I love it when people reach out to me because songwriting is about spreading a message. Seeing how much my music impacts people’s lives makes me really happy!

How did you get to work with producers who have also worked with Ed Sheeran, Avril Lavigne, and other celebrity musicians?

Honestly, I just looked up who produced songs I really loved and reached out to them with a demo. It’s been very successful so far and I feel very fortunate to have gotten to collaborate with them.

Do you enjoy writing songs with others?

Yes, I really enjoy the collaborative process. It’s important for me to work with people who truly value my thoughts and opinions about where I want my music to go, and are willing to ask, “What do you think?” instead of changing a song into something that doesn’t fit with who I am.

How do you juggle school with your music ambitions?

It’s important to remember that it’s supposed to be fun and not get overwhelmed or stressed out about the opportunities that come. Before the pandemic, I would travel over my school breaks to where a producer was located and we would record a song over the course of a few days. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of songwriting from home by Facetiming producers and recording in my bedroom studio. The only difference is I’m not actually there with them!

What are you working on now?

My latest project has been reviewing popular songs. They are featured on a website called Teen Kid News and I also post the reviews on my socials. Also, I appear on a new cast album called “Secondhand Lions” — I sing several songs, including “You Have To See It To Believe It.”

Is music something you’d like to pursue for a career?

Music will always be a part of my life — I’m looking forward to releasing an album soon. I’m also very interested in science and medicine, so I can totally see myself being some kind of doctor or a surgeon. My hope is to continue releasing music to connect with others even if I pursue a different career.

To learn more about Ava Della Pietra, visit her website at www.avadellapietra.com. Follow her on Instagram @avadellapietra, on Facebook @avadellapietraofficial, and check out her latest videos on YouTube.

Patricia Paladines. Photo by Carl Safina

By Leah Chiappino

The Center for Environmental Education and Discovery in Brookhaven has been connecting Long Islanders with nature since its inception in 2015. Setauket resident Patricia Paladines, who recently joined the board of directors, pledges to continue fostering that connection and hopes to expand the organization’s outreach to traditionally underserved populations.

Patricia Paladines

“Patricia is a naturalist, environmentalist, photographer and educator who has taught science and nature to students of every age from elementary school to college,” said Tom Pelletier, CEED board chair, in a statement. “Paladines’ photographs of people, wildlife and landscapes have been exhibited all over Long Island, she has a master’s degree in educational psychology, and she brings a wealth of skills and experience to CEED’s mission.”

Born in Ecuador, Paladines moved to Chicago with her parents when she was 3 years old. She relocated to New York in 1985 where she began a career in photography and design. Paladines worked as a research assistant in the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architecture at the New-York Historical Society, while doing some graphic camera work for Estée Lauder.

“I used to do a lot of black-and-white photography back in the ’80s and ’90s,” she said. “I did work in the darkroom, so I think my background as an educator kind of stems from that: Finding images, and finding things that interest me to share with others.”

Her work has been featured at the Islip Art Museum, The Art Guild of Port Washington, Tabler art gallery at Stony Brook University and the New-York Historical Society.

In 1995, Paladines took a job as executive assistant to the vice president of ocean conservation at the National Audubon Society in Islip, where she said she discovered the true beauty of Long Island’s outdoors, as well as a general appreciation
for nature.

“When I started working for the Audubon Society, I realized that Long Island was much more than shopping malls and expressways, which is what a lot of people think when they live in the city,” she said. “[My work] showed me the wild side of Long Island, and the birds and the ocean. Having grown up in Chicago, this was very different for me.”

Her enthusiasm led her to work at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, first through the Cornell Cooperative Extension, where she developed a program called Aspiring Latin American Scientists in 2000. She was responsible for leading naturalist tours, coordinating with college interns and giving public presentations. Having worked in environmental careers for some time, Paladines noticed Hispanic/Latinx communities were largely underrepresented in the field, even within the large environmental community in activities such as birding or hiking. She also coordinated presentations on various types of marine life to be done in Spanish.

She went on to initiate a partnership between the aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute after the aquarium decided not to renew an education contract with CCE a few years later. While managing the BOI program she received a grant from National Grid for an ocean literacy project. Paladines said with the grant she was able to develop workshops for teachers and schools, and one of the collaborations was with an English Language Learner class at Longwood High School filled with students from various countries who spoke different languages. She said it gave students the opportunity to “strengthen their English while learning about wildlife and the ocean.”

