Four Harbors Audubon Society (4HAS) is launching a brand-new, aptly named, “Bird Oasis” program on March 1. Property owners can now request a consultant from 4HAS to assess the quantity and quality of native plants and eco-friendly practices on the premises to help local bird populations and other wildlife to not just survive, but to thrive. 

If the property qualifies, a certification level is determined and a sign is given to the owner, proclaiming the property a bird- and wildlife-friendly habitat. If the property is not quite ready, or a higher Bird Oasis certification level is sought, the consultant will create a list of improvements for the owner to implement.  

Photos of the finished property are sent back to the 4HAS Bird Oasis team for reassessment. In addition, photos of the most attractive, “birdiest” yards will be featured throughout the year on the chapter’s website. There are also future plans to have a yearly “Best Bird Oasis” contest.

The reasons for this program are abundant.  In suburbia, open space is at a premium and what exists is usually overrun by invasive plant species, creating large areas of low-quality food sources unable to support native wildlife in healthy numbers. Such habitat fragmentation and loss, coupled with climate change and inappropriate environmental practices is causing bird and other wildlife populations to fall into steep decline.

In 2018, the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning published its 2016 Land Use Study. In the report, Brookhaven Township and Smithtown Township had 27% and 17% recreational and open space, respectively.  The report went on to quantify Brookhaven Township’s residential, commercial, institutional and industrial land use at a bit more than 50%. Smithtown Township in total is a bit higher at 63%. This land is the focus of the Bird Oasis program.

The program takes the concept of a healthy, robust ecosystem and places it directly into the homeowner’s or commercial building’s landscape by requesting property owners use more native plants and incorporate planet-healthy and sustainable practices when creating their outside space. 

By choosing native plants with both excellent habitat services and tidy habits, landscapes that are both attractive and environmentally functional can be created. Bird Oasis consultants will also be looking for habitat features like wood or brush piles, ponds or birdbaths, winter forage in the form of seedheads and the insects found in plant stalks to be left up over the cold months and cut back in the spring, and other important ecoscaping concepts. 

Additionally, the program focuses on environmentally healthy practices, like mulching grass clippings back into lawns, leaving leaves or shredded leaf litter down as, or under, mulch, and using organic slow-release fertilizers. An ecologically balanced yard cures its own ills within a short amount of time, so targeted pest management with organic principals should be used only when insect outbreaks or other issues are severe. 

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides should be avoided on certified properties.  Most insecticides and fungicides are broad spectrum, which kills both the good and the bad. They also seriously harm the soil food web. Additionally, excess nitrogen does not stay in the soil, but runs off or down into the water table — as do chemical pesticides — and causes harmful algal blooms in Long Island bays and estuaries. 

It is hoped that people will see the beauty in these certified properties and notice all of the birds they attract. This will create additional excitement — and habitats —as more people create their own private sanctuaries, which will shift the current landscape paradigm to something more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

“The potential to reverse the trend is there,” explains Joy Cirigliano, President of 4HAS. “If we can harness our managed landscapes and other properties to provide suitable habitat for our native plants and animals, and make them beautiful at the same time, it will help strengthen and heal our local ecosystem. All of our neighbors will be happy, including the furred and feathered ones.”

The Four Harbors Audubon Society Bird Oasis Program is available to any property within the *4HAS territory, including residential, commercial, industrial and municipal for a fee. The program consists of a one-hour consultation and property assessment and a certification sign.

*4HAS Territory:

Centereach, Coram, East Setauket, Hauppauge, Kings Park, Lake Grove, Middle Island, Miller Place, Mount Sinai , Nesconset, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, Ridge, Rocky Point, Saint James, Selden. Setauket, Shoreham. Smithtown, Sound Beach, South Setauket, Stony Brook, and Stony Brook Campus.

For more information, visit after the program launch on March 1. For additional inquiries, please send an email to [email protected]

Four Harbors Audubon Society is a local chapter of the National Audubon Society.  It is affiliated with Audubon New York and is a member of the Audubon Council of New York State. Its mission is to protect and preserve birds, wildlife, and the places and resources needed, for today and tomorrow.

