Organizations

By Melissa Arnold

For the past 40 years, Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson has provided a safe haven of support and recovery for thousands of Long Islanders struggling with poverty, addiction, homelessness, family conflicts and more.

To founder Father Frank Pizzarelli, every passing year at Hope House is a miracle. He said that the non-profit receives no government or church support and runs entirely on the backs of volunteers, donors and some paid staff.

Among those volunteers is Barbara Morin, who’s been a part of the Hope House family since she moved to the area in 2003. 

In November, Morin became the shopkeeper at Hope Springs Eternal Second Chance Boutique, a new venture that sells high-quality new and gently-used goods including fine crystal and china, glassware, furniture, handbags and name-brand clothing. All proceeds from sales at the shop will benefit Hope House Ministries.

“I knew that I wanted to get involved in the community and help give back to people in need, and so I started volunteering almost as soon as I got here,” Morin recalled. 

She began to collect merchandise to sell seven years ago, and the response has always been positive in the community, which was eager to both donate and purchase.

“We started with yard sales and would make $1500 in an afternoon, and so that germinated an idea: What if we set up a place where we could sell goods all year long?” Pizzarelli said.

Using seed money raised from those yard sales, they were able to find a building with affordable rent in Port Jefferson Station. It was in terrible condition, Morin said, but with a lot of help from individuals going through rehab with Hope House, they were able to renovate and ready the space for business.

“No one is safe from the opioid epidemic. It’s not about their past and what they’ve been through — everyone has a story. We focus on how far they’ve come and where they’re going,” Morin said.

 “We have all kinds of people walk through the doors [seeking treatment]. Tradesmen, electricians, artists, scholars — all of them have come together to help us make the shop a reality, from scrubbing and cleaning to carpeting and carpentry. They restored two bathrooms and a kitchen. We’ve gotten so attached to them all, and wouldn’t be where we are now without them.”

Running with five key volunteers and a few men in recovery, Hope Springs Eternal opened its doors on Nov. 15. The business did well, and by early March, Pizzarelli said they’d made $25,000 in sales.

But then begins a story that will sound familiar. As COVID-19 cases spread, Hope Springs began working on a limited schedule before shutting down completely on March 18.

Since then, Pizzarelli said Hope House has lost $1 million in revenue they would normally see from sales, donations and other events. While it’s a stressful time, he said that he’s much more concerned for the many people that depend on the ministry.

“In this community, we have people who are really struggling, both unemployed and working poor who are barely getting by,” Pizzarelli said. “We’ve been inundated with requests for counseling. Every night I go to bed with a heavy heart because I have people that call me who are ready to make a commitment to long-term recovery, but I have to put them on a waiting list. We have some people who have the access to technology for telecounseling, but not everyone does.”

Happily, things are slowly returning to normal. Employees and volunteers are coming back to Hope House as they feel  comfortable, and Hope Springs Eternal reopened for business the week of June 8.

“Everything happened gradually when we first opened back in the fall, and so we never really had a grand opening celebration. But it really feels like one now,” explained Morin. “We did $1,000 in sales in the first two days alone, and we made some new friends in the process.”

Pizzarelli said that he remains committed to serving the poorest of the poor in as many ways as he can, and is grateful for the continuing support of the surrounding communities.

“People have really stepped up with donations and financial support, even without solicitation, because they know how hard it is for everyone,” he said. “It means a great deal to me, and to all of us who are serving here.

Hope Springs Eternal Second Chance Boutique is located at 19 Chereb Lane in  Port Jefferson Station 

Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

▶ For information about donating and to view items for sale, visit www.hopespringseternalboutique.com or call 631-509-1101. 

▶ Learn more about Hope House Ministries at www.hhm.org or by calling 631-928-2377.

 

Mills Pond Gallery. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Mills Pond Gallery takes heart that some communities across the country are beginning to see fewer cases of COVID-19, but we remain concerned about the well-being of our artists, staff, gallery visitors and families in our communities. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to postpone many of our planned gallery exhibitions. Visit our exhibition page for schedules www.millspondgallery.org.

We have posted our Summer Art Classes Program on our website, offering over 30 creative art classes for children ages 5 and up. Class sizes will be kept small to continue social distancing and strict cleaning and disinfecting procedures will continue throughout the summer.

