Police & Fire

Nicholas Caracappa is still set to be sworn into the Suffolk Legislature Jan. 4, 2021. Photo from Caracappa campaign Facebook

The man who is set to replace Tom Muratore on the Suffolk County Legislature, Nicholas Caracappa, was arrested Tuesday for alleged domestic violence-related charges. 

Suffolk County Police confirmed Caracappa was arrested at a little after 3 p.m. Dec. 8 for criminal contempt 1st degree and criminal obstruction of breathing related to a domestic incident. He was held overnight and released from First District Court in Central Islip on his own recognizance Wednesday. He is next due to be back in court Jan. 21, 2021. 

Caracappa was elected to the 4th district legislator seat this year with 60.7% of the vote compared to his Democratic opponent Joseph Turdik’s 39.3%. He is set to be sworn into office Jan. 4 next year.

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) said in a statement that the arrest does not impact Caracappa’s ability to take up his seat.

“The arrest of and the allegations against Legislator-elect Nicholas Caracappa are very serious. I do not know the specifics of the case and cannot comment further,” he said. “He was not to be sworn in until January, but these events do not undo the election. He has a right to his day in court. At this time my prayers are with his family.”

Caracappa’s attorney, Thomas K. Campagna, of Hauppauge-based Campagna Johnson Mady, P.C, said Thursday that the allegations are “100% false” and that his client is looking forward to his day in court “so he can be fully exonerated.”

“The allegations by Mr. Caracappa’s wife are purely retaliatory against an order of protection that Mr. Caracappa obtained by court a week or so before,” the attorney said over the phone. “The order was against his wife protecting his children against the violent act of his wife … He is looking forward to continuing his passions as a dedicated father and dedicated public servant.”

Caracappa’s family has legacy within the legislature. His mother, Rose, held the seat until her death in 1995. The Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai was named after her. Nicholas’ brother, Joseph, held the seat until 2007. Muratore took up the seat in 2010, and passed away while still in office Sept 8. 

Once he is sworn in January, he will join two other legislators who are facing criminal charges. Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Shirley) was indicted in 2019 for alleged perjury, ethics violations and other offenses in connection with his work as the former district manager of the Centereach Fire District that continued after he became legislator in 2018. Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport) was indicted in October over allegedly seeking sex from a sex worker using drugs such as oxycodone as collateral.

 

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File photo

Suffolk County Police are investigating a three-vehicle crash that killed a man in Selden Monday, Dec. 7.

Police said John Swanson, 75, of Riverhead, was driving westbound on Route 25 in Selden when his 2019 Chevrolet van jumped the curb and struck a 1997 Dodge pickup truck and a parked vehicle on North Bicycle Path at around 11:25 a.m.

Detectives believe Swanson may have suffered a medical event while driving. He was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The two male occupants of the Dodge were not injured. The Chevrolet and Dodge were impounded for safety checks.

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The Wading River Fire Department building on North Country Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local fire departments are gearing up for their annual commissioner elections, and most districts in the local area, save Wading River, are looking at uncontested races.

Commissioners are unpaid elected board members who run the district, which is a connected but distinct entity from the fire department. The district is a taxing entity whose board is elected by the residents in the district. The commissioners determine yearly budgets, go out for grants and propose bonds to maintain equipment and personnel of both the district and department.

TBR News Media reached out to the local fire departments to talk to the commissioner candidates. Candidates talked about how COVID-19 has caused budgetary concerns, and along with current ongoing projects, how they try to recruit new members during a time of a pandemic.

Mount Sinai Fire Department. Photo by Kyle Barr

Mount Sinai Fire District

The Mount Sinai Fire District is holding an election Dec. 8 for a five-year commissioner seat. Incumbent Joseph Tacopina is running uncontested for a seat he’s held since 2002.

Tacopina said in a phone interview he has been with the Mount Sinai Fire Department for 35 years. Since he’s been commissioner, he said the board has worked to keep the percentage yearly tax increase below the New York State tax cap. Still, the district’s five-year plan does not include any big-ticket items, he said, and instead focuses on things like replacing the boiler in the main firehouse and other capital improvements.

“We’ve been streamlining processes through the department, but there are budgetary constraints based on COVID, so some of the projects we were looking to do are minimal in scope,” he said.

The pandemic has brought forth a host of new costs to the district, things that they previously wouldn’t have had to pay for. Tacopina said there were costs associated with sanitizing the firehouse and firefighter equipment, and they have had to spend much more on cleaning supplies and other PPE. At certain points, the district had to close the building to nonessential service for small time periods because of positive infections among volunteers or staff. It has also made recruitment for volunteer-starved departments like Mount Sinai that much harder.

