Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Valerie Catright have considered running for the state senate district 1 seat.

State Sen. Ken LaValle’s (R-Port Jefferson) announcement he would not be seeking reelection has suddenly bolstered both party’s efforts to get a candidate into the 1st District seat.

Several Democrats have already stepped up to run, including Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident Skyler Johnson and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town Board member.

Johnson said he thought it was good LaValle was retiring after so long in office. The young Democrat took a shine to a primary that “allows people to hear what candidates have to say, to help us flesh out our ideas.”

Ahearn thanked LaValle for his years of service, adding that now the venerable senator is no longer running, she “looks forward to continuing meeting and listening to voters of the 1st Senate District.”

Suffolk Democratic Committee Chairman Rich Schaffer did not return multiple requests for comment, but has made previous statements to other newspapers that have perked the ears on both sides of the aisle. 

Quickly upon the news of LaValle not seeking another term coming out Jan. 8, rumors quickly circulated who else was on the shortlist. While some rumors pointed to Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant wishing to seek the seat, she strongly put the idea aside, saying she did not want to step into that arena. 

The other person most rumored to be running was Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who has yet to make an official announcement but responded to inquiries by saying, “The county chair indicated that I would be running — his statement is correct.”

On the Republican side, rumors circulated that Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) would look to take up his cousin’s seat, but the town councilman said he currently resides outside the district boundaries and cannot run for the position. 

Suffolk Republican chairman, Jesse Garcia, said he already had a shortlist for Ken LaValle’s seat that included Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, and even Brookhaven council members Dan Panico (R-Manorville) and Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point).

Palumbo said while it would be a step-up, his current leadership position in the Assembly, and the young age of his two children, one 12 and the other 15, might make it a tough call. 

“It wouldn’t foreclose a future run,” he said.

When asked about the prospect of running, Bonner said, “There are a lot of people exploring their options. … I’ve been approached by numerous people to consider it and I am. It’s a conversation I’ll have to have with my family and husband. It is a decision that’s not to be made lightly.”

 

the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a 10-year multi-billion project to build a new electron-ion collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. Provide photo from Brookhaven National Lab

By Daniel Dunaief

Through answers to basic questions, scientists develop new technology that changes the world, leading to medical breakthroughs, energy applications and national security devices.

That’s the theory behind the U.S. Department of Energy’s decision last week to award a 10-year project that will cost between $1.6 billion and $2.6 billion to build a new electron-ion collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. 

For the scientists, the discoveries will flow from answers to questions about the nature of visible matter.

“The big science we’re excited about, the hundred-year-old questions, are things like where does the mass of a proton come from,” said Robert Tribble, the deputy director for science and technology at Brookhaven National Laboratory and a nuclear physicist. The EIC is like a microscope to look at quarks and gluons, he explained.

With support from numerous New York State and Long Island leaders, BNL recently won a competition against Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator in Virginia to build an electron-ion collider. Members of the Jefferson Accelerator, as well as over 1,000 scientists from 30 nations, will partner with BNL staff to conceptualize and build the new collider, which will be the most advanced ever constructed.

In addition to understanding atomic nuclei, we will be able to generate a better view of the universe writ large [with discoveries from the EIC].”

Robert Tribble

“We do not understand very dense matter that exists in the universe in objects like neutron stars and black holes,” Tribble explained in an email. “In addition to understanding atomic nuclei, we will be able to generate a better view of the universe writ large [with discoveries from the EIC].”

Over the next decade, the construction of the new EIC will employ 4,000 people, said Doon Gibbs, the laboratory director at BNL. That number represents the workforce that will, at one time or another, contribute to the construction of this new facility. 

The new EIC will expand on the technology of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which has been operating since 2000 and will stop running experiments in 2024. Indeed, part of the appeal of BNL as a site for this new facility arose out of the ability to extend the resources by building a new electron storage ring and electron accelerator elements.

Researchers will collide electrons and protons and numerous atomic nuclei to study the strong nuclear force. These collisions will reveal how the subunits of protons and neutrons in the nucleus, namely the quarks and gluons, come together to help generate mass in visible matter.

The staff at BNL is “delighted and excited” that the site for the EIC will be on Long Island, said Gibbs. “Our design has the capability of using many existing technologies and extending them farther than they’ve been before.”

Indeed, even the conception of the EIC has led to some new scientific breakthroughs, some of which the lab and its partners will share with the public in the next few weeks.

While the application of research at the EIC will likely lead to breakthroughs in fields including materials science, researchers at BNL are excited about basic questions about the nature of nuclear matter.

