Amid picturesque weather, a convoy of fire trucks, tractors, music and dance groups and assorted vehicles marched through the streets of Port Jefferson for this year’s annual Fourth of July parade.
Hosted by the local fire department, the procession included a large collection of first responders. Joining PJFD were fire departments and ambulance corps representing Terryville, Setauket, Mount Sinai and Centereach, among many others.
Also in attendance were dance groups that twirled and danced between fire units. In a strong display of patriotism, various community groups, volunteer organizations and hospital employees made appearances as well.
Hundreds of spectators lined the village blocks to watch the spectacle as it unfolded during the late morning. The parade lasted nearly two hours in its entirety.
The Centereach Fire Department, Station #3, 3 Rudy Way, Centereach hosts a blood drive on Wednesday, Sept. 15 from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m. All donors will receive a 9/11 commutative t-shirt and pin. Appointments preferred by calling 1-800-933-2566 but walk-ins welcome. For further information, call 631-245-1614.
Two neighboring hamlets joined forces last week to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. On March 6, the Centereach and Selden fire departmentsalong with the Centereach Civic Association hosted a St. Baldrick’s Day event at the Selden Fire Department’s main firehouse.
Over 100 Centereach and Selden residents attended the event, and barbers and hairdressers from Rockabilly in Stony Brook and Blondie’s Salon in Centereach were on hand to shave the heads of men, women and children for a good cause. In total, over $23,000 was raised. The night included food, raffles and a performance by Irish step dancers from Mulvihill-Lynch Studio of Irish Dance.
Rob Wilson, Centereach resident and event coordinator, said he has been involved in St. Baldrick’s event for the past 18 years as either a shavee or a volunteer.
“We usually host this at the Centereach Fire Department but they are under construction, so our neighbors from the east were gracious enough to host it this year,” he said.
Wilson said they are shaving their heads in solidarity for those who are battling cancer and going through chemotherapy.
“The money we raise will fund childhood cancer research; we want to give those kids more holidays and more birthdays,” he said.
Diane Caudullo, president of the Centereach Civic Association, was glad everyone came out for the event.
“Every year this crowd comes out. This is a phenomenal turnout,” she said.
Wilson had similar thoughts.
“We are always together, we are two separate hamlets but one big community,” he said.
Candidates for fire commissioners in both the Centereach and Selden fire districts were on hand at the Nov. 20 Centereach Civic Association meeting, which was held in conjunction with the Selden Civic Association at the Selden firehouse, to introduce themselves to residents. On Dec. 10, residents will be able to vote for one fire commissioner in each district for a five-year term.
Centereach Fire District
Incumbent Thomas Doyle
Thomas Doyle is seeking reelection in this year’s election. Doyle has also been the chairman of the board of fire commissioners for the past three years.
He said highlights of his time as commissioner include helping to improve the district’s bond rating from A1 to AAA, being fiscally responsible and staying within budget each year.
Doyle has been a Lake Grove resident since 2003 and is committed to protecting and being accountable to the people of the Centereach and Lake Grove communities.
Challenger Cathy Padro
Cathy Padro said she is running for the fire commissioner position to make the fire district more responsive to community residents and fire department members alike.
A longtime resident of Centereach and Lake Grove, she has been a member of the fire department for five years. She is EMT certified, serves as a member of the training staff and is an adviser to the department’s junior company.
Padro is active in the community, having served as a school PTA member and as a religion teacher at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary R.C. Church for over 10 years.
She has championed the Teddy Bear Clinic sponsored by the district and held at local schools. If elected, Padro is committed to restoring this program, which was recently scaled back. She believes training for members should be expanded and the ongoing building renovation project completed in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner.
Selden Fire District
Incumbent Robert McConville
Robert McConville has served as fire commissioner for the past 10 years and has been the chairman of the board for the past eight. He is seeking another five-year term.
McConville has been a 37-year member of the Selden Fire Department and a 52-year member of the Suffolk County Volunteer Fire Service.
McConville said everything the board of fire commissioners does is a group effort. He touted the “great inroads” the department has made in the last five years. Highlights include overhauling the department’s existing fleet, continuing to have some of the best trained firefighters and overseeing one of the busiest volunteer firefighter departments in the state.
Challenger William Xikis
Looking to unseat McConville for the fire commissioner position, William Xikis has been a Selden native for over 45 years and has deep roots in the community. He has been a 34-year member of the Selden Fire Department and is an active member of the fire district.
Xikis served as the chief of the Selden Fire Department in 2005, 2006, 2017
He said that one of his goals during his tenure as chief of the department was to have better communication with the board of fire commissioners.