Amanda Gorman
For there is always light
Amanda Gorman

Presented by Cinema Arts Centre and L.E.A.D. Mentoring Power of Poetry: A Reflection on Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb and Open Mic

Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.
Join the Cinema Arts Centre and L.E.A.D. Mentoring in celebration of Black History Month with a guided discussion of Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem, “The Hill We Climb,” followed by an open mic, where all are invited to participate, including but not limited to favorite poems by Black poets, slam poetry, spoken word, and original creations.
2021 will already be remembered as a historic year for Black Americans. This year, the first female, and first African American and South Asian Vice President took office. At the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Amanda Gorman inspired millions of Americans when she became the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration in US History. Her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” has been praised for its message of unity, reflections on the past, and hope for the future. Shayla Harris writes for Ebony, “Her poignant reflections on the country’s past and her vision for progress were brought to life through masterful delivery. Through this performance Gorman has marked a place for herself in the African American oral tradition.”

Admission is free with RSVP by visiting are limit one (1) per order. Advance registration may be made any time prior to the start of the event. Ticket-holders will receive an email order confirmation with the Zoom invitation link and information in the order details. This link will become active at the start of the event. Due to capacity restrictions, admittance to the discussion will be first come, first served at the time of the event – please be on time to secure a spot.

If you need assistance with any step of your ticket purchase, please reach out to [email protected] and a customer service representative will be in touch.

Photos courtesy of CAC

The Long Island Explorium was recently awarded a grant to help keep girls and young women in STEM fields. Photo from Explorium.

It’s time to break the stigma. 

The Long Island Explorium recently announced they were selected by the Association of Science and Technology Centers — along with 27 museums across the country — to participate in IF/THEN Gender Equity Grants, an initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

More than $300,000 is being awarded to ASTC-member science and technology centers and museums, seeking to address equity in gender representation across museum content and launch projects that increase the representation of women and gender minorities in STEM, as part of their broader efforts to advance diversity, accessibility and inclusion.

Executive Director of the Explorium Angeline Judex said the grant will help fund a multitude of different projects that will help amplify gender representation in STEM and enhance their workshops within the community and in schools. 

IF/THEN. Photo from the Long Island Explorium

The Long Island Explorium, located at 101 E Main Street, is a 501c3 nonprofit, and is chartered with the New York State Department of Education. Their vision is to be a leader in STEM discovery, learning and innovations to shape future generations, allowing children in kindergarten through grade six to express themselves as future leaders and innovators. 

“Our museum is small in footprint, but our impact is huge,” Judex said. “I’m excited because the grant validates all the impactful work we have done in the past to support young girls in science forward. We’re extremely honored.”

STEM, like many other fields, have been associated as a male-dominated career. The IF/THEN organization strives to get more girls and young women into the science, technology and engineering paths.

“We’re all helping to change the cultural mindset of what is acceptable, what is right, what is not right and who belongs where,” Judex said. “And now we’re part of that journey to encourage and promote gender equity.”

With the mindset of “If you can see it, you can be it,” Judex said the change won’t be easy. “There’s no a magic button that resets to this new normal,” she said. “But it’s a journey we want to be on.”

Judex said she believes young girls can succeed as scientists and innovators in STEM. 

“Girls and young women do have a seat at the table,” she said.

Kyle Spillane with three students during one of his past trips to Kenya. Photo from Kyle Spillane

By Julianne Mosher

An initiative built a school for kids in Kenya, and now they need a way to get there.

Kyle Spillane, a graduate of Shoreham-Wading River High School and board member of the local nonprofit Hope Children’s Fund, recently set up a GoFundMe fundraiser online to buy a minibus to safely get Kenyan students to school.

“It has the potential to save lives,” he said. 

Incorporated in 2003, Hope Children’s Fund is a New York State licensed 501(c)(3) that provides for the physical and emotional needs of some of the most vulnerable AIDS-affected children who had been living on the streets of Meru, Kenya.

With the goal to provide food, clothing, shelter and medical care to enable children to be enrolled in local schools, the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Home was built in 2005, taking in children that are HIV affected or who come from tragic backgrounds with families who can no longer care for them. 

According to Spillane, two of the group’s kids unfortunately — and tragically — lost their lives while walking home from school, due to the dangerous surrounding area. Their names were Glory and Michell.

“We wanted to fund a vehicle to transport our kids and doctors to and from the school,” he said. “We have never had a vehicle, and it’s been very costly for us to rent taxis and buses for them.”

Photo from Kyle Spillane

Over the years, the organization lacked a vehicle to transport the children to and from their regular activities of attending school, shopping for food and supplies for the home, and visiting medical providers. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, public transportation is no longer the safest option for the group’s immune-compromised children, who regularly travel to the doctor. 

Spillane said the GoFundMe, called A Vehicle for Hope, which was posted early last month has raised more than $4,600 to date. The total cost for a 16-seater minibus, from a Toyota dealership in Kenya, will cost $42,000. They have received a $10,000 grant from World Orphan Fund and received a partnership from an anonymous donor who has offered to match the first $5,000. 

“We just got over 50% of our goal,” he said.

The 26-year-old Shoreham resident found out about the Setauket-based organization through the Global Awareness Club at Shoreham-Wading River High School. Since becoming a part of it, he has been to Kenya four times, returning more recently in 2017 and 2019. 

“This is an organization I hold close to me,” he said. “They have really grown to be what I consider my family, and I wouldn’t still be interested if I didn’t believe in those children. The amount of growth I’ve seen them go through is amazing.”

Hope Children’s Fund is a completely volunteer-based nonprofit.

“The education is what they really want,” he said about the students. “It’s incredible — these students are coming from nothing and are becoming doctors. They are not taking anything for granted.”

Spillane is asking the community to donate and help keep these students safe. 

“This GoFundMe will support and provide protection to some of the brightest youth minds, who are also some of the most vulnerable AIDS-affected children in Meru, Kenya,” he said. 

To donate, visit the GoFundMe here.

‘Eel Spearing at Setauket,’ 1845, by William Sidney Mount

The Three Village Historical Society lecture series hosts prominent and emerging historians, authors, genealogists, archeologists and storytellers from around the nation and presents topics related to local history, heritage conservation, social justice, art history, and more. For decades, TVHS public programming has provided a stimulating environment for the exploration of history and ideas that permeate the culture and community of the Three Village area, and beyond.

In early 2020, when the world went on “lock-down”, TVHS shifted gears and began hosting this treasured event virtually via Zoom on a monthly basis and the Society will continue to do so for 2021. Unless otherwise noted, all lectures begin at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and will be held on Zoom and moderated by Mari Irizarry, TVHS Creative Services Director. The Virtual Lecture Series is open to public, with a $5 general admission suggested donation and is free for TVHS members. Registration is required at

February 22nd

Guest Speaker: Louise Cella Caruso

William Sidney Mount: His Life and His Work

March 15th

Guest Speaker: Selene Castrovilla

Founding Mothers

April 19th

Guest Speaker: Kristen Nyitray

History of Stony Brook University

May 17th

Guest Speaker: Bill Bleyer

Culper Spy Ring and Long Island Revolutionary War Sites

Book: “George Washington’s Long Island Spy Ring: A History and Tour Guide.”

June 21st

Guest Speaker: Steve Drielak

The Alice Parsons’ Kidnapping: Long Island’s History Unsolved Mystery

July 19th

Guest Speaker: Rhoda Miller

Exploring Long Island’s Jewish History

August 16th

Guest Speaker: Darren St. George, Preservation Long Island

Jupiter Hammon Project: Confronting Slavery at Preservation Long Island’s Joseph Lloyd Manor

September 20th

Guest Speaker: Chris Matthews

A Struggle For Heritage: Archaeology and Civil Rights in Long Island Community

October 18th

Guest Speaker: Tara Rider

The Devil in New York: The Withcraft Trial of Goody Garlick

November 15th

Guest Speaker: Jeff Richman

Green-Wood Cemetery’s Civil War Project

December 14th

Frank Turano

Chicken Hill: A Community Lost to Time


The Three Village Historical Society (TVHS), a non-profit 501(c)(3) founded in 1964 by community members, exists to educate the public about our rich cultural heritage as well as foster and preserve local history. TVHS offers museum exhibits, events, programs, archives, and other outreach initiatives to inform and enrich the public’s interest in and understanding of the vibrant past of the Three Village area along the north shore in Suffolk County, Long Island

Big Bill the Tory at the Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket. Photo by Darren St. George, Preservation Long Island

Preservation Long Island, a regional preservation advocacy group, was awarded a $2,000 reimbursement grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. The announcement was made in a press release on Jan. 28. The grant has helped Preservation Long Island to preserve valuable operating funds and redirect a portion of funding towards improving online programming capacity.