A typical experiment at the EIC will likely follow the same pattern as it has with RHIC, in which hundreds of researchers from around the world collaborate to understand physics properties. In the next few years, researchers will develop a detailed design before they start construction.

“We love challenges at BNL, we like building big machines. We’re good at it. We have a whole class of staff who, in particular, are experts at this kind of activity and they are pretty excited.”

Doon Gibbs

Gibbs said the facility has a strong handle on the safety features of the new collider, which will build on the protocols and designs developed at the RHIC as well as with the National Synchrotron Light Source II, also at the lab in Upton.

“We love challenges at BNL,” Gibbs said. “We like building big machines. We’re good at it. We have a whole class of staff who, in particular, are experts at this kind of activity and they are pretty excited.”

Area politicians are also excited about discoveries in basic science, translational benefits in areas like medicine and the expected boost to the local economy.

“Establishing the electron-ion collider on Long Island might be focused on particles, but it will add some serious mass — nearly $1 billion worth — to the local economy,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) said in a statement. BNL has the “talent, the technology and the track record to make the most of this national project.”

Schumer believes this project will guarantee that BNL continues to be a “world class research facility for the next generation.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) praised the leadership at BNL.

“I congratulate BNL Director Doon Gibbs for leading this exceptional organization and all of its scientists who have worked incredibly hard every step of the way to make this possible, and can’t wait to see what they do next,” Zeldin said in a statement.

 

Brookhaven town hall. File photo

By Monica Gleberman

Town of Brookhaven residents were in for a shock the day before new years, after the town posted on its website that the sanitation company, Quickway, abruptly broke its contract Dec. 31 saying it would no longer be doing pickups in multiple areas throughout Brookhaven.

Brookhaven officials said they were given notice at noon on December 31 that Ronkonkoma-based Quickway Sanitation would no longer honor their contract to collect residents trash from areas they serviced in Brookhaven; including portions of Shoreham, Rocky Point, Port Jefferson Station, Farmingville, East Patchogue and Manorville.

“Quickway carting was one year into a multi-year contract where they were the successful bidder for residential refuse and recycling services,” town officials said in a statment. “Town of Brookhaven intends to pursue every available legal option as a result of this carter’s unacceptable actions.”

Officials added the town is working with other local carting companies to put contingency plans in place.

The Town of Smithtown also had contracts under Quickway, which concurrently voided its garbage carting with them New Year’s eve.

Within 24 hours of its original message, Brookhaven town had a new post on its website that it had entered into emergency award agreements with several local companies to immediately “provide coverage for garbage pick-up in the seven garbage collection districts affected by the carter who broke their contract with the town.”

Kevin Molloy, spokesperson for Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), said the new contract is only for the time-being.

“The contracts were emergency contracts so they are for the short term,” he said. “For the long term, we will be looking at the second highest bidders and making sure any changes we make keeps us in compliance with New York State laws. We will keep residents informed as the information comes in.”

Smithtown also held an emergency meeting and signed a one-year procurement contract with Brothers Waste to takeover Quickway’s route in St. James and Smithtown.

Quickway did not respond to phone calls for comment.

Molloy said that the town has received “normal to low cals” to its waste management office as of today.

Multiple community Facebook groups spread the message of the company having voided its contract. Some residents complained of Quickway’s past policies. The release said all companies it reached out to have worked with Brookhaven in the past and service would continue as normal with regular pickups on Thursday, but did ask residents to be patient with this transitional process.

“Because they will be new to these service areas, we ask residents in these areas to be patient as they learn these routes. Please call 451-TOWN if your garbage has not been collected by late afternoon.”

This post will be updated when more information becomes available.

This post was updated Jan. 2 to include quotes from Kevin Molloy. This post was updated Jan. 3 to include information on Smithtown garbage services. 

Lise and Steven Hintze. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

By Donna Newman

Lise and Steve Hintze have been caring, contributing, active members of the Three Villages for more than two decades. They are both generous givers, willing to share their energy and talents for the benefit of the community. It is with gratitude that we honor them as 2019 TBR News Media People of the Year.

Residents who frequent the Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket may or may not know of the Hintzes’ efforts to keep improving and growing this valuable community venue.

Lise Hintze at a recent event at the Bates House. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Steve Hintze has been a Frank Melville Memorial Foundation trustee since 2008. He served several terms on the board as secretary. At present, he chairs the Park’s Building and Grounds Committee.

“Steve has brought a firefighter’s grit, an MBA, and a wealth of knowledge of all aspects of building and site design to the role,” said FMMF President Robert Reuter. “He also brings an admirable collection of professional-grade tools, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Steve is always an absolute pleasure to work with and he knows how to complete a project to the high standard for which the park is known.”