In the role of commissioner, he will make sure tax dollars are spent judicially and ensure they continue to have a strong support system.
Centereach residents can vote at the fire district headquarters located at 9 South Washington Ave. Dec. 10. Polls will be open from 2 to 9 p.m.
Selden residents will vote at the main firehouse on Woodmere Place from 3 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10.
There will also be a resolution where residents will be asked to vote on the purchase of an aerial/ladder truck at an estimated maximum cost of $1,600,000, authorizing the financing by an installment purchase contract for the purchase price over a maximum five-year term of level payments at an interest rate of 3.12 percent.
Centereach residents joined members of their fire department to remember those who were lost Sept, 11, 2001 in a memorial ceremony.
Held at the Centreach Fire Department’s headquarters on South Washington Avenue Sept. 11, the ceremony began with firefighter Bryan Elsesser singing the national anthem.
In addition to board of fire commissioners Chairman Thomas Doyle’s address to the crowd, a musical performance was provided by members of the Centereach High School Choir and a candlelight ceremony honored those who died.
Talat Hamdani was the first to light a candle in honor of her son Mohammad Salman Hamdani, who was a New York Police Department cadet and a first responder at Ground Zero.
After the ceremony, the fire department provided hamburgers, hot dogs and refreshments for those in attendance.
On March 22, the Centereach Civic Association hosted a St. Baldrick’s Day event at the Centereach Fire Department’s main firehouse on Washington Avenue.
The night included head shaving to raise money for pediatric cancer, and barbers and hairdressers from Rockabilly in Stony Brook and Blondie’s Salon in Centereach were on hand to shave the heads of men, women and children.
The event also included food, raffles and a performance by Irish step dancers from the Mulvihill-Lynch Studio of Irish Dance. A grand total of $28,608 was raised.
AnnMarie Pszybylski, from St. James, said she was prepared to have her head shaved March 20 at an event at R.C. Murphy Junior High School in Stony Brook to raise money for Alexa, a Murphy student who is a cancer survivor. When she found out the event was only for students, she reached out to the organizer of the Centereach event, Jennifer Bielmeier Dickson, to see if she could get her head shaved there and donate the money to Alexa’s team. The answer was yes.
“These children are the brave ones and the strong ones,” Pszybylski said. “If I was able to help in some small way, I’m thrilled and blessed.”
Pszybylski said when she arrived at the firehouse she met the team Soul Sisters for Sophia comprised of shavees Diane Miller, Liann Dennis, Linda Esposito-Azmitia andLisette Robustelli and volunteers Susan Smith and Renata Ptak. The women, who were raising money for a Dawnwood Middle School student named Sophia diagnosed with stage three nasopharyngeal carcinoma in December, invited her to get her head shaved with them. Miller said her team raised nearly $8,000, with Robustelli raisingmore than $2,500 of the amount.
Living near Centereach Fire Department for the past 15 years, I have had my share of sirens and fire engines and ambulances driving past my house. There have also been many cold December nights with my kids waiting for the parade of fire trucks and Santa to make their way through the neighborhood with candy canes and cheer.
I always knew I could count on the volunteers to be there. I would think, “What a great bunch of people who are always going no matter what time of day it was.” I wondered why are they always rushing around for? Where are they going? Who are these people? Is this their full-time job?
Driving down my block one day, I noticed a huge sign in front of the fire department that read, “EMS and firefighters needed! Help your community. Inquire at the fire department.” I read the words and took that as a sign they were talking directly to me. This was the opportunity to get some answers about this organization. Being the curious and adventurous person that I am, I had no problem putting my blinker on and turning into the fire department parking lot.
I was like a kid in a candy shop as I walked into the beautiful red brick building with gleaming red fire trucks, ambulances and first responder vehicles. My heart was racing at the thought of meeting the people behind the sirens that went day and night. To this day, I don’t remember much of the process that happened inside; it’s all a corny, fuzzy memory now. But what I do remember is, as I left the building, I stopped in the middle of the parking lot, looked back over my shoulder at the impressive apparatus and thought, “Did I just sign up for the fire department? Am I going to be one of them? How am I going to make a difference here?” Sure enough, soon the call came from the chief letting me know my application was accepted. That’s where my journey began.
That first night I was given my gear, assigned to a company and given my training schedule. I was nervous, but to this day I have never regretted my decision to step up to the plate and help my community. The unsettled fear and nervousness turned into excitement and adrenaline the first time I stepped onto the ambulance and knew someone was in need of help. I finally had the answer as to who the people behind the sirens were — they were people like me. Ordinary people with families, young and old, single moms and dads, college students, business professionals. All ordinary people with one passion — volunteering their time to help their community.
I have always had a passion for helping people, but never thought in my wildest dreams that I could do so through the fire department. I kick myself for not joining years ago. Don’t get me wrong — being a member is not a piece of cake. The training is intense, we don’t always get along — as with many families — and some nights you could question your decision. But for the most part, there is encouragement and support behind those red bricks, and I can’t even list the countless friendships I have created. If you’re really in tune, you will realize a sense of accomplishment and growth within yourself that you probably never knew you had.
It took me one week in the department to know I needed to up my game and my training. Having a full-time job and being a single parent, I started night school and within three months was certified as an emergency medical technician. Within the next year, I stepped up my game further and went firematic and learned the firefighting side of the department. I am a 50-year-old female, and I am proud to say I am a volunteer interior firefighter and EMT for the Centereach Fire Department. I’m also proud to say my son has followed in my footsteps and is also an EMT and firefighter in the department.
My training will never stop, and I look forward to every minute of it. I love what I do. If you ever thought you’d like to do it but had doubts or apprehension, inquire at your local fire department. You might find this is a perfect time to reinvent yourself.
Tanya Lee is director of sales and marketing for Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, and volunteer firefighter and EMT for Centereach Fire Department. She is also a former resident of Smithtown and Hauppauge.
On Aug. 23, the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook hosted a 4-on-4 volleyball tournament with local fire departments, including Setauket, Centereach and Selden, competing to win and raise money for the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation. The money raised will help to buy “bailout systems,” which are personal escape kits, for fire departments in need all over the country.
The winners of the $1,000 prize money were members of New York City Fire Department’s Watkins Station Engine 231/Ladder 120 — Darren Fenton, Patrick Tulley, Connor Norman and Anthony Edrehi. The tournament winners and John-Paul Sabbagh, from the Terryville Fire Department who won the event’s 50/50 raffle, donated their winnings back to the foundation.
The event cost $20 to enter, and the tournament was judged by John Tsunis, owner of the hotel; Joe DiBernardo Sr.; and Leah Dunaief, publisher of Times Beacon Record News Media. Dan Keller from Stony Brook University’s athletics department served as referee.
Tsunis said the hotel hopes to make the tournament an annual event, adding, “It was a lot of fun to have all the firefighters there and all the community members we recruited to play.”
On the night before St. Patrick’s Day, hair rained down onto the floor of Centereach Fire Department. People clapped and cheered as blonde, brown and even green-dyed hair fell from amused faces before being swept away during the annual St. Baldrick’s charity event to raise money for childhood cancer research March 16.
Area local Aimee Jackson watched her teenage son Zachary get shaved, the first head of the night to go bald. It was his fourth time participating, and every year the duo has tried to raise more and more money.
“The first time he did it he was little — 5 years old — we both did it,” she said. “He’s shaving in honor of his twin brother, Kendall, who passed away just before their fifth birthday.”
The Middle Country Youth Civic Association and Centereach Fire Department joined with local sponsors to host the fourth annual event. Before the buzzer even started sounding, the team of brave bald-headed
community members raised close to $30,000. By Monday, the event had raised over $47,000, close to twice the original $25,000 goal, according to event organizer Doug Dickson. The largest donor was 12-year-old Austin Vero, who raised over $15,000 alone.
“Thank God for our barbers — with all the hair on the ground, they bring their own guys, they’re sweeping all the time,” Dickson said, laughingly.
The night was full of Irish flavor with the inclusion of FDNY Emerald Society bagpipers and Irish step dancers from Mulvihill-Lynch Studio of Irish Dance in Lake Ronkonkoma. Attendees were decked in green from head to toe, including Rob “Squid” Wilson, who was one of many prospective head-shavers to dye their hair green.
Wilson has been hosting local St. Baldrick’s events for 16 years. This year, he dressed in a bright green shamrock coat and a green tiara.
“My team is the Squid and the Squires,” Wilson said. “Each team is a bunch of clowns like us who are doing it for the right reasons.”
He and his friend Tom Duffy have been involved and shaved their heads every year since their first rodeo.
“It’s important to show kids it’s not a big deal to get their heads shaved,” Duffy said. “My big thing is I feel if [scientists] can cure cancer with kids — they can cure cancer.”
Several staff members at the fire department joined in the shaving spirit, including Assistant Chief Joseph Feola.
“It’s a huge event — one of the bigger events we have,” