Holidays

(Left to right) Social worker Taylor Cohen; social worker Alexia Bellini; and student-writer Sophia Gregorio. Photo courtesy Andrew Harris
By Sophia Gregorio

For the second straight year, the Lake Grove-based Trek Bicycle Store has donated two bicycles to Comsewogue School District. 

The bike store generously gave the bicycles to help those needing something for the holidays. 

“Trek Lake Grove is happy to help families in the Port Jefferson Station community this year,” said store manager Catie Gregorio.

Comsewogue School District would like to thank Trek Lake Grove and anyone who donated to the needy during the holiday season. 

Comsewogue High School principal, Michael Mosca, commented on the value such donations add to the greater community. 

“This is what makes our community special,” he said. “Everyone is willing to go above and beyond to help one another. We are very grateful for our community partners and all they do for our students and our schools.”

Sophia Gregorio is a sophomore at Comsewogue High School.

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METRO photo

Are you ready to celebrate Galentine’s Day on February 13? Originating from a 2010 episode of the popular TV show, “Parks and Recreation,” Galentine’s Day celebrates some of the most important relationships in our lives: our girlfriends. Over a decade later, the now-official holiday has skyrocketed in popularity. Here are tips on celebrating your gal pals with personalized touches.

1. Batch of Baked Goods. Food is the way to most anyone’s heart, especially when its homemade. Test a new recipe of your gal pal’s favorite dessert; or decorate cakes, cookies or cupcakes with icing in her favorite colors. No matter what you make, the extra effort will show just how much you care.

2. Creative Customized Cards. Everyone knows that gals love a sappy, pull-on-your-heartstrings letter or card. And you can up your card-sending game with a more personalized approach that resonates with the recipient. With the continued evolution of digital greetings, SmashUps and Creatacard from American Greetings have made it easier than ever to create a card just as special and unique as your individual friendships.

Specific friendship-themed ecards include creative options like talking animals or tacos, messages from celebrities, animated folded digital greetings celebrating your “girl gang” and more! They’re sure to entertain, surprise and delight your friends.

SmashUps are smile-inducing, shareable videos that can be highly personalized in a variety of ways, including adding their name or a message into the audio and graphics. With Creatacard, users can replicate the best parts of the offline card-sending experience without the hassle of printing, addressing and postage. In a few easy steps, you can create, personalize and sign your favorite digital cards, then send them to your girlfriends in their preferred way of receiving messages, such as email, text, through a messaging app or social post. Or, print your card from home if the moment calls for that. For that little extra something special, you can even add a gift card.

3. BYOB – Build Your Own Brunch. Brunch is all about spending time together, catching up on life, laughing until your stomach hurts…and of course the plentiful food and drinks. Hosting your Galentine’s Day brunch at home can make for a more cost-effective and customized experience—no reservations required! Make it interesting (and easier for the host) by asking each gal to bring her favorite brunch dish or drink to share, or by prepping and cooking dishes together, all while toasting with a festive mimosa, Bloody Mary or unique mocktail.

4. Mixology with a Twist. If your group of gals is more of an evening crowd, request that each friend brings her own batch of cocktails or mocktails and a snack that follow a given theme. Whether it’s an era (Roaring 20s), a hit movie, a popular show, or one that draws from personal experience, like the “represent your ex” trend on TikTok, the more festive the theme, the more fun the party. You can even tie it all together with an activity, like spa treatments or game night, or dress the part as well.

5. Get Posh with Polaroids. Whatever you choose for you Galentine’s get-together, be sure to capture the moment. And while we love selfies and Insta pics, Polaroids can make cute and creative keepsakes. Whether you’re at home or out on the town, the charming aesthetic and instant gratification of seeing your photo masterpiece is bound to make everyone smile.

While Galentine’s Day started with fictional characters eating waffles at brunch, there are so many personal, intimate ways to celebrate the very real friendships in your life and create long-lasting memories.

— Statepoint

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Few individuals in American history have made an impact as sizable as Martin Luther King, Jr. King wore many hats throughout his tragically short life, from minister to activist to scholar, leaving behind a legacy that is worthy of celebration. Though King was assassinated before he even reached his fortieth birthday, his life was filled with many notable events. Many of those events positively affected, and continue to affect, the lives of millions of others. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University notes that the following are some of the major events of King’s life.

• January 15, 1929: Now commemorated annually as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (in 2023, the holiday is observed on Monday, January 16), January 15 marks the day King was born in 1929. King was born in Atlanta, where his father was a pastor at the Ebenezer church.

• September 20, 1944: Despite being only 15 years old, King begins his freshman year at Morehouse College. King was only a high school junior in 1944, but he was admitted to Morehouse, where his father studied for his ministerial degree, after passing the school’s entrance exam.

• August 6, 1946: King’s letter to the editor of The Atlanta Constitution is published. The letter reflects King’s belief that Black Americans are entitled to the same rights and opportunities as White Americans. King’s father later admitted this letter was the first time he and his wife recognized their son’s “developing greatness.”

• February 25, 1948: Following in his father’s footsteps, King is ordained and appointed assistant pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in his hometown of Atlanta.

• June 8, 1948: King earns his bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Morehouse College.

• May 6-8, 1951: King graduates from Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. He delivers the valedictory address during the graduation ceremony.

• June 18, 1953: King marries Coretta Scott near the bride’s family home in Marion, Alabama. Coretta Scott King would also become a vocal activist, advocating for peace and gay rights and expressing her opposition to apartheid in the 1980s. She would not remarry after her husband’s assassination.

• June 5, 1955: King ears his doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University.

• December 5, 1955: King becomes president of the Montgomery Improvement Association after the organization is formed at the Holt Street Baptist Church. MIA is formed in response to the arrest of Rosa Parks five days earlier after she refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger.

• January 27, 1956: A threatening phone call late in the evening inspires King to carry on with his activism.

• January 30, 1956: King’s home is bombed while he is elsewhere delivering a speech. His wife and daughter are not injured in the blast.

• January 10-11, 1957: King is named chairman of what becomes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was an organization of southern black ministers working together to combat segregation.

• June 23, 1958: King and other leaders meet with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C.

• September 17, 1958: Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story is published. It is King’s first book.

• September 20, 1958: King survives a stabbing during a book signing in Harlem, New York. During a surgery after the stabbing, doctors remove a seven-inch letter opener from King’s chest.

• April 16, 1963: King writes his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in response to criticisms of the Birmingham Campaign, a collective effort on the part of the SCLC and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) to combat segregation in the Alabama city. The letter becomes one of King’s most famous writings.

• August 28, 1963: King delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

• January 3, 1964: King is named “Man of the Year” by Time magazine.

December 10, 1964: King receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

• March 17-25, 1965: King helps to lead civil rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery.

• June 7, 1966: King and other leaders resume James Meredith’s “March Against Fear” from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi. Meredith was unable to continue after he was shot and wounded.

• April 3, 1968: King delivers his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” as he returns to Memphis to lead a peaceful march of striking sanitation workers.

• April 4, 1968: King is shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He is buried in Atlanta five days later.

Laughter and music filled the halls of the Chùa Từ Tâm Buddhist temple along Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station on Sunday, Jan. 8, during the Lunar New Year celebration.

In a two-week festival, dozens of the Vietnamese and Buddhist communities rang in the new year together. Marking this festive occasion, members of the temple dressed in their finest ceremonial garbs. Many performed traditional songs. Others prepared and served authentic Vietnamese cuisine to those in attendance.

Steven Tang is an executive member at Chùa Từ Tâm, the first Vietnamese Buddhist center on Long Island. He described the Vietnamese New Year as “very similar” to Chinese New Year and other Asian new year traditions, with some select caveats.

“We celebrate a little bit differently, with more focus on the family gathering,” he said. Tang chronicled the two-year history of the temple. After its acquisition in 2020, he said the temple’s leadership has gradually expanded its activities. 

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) participated in the celebration. In an interview, he said he has closely followed the development of the temple.

“It’s just a sign of the growing size, strength and health of the Asian community here,” he said.

Reflecting upon American history, Kornreich commented on the need to espouse Vietnamese Americans, many of whom supported the American war effort during the Vietnam War.

“I think that people should know that when you’re a friend of America, that means something to us,” the councilmember said. “When the time came during the Vietnam War, they fought alongside us, and for that I think we owe them a debt of gratitude.”

The new year event was not only a way to honor Vietnamese heritage and customs. Several prominent Buddhist clergy members celebrated and supported their Vietnamese peers. This forum served to promote Buddhist teachings.

Kottawe Nanda, head monk at the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center in Riverhead, was in attendance for the festivities. He described Buddhism as a global phenomenon that has spread throughout Asia and the rest of the human world. During that time, the teachings of the Buddha were incorporated into various cultural traditions.

“Buddhism mixed with cultures when it spread to the different countries,” Nanda said. Despite regional variations, “everybody accepts and practices the main core of Buddhist teaching,” the head monk said. 

Nanda contended that the spread of Buddhist doctrine had accelerated thanks to digital technology. Through social media and other forms of high-speed communication, Buddhist literature has become highly accessible. 

“This technology is so helpful for us,” he said, adding, “We use it for our ‘dharma’ purpose: to teach others and learn from others, to discuss, and for many other things.”

The example of the Buddha is still relevant today, according to Nanda, presenting a way to liberate oneself from suffering and “defilements.” This path, he added, is open to all.

“Anybody who can be dedicated can go through that path — that’s the beauty,” he said. “Even you or I can become Buddhas, can attain enlightenment.”

For Kornreich, the future looks promising for the Vietnamese and Buddhist communities within Brookhaven and Long Island. Viewing the multiplicity of people assembled at the temple, he said this celebration reflects the best aspects of America.

“I think the fact that we’re welcoming of other cultures, that we embrace them as friends and that we recognize the value they bring … I think speaks well of us as Americans and as a community,” he said.

Tang said events such as this aid the temple as it works to grow membership and expand outreach. “We are a very open group of people,” he said. “We always invite new members of different organizations to come to our events to celebrate with us,” adding, “And we will continue to do that.”

Nanda argued that societies must infuse citizens with a shared understanding and common identity to thrive. Regardless of the many ills which plague humanity, he remained optimistic that individuals and societies can satisfy these ends, as reflected by the love and joy spread throughout this event.

“We are all human beings,” the head monk said. “When people have less stress, less anxiety, less sadness, then they are healthy. Healthy people, healthy communities, are good for the government.” He added, “As long as you have a healthy mind, your body has good health.”     

— Photos by Raymond Janis

Tabu Boutique
Tabu Boutique

The results are in for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s first window decorating contest in the Village of Port Jefferson. The popular contest ran from Dec. 1 to Jan. 2 with 22 businesses taking part. Shoppers voted by scanning the QR code on posters that hung at each participating business.

Third runner-up was Fame & Rebel while second runner-up was The Healing Center @ Port Jeff Salt Cave.

First place winner was Tabu Boutique which featured a Dickens Christmas-themed window in collaboration with The Victorian on Main, the Guzzetta family’s collection of antique clothing, furniture, and toys and a Christmas angel created by the owners. Tabu Boutique received a special plaque for the store and bragging rights for the next full year. Congratulations!

Members of the EJ’s PJs pajama drive, a Centereach-based nonprofit, during a Saturday, Dec. 10, event. Photo courtesy Kevin LaValle

The EJ’s PJs pajama drive is an enduring holiday tradition for the Middle Country community. On Saturday, Dec. 10, the program marked its 12th iteration at the New Village Recreation Center in Centereach.

Patricia Poggi is a lifelong resident of the area who formed EJ’s PJs with her three sons. The name was inspired by the boys, Edward, Jeremy and Patrick, who have each been instrumental in preserving and growing the drive.