“All these additional costs are not budgeted — we have to spend on sanitizing equipment so we can have our members respond without infecting everybody,” he said.

The election is set for Dec. 8  at the main firehouse located at 746 Mount Sinai-Coram Road from 6 to 9 p.m. The district is also asking residents to vote on a proposition that would make it so an active member can become a participant of the service award program at age 17, instead of 18. The annual cost of the program would increase from $265,200, or $2,160 per participant, to $288,400, or $2,060 per participant.

Tacopina said the district is attempting to allow younger people in their youth programs to become active members sooner to allow them earlier access to firefighter training. Currently young members must turn 18 before joining such training, which usually only allows them a small period for which to train and then work on trucks. Doing this would allow firefighter training for the summer before, so once they turn 18 they’re already ready to become full-fledged members.

“This way before they go to college, we have them for that summer as well,” the commissioner said.

Miller Place Fire Department. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place Fire District

Miller Place has one commissioner term up for election. Incumbent commissioner Larry Fischer is seeking another five-year term starting Jan. 1 next year. 

Fischer, a 31-year member of the department, has served five terms on the board of fire commissioners. It’s been a long road, though the ongoing pandemic has led to a host of new challenges. 

He said the department has been mostly shut down for all non-call and emergency response activities. The department has had to greatly limit the number of training sessions, which along with limitations at fire school, has limited the availability of new recruits to get the training they need.

Still, the important thing, Fischer said, is that they’re still answering calls, which even before the pandemic, close to 70% of calls were for EMS. Like other districts, the pandemic has put an added cost on the district from having to purchase PPE and sanitizing equipment. Just this past week, the department hosted both rapid and the three-day COVID-19 tests for department members.

“We want to make sure our members are safe, especially our EMTs” he said. “I salute the EMTs who are really on the front lines of this.” 

Within the past year or so, the district updated their 20-year-old phone system. Though they had applied for a grant in 2019, the department ended up having to pay out of pocket, and that equipment was finally delivered at the beginning of this year.

Though the commissioner is hope for a return to something resembling normal next spring and summer following the release of a vaccine, that will not be the end to issues in the area. He shared his concern for the ongoing opioid crisis, which data has shown has only been accentuated because of the pandemic. He hopes that they can be allowed to go back in schools sometime in the near future to provide some training and awareness for students related to opioids.

The election is held at the main firehouse at 12 Miller Place Road Dec. 8 from 4 to 9 p.m.

Sound Beach Fire District headquarters at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. Photo from Google Maps

Sound Beach Fire District

The Sound Beach Fire District is hosting its election for a five-year commissioner seat. Incumbent Richard McKay is running for his seat unopposed.

McKay was appointed three years ago to finish the term of a previous commissioner who vacated his position. With several decades of experience as both a firefighter and EMT, he previously served as a commissioner for another department and said he originally did not expect to be elected again.

“I told them I’ll try it out for the year, but we did really well — all the commissioners play nicely in the sandbox — so now I’m running for a full term,” he said.

He said the main purpose of the district and commissioners is to maintain service without putting the onus on taxpayers. Last year Sound Beach residents voted to approve a $2.9 million bond to complete repairs and work at the main firehouse that hasn’t seen work in years. Most of the work is repairs and maintenance, McKay said. Repairs and fixes include a makeover of the parking lot, new epoxy floor finishing in the ambulance bays and apparatus room, sprinkler and fire alarm system replacements and window replacements on both floors. 

“The floors inside the firehouse are crumbling and in one part of the building a wall has a crack in it,” he said. “Almost every window leaks.” 

While the district has made budgets that have gone under the state tax cap for the past several years, this is the first time they will pierce the tax cap due to paying off the bond.

The other big issue the district faces is a lack of volunteers, McKay said. It’s especially hard nowadays to get people to dedicate the necessary amount of time for both training and to be on call.

The election is set for Dec. 8 at the firehouse located at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. from 2 to 9 p.m.

The Rocky Point Fire Department building in Shoreham. Photo by Kevin Redding

Rocky Point Fire District

Rocky Point is hosting its election Dec. 8 to elect a commissioner to a five-year term. Incumbent commissioner John Buchner is running unopposed.

Buchner did not respond to a request for an interview by press time.