His projects have included park lighting, the mill restoration, which is now in progress, and assisting Eagle Scout candidates with their endeavors for park enhancement.

Lise Hintze was recruited to join the park’s staff in 2011 in the dual role of office manager and director of the Bates House. Regular visitors know her as the friendly face of the Frank Melville Memorial Park. Her finger is always on its pulse, and she is ever on the lookout for potential improvements.

“The quintessential office manager, Lise efficiently handles park business,” Reuter said. “As director of the Bates House, she works with demanding brides and anxious grooms on wedding weekends — and then manages all manner of programs during the week. The full schedule of special events and gatherings keeps her on call, but her thorough planning makes it all look easy. A pioneer in social media reporting, Lise has enabled the park to keep Friends informed via a website.”

Lise Hintze has been described as a “Saint on Earth” and a “Super Hero” by folks who know her but wished to remain anonymous. They see her as “the height of humanity” always ready to help. Her credo: “What does anybody — or any animal — need that I can give them?” It is an attribute reportedly shared by her husband.

Steve Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society, is happy to add his voice to those impressed with Lise Hintze’s abilities.

“Her work at the Frank Melville Park — between the Bates House and the Grist Mill and the growth in the park has been fabulous,” Healy said. “She synergizes the park with the community, is admired for her efforts and she does a great job taking the park to new levels.”

Lise Hintze does not let her job description limit her. If it’s happening in the park, it’s on her radar. Among her many contributions outside of official duties include the Wind Down Sunday outdoor concerts, begun with Katherine Downs and others and an ambitious schedule of three concerts. The park now offers nine. She has, when needed, instigated wildlife rescues. When drug abuse cropped up in the park a few years ago, she took a pragmatic stance and turned a potential security issue into an educational opportunity.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) lauded — and also joined in — that effort.

“Lise has a keen eye for what’s needed in the area,” Hahn said. “The opiate group she helped create in the fall of 2017 brought in speakers and provided a place for parents and students to openly and without judgment discuss the opioid crisis they were witnessing firsthand. It was a critical step for our community.”

The creation of this parent group was most likely the impetus for the Three Village school district’s hiring of a dedicated drug and alcohol abuse counselor, who began serving students and their families the following fall.

Steve Hintze, left, with Tim Smith of Old Field Landscaping preparing the site of Frank Melville Memorial Park’s new pollinator garden. Photo by Robert Reuter

These efforts alone would suffice to warrant community kudos, but there’s more.

Steve Hintze is still heavily involved with the Three Village Historical Society. A past president, he is currently the organization’s grants administrator and is busy gathering the resources to reconstruct the historic Dominick-Crawford Barn on TVHS property in Setauket.

Sandy White, office manager at TVHS had nothing but praise for her former boss.

“Steve was the president when I started working at TVHS. He hired me,” White said. “And to this day he is always there to help — willing to do anything. He’s working now with Steve Healy on the grants for the barn and comes into the office as often as he can. Willing to help anyone with everything, Steve tries to make a difference in everything he does.”

Healy and Hintze, who knew each other as firefighters in New York City before they became active in Three Village nonprofits, apparently share many of the same values. Healy has great respect for his colleague’s vast knowledge and willingness to share it.

“Steve is one of the people I have on speed dial,” Healy said. “When I call I know I’ll get a ‘Yes.’”

“If there’s ever a problem, he doesn’t just give me his input, he’ll roll up his sleeves and get involved in the solution. He’s a special breed with excellent leadership skills and creative ideas. The TVHS is blessed to get someone of his caliber and work ethic.”

Hahn completely agrees.

“Steve Hintze is a pillar of the community and a local hero,” Hahn said. “He contributes so much in real and tangible ways. His calming presence is valuable. He knows how to deal with people, how to motivate them, and how to find solutions, and he is always willing to do what’s necessary.”

There is general consensus with Reuter’s final assessment of these two exceptional individuals.

“They are remarkably modest people and would insist that what they do is nothing special,” Reuter said. “But they are, in fact – something special.”

Ann Pellegrino, with volunteer Elaine Gaveglia and caretaker Peter Castorano, brought Bethel Hobbs Community Farm back to life more than a decade ago. Photos by Laura Johanson

By Laura Johanson

Many people face difficulty in their lives — some struggle, many endure — and then there are those that transcend. Ann Pellegrino, founder and director of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach, is one of those rare individuals. She has faced hardship and heartache and transformed both into gestures of generosity and hope.