In an interview with Poggi, she outlined how the pajama drive first came into existence. “We created our pajama drive because we always wore pajamas [around Christmas], and it was kind of a thing that helped us to keep warm, fun and family oriented,” she said.

Poggi described the program as a family endeavor that has taken on a life of its own. The organization’s first year saw the collection and donation of 33 sets of pajamas. Over a decade later, that figure has grown exponentially. 

Three years ago, EJ’s PJs began a partnership with the Town of Brookhaven, working closely with the area’s representative on the Town Board, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden).

“Now we’re in 85 businesses, and we’re expanding tremendously,” Poggi said. “Every year, we’ve doubled.”

A significant portion of the pajamas donated support the town’s INTERFACE program, which offers goods and services to those in need and addresses social issues throughout the township. Now, as a 501(c)(3) pending nonprofit, EJ’s PJs plans to move the operation into local shelters and hospitals.

For her impressive charitable work, TBR News Media is pleased to name Poggi as a 2022 Person of the Year.

During this year’s event, LaValle discussed how the partnership between the pajama drive and the town first came about and has strengthened over time. He and Poggi were classmates in high school, and after reconnecting some years ago they began exploring ways to grow the initiative.

“I saw her vision of what she wanted to do and said, ‘We have a toy drive, so why don’t we try to put that together with EJ’s PJs,’” LaValle said. He explained his involvement to date, “We identify at the town level, through the toy drive, the needy children that we’re going to give toys to. We match up a pair of pajamas, so the kids go to bed with a nice pair of pajamas, and then they get toys in the morning.”

‘These are all sorts of organizations from the Middle County community coming together for a great cause.’

­— Kevin LaValle

Amid the rising heat, fuel and food costs, LaValle regarded EJ’s PJs as serving a critical public service function during this time of year. While broader economic pressures may be placing a strain on local families, he commented that many — such as the Poggis — are eager to make a positive impact.

“You see, with the rising prices, a lot of people are hurting right now,” the town councilman said. “But there are so many people coming out giving toys, giving pajamas.”

He added, “That’s an amazing thing. There is a need, but there are a lot of people — even in some tough times — willing to give.”

Helping the pajama drive to run smoothly and efficiently are a dedicated team of volunteers. Jennifer Dickson is a committee member with EJ’s PJs who first got involved with the organization last year. She described the influence of the volunteers.

“We’re a big committee,” Dickson said. “We all help each other out and do certain things — the social media, creating the event, wrapping the boxes, the setup and cleanup.” She added, “It takes months because we want to get as many pajamas as possible.”

Lettice Washington is a friend of Poggi’s and a committee member. Within the organization, she is renowned for her folding technique, helping to arrange the thousands of pairs of pajamas that have crossed their door. “I came back to fold all the ones we get this year,” she said.

While the program has grown considerably over its 12-year history, Washington foresees the drive building upon its recent momentum and expanding even further.

“I tell you, it gets better every year,” she said. “We’ve had a great response, and I see it growing. The more we get the word out, the more people know about it, I think the bigger and bigger it will get.”

One of the major draws of this event is its originality. Washington said she was motivated to be a part of something unique and outside the box in deciding to join the organization.

“It is something different,” Washington said. “It being a unique kind of idea is what drew me to it. … You don’t really hear about pajama drives and donating nice, warm pajamas for kids during Christmas.”

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) also attended the Dec. 10 event. He reflected upon the value of giving back to the community amid these trying times, emphasizing how programs such as EJ’s PJs enrich and enliven the greater Middle Country area.

“It has just grown immensely, and the participation by our community is just heartwarming,” he said. “Around the holidays is the perfect time. It allows everyone to get the joy of giving into their lives,” adding, “I’m honored to be a part of it, to contribute to it and enjoy it here in a location where we know we’re helping others.”

Washington offered her expectations for next year’s event. Witnessing this year’s enthusiasm for the organization, she forecasts even more pajamas in 2023.

EJ’s PJs gets “bigger and better every year,” she said. “I feel that this is going to grow exponentially. Next year, when we talk about the number of pajamas, I think it will be an exponent of this year.”

LaValle sees Middle Country uniting around a common purpose through this annual tradition. He expressed similar enthusiasm for the future as the community continues to come together to donate pajamas.

“Our fire department is here, our youth civic is here, our regular civic members are here,” he said. “These are all sorts of organizations from the Middle County community coming together for a great cause.”

He added, “This is a great event. It’s bringing everybody together. You’re seeing a lot of smiles here, all around giving to those less fortunate in our community and throughout our township.”

Summarizing the purpose for holding this event every year, Poggi explained the collective anxieties felt by parents to provide their children with a happy Christmas morning. For her, donating pajamas is a gesture that can go a long way in supporting those parents and their children.

“As a parent, I know how hard it is to pull off the beautiful Santa magic, and it’s not always very easy, especially when you don’t have the funds,” she said. “Something like a pair of pajamas alongside a gift can make it even that much more elegant. To have a child feel warm and cozy and protected, that’s always our number one mission.”

Above, Lily Bonacasa, daughter of American war hero Louis Bonacasa, holding her father’s portrait. Photo courtesy Deborah Bonacasa

Deborah and Lily Bonacasa are a mother-and-daughter team who have distributed thousands of toys to needy children over the last three years during the Christmas season. 

When Lily was a second grader, she sat on Santa’s lap as he asked what she wanted for Christmas. She said she only wanted to help children who were less fortunate, those who couldn’t receive gifts. Knowing her story, Santa began to weep.

Deborah and Lily live in Sound Beach. But Deborah grew up in Lemoore, California. After graduating high school, she enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to a base in Utah. As an information manager, she provided networking and computer support to 75th Air Base Wing members. While in uniform, she met her future husband Louis.

Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa

Louis Bonacasa was a local kid. He graduated from Newfield High School in 2002. Deborah described Louis as someone “who demonstrated a boundless amount of energy toward playing baseball, being with his friends, hiking, shooting and demonstrating humor amongst his loved ones.”  

In high school, Louis watched the attacks of 9/11. It inspired a love of country and a commitment to serve, and he soon entered active duty in the Air Force. Louis quickly rose through the ranks, presented with accolades for his devoted duty to the nation. Louis soon reenlisted as a security forces member of the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach. He then transferred to Stewart Air National Guard Base 105th Airlift Wing in Newburgh where he deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar.  

Seven years ago, on Dec. 21, 2015, Louis was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Louis was working as a tactical security element truck commander, tasked with the dangerous job of gathering intelligence on the operations of the enemy outside of this major air base. His assignment was hazardous, as he was often the “eyes” of Bagram to protect it from the enemy. 

On patrol, Louis was approached by a suicide-bomber motorcyclist. To protect his men, Louis positioned himself between this adversary and his comrades, and he was killed with five of his soldiers.

Louis is honored with several sites by local and state governments to remember his ultimate military sacrifice. On Rocky Point Yaphank Road toward Middle Island, a major thoroughfare connecting the North and South shores was named in his honor. For travelers on the Long Island Expressway, they are reminded of the memory of Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa on the bridge that connects the northern and southern service roads on Yaphank Avenue. 

Above, members of Lily’s Toy House during a gift donation event in Rocky Point Saturday, Dec. 3. Photo by Raymond Janis

Lily’s Toy House

In 2016, Mark Baisch of Landmark Properties and Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Cmdr. Joe Cognitore presented Deborah and Lily with a new $350,000 home in Sound Beach that was sold to the Bonacasa family for less than $200,000, according to CBS New York.

Deborah was thankful for the altruism shown to her family during that highly delicate moment. After Lily spoke to Santa Claus, Deborah believed it was time to pay it forward. 