“We are so grateful for the continued support from the Gardiner Foundation, especially during this challenging time”, said Alexandra Wolfe, Executive Director of Preservation Long Island. “In light of the pandemic, Preservation Long Island, like most of its institutional colleagues, has had to swiftly transition to online platforms to implement our educational and advocacy programs. Relief funds from the Gardiner Foundation have supported technology upgrades and the purchase of video production equipment to improve the quality of programs that have been reformatted for online engagement and feature prominently at our website and Vimeo channel”.

Preservation Long Island initiatives with expanded virtual offerings and enhanced online components include the Jupiter Hammon Project (which now incorporates a growing collection of virtual discussions about salient topics related to the study of enslavement in the north); “Historian’s Stories” where town historians present local history; virtual exhibitions and events with regional partner organizations; and tutorial presentations to help communities and individuals navigate our many preservation advocacy tools including the new Local Landmark Law Locator that provides an easy way to explore local landmark laws in our region.

“The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation hopes that these funds will alleviate at least a small part of Preservation Long Island’s financial burden during these extraordinary times,” said Kathryn M. Curran, Executive Director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. 

Preservation Long Island maintains and interprets historic sites and collections that embody various aspects of Long Island’s history including:

Joseph Lloyd Manor, Lloyd Harbor

Custom House, Sag Harbor

Sherwood-Jayne Farm, Setauket

Old Methodist Church and Exhibition Gallery

 For more information, visit


Above, an injured barn owl is in safe hands at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo courtesy of Sweetbriar Nature Center

Pack the family into the car for a Birds of Prey Drive Thru at Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown on Thursday, March 4. You’ll be meeting and learning about five of their raptor animal ambassadors from the comfort of your own car. Choose a time slot between 3 and 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 per car. Register at For more information, call 631-979-6344.

*This event was updated on Feb. 3 to reflect the new date.

A scene from a previous TVHS Candlelight House Tour

Like many small not-for-profits, the Three Village Historical Society has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas in the past — from our beginnings — we were fortunate to be able to rely primarily on memberships, private donations and revenue from major events like our Candlelight House Tour — our biggest annual fundraiser. That model is not sustainable during the current pandemic.

The board of trustees has worked hard over the past 10 months in an attempt to reorganize and economize. During this time, we have developed more efficient processes, secured small grants, held fundraising events, lobbied both the town and county for support, met with local sister organizations regarding collaborations and consulted with others about possible strategies. Despite these efforts, like many other local businesses, we have a challenging 12 to 18 months ahead of us.

As of Jan. 22, day-to-day operations have been temporarily restricted. Programs will be suspended, and staff has been trimmed down. We will maintain our phone, email and social media communications and will continue to provide monthly Zoom lectures. Our primary purpose at this point is to ensure the care, protection and integrity of our collections and continue our online programming.

Please check our website ( and social media for announcements. We will continue to share updates throughout this period. While there is limited response by phone, we remain available to answer questions by email and work with you. We can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 631-751-3730.

We are in this together and understand many local businesses and nonprofits are suffering. We thank you for your support and understanding. Buy local. Support local.

Stephen Healy, President

Three Village Historical Society

The annual Charles Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson was canceled in 2020 out of an abundance of caution. Photo by Glenn Tinnie

By Allan Varela

We are living in strange times with the political upheaval and the terrible, deadly pandemic hanging over our lives. Every day we are literally battered with controversy and bad news. 

There is one place of comfort, however. We find it in the arts. We listen to music and watch music videos. We turn on movies old and new and stream over the top shows that offer constant variation. We might even look at a book of visual art or search for fine art online. The arts are present when we sing a song together, when a family member plays the piano or guitar or draws a picture. Yes indeed. The arts are alive in our lives. But there is so much more to this cultural picture than the obvious I just stated.

Every day, in every way we live, our lives are surrounded by the work of artists. Look down at the chair you are sitting in while reading this story. That’s right, it was designed in part by an artist and created by artisans. Look around the room you are in. If you see wallpaper, it was designed by an artist. The color palette of the paint scheme in your home was created by an artist. The ring on your finger and the jewelry you wear were all designed by artists. 