“Ann is an incredible, hard-working woman who always shines brightly with her smile and by her continued and valued efforts in our community,” said Tom Muratore, Suffolk County Legislator (R-Ronkonkoma). “We’ve watched her and her loving family go through crisis and challenges that only focused her and showed who she really is.”

Jeff Freund, president of The Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, also has praise for her.

“People like Ann are the lifeblood of our community,” Freund said. “Her selfless devotion through her efforts at Hobbs Farm are in my mind heroic.”

The accessible Garden of Ephraim, at the farm. Photos by Laura Johanson

For more than 100 years Hobbs Farm in Centereach was a working farm, but it was only a vacant lot in 2007 when Pellegrino began the initiative to bring its barren soil back to life. The idea of a farm came to her years before when, as a single mother, she had to visit a local food bank. Pellegrino saw firsthand that the only items available to those in need were boxed or canned goods. The seed of an idea was planted.

Back on her feet and remarried in 2006, Pellegrino began to reflect on her turn of fortune. Deciding it was time to give back, she planted a small garden in her yard in the hopes to grow enough produce to donate. “I was on a mission, rented a rototiller and started ripping up our beautiful, manicured lawn,” she said. “My husband wasn’t too happy.”

It didn’t take long for Pellegrino to realize she needed a lot more land. That’s when the vacant lot down the road came to mind.

“I knew it was once a farm and that the owner had died,” Pellegrino said.

Alfred Hobbs, owner of the land, was a second-generation farmer and part of the first African American family-owned farm on Long Island. Upon his death, Hobbs bequeathed the land to Bethel AME Church in Setauket. Pellegrino was hopeful when she sought out the church’s pastor.

“I thought it would be easy to convince him to let me work the land,” Pellegrino said. “I gave it my most enthusiastic pitch but the response I got was ‘we will pray on it.’ I was devastated. I remember afterward falling to my knees to pray for guidance,” Pellegrino recalled. “I went back to the church and on my second visit spoke with Rev. Sandra, the pastor’s wife. It was she who finally convinced him to let me give it a try. So, I planted a few tomato plants that were donated by a local greenhouse and brought the harvest back to the church.”

The following year, with the church’s blessing, Pellegrino recruited family, friends and other volunteers so that Hobbs Farm could begin its incredible rebirth. Peter Castorano was among the first farm volunteers and now serves as caretaker.

“Many people volunteer an hour or two and are very helpful, but Ann and I are here all day long, day after day,” he said.

Today, the farm is self-sufficient with most of the 50,000 pounds of food grown donated to several local food banks. Farm expenses are covered by money raised at fundraisers held throughout the year.

Tragedy amid growth and triumph  

In 2011, tragedy struck the Pellegrino family. Pellegrino’s son Christopher was paralyzed in a terrible car accident. She faced the heart-wrenching reality of having to care for her now disabled son while struggling to also nurture the growing farm.

“He was 19, paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator,” Pellegrino said. “It was so hard, after helping to build the farm, Chris was no longer able to even visit, and I was limited because I couldn’t leave him alone,” she said. “We’d spoken about creating access for disabled veterans before Christopher’s accident.” 

“People ask me why I do it, and I answer if your child was in need wouldn’t you want someone to make that choice?”

Ann Pellegrino

She confessed that those discussions had always been put on hold because of the difficulties of construction.

“It frustrated me,” Pellegrino said. “Everyone saying it was too hard. I didn’t truly understand until my son was in a wheelchair.” 

Refusing to give up, Pellegrino pushed forward and once again turned “something bad into something good.” With the help of people at Stony Brook University, she approached the Christopher Reeve Foundation and secured a grant for a wheelchair-accessible garden.

“We were able to create an asphalt walkway to the road and rows of raised beds,” the farm owner said.

The new space, officially opened in 2014, was named the Garden of Ephraim, which means fruitful in Hebrew. Now all individuals, wheelchair users or otherwise, have access to community gardening at Hobbs Farm.

Pellegrino attributes Christopher’s strong will to a sort of transformation over the next few years.

“After the accident, he really gained focus and started to live,” she said.

In addition to gardening, he began talking to local groups about his disability and clean living.

Heartbreak and a gift in 2018 

“Years ago, I was a recipient of donated corneas,” Pellegrino said. “Last fall my driver’s license needed renewal, and I once again marked myself down as a willing organ donor. I remember mentioning it to Chris. He said he too wanted to donate someday. ‘Why not mom? When the time comes, I won’t be needing them anyway’ he told me.”

Sadly, the time came only a few months later when Christopher experienced a severe brain aneurysm.

“He was brain dead,” Pellegrino said softly. “I knew what he would want me to do, and we donated several of his organs so that a small part of him could live.”

Pellegrino entered 2019 with a renewed passion. She continues her work at Hobbs Farm and now also volunteers with LiveOnNY, a nonprofit that promotes organ donation.

“People ask me why I do it, and I answer if your child was in need wouldn’t you want someone to make that choice?”

Today, Hobbs Farm supplies countless people with fresh produce; residents with restrictive disabilities have a space to garden and grow; and three men live on because of the gift Pellegrino and her son made through organ donation.  

“She truly deserves this recognition and honor, because Ann Pellegrino is and has always been my person of the year,” Muratore said.

 

Port Jeff Village trustee Kathianne Snaden has made waves in her first year as village official. Photos by Kyle Barr

The smaller into the levels of government you get, the less visible an official usually is.

That’s not much of the case with Port Jefferson Village trustee Kathianne Snaden. 

The number of events and meetings she has been willing to attend has been far above average, especially for a trustee of a 3 square-mile village on the North Shore. She’s often seen at school meetings, Business Improvement District meetings and other gatherings involving Brookhaven Town. But beyond her short yet active time in village government, those who have interacted with her said it’s Snaden’s willingness to reach out to the village community and be there for questions, and her willingness to get her hands dirty, that’s giving her renown.

“I believe people like Kathianne are the future of this village.” 

– Margot Garant

“There’s very few people who will come to the table, roll up their sleeves and do what they were going to do,” said Mayor Margot Garant, who has known Snaden since she originally came to the village. “I believe people like Kathianne are the future of this village.” 

When she first came to Port Jefferson, she was a single mother of two, originally hailing from upstate around the Finger Lakes region. After she met her husband Bill, who originally hailed from Connecticut, she was inexorable in her desire to stay in the village. 

“Kathianne is unlike many people, if she sees something isn’t right, she will figure out how to get involved and make it better,” Bill Snaden said. “She does not do something unless she knows she can do it 100 percent.”

Snaden has become more involved with the community over time, having immersed herself with the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption. She and her family were big players in putting on the recent Greek Festival and other church events. 

“I have always appreciated what she does for Port Jeff village,” said Louis Tsunis, Greek church parish council member, who said he has known her for around four years. “I have a lot of gratitude for what she does for the community.”

Snaden became involved in local politics after the school district received a shooting threat in 2017, shortly after the dreadful shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Her husband said since so little information was available, his wife helped organize a town hall-style event for residents to get the information they needed.

Kathianne Snaden, right, at the annual Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson. Photos by Kyle Barr.

Running for trustee in 2018, Snaden lost by only four votes, though instead of bowing out, she refocused her efforts, attending numerous board meetings and becoming even more involved in village activities. 

Garant said one moment, in particular, this year exemplified Snaden’s passion for the community. When a tragic incident at Port Jeff Liquors in October saw a man shot after nearly assaulting the owner with a sword, Snaden, along with fellow trustee Stan Loucks, was there soon after the police, calling the school district constantly as she knew there was a bus that usually drops off students in front of the library’s teen center. 

“Her response was immediate, her communication with the school district was immediate,” the mayor said.

As a mother of three, with one child in each of the Port Jefferson School District’s three buildings, she started her public office career with children and young parents in mind, her husband said, looking to bridge the oft-perceived disconnect between the district and village.

Attempts to bridge that gap was epitomized with the recent homecoming celebration, one that Snaden helped facilitate. PJSD trustee Tracy Zamek worked with Snaden on the celebrations that brought hundreds of students and alumni to Caroline Field. Zamek said she has found more collaboration between village and district since Snaden came on board.

“I feel like she’s a connection with the school, she’s the liaison someone I can go to, bringing ideas or issues,” she said. “Homecoming was a great school community event that helped build that bridge between the village and the school. I look forward to continuing to build that bridge, and I think trustee Snaden will be a key piece in building it as well.”

 

Donna Smith, director of education at Three Village Historical Society, welcomes every fourth-grade class in the Three Village school district to the Setauket Elementary School’s auditorium. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

The Three Village area is filled with history and no one knows this better than educator Donna Smith.

A former four grade teacher at Setauket Elementary School and the current director of education at the Three Village Historical Society, Smith has gone above and beyond to ensure that residents of all ages are educated on the importance of the area’s history. In addition to her work with the historical society, she is also an active member of Stony Brook Community Church, where her co-lay leader Gail Chase described her as “an energizer bunny,” who just keeps going and going. 

Smith’s daughter, Kerri, credits her mother’s energy to being young at heart. Describing her mother as her best friend, she said Smith, who grew up in Stony Brook and still lives in the hamlet, loves connecting with the community, especially when it comes to sharing her knowledge of local history.

Smith dresses as Alice Parsons. who went missing in Stony Brook in 1937, for the 2018 Spirits Tour. Photos from Three Village Historical Society

The subject was often a point of conversation in the Smith home, where Kerri, who is now a history teacher, said she and her brother Brendan heard many history stories from their mother and father, James. Kerri Smith said she feels her mother developed her passion for the subject growing up with a father who was passionate about education and giving back to the community.

“I think it was just growing up here and having a fascination with understanding our roots and sharing that with other people,” her daughter said.

Beverly Tyler, TVHS historian, has known Smith since the 1990s when she invited him to talk to her fourth-grade students. One of her projects involved the children choosing a historic house in the community and learning more about it. They would often ask the homeowners questions, but when they weren’t available, they would talk to Tyler — or if they chose a church or library, someone associated with the entity.

During her tenure with the school district, Smith and Tyler worked together on a countrywide/local history manual project called Pathways through the American Association for State and Local History.

Smith was about to retire from teaching when her husband died in 2005, so she decided to remain with the school district for another few years. For the 350th anniversary of the Town of Brookhaven, Tyler said she invited all fourth-graders in the town to the Village Green to be part of the reenactment of Native Americans signing over their territory. The day inspired the Founders Day program, where Smith and Tyler joined forces with town historian Barbara Russell. Tyler said Smith was instrumental in convincing the school district that the program was important.

The duo later added a walking tour of various historical properties in the area to the project and, for a period of time, the auditorium of Setauket Elementary School was opened for all to view the Vance Locke murals depicting local history.

This summer, the American Association for State and Local History presented an award of excellence to the historical society for the program.

“The person who really coalesces this together was Donna,” Tyler said. “She’s the teacher. She’s the one who knows how to ask the right questions, how to pose things and do it in a way that would reach the kids.”

Smith continues to educate through her work at the historical society with in-school programs that at times can have 50 children on the Woodhull walking tours, where Tyler and Smith teach one class each.

“She’s been very instrumental in being the person who really helps to coordinate this whole activity with the kids in the school, and has gotten the educational program going in the Three Village Historical Society,” he said.

Donna Smith, right, with her daughter on Culper Spy Day. Photo by Micheal Rosengard

The local historian said Smith took history programs used by the society in the past and narrowed them down to the activities she knew people wanted. In conjunction with Betsy Knox, a librarian at R.C. Murphy Junior High School, Smith and Tyler worked with a history club at the school toward an updated Founders Day program geared at the junior high school level. They also work with high school students, using original historical documents and encouraging them to be active in the discussions.

“Without Donna it would have been impossible to do any of these programs,” Tyler said, adding she has an incredible grasp of teaching methods.

The historian said Smith worked with him on the book “Discover Setauket, Brookhaven’s Original Settlement,” and he said she was instrumental in producing the book and getting it to a point where it was more effective.

In addition to her work on the educational side of the historical society, Smith assists at many of its events and has played characters in the society’s annual Spirits Tour as well as at Culper Spy Day.

Chase agreed that Smith is impressive when it comes to history.

“She has certainly made that come alive, and she takes those responsibilities very seriously,” Chase said. “It’s a pleasure to watch her in action when she gives her talks about the local history and her involvement with the Culper Spy story.”

Chase said Smith’s passion for community extends beyond history with her church work, and added that she’s known the educator since the 1960s. As a co-lay leader, Smith sits in on every committee, and is co-chair of the church council and the church’s annual Apple Festival. In the past, she has also contributed to the church community as a Sunday school teacher and superintendent. 

“She had and has a very active life in the church and is very important to us,” Chase said.

Chase described Smith as outgoing, welcoming and loyal in her friendships.

“She really takes pleasure in doing things for other people, especially welcoming new members of the church,” Chase said. “If anyone is ill or having a tough time, she will often make them a dinner. She’s just a terrific person.”

 

The McMorris family leads a hike Sept. 30 through Manorville, finishing the trek their son Andrew started a year earlier.Photo by Kyle Barr

Nobody should have had to go through what the McMorris family did.

Yet, there are very few families that could have turned around and offered up a chance of hope, and an effort to give back.

John and Alisa McMorris at the Dec. 15 race. Photo by Kyle Barr

Alisa and John McMorris were there in the hospital with their 12-year-old son, Andrew, as he passed from injuries received by an alleged drunk driver while on a hike with his Boy Scout troop in 2018. The family’s names have appeared in the news every week as of late, as the trial against the driver progressed.