We recognize this is a challenging time for artists, schools, teachers and communities. At the same time, we are encouraged as we see creativity flourishing everywhere as people quickly adjust to a changing reality.  It is certainly reassuring to see so many organizations and families do so much to ensure that arts, culture and creativity remain a part of our lives.

We believe the arts are indispensable in building good character in the citizens of our communities fostering communication, offering new insights on the world and adding to the greater appreciation of both life and society. We look forward to reopening soon, engaging you with the arts so you are able to See What the Arts Can Open Your Eyes To!

We look forward to brighter days, good health and healing for all!

Allison J. Cruz

Executive Director

Mills Pond Gallery

The staff at Play Groups School

By Donna Newman

There’s something unique about a preschool that is still serving children on the North Shore of Long Island three quarters of a century after its founding. Through the years, Play Groups School became a family tradition for many in the area, with two or more generations counted among the school’s “graduates.”

On Saturday, Feb. 29, Play Groups School will celebrate 75 years of offering generations of students their first school experience with a Gala at The Old Field Club in Setauket. Invitations were sent to all those for whom contact information was available, including former teachers, former students and their parents. More than 110 people plan to attend.

The Play Groups saga began in 1944 when a group of parents decided to organize a “play group” where their children could learn through play with their peers. According to Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell, whose brother was a member of the group in 1949, the children met at a small cottage near the Old Field Club. Perhaps that is why it was called the Old Field Nursery School in the early days. The first teachers were Dora Underwood of Port Jefferson and Joan Cockshutt of Setauket.

Play Groups was formally organized in 1974 when it was awarded an Absolute Charter by the New York State Department of Education and granted not-for-profit status from the IRS via a 501(c)(3) determination letter.

By 1986 the school was moved to its current location on Old Post Road in East Setauket, a building designed specifically for preschoolers. The school earned licensing by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services in 1992, and accreditation by the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) in 1997. 

Play Groups Director Maddy Friedman has been at the helm for the last three decades, during which she has introduced many new ideas and concepts that keep the school continually evolving as times change. Yet, she says. the original focus remains unchanged.

“It has been my honor and privilege to lead Play Groups School these many years,” said Friedman. “While striving to stay abreast of current research and best practices, some things  have remained constant throughout. For young children play is essential for learning. It’s the way to develop creativity, curiosity, problem solving, social and emotional skills – and a lifelong love of learning. Our highly trained staff embrace this philosophy; they are at the core of our longevity and success. Our parents bring their time and talents to the classrooms and to the board.”

Friedman went on to describe one of her favorite innovations – one she feels is an extraordinary addition to the Play Groups program. “Acknowledging young children’s fascination with the natural world, nine years ago we added an  Outdoor Classroom to our facility,” said Friedman. “Through a collaborative effort, we created a space to encourage this relationship and engender a sense of stewardship the children will carry with them throughout their lives.”

Much more than a school, Play Groups is a family. 

Now retired Play Groups Business Manager Kathy Rademacher spent more than 25 years working at the school. She spoke of the deep, long-term relationships formed between Friedman and so many of her students and their families. “Play Groups played such an enormous role in my family’s story,” Rademacher said. “My son attended the preschool for three years, later completed his Eagle Scout project at the school, and worked at the summer camp as a lifeguard and counselor. Now, my son and his beloved – they met in the “Raccoon Room” in 1992 – are making wedding plans!” 

There are many stories of lasting friendships created at Play Groups School and Friedman expressed her pleasure and gratitude about that.

“It has been my personal joy to develop relationships with the children and their families over the years,” said Friedman. “Many staff members (both school and camp) were parents or students here at Play Groups. We so appreciate the trust that families have placed in us.”

School board members Sarah Russell Funt and Heather Snyder Ippolito are creating a walk down Memory Lane for the Gala. Funt is preparing a slideshow of photos taken over the past 75 years. Her husband Jared is a Play Groups alum and all their children have been, are, or will be Play Groups students as well. 

Ippolito is creating a display of memorabilia gathered over the years. A new member of the Play Groups family, she and husband Chris look forward to beginning the tradition for their family.

At the heart of the Play Groups tradition lies a goal common to both parents and staff, said Friedman. “We all share great respect for this magical time in a young child’s life and we work to make these preschool years full of memories to treasure.”

Photos courtesy of Play Groups School

Photo from Suffolk Federal

In an effort to support the charitable work of local organizations that serve the areas of Suffolk Federal branch locations, the credit union has identified nonprofit organizations to which provide financial support. In Port Jefferson, Branch Sales Director of Retail Banking Micah Schlendorf presented a $1,000 contribution to Theatre Three in December.

“Theatre Three not only brings incredible entertainment to the community, but continues to provide educational opportunities to local students,” said Schlendorf. “We are extremely proud to be able to support their efforts.”

“We’re so thankful to Suffolk Federal for their support and generosity,” said Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director of Theatre Three. “These funds will specifically go towards our educational touring program that we present in schools and community centers across the tri-state area. To date, The Bullying Project: Stand Up! Stand Out!, Class Dismissed and From the Fires: Voices from the Holocaust have brought awareness to thousands of students. This donation will assist the Theatre in continuing these efforts.”

Celebrating its 50th season at the historic Athena Hall in Port Jefferson, Theatre Three has continued to bring Broadway to Main Street and offers the community a robust variety of programming that includes Mainstage, Second Stage, Cabaret, Children’s Academy and workshops. They present a diverse portfolio of both classic and modern revivals all while providing an educational environment to all in the community. 

Pictured from left, Douglas Quattrock, Theatre Three’s director of development and artistic associate; Catherine Rodgers, Suffolk Federal mortgage loan originator and a member of Theatre Three’s Box Office staff; Jeffrey Sanzel, Theatre Three’s executive artistic director; and Micah Schlendorf, Suffolk Federal branch sales director of retail banking.

Larry Ryan was named one of TBR News Media's 2019 People of the Year. Photo from Michael Garguilo

By Julianne Mosher

Larry Ryan of Port Jefferson Station is known to keep busy with different projects and volunteerism, but he stays modest about the work he’s doing within the community. 

Ryan was instrumental in facilitating an inclusive lacrosse clinic in Centereach. Photo by Michael Gargiulo

“He does things with the best interest at heart,” Doreen Guma, a board member with the Port Jefferson/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said. “He brings smiles to people’s faces.”

Ryan has been with the chamber for a few years and throughout that time has contributed so much to the overall community, his longtime friend Michael Gargiulo said.

“People know Larry Ryan some way or another,” he said. “He works tirelessly and works with so many different groups and is always there to be involved, offering his help and assistance.”

But one of his true passions is helping those with special needs. 

“Larry previously worked for Maryhaven Center of Hope for 28 years, which included running an intermediate care facility that specialized in supporting those with autism,” Gargiulo said. “Throughout that time, Larry interfaced with the community and continued to be a strong advocate for the special needs population.”

Right now, he is working toward his doctorate in special education, all while continuing his community service and working full time. 

“He has a ‘can do’ attitude,” Joan Nickeson, who works closely with Ryan, said. “He’s open and accepting and is always looking to the future. He has a vision for our community and connects with all types of people — some people are called to serve and he’s the real deal.”

Ryan is also the co-owner of Sensory Solutions of Long Island, a gym that supports the special needs population with inclusive programming and recreational activities like art, music, Zumba and yoga. It also helps those who are seeking occupation, physical and speech therapy.  

“He exemplifies all that is good in our community through his work with children and adults.”

— Joan Nickeson

The Port Jefferson Station resident also is part of a nonprofit inclusive lacrosse program that started last summer, bringing both special needs and typical children together to play in a noncompetitive atmosphere. 

“He really tries to unite different people together and is continuing to connect with the community,” Gargiulo said. 

And with whatever spare time he has, Ryan works with Port Jeff Bowl, has his own business, and works with the Town of Brookhaven. 

“Larry will often collaborate with current Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and Brookhaven Town’s District One [D-Port Jefferson Station] on community integration,” Gargiulo added. “You will usually spot him at a local or town event, interfacing with the community or running an informational table.”

Gargiulo added that Ryan’s honor for Person of the Year is long overdue as “he is an intricate part of the community, and continues to make a positive impact, locally and across Long Island.”

Nickeson agreed. “He exemplifies all that is good in our community through his work with children and adults,” she said. 

The community came out in droves for the 5th annual Culper Spy Day on Sept. 14. The interactive self-guided tour of the Three Villages and Port Jefferson celebrated the members of Long Island’s courageous Culper Spy Ring who helped change the course of the American Revolutionary War. The event featured tours of historic homes and churches, Colonial cooking demonstrations, military drills, children’s activities, blacksmith demonstrations, book signings and more.

More than 40 organizations took part in the historical event which was hosted by Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and The Long Island Museum.

Photos by Anthony White

By Heidi Sutton

Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach hosted its 5th annual Run the Farm 4-Mile Challenge on Aug. 17. The event attracted over 300 runners from as far as upstate Albany and France who braved the humidity for a great cause.

Proceeds from the day will benefit the farm whose mission is devoted to providing fresh organic produce to those in need of a network of local food pantries and food programs.

The fundraiser also featured a farmers market, vendors and music and was attended by local officials including Councilman Kevin LaValle, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Chief of Staff Bob Martinez from Leg. Tom Muratore’s office,  Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Leg. Leslie Kennedy and members of the Centereach and Selden civic associations.

LaValle addressed the crowd before announcing the winners of the race. “I just want to thank everyone for coming out and for the great race we had today. This is the last remaining farm in Centereach,” said LaValle, adding that the 11-acre farm, located at 178 Oxhead Road, raises over 30,000 pounds of food for nonprofits.

“It takes an army to run this farm and without all the volunteers working together it would never happen,” added HF Vice President Ann Pellegrino. She also thanked Hobbs Farm President Larry Corbett and Bethel AME Church of Setauket for all their support.

“We love being out here at Hobbs Farm. They do so many great things for the community. To have a working farm here is quite special,” said Comptroller Kennedy. “I’m just happy to see everyone out on a Saturday morning working out, having fun, maybe buying some products and contributing to sales tax,” he joked.

The overall first place winner for men with a time of 24.40.53 was 24-year-old Cole Conte of Port Jefferson. Second and third place went to the father and son team from Baillargues, France, Fran Ois Le Grix (43) and Titoun Le Grix (17) with a time of 25.09.37 and 25.10.93, respectively. “We’ve gone international, ladies and gentlemen,” quipped LaValle as he handed out the awards and the crowd shouted out “Vive La France!”

Jessica Petrina (37) of Selden captured the title of overall first-place winner for women with a time of 27:24:94. Jamie Butcher (28) of Port Jefferson garnered second place with a time of 31:57:60 and Grace Mill (15) of Centereach won third place with a time of 32:20:18.

“To Mr. Hobbs, who is no longer with us, his legacy continues; to those who run the farm and really Run the Farm, thank you,” said Romaine. He thanked the runners and thanked the community for “helping keep the farm alive, keep the dream alive right here in the middle of Centereach where no one would expect a farm. It’s here, it’s great, it’s part of Brookhaven town. We are so proud of this farm.”

Photos by Heidi Sutton

Above, Carl Zorn with two of the plaques overlooking Conscience Bay. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Visitors to Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket have Eagle Scout Carl Zorn to thank for the new informational plaques that have been installed among the tranquil scenery. They include a general welcome sign detailing the history of the park’s founding and species that occupy it and two additional signs detailing the ecology of estuaries and watersheds. The welcome sign is located at the entrance to the park, and the other two signs are located side by side near the second bridge overlooking Conscience Bay. 

A new plaque welcomes visitors to the park. Photo by Leah Chiappino

Zorn, who has been a Boy Scout since first grade, chose to design informational signage for the park as his Eagle Scout Leadership Project because he wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact on the community. “I wanted something where if I moved to a different state and came back here to visit, I could look at it and say that I did that,” he said. The Scouting organization also fostered a love of nature in Zorn who described his childhood as “always being outdoors and camping with the Boy Scouts and my family.”

After getting the idea from a family friend in July, the Setauket resident began his project last September and completed it in early February.

As the Frank Melville Park Foundation, along with the Zorn family, donated the funds for the materials, most of Zorn’s time completing the project was spent researching the content for the plaques. He admits the start of the project was overwhelming. “At first, I had no idea what to do or how to learn about the wildlife here, ” he explained. 

Kerri Glynn, director of education for the park, stepped in to assist Zorn in gathering the information for the plaques with the hope they would help people become more environmentally aware. “I hope people come to understand the fragility of the ecosystem. Many people come to the park and think it is lovely, but they don’t understand the ecology of it,” she said.

Zorn consulted with Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell in order to highlight the unique history of the park, which was built by Ward Melville and donated by his mother Jennie as a memorial to her husband Frank Melville in 1937. “Essentially it’s private land for public use,” she said. 