Deborah spoke of her desire never to want to turn down families that are unable to purchase gifts. The Bonacasas have created two nonprofits, Lily’s Toy House and the SSgt Louis Bonacasa Memorial Fund. Working with Long Island Helping Hands, they target needy families.  

In 2020, Lily was interviewed by Savannah Guthrie on the “Today” show. Lily presented a brilliant smile and spoke to America about her goals in helping other children have a lovely Christmas.

The holiday demand has grown due to COVID-19 pressures and rising inflation. Three years ago, there were about 1,000 donated toys collected. Today Lily’s Toy House has distributed over 3,000. Deborah hopes to expand this program to accommodate families across this state and region, especially to military families. 

Lily is a sixth grader at Rocky Point Middle School, where she is a well-rounded student, determined to help others. As a young lady who lost her father, she can speak to others about handling adversity at an early age.  

Reactions from the community

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) has followed firsthand the efforts of the Bonacasa family. “Staff Sergeant Bonacasa gave his life for his country, so we can all live free,” Bonner said. “Deborah and Lily have honored his service so meaningfully with their annual toy drive.”

The councilwoman added, “Lily is a remarkable young girl, who faced a great loss, decided to follow in her father’s footsteps by helping others. The community appreciates all that Deborah and Lily do to bring joy to children in need.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) said he is reminded of Louis every time he drives to the Riverhead Correctional Facility. The county sheriff appreciates Lily’s thoughtful spirit and compassion. 

Lily is an “inspiration to all of us, despite losing her father at a young age while he protected Americans in Afghanistan,” he said. “She was still able to think of others before herself, and her dedication to ensure that those most in need have a wonderful Christmas through Lily’s Toy House reminds all Suffolk residents of the true meaning of Christmas.”

Above, Lily Bonacasa. Photo courtesy Deborah Bonacasa

First Lt. John Fernandez, of Rocky Point, is in awe of the patriotic spirit that Lily inspires. “What does it mean to give?” he said. “Staff Sergeant Louis Bonacasa did not lose his life for our country. He gave it heroically for his family and nation. Despite his family’s unfathomable sacrifice, his wife, Deborah, and daughter, Lily, found the strength to continue to give by donating toys to children during the holidays and those who continue to serve today. This shows a depth of courage and love that should be emulated.”

Cognitore described the immense cost the family paid in defense of the nation, calling the support toward the family mortgage “not a handout, but rather a hand up.” He reflected on the positive work the family has done since. 

“It has been a wonderful experience to see Lily speak at veterans and charitable events,” the post commander said. “There is no price that could be attached to the valuable community initiatives that both mother and daughter perform for our citizens during the last several Christmas holidays.”   

James Moeller, Lily’s middle school principal, said he is amazed by her fortitude. “Lily is a hardworking and quiet girl who is always willing to help her teachers and classmates,” he said. “On a regular basis, she is a positive young lady who always wears a big smile on her face. It’s no surprise that Lily is a driving force behind this wonderful toy drive that her family continually organizes.”

Through her charitable endeavors, Lily continues to follow in her father’s footsteps by sharing love and generosity toward others during Christmas. 

For adding light and joy into the lives of others and for honoring her dad’s legacy, TBR News Media recognizes Lily Bonacasa as a 2022 Person of the Year.

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

METRO photo

Sparkling wines are made by sealing the beverages before the fermentation process is complete, causing the effervescent bubbles that is their hallmark. Sparkling wines are produced in various regions of the world, but “champagne” is unique to the Champagne region of northeast France, where vines were introduced by the Romans many centuries ago.

One of the most legendary and heralded brands of champagne was created by a French monk named Pérignon. Historians say Pérignon lived from 1638 to 1715 and was admitted in his lifetime to the abbey of Saint-Vanne. He acquired the honorary title of Dom while there, and also served as cellar master, creating what later would be known as the “vins de Pérignon.” Dom Pérignon champagne is still a prestigious brand today, joined by other leaders of the industry like Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Nicolas Feuilatte, and Pol Roger. French champagnes are part of elegant toasts, A-list events and five-star dining experiences. They also may be poured on New Year’s Eve. All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne.