Yet their names have also appeared in the news for other reasons. The family has started a foundation in the name of Andrew which has raised money for the local school district and drunk driving advocacy groups. They have shown staunch support for nonprofit advocacy groups Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Through fundraisers and other community efforts, the Andrew McMorris Foundation has raised thousands for Boy Scouts of America, their own Troop 161, the school district, along with MADD and other organizations that look to stem the tide of drunk driving. This year, Alisa stood next to U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) in supporting bills to crack down on drunk and impaired driving, and the parents stood alongside MADD arguing to lower the blood alcohol limit for drunk drivers from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent.

The Shoreham-Wading River community has become so known to tragedy, but for those who live in the two interconnected hamlets, mourning has become an act of compassion and activism. As was the case of the Cutinella family, whose son Thomas died after another player struck his head during a football game, and for the family of Melissa Marchese, an 18-year-old Shoreham resident who died in a car crash earlier this year. Tom and Kelli Cutinella were honored by TBR News Media as People of the Year in 2017 for the work with the foundation named after Thomas.

“They sing Andrew’s song with their advocacy — make an impact and change the world as if he were here today.”

– Kelli Cutinella

Kelli Cutinella said she and her husband had known Alisa and John for years, but they had reached out to the McMorris family after their loss, looking to offer any help they may have needed. Kelli soon came to see their “strength and courage,” witnessing the McMorris clan create their own foundation much in the same way the Cutinellas created theirs. She added that after such a loss, one never truly gets closure, but it lets one move in another direction — toward meaningful change.

“When you lose your child, you feel very alone,” Kelli said. “They sing Andrew’s song with their advocacy — make an impact and change the world as if he were here today.”

Last year, the McMorris foundation granted two scholarships worth $750 each to graduating SWR high school students in Andrew’s honor.

Superintendent Gerard Poole and SWR school board president, Michael Lewis, said the McMorris family has long been active in the district for years, with Alisa having been a PTA leader and member of the legislative and bond committees. Poole said she had been instrumental in setting up a trip for students to Albany to advocate. Her advocacy led to the resurrection of a SADD club as well.

“The McMorris family has been incredibly active, supporting student programs,” Poole said. Alisa’s “been just a great part of the school community — involved in every aspect.”

John McMorris is an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 161, where Andrew had been an active and enthusiastic member. Jane Sherman, the committee chair of Troop 161, called the McMorrises one of the strongest couples she knows for taking their personal tragedy and then “looking out for the community.”

She said the McMorris foundation has already had several successful fundraising events, both from the community and internally, including a gala in September. The gala and other events have raised money for a new cabin in the Baiting Hollow Scout Camp named McMorris Lodge in honor of Andrew. The outside of the cabin is nearly fully complete, and most of the work is continuing on the inside of the shell.

“They’ve had such vision, and every day they’re knocking down goalposts,”
Sherman said.

But this is only the beginning, the Troop 161 committee chair said. As fundraising continues, and as the foundation builds more support, there are plans to produce scholarship for not just SWR, but the Riverhead and Miller Place school districts as well. John McMorris works as a guidance counselor at Miller Place.

“Scholarships for science, aviation, music, everything that Andrew loved,” Sherman said. “They’re just tremendous, not just by themselves,

A Walmart customer donates to Stan Feltman’s fundraising efforts for fellow veterans. Photo by Rita J. Egan

On a recent December morning, while many shoppers rushed into the Middle Island Walmart to take care of some holiday shopping, others paused in the vestibule to throw some money in a bucket.

The container sat in a shopping cart filled with articles and wartime photos that feature veteran Stan Feltman, 93, the man standing behind the cart. Feltman is a familiar face at the store as he stands there practically every day, all year long, collecting money for his fellow veterans with the recognizable red poppies in his hand. Some days he takes a break, but only from his usual spot. He then moves on to collect money at the Walmart in Centereach or East Setauket.

Feltman said he’s met so many generous people through the years. He usually can collect between $80 and $100 after standing there for two hours. One day a gentleman shook his hand and noticed he was cold and bought him a jacket from the store. One woman gave him a $20 bill one day saying it was for him to keep.

“I took the $20, and when she left I threw it in the pot,” he said. “I don’t need the money.”

A member of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, Feltman brings the donations to the post’s monthly meetings where he and his fellow members decide where the money should go. Post Comdr. Norman Weitz said over the last few years they have been able to donate more than $21,000 thanks to Feltman’s fundraising efforts. The post is a regular contributor to many veterans efforts, including the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University.

“A common theme you will see in the veterans community is that veterans are dedicated to giving back to helping other veterans.”