Your clothes — designed by an artist; your home — designed by an artist; the car you drive — designed by an artist. You see, everything you live with and in was designed to some degree by an artist. Everything you use to express yourself to the world was designed… well, you get it!

I am writing this as a reminder that the arts and artists of all types are hurting right now. It is easy to say “So what?” but remembering the impact the arts have on our lives should lead to “How can I help?” There are numerous not-for-profit organizations that need our help. Those of us fortunate enough to financially weather our current storm need to reach out to support these groups as they support artists, the arts and the cultural life of our communities.

These organizations have found ways to present engaging concerts online, to show documentary films that include a Q&A with the director online or make reservations to see an exhibit whilst keeping to community health standards. But the revenue stream for ticket sales has dried up and I fear that some of the groups will begin to fall apart. 

The arts organizations have wonderful financial impact on our communities. Property values remain stable or increase in communities that offer arts programming. Every dollar invested in an Arts Council program brings back some four dollars in revenue from simple things like an audience buying gas to get to a show, to visiting a local restaurant for a meal before or after a show.

Cultural engagement is needed to keep our communities enriched and interesting. Financial engagement is what is needed to keep our cultural organizations alive. Please make a difference and donate, as you are able, to a local not-for-profit arts organization or museum. Even a small amount can make a big difference.

Allan Varela serves as chair for the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council which hosts the Port Jefferson Documentary Series, Charles Dickens Festival, WinterTide Concert Series, Sunset Concert Series and Fiddle & Folk Festival. To support or sponsor the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council,  please visit

Melissa Paulson outside her new location. Photo by Julianne Mosher

COVID-19 has been tough on nonprofits,  but that isn’t stopping Melissa Paulson from helping others. 

Give Kids Hope Inc. is a 501c3 that Paulson started up nine years ago, after her daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma at just 18 months old. 

Paulson, who is a stay-at-home mom, decided to devote all of her free time to charity. 

“I knew I wanted to do something to help other families in similar situations,” she said.

That’s when Give Kids Hope was born. Paulson created the nonprofit to help children and their families battling cancer.

But as the years went on, Paulson began seeing how many other people were in need around her. 

“There are so many less fortunate people in the community,” she said. “I never realized how many Long Islanders are struggling just to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads.”

An inside look at Give Kids Hope’s food pantry in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Julianne Mosher

She began gathering supplies she knew people would need, especially around the holidays, to donate to shelters, housing units and food pantries — and she was doing it out of her home for many of those years. 

“I put a plea out and a generous donor gave me $5,000 dollars to open a center up,” she said. “It’s a facility so people can come and ‘shop’ completely free.”

The brick and mortar location opened up on July 1 and have so far helped nearly 7,000 families across Long Island, Paulson said. 

She added that people who need a helping hand will find her group on Facebook, through local churches and by word of mouth. 

“We get a lot of walk ins,” she said. “Sadly, it’s homeless people asking for clothing.

And she said the community has been “so responsive” to her cause, but she could use more help to reach out to more people.

“I think if people knew what we did then more people would get involved,” she said.

Compared to other similar nonprofits, 100% of everything they get goes directly back to the charity.  

Also, rather than a typical food pantry that gives canned goods and nonperishables, Paulson said her little “shop” stores perishable groceries one might need like milk, eggs, bread and juices.

And because of the COVID-19 crisis, she said she has been easier than ever. 

“We’ve been swamped because of the pandemic,” she said. “Whatever comes in goes back out.”

To meet that need, on Feb. 7, Give Kids Hope will be hosting a “Free Shopping Day and Pantry Day” to help people who might need a little extra help. 

Give Kids Hope’s hours. Photo by Julianne Mosher

So far, Paulson said, there are 700 families registered to receive clothes, toys and food. Registration is ongoing, or people can drive up to the parking lot that day to quickly grab what they need. The event will be held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. 

“I’m in the community,” she said. “This is my home and it’s so important for me to help other people.”

The Feb. 7 event will be Paulson’s first “shopping day” since the pandemic. She plans on doing them at least once a month.

Give Kids Hope’s shop is located at 4390 Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station and is open six days a week. 

“If there are families in need, they can reach out for us,” Paulson said. “We don’t judge and there are no questions asked.”