The election is set for Dec. 8 at the district building at the Shoreham firehouse, located at 49 Route 25A, between 3 and 9 p.m.

The contested fire commissioner race in Wading River is set for a vote Dec. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

Wading River Fire District

Wading River remains one of the few contested elections for commissioner this year. The seat is for a five-year term starting Jan. 1, 2021, and ending Dec. 31, 2025. 

Incumbent commissioner of 15 years Jim Meier is facing off against previous commissioner Tim Deveny.

Meier, a third-generation firefighter and 41-year member of the department, said he is running again to continue the work they are doing in upgrading equipment and boost declining membership. He also boasted there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the department, meaning they have maintained a continuity of service throughout the pandemic.

“It’s all about the safety and the financial end,” he said. “We have a board that’s working together well right now.”

He said the district has purchased two ambulances and a new ladder truck in the last two years using capital funds without having to rely on other financial institutions. He also boasted about other grants the district has received in the past several years, including a $200,000 grant for radio systems in 2015. 

“With all that saving we can purchase new rigs to keep us going,” he said.

The station 2 firehouse on Hulse Landing Road has been closed for nearly two years now, saying the chief of department originally closed it for mold issues, among other building problems, and they “haven’t been able to reopen it.” That building is now being used for storage, save for a single emergency vehicle, while apparatus and equipment that was housed there has been moved to the main firehouse along North Country Road. Members that used to report to the second firehouse now respond to the main one.

The biggest issue, Meier said, is a lack of enough volunteers to man that station. He said despite additional travel time for some members to get to the station, the move has actually improved response time, as with a single alarm, instead of people responding to two separate houses, more people are available right next to the necessary equipment.

“Most people from that end [of Wading River] were getting older or moving out,” Meier said. “As bad as it is to have the station closed, it’s helped our response time.”

Deveny, a 23-year member and past commissioner from 2004 to 2014, said he is running again because of the issue with the station 2 firehouse, which he said was a major disruption in service to the eastern portion of the Wading River hamlet.

“Public safety — that’s what it’s all about,” Deveny said. “In this day and age when EMS calls are escalating, you take away from the people on the east end?”

He disagreed with the current board saying there are not enough volunteers to staff the station 2 building, saying that as he has worked there, they had 16 people who responded there and were “locked out” in February of last year. He said problems such as the mold issue have already been rectified, and some volunteers taking the trek to the main firehouse has meant a drive time of 10 minutes or more. He added people on his side of town “still don’t know they closed that station down.”

“I’m so angry I can eat glass,” he said. “You can’t put a price on human life.”

The candidate also criticized the district for piercing the state tax cap two years in a row, saying the district needs to work on its financial situation. He said the department did not require a ladder truck when other nearby departments could provide such equipment in a pinch, adding there were no large houses in Wading River that would require that apparatus.

The election is set for the main firehouse located at 1503 N. Country Road, Dec. 8 between 2 and 9 p.m.

Sergeant William Madden and Officer Paul Altmann were honored by SCSPCA Chief Roy Gross in front of the 6th precinct Dec. 4. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It was a ruff rescue last month when Piper the Yorkshire terrier fell down a storm drain outside his home in Coram.

A Suffolk County emergency police officer rescues a 4-month-old Yorkie Piper from a storm drain around 11:45 a.m. in front of 87 Argyle Avenue in Coram on Nov. 7. The owner of the dog Freddy Wnoa, said his wife and his two daughters were inside the home when the dog ran out of their front door and fell into the storm drain in front of their house. The dog was not injured, but the police suggested to the family that Piper needed a bath.
James Carbone/Newsday

Four officers from the Suffolk County Police Department Sixth Precinct responded to a call on Nov. 7 and began the task of climbing into the drain to save him.

“Officers safely extracted the frightened puppy and reunited it with his family,” Roy Gross, chief of Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said. Piper was, luckily, uninjured.

On Friday, Dec. 4, Gross presented certificates to Sergeant William Madden and Officer Paul Altmann outside the Selden precinct. Emergency Service Section Officer Carmine Pellegrino and Sixth Precinct Police Officer Lynn Volpe, who were not in attendance, will also be receiving certificates.

“In the 37 years that I’ve been with the Suffolk County SPCA, it’s such a great partnership because when they need us, we also need them,” Gross said. “It goes both ways, and we really appreciate the comradery we have with them.”

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The bronze eagle statue atop the plinth in Washington Memorial Park was stolen last month. Photo from SCPD

Police are currently looking for the person or people involved in allegedly stealing a statue from the Washington Memorial Park, a cemetery in Mount Sinai.