– Jonathan Spier

In 2017, the post donated $5,000 to LISVH. Jonathan Spier, deputy executive director of the vets home, said the donation was used to purchase oxygen concentrators for the patients. He said the JWV has been a partner with the home for more than 20 years and other donations from them have been used for recreational therapy programs. The post also assists Jewish vets to attend Shabbat and holiday services.

“A common theme you will see in the veterans community is that veterans are dedicated to giving back to helping other veterans,” he said.

Spier added he is in awe of Feltman’s fundraising efforts.

“It’s really incredible to see that passion and that energy and the effort that he puts in to help veterans,” he said.

As for his war record, Feltman was a B-29 tail gunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1945. He was a double ace, meaning he shot down 10 enemy planes. Weitz said he admires Feltman, who one time when he was shot down had to escape on a raft. When Feltman’s fellow soldier slipped off the raft into shark-infested waters, he dived down to save him and grabbed him by the collar. Feltman earned the Bronze Star Medal for saving the man’s life. The medal wasn’t the only one earned during his service, as he gained four medals in total throughout his time in the Air Corps, even though they are no longer in his possession.

“My wife was so proud of them when she passed away, I put them in her coffin,” he said.

Weitz said he believes there are more heroic acts that Feltman doesn’t talk about, and the office of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is trying to see if his medals can be replaced by writing to the Air Force Historical Research Agency, which has access to after-action reports. The post commander has also nominated Feltman for membership in the Legion of Honor of The Chapel of Four Chaplains, which recognizes veterans who have gone above and beyond their required duties and contribute to their community.

In addition to raising money for veterans, Feltman has participated in lectures at schools and senior groups, including Erasmus Hall High School where he attended while growing up in Brooklyn. He also has been interviewed for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, an initiative established to collect and preserve firsthand remembrances of wartime veterans.

Weitz calls Feltman amazing and said he is worthy of all the accolades he has received.

“The record amount of money he’s collected allows us to distribute thousands and thousands to local veterans organizations,” he said.

Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen pose for a photo during a beach cleanup at Cedar Beach last August. Photo by Kyle Barr

Approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans each year, according to the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy. Long Islanders have seen what plastic waste can do to their waterways and beaches firsthand.

Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen, two 14-year-old twins from Selden, wanted to change that and in July 2019 they created a beach cleanup initiative fittingly called the Beach Bucket Brigade.

Throughout the summer, the duo hosted seven beach cleanups, and with the help of about 300 volunteers they were able to remove more than 23,500 pieces of litter off Long Island beaches — 45 percent of that was plastic waste.

The sisters said now that they are not too focused and busy planning events, they’ve been able to reflect on the success they’ve accomplished these past few months.

“We are ecstatic, everything has gone so well, and everyone has been so supportive of us,” Cayla said.

From a young age, the sisters have had a keen interest in the environment, nature and animals. They said they would go out on their own and do cleanups and wanted to see if they could get more people involved.

“They really thought of everything, they’ve done this all on their own and really made their vision a reality.”

– Jane Bonner

“We had the idea for a couple of months and we wanted to find a way to get the community involved,” Iris said. “We reached out to the Town [of Brookhaven] and they liked what we had in mind.”

Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) said it was great seeing young people take the initiative for a good cause.

“The presentation they gave us was so well done, we were immediately all on board and wanted to help in any way we could,” LaValle said. “It has been a great collaboration and the whole program/initiative really sets up well for the future.”

One of the events hosted by the twins included a Beach Bucket Brigade Books at the Beach event that involved a story time for young kids before heading out to clean the beach. At all cleanups, for each bucket of trash volunteers returned they were given a raffle ticket in which they could win eco-friendly prizes, recycled toys and products donated by a number of local businesses.

“They really thought of everything,” said Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who attended one of the beach cleanups at Cedar Beach back in August. “They’ve done this all on their own and really made their vision a reality.”

For the duo’s effort, the town honored them by making Sept. 12 Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen Day. They also appointed them to the youth board, which advises the Brookhaven Youth Bureau about issues affecting young people.

The twin sisters said they have already begun formulating ideas and events for next spring and summer. They also stressed that there are small things people can do to alleviate the abundance of plastic waste.

“What kind of eco-friendly [New Year’s] resolution are you going to make?” they said. “Everybody can do their part and cut out the amount of plastic they use.”

Like LaValle, Bonner has been impressed with what the Rosenhagen twins have accomplished.

“We have been blown away by their presence and passion, this is not the last time you will hear of Cayla and Iris — they are going places and they have a bright future,” Bonner said.

To find more information about Beach Bucket Brigade and future events visit their Facebook page.