It is this kind of outreach Paladines wants to bring to CEED, encouraging the Hispanic community along the South Shore to utilize the facility and working on deploying “teams” from Bellport High School to build environmental leadership and to teach students how to bring it into their own communities.

In addition to her chosen fields, Paladines is married to ecologist and author Carl Safina. She also has a daughter, Alexandra Srp.

Pelletier said Paladines is an asset to the board.

“I mean, to put it bluntly, the environmental movement and nature center movement and all that tends to be pretty white,” Pelletier said. “We’re trying to do our part to change that. One of the reasons that we thought Patricia would be a really good fit for our board is that she’s done that kind of thing before. I’m kind of excited about having her on our board because that is one of our goals to do that: Make that kind of outreach and bring more people of color to our programs.”

Paladines’ appointment to the board comes as CEED attempts to get off the ground with expanding programming. A little more than three years ago, the nonprofit signed agreements with the Town of Brookhaven and with Suffolk County to use over 60 acres of nature preserve and green-space land, which includes the Washington Lodge estate where CEED is located.

By Melissa Arnold

With cooler weather on the horizon and a bit of normalcy returning to Long Island, there’s no better time to get out and enjoy some fresh air. If you’re looking for a fun and safe outdoor activity that’s out of the ordinary, a trip to Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm in Baiting Hollow is just the ticket.

This year, the farm has planted a sunflower maze for the first time. Following the success of sunflower mazes grown earlier this summer, co-owner Jeff Rottkamp has planted a new series of mazes that will bloom in the fall.

The family-owned farm has been in business for more than 50 years now, with centuries of agriculture in their blood. Fox Hollow is currently run by Jeff, his parents and brother, with help from other relatives.

In recent years, people have flocked to the farm to enjoy the season’s bounty along with hayrides and corn mazes, but this year, the Rottkamps were excited to try something new.

“I’ve been seeing sunflower mazes popping up online from places all over the country, and I liked the way they looked,” Rottkamp said. “I knew it was something we could do and I thought people would find it fun. We did a brief trial run last summer and the feedback was extremely positive, so we were happy to do it again officially.”

Photo courtesy of
Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm

Setting up any kind of crop maze is a process that requires an imagination and a lot of planning in advance, Rottkamp said. First, you have to select the right field — not too large, not too small, and in just the right spot on the sprawling grounds. Planting begins two months ahead of when they want the maze to be ready.

“Sunflowers need a lot of maintenance and careful watering,” he added. “I come up with the pathways at random each time we plant a field, so it’s a new experience every time.”

There are several varieties of sunflowers in different colors and sizes. In addition to the familiar golden petals, you’ll see sunflowers in shades of pink, maroon and white. Most of the sunflowers will grow to be 4 to 6 feet tall, but there will also be scattered sunflowers around 10 feet tall.

Of course, a maze made of living things can only last so long — sunflowers are only in bloom for about two weeks. To counter this, the farm is planting three different fields of sunflowers at staggered times. When one dies out, the next will be ready to go, and each one is different from the last.

The three fields are also different sizes. In order of growth, they are 1 acre, 4 acres, and 3 acres. But don’t worry about getting lost. “It’s not that kind of maze, it’s not a puzzle. It’s more of a wandering path that you can take your time going through, to take pictures and have a little bit of fun,” Rottkamp explained. “No one will get lost, and this is appropriate for all ages to enjoy.”

Before or after your trip through the maze, be sure to stop by the farmstand and pick up fresh, seasonal produce. Autumn will bring in the last of the sweet corn and tomatoes, as well as pumpkins, winter squash and zucchini, among others.

There are treats for sale as well, including local honey, Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, and fresh pies and donuts from the Jericho Cider Mill.

The mazes will be open for wandering throughout September and into October if the crop and weather permit.

Admission to the Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm sunflower maze is $5 per person. Children ages 5 and under are free. The farm is located at 2287 Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow. For further information, please call 631-727-1786.

This article first appeared in Harvest Times 2020, a supplement from TBR News Media.

All photos by Heidi Sutton

By Melissa Arnold

It’s been a long year of Netflix binges and Zoom meetings for all of us, and these days, nothing feels better than getting out a little. You don’t have to go far to find interesting places to explore, either.

Most Long Island locals are probably familiar with the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport, with its sprawling grounds, elaborate mansion and impressive collection of marine life. But be honest: When was your last visit? If it’s been a while — or even if it hasn’t — their 70th anniversary year is the perfect time to stop by.

“The Vanderbilt is unique, a don’t-miss slice of American history. When you take a guided tour of the mansion and its galleries, it’s a time machine trip to a remarkable era of privilege,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the museum. “At one point in the past, there were more than 1,200 mansions on Long Island’s Gold Coast. This is one of the few that remains.”

The Vanderbilt Mansion as we know it today had relatively modest beginnings. William K. Vanderbilt II, a son of the famed Vanderbilt family, had just separated from his first wife in the early 1900s. “Willie K.,” as he’s affectionately known, was looking for a place to get a fresh start, away from the public eye. So he came to Centerport and purchased land, where he built a 7-room, English-style cottage along with some outbuildings.

The cottage, called Eagle’s Nest, was eventually expanded into a sprawling 24-room mansion in the Spanish Revival style. From 1910 to 1944, Eagle’s Nest was Vanderbilt’s summer hideaway. He and his second wife Rosamond hosted intimate gatherings of Vanderbilt family members and close friends, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, legendary golfer Sam Snead, and the Tiffanys.

Of course, that was just the beginning. According to Killian Taylor, the museum’s curatorial associate, Vanderbilt developed a fascination with all kinds of animals, the sea and the natural world from a young age. He had the opportunity to travel the world on his father’s yachts as a child, and longed to see more as he reached adulthood.

“Later, Willie K. inherited $20 million from his late father. One of the first things he did was purchase a very large yacht and hire a team of scientists and a crew,” Taylor explained. “With them, he began to travel and collect marine life, and by 1930, he had amassed one of the world’s largest private marine collections.”

With the help of scientists and experts from the American Museum of Natural History, Vanderbilt created galleries at the Estate to showcase his collections which contains more than 13,000 different marine specimens of all kinds and sizes, from the tiniest fish to a 32-foot whale shark, the world’s largest taxidermied fish, caught off Fire Island in 1935.

After Vanderbilt died in 1944, Rosamond continued to live in their Centerport mansion until her death in 1947. The 43-acre estate and museum – which remain frozen in time, exactly as they were in the late 1940s – opened to the public on July 6, 1950, following instructions left in Vanderbilt’s will. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The museum also features a 3,000-year-old mummy, which Vanderbilt purchased from an antique shop in Cairo, Egypt, Taylor said. The mummy even had an X-ray taken at nearby Stony Brook University Hospital, where they determined the remains are of a female around 25 years old.

“She doesn’t have a name out of respect for the fact that she was once a living woman with her own identity,” Taylor added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought its share of difficulties to every business, and while the museum has had to temporarily close some of its facilities, including the mansion’s living quarters and planetarium, they’ve also added new opportunities for visitors.

“Like many other museums, we had to get creative virtually very quickly,” said Wayland-Morgan. “Our Education Department created the ‘Explore’ series for children — fascinating facts about the lives of birds, butterflies, reptiles, and fish, with pictures to download and color. The Planetarium astronomy educators produced 11 videos on topics including How to Use a Telescope, Imagining Alien Life, Mars, Black Holes, and Fitness in Space. We’ve received very positive responses.” The planetarium also offers online astronomy classes.

The museum is also offering new outdoor programs on the grounds, including walking tours, sunset yoga, a popular series of bird talks by an ornithologist James MacDougall and are currently hosting the third annual Gardeners Showcase through September. On Fridays and Saturdays, movie-and-picnic nights are a popular draw at the outdoor, drive-in theater.

Even without a specific event to attend, the grounds are a perfect place to wander when cabin fever strikes.

“The best reason to visit right now is to stroll the grounds and gardens and visit the open galleries. We’ve also become a very popular picnic destination with a great view of Northport Bay,” Wayland-Morgan said. “We plan to reopen the mansion living quarters and planetarium later in the fall.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. As of Sept. 17, hours of operation are from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The mansion’s living quarters and the planetarium are currently closed. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children under 12, and $7 for students and seniors. Children under 2 are admitted free. For questions and information, including movie night passes, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.