The bronze eagle statue atop the plinth in Washington Memorial Park was stolen last month. Photo from SCPD

Police said the 4-foot tall bronze eagle statue near the entrance to the park, located at 855 Canal Road, was stolen from atop its plinth Nov. 13 sometime between 5 and 7 p.m. The granite base for the statue was apparently damaged during the theft.

A representative from Washington Memorial Park said the eagle represents the parks emblem, and they were “very upset and surprised” to have seen it stolen. The park is located in a relatively quiet residential area, and has not seen any such acts in recent memory. The park rep said they found pieces of the statue on the ground, leading them to believe it must have fell as it was being taken.

The park has been around since 1926, and the front area where the statue was located was developed in the 1940s.

The park representative stressed that their biggest concern is for families and their loved ones’ graves. There is security at night and gate access to the park is shut after hours. The rep stressed has been no tampering of graves at the park.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails are kept confidential.

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The Port Jefferson and Terryville Fire Comissioner elections will be held Dec. 8. File photo by Kyle Barr

The two local fire departments are gearing up for their annual elections, both with one fire commissioner seat apiece up for vote. In both fire districts, incumbents are running unopposed and looking to retain their seats.

Commissioners are unpaid elected board members who run the district, which is a connected but distinct entity from the fire department. The district is a taxing entity whose board is elected by the residents in the district. The commissioners determine yearly budgets, go out for grants and propose bonds to maintain equipment and personnel of both the district and department.

Port Jefferson Fire District

The Port Jefferson Fire District is hosting its annual commissioner election, with current commissioner board chairman, Tom Totten, running uncontested for his seat. He has been chairman since 2006.

Totten did not respond to a request for interview by press time.

The vote will take place Dec. 8 at the firehouse located at 115 Maple Place between 3 and 9 p.m.

Terryville Fire District

The Terryville Fire District’s annual commissioner election also includes a separate proposition asking residents to approve expenditures for communications enhancements districtwide.

This year Board of Fire Commissioners chairman, James Rant, is running unopposed to retain his seat. Rant is a 36-year member of the department and has been commissioner for 10 years. He’s now seeking a third term.

In a phone interview Rant said he originally ran back in 2010 to offer his experience and knowledge to make sure people’s tax money is spent “as prudently as possible.”

This year, the pandemic has introduced numerous new strains on the department’s emergency services, an event which practically no entity from hospitals to governments had any playbook for dealing with a worldwide virus. Rant said the district and department had to scramble to procure the necessary personal protective equipment along with disinfecting supplies, all of which were an added cost in both supplies and manpower. Now, however, the commissioner said they are prepared for the current surge.

“We’ve been holding our own — obviously there was no playbook,” Rant said. “We did prepare for the surge we’re having now. We have cleaning supplies, gloves and other equipment coming up into the fall and winter season. We’re in pretty good shape.”

As far as the additional proposition, voters are being asked to authorize the district to purchase and upgrade its communication equipment and systems at a price not to exceed $783,000.

Rant said the district has been preparing for this big expenditure for the past few years, and the purchase will not impact residents’ taxes. 

“It’s moving us along with the times in terms of communications,” he said. “Good communication for a fire department’s operations is crucial.”

The purchase includes new radio technology both in the field and at base. Technology will also allow the district to adjust temperature and turn on/off lights, which will reduce energy waste and potentially save money.

The district had previously been planning to potentially place a cell tower at the station 1 firehouse on Jayne Boulevard, which would have brought in some revenue to the district, but Rant said that the decision was made a few months ago to drop those plans.

The commissioner said the issue was if the district allowed a cell tower to go up at that location then companies would need 24/7 access, and they “weren’t willing to submit our neighbors in the middle of the night have work trucks and power tools going on.”

The vote will take place Dec. 8 at the main firehouse located at 19 Jayne Blvd., Port Jefferson Station, between 2 and 9 p.m.

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Current fire commissioner and chairman of the board is not running for reelection in 2002. File photo by Phil Corso

With Setauket fire commissioner and chairman of the board Jay Gardiner not seeking reelection this year, two new candidates are set to run for his seat Dec. 8.

Sue Meyers

Voters will have the opportunity to choose between Setauket resident Jim Griffin and 25-year volunteer Sue Meyers. Griffin was a volunteer with the department for about a year, he said, but due to a change in the medical requirements, he was no longer able to fulfill the conditions and stepped down. The Navy veteran and retired police officer said he has been involved with other fire and rescue services for more than 30 years in departments such as Stony Brook and Jericho.