A community treasure, the 26-acre park features two ponds, an estuary and woodlands. On any given day, visitors can see swans, deer, songbirds, turtles, herons and wood ducks as they stroll along shaded paths past a simulated grist mill and a 20th-century barn. The park and its buildings are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Local environmentalist and conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, John Turner, also assisted Zorn with his research, and highlighted the importance of education on watersheds, or land in which below-ground water feeds into a water source. 

“People live work and play above their water supply. The quality of the waters in the aquifers underneath the Long Island surface are affected directly and intimately by the activities that we conduct on the land surface, so a clean land policy means a clean water policy,” he explained. 

From left, Andrew Lily, Joe Pisciotta, Andrew Graf, Carl Zorn, Aiden Zorn (in forefront), Tim Petritsch and Mark Muratore at the installation in February. Photo by Steve Hintze

Turner called Zorn’s project “well-conceived and well-executed.” He also praised the park’s board of trustees, as well as the park’s president, Robert Reuter, for recognizing the value of the project. “You have a captive audience in the park, but up until now there was limited information. [These plaques] have taken advantage of that captive audience to try to instill a greater appreciation and awareness of the resources around them,” he said.

After gathering the information and submitting several drafts for approval by the board, Zorn then had the task of designing the signs, with pictures provided by the park. He found a sign company, Fossil Industries in Deer Park, to make the signs, a process that took about three months. He then focused on configuring the specific intricacies of the project, such as the location, and making sure the signs were low enough to be at eye level for children but still readable to adults. 

Weather also delayed the installation, as the ground would freeze. Once the signs were finished, Zorn along with eight other Boy Scouts joined together in order to install them. 

Reuter praised Zorn’s work ethic and the final result, calling the project “a long and thorough process and a real achievement.” Russell also added praise for the finished product. “He did a wonderful job. There’s a nice combination of the history and environmental facts affecting the park [on the signs],” she added. Zorn was equally pleased with the results. “This is exactly what I wanted in an Eagle Scout project and I got it,” he said.

The 18-year-old recently graduated from Ward Melville High School and will attend Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, in the fall as a music business major, combining his passion for music with his ambition to work for the Disney Corporation.

However, according to Reuter, as Zorn wished, the plaques will have a lasting impact on the community. “Frank Melville Memorial Park is now enriched with really useful and attractive interpretive signs that inform park visitors about the park’s history and environment. But, don’t take my word for it — go see for yourself.” 

Frank Melville Memorial Park is located at 1 Old Field Road in Setauket. For more information, call 631-689-6146 or visit www.frankmelvillepark.org.

Dr. Richard Elinson
Researchers, tour guides, gardeners, curatorial interns

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, like most museums, would find it difficult to operate without volunteers.

According to the American Alliance of Museums, the majority of people who work in museums are volunteers. Overall, U.S. museums have six volunteers for every paid staff member. And even in the largest museums, volunteers generally outnumber paid full-time staff two to one.

 At the Vanderbilt, volunteers enthusiastically assist the staff by conducting tours, greeting visitors, beautifying the grounds and undertaking curatorial and conservation projects. They also work as interns or staff aides in various departments, examine marketing and branding, decorate the Mansion for the holidays, and perform music on the 1,476-pipe Aeolian organ. Approximately 100 volunteers generously donate countless hours each year.

“Volunteers love this estate, work hard, and make invaluable contributions,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director. “Their work saves the museum a lot of money each year and helps us to support Mr. Vanderbilt’s original educational mission. We’re very grateful to them.”

Mary Schlotter

Mary Schlotter

Mary Schlotter and her daughter, Krishtia McCord, have volunteered their talents for years to create holiday magic in the Mansion, as have members of local garden clubs. The mother-daughter design team owns and operates Harbor Homestead & Co., based in Centerport.

“My love of design, history and flowers is what drives me to volunteer,” Schlotter said. “I find myself brainstorming in June for the holiday designs. Volunteering is so important if we are to keep Long Island treasures like the Vanderbilt looking their best. I often refer to it as a jewel in my backyard!”

“One cold November night, I had just finished my design and I looked back at the Mansion. The lights were on and the Christmas lights were glistening. I wondered if William and Rosamond would like what we had done,” she added.

Matthew Titchiner

Matthew Titchiner

Before moving to New York, Matthew Titchiner managed Harewood House, one of England’s premier historic estates. His responsibilities included staff, operations, visitor experience, marketing and branding. 

“My wife is a pediatric resident at Stony Brook University Hospital, and I wanted to familiarize myself with the American museum world before starting full-time work,” he said. “So, I reached out to the Vanderbilt.”

Titchiner first researched and cataloged the Vanderbilt collection of ancient weapons, then undertook an in-depth project that examines the museum’s branding. This 66-page report analyzed signage, the website, communications and the application of audience data and feedback.

“Matthew brought his deep museum experience and discerning eye to his analysis of how the Vanderbilt presents itself to the world,” Reinheimer said. “His keen insights will be valuable as we continue to improve how the museum reaches out to and communicates with its diverse and growing audience.”

“The Vanderbilt’s interesting mix of historic mansion, park and planetarium is a unique selling point,” said Titchiner. “It’s a museum of a museum, a snapshot in time.”

Bill Caputi

Bill Caputi

Bill Caputi plays beautiful classical music on the Mansion’s grand Aeolian pipe organ. The retired electrical engineer has played for more than 20 years for guided tours and during the museum’s annual holiday and Valentine’s Day banquets.

 “I studied piano as a boy,” he said. “I took lessons from a music teacher on the school’s huge pipe organ and played occasionally in a nearby church. And I was the pianist for my college glee club. When we moved to Centerport, I learned that the Vanderbilt pipe organ had just been renovated so I volunteered to play.” 

Founded in 1887 by William Tremaine, the Aeolian Company grew to be the largest musical instrument manufacturer in America by 1920. Pipe organs were installed in most elite mansions in the early 1900s. The Vanderbilt organ was installed in 1926. 

“I’m glad visitors and staff enjoy the music,” Caputi said. “I often play Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Broadway tunes. At Halloween, I like to play scary music.”

Dr. Richard Elinson

Dr. Richard Elinson

Wearing protective curator’s gloves, Dr. Richard Elinson has inspected nearly 1,400 vintage books in the Vanderbilt Mansion Library. “The books had been cataloged, but needed to be examined closely,” said Elinson. “I’ve been doing condition reports. I make note of damaged bindings, water damage or just interesting things I notice.” 

A retired professor of biology at the University of Toronto and Duquesne University, Elinson has worked with the Curatorial Department for the three years. The collection includes volumes that reflect Vanderbilt’s interests — the chronicles of 18th- and 19th-century naturalists and explorers and the women’s suffrage movement championed by his mother, Alva.

“It’s an enjoyable three hours once a week,” he said. “It’s a real thrill to sit in that old library. You feel like you’re in a different world.”

Gloria Hall

Gloria Hall

A retired Northport elementary school teacher, Gloria Hall leads the volunteer gardeners program she created in 2002 with her late husband, Bill. Both graduated from the Cornell University Master Gardeners Program. Today, an average of 20 gardeners work from May to October.

“I was brought up ‘playing in the dirt,’ exploring seed catalogs, trading plants with friends, and just enjoying a calmness that being in the garden brings,” Hall said. “To share my knowledge and enhance the Vanderbilt grounds gives me great pleasure.”

 

 

 

Ellen Mason

Ellen Mason

Ellen Mason began volunteering in 2006, after retiring as a high school English teacher. She was invited by a colleague and friend, Gretchen Oldrin Mones, first vice president of the Vanderbilt board of trustees. Mason began as a greeter in the Hall of Fishes.

“I was asked to do a walk-on part during Living History Tours,” she said. “I played Olympic skating champion Sonja Henie, a close friend of the Vanderbilts. I spoke just two lines.” She has played many historic roles since.

 “I am very fortunate to be part of the museum and have a strong appreciation for its physical beauty,” Mason said. “For 13 years, I have repeated the same mantra when I arrive here: ‘Thank you, Willie, for giving us this.’ I constantly learn and laugh with the staff. We are all so protective of this magical place.”

Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

 

Honorees Katharine Griffiths, Andy Polan, Leah Dunaief, Anna Kerekes

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization hosted its annual Jewels & Jeans Gala at Flowerfield in St. James on June 19. This year’s event honored Katharine Griffiths, Executive Director, Avalon Park & Preserve; Leah Dunaief, Editor and Publisher of Times Beacon Record News Media; Anna Kerekes, WMHO Trustee; and Andy Polan, President, Three Village Chamber of Commerce “for their outstanding achievements to the community.” The evening featured music by Tom Manuel and The Jazz Loft All Stars, cocktails, dinner and a live and silent auction. 

Photos by Ron Smith, Clix|couture