Enjoying champagne on its own in the requisite stemmed glass is tradition, but champagne also can be mixed into any number of cocktails — from bellinis to mimosas. This “Blood-Orange Champagne Cocktail” is a variation on the classic mimosa, and doesn’t necessarily need to be enjoyed at brunch. The blood-orange juice turns what would ordinarily be a mimosa into a lovely ruby-tinted cocktail. Serve it on New Year’s Eve, or for any special occasion, courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Blood-Orange Champagne Cocktail

INGREDIENTS:

21⁄4 cups freshly squeezed or frozen blood-orange juice

2 750-ml bottles champagne, chilled

DIRECTIONS:

Pour 3 tablespoons juice in each champagne flute. Fill flutes with champagne, and serve.

Community members participated in a menorah lighting at the Train Car Park in Port Jefferson Station Sunday, Dec. 18. Photo by Paul Perrone

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce annual menorah lighting ceremony took place Sunday, Dec. 18, at sundown in the hamlet’s Train Car Park.

Rabbi Aaron Benson of North Shore Jewish Center officiated the ceremony, offering a prayer to mark the first night of Hanukkah. The event was well attended by community members and many from the North Shore Jewish Center. 

Among those joining the festivities were PJSTCC vice president Paul Perrone, the chamber’s community liaison Joan Nickeson and Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook).

Kris Kringle and the St. John's Ophan Asylum Band from Brooklyn lead Cheese Club down Port Jefferson's Main Street toward Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church; charitable organization; gifts for children at St. Charles

The Cheese Club was a charitable organization formed in 1915 and comprised of members of Brooklyn’s Knights of Columbus.

Considered among the leading citizens of Brooklyn, each a “big cheese,” the group’s influential founders self-mockingly referred to themselves as the Cheese Club, though other stories about the name’s origin abound.

The Cheese Club is best known in Port Jefferson for its Christmas pilgrimage to the village, which it made without interruption from 1916-58 despite stormy weather, world wars and the Great Depression.

During each annual holiday visit, the club members gave yuletide gifts to the youngsters at the Brooklyn Home for Blind, Crippled and Defective Children, known today as St. Charles Hospital, and donated money for the year-round comfort of the handicapped boys and girls and their caregivers.

The club members and their entourage typically traveled from Flatbush to Port Jefferson on a specially chartered LIRR train, the Santa Claus Express, made up of coaches and a freight car filled with Christmas presents.

After disembarking at the Port Jefferson railroad station, Kris Kringle and the St. John’s Orphan Asylum Band from Brooklyn led the group as it marched to Infant Jesus R.C. Church at Myrtle and Main to attend Mass.

Christmas postcard. Photo courtesy the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive
Collection

Numbering 400 strong during peak years, the procession then continued to St. Charles Hospital, where the sisters of the Daughters of Wisdom, who operated the hospital and looked after its disabled charges, served a welcoming luncheon.

Following the reception, children at the hospital provided two hours of entertainment, performing as singers, dancers, musicians and actors.

When the talent show ended, Santa Claus and his helpers took the stage and gave each boy and girl a Christmas stocking stuffed with toys, candy, games, clothing and fruit.

The Daughters of Wisdom also received a check to fund various projects at the hospital and on its grounds. Over the years, the money was used to purchase radios, movie projectors and physical therapy equipment for the children, build a sun shelter, defray the costs of a memorial organ, improve the sisters’ living quarters and maintain outdoor Stations of the Cross. 

Following the establishment of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in 1957 out of territory once within the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Cheese Club phased out its holiday visits to Port Jefferson and concentrated on charitable work closer to home.

The Cheese Club was a pioneer in bringing Christmas cheer to the handicapped children hospitalized in Port Jefferson and spurring other religious and nonsectarian organizations to support the disabled youngsters at St. Charles — not just at the holidays but throughout the year.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of the village.