Meyers was the first woman to hold a commissioner’s seat in the district from Jan. 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2009. She would have continued to seek the position, she said, but her son, who passed away four years ago, had medical issues she had to attend to.

She said, if elected, one of her goals is to keep the balance between volunteers and paid personnel. In August 2018 the board of commissioners voted unanimously for the first time in favor of changing the titles of four paid fire protection coordinators to firefighters. She said right now there is a good balance between volunteers and paid employees and believes that should be maintained.

“I think the balance is important to preserve the volunteers who put their hearts and souls into this community,” she said.

She said she also wants to provide more opportunities for those who are older and may not be able to operate apparatus or respond to calls anymore. She said there has been a mentorship program that has worked out well, and senior members can bring a lot to the table as far as experience and the department history they provide.

“I would like to find a place for those gentlemen and ladies where even if they can’t have an active role … they can still contribute,” she said. 

A nurse practitioner, she is a single mom who has raised five grown children. She said her experience in the fire department as well as her role as a mother has helped sharpen her budgeting skills. She has talked to the district about a five-year plan, and she feels that with the district’s recent purchases of new apparatus and the renovated building on Main Street, the district can now watch its budget better and identify any inefficiencies.

She is also hoping to initiate an EMT recruitment program that requires three years of volunteer service in exchange for the class, certification and training costs the fire department provides. The requirement would prevent people from receiving the training and then leaving the department.

Meyers said that many women have served as crew chiefs and lieutenants in the department but haven’t gone as far as commissioner. She wants to show other women coming into the department that it’s an option for them.

“I think that needs to change,” she said. “We have just as much to offer.”

Jim Griffin

Griffin said he has morale, recruitment and retention at the forefront of his mind. The retired police officer agrees with Meyers that the current hybrid system, with paid employees and volunteers, is working but he doesn’t want to see it expanded right now.

“I don’t want to expand anything further without attempting the reorganization of the membership,” he said.

Due to his experience of not being able to serve due to changed medical requirements, he would like to see the district go back to volunteers using their own doctors instead of Northwell Health, which he described as “factory-type checking.” Griffin did not comment
on what his medical condition was.

“It should be about the individual,” he said.

Griffin said he also feels there is a disconnect between the district and department stemming from the commissioners’ office being located in a separate building on Hulse Road the last few years instead of the administration members working out of a firehouse with the membership.

He said the volunteer process can be shortened, as those who have been certified through other departments outside of Setauket, still need to start the certification process again in Setauket, a process he considers is unnecessary for experienced volunteers. With the certification classes not beginning until there are enough interested, he said it can take months for a volunteer to be ready to serve. For example, when he was interested in joining, it took seven months before he was called about training. He said the delay of getting in and then taking probation classes “is causing a major disruption in the membership.”

He added he would look to allow Stony Brook University students to join the department, even though he has been told that after a few years they move on.

“My answer is some of them are already qualified EMTs, paramedics, and they’re going to medical school,” he said.

If the district works with SBU students, he said he feels other student volunteers would take the place of those who have left. He added many students remain in the area for their residencies and could possibly continue with the department.

He is also looking to expand on fire prevention education. While many who are interested in volunteering may not be able to fight interior fires, he said he feels many can contribute in other areas. For example, electricians and teachers can help with fire prevention education. He would also like to work with community stores and have a sign-up program for residents where firefighters can go to their homes and replace batteries in smoke alarms for those who can’t climb ladders and perform similar fire prevention tasks. He added that firefighters can see potential problems such as hoarding and establish an outreach program and help.

“If we never have a fire in Setauket again, I’m OK with that,” he said. “We get the prevention out there, and it kind of serves two purposes.”

Residents of the Setauket Fire District can vote Dec. 8 from 2 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook. The fire commissioner term is for five years commencing Jan. 1, 2021.

Four individuals were arrested this week for allegedly operating a prostitution and money laundering enterprise in Suffolk County.

According to Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini, Homeland Security Investigations and the Suffolk County Police Department began an investigation in 2018 into alleged prostitution at two massage parlors at 1442 Middle Country Road and 2661 Middle County Road in Centereach. 

JianXin You, 56, of Manhattan, Li Fang, 38, of Flushing, Guang Xu, 46, of Flushing and JinYe Wu, 35, of Brooklyn were all charged with different counts of money laundering, conspiracy and prostitution. 

“What is unique about this investigation is that historically, investigations into illicit massage parlors often result in the arrest of workers during raids,” Sini said in a statement. “What we have here is a different approach: one that gets to the root of the problem by targeting the leadership of the criminal organization behind these establishments and dismantling that enterprise from the top.”

The investigation revealed evidence that You and her associates allegedly engaged in a pattern of promoting prostitution at the locations by procuring female workers, soliciting patrons and profiting from the prostitution operation.

Additionally, the defendants allegedly laundered the criminal proceeds through various methods, including depositing cash into a business entity account in the name of New Green Aroma Spa Inc., to pay for expenses associated with the illegal operation, remitting large sums of money to other individuals’ accounts, purchasing property, and exchanging the proceeds for foreign currencies.

“This alleged criminal network made hundreds of thousands of dollars off the backs of the women they employed while putting the health of those workers and the community at risk, and deteriorating the quality of life in these neighborhoods,” Sini added. 

The search warrants at the locations resulted in the recovery of two ghost guns, which were seized from a private residence in connection with the investigation, and more than $250,000 cash.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned today in Suffolk County First District Court.

If convicted, You, Fang and Xu each face a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison. If convicted, Wu faces a maximum sentence of two and one-third to seven years in prison.

Members of the Miller Place Fire Department and other community volunteers successfully packed a department bus full of food and other supplies for the St. Louis de Montfort church’s food pantry. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though students now aren’t meant to sit too close on the bus, the Miller Place Fire Department, for the 10th year in a row, is using every inch of space in a bus that bears its own logo.

Members of the Miller Place Fire Department and other community volunteers successfully packed a department bus full of food and other supplies for the St. Louis de Montfort church’s food pantry. Photo by Kyle Barr

MPFD’s 10th annual Stuff-a-Bus event managed to fill every seat in their red-and-white bus to the brim with food and other essential items donated by the community. All food was delivered to the St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach for its food pantry.

Items were donated by fire department members and the surrounding community at the annual Stuff-a-Bus event held at the Miller Place Stop & Shop Nov. 20, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. In addition to the donated items, Miller Place EMS Capt. Rob Chmiel, who headed the event, said they received nearly $1,000 in cash and gift card donations. The cash was used to purchase items the department was short of, and the gift cards were given directly to the food pantry staff, so they could use them to address their needs in the future.

Though normally the fire department holds its donation drive over two days, on the night of this year’s event, Chmiel said that they were receiving an incredible amount of donations, more than they usually do. They even received a car full of groceries by a volunteer at 4 p.m. By around 5:30 p.m., just two hours into the six-hour event, they had filled half the bus through several dozen residents donating a few boxes, cartons or jars at a time. By the end that same bus was packed to the seams. 

“We set out to make this the biggest year we possibly could, given the pandemic and everybody being stuck at home for most of the year,” Chmiel said. “We broke every record we possibly could.”

Elaine Bender, outreach director for St. Louis de Montfort Church, said the department did a “fabulous job” as they got way more than initially expected. The gift cards are also a big help as those are needed to help needy people purchase big ticket Thanksgiving items like turkeys.

The late afternoon-evening event was a large-scale operation, with a score of department volunteers bringing food to the bus and loading it up as music rang out over the crowded lot on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Other fire department volunteers stood by the doors to the supermarket asking local residents for donations.

“There’s a lot of hungry people right now,” volunteer Lori Aliano said. 

Since the pandemic’s start, Bender said the church has seen an increase in the overall number of clients they help. She added she expects there could be an increase in need should there be another statewide shutdown in the near future.

Chmiel thanked Marchand’s School of Dance for their yearly donations and Stop & Shop of Miller Place for allowing them to host the drive.

St. Louis de Montfort Church also hosts a drive for Christmas and will be accepting gift cards from any shop that sells toys supplies and/or clothing. Donations can be dropped off at the church located at 75 New York Ave. in Sound Beach.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police said a pedestrian in Coram was injured by a Mount Sinai man’s vehicle early Wednesday morning and is now in critical condition.

Police said Grace Schmidt, 53, of Coram, stepped into the southbound lane of Route 112, near Barone Drive, from the median and was struck by a 2018 Isuzu box truck at 4:55 a.m.

Schmidt was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was admitted in critical condition.

The driver of the truck, John Paola, 21, of Mount Sinai, and his passenger were not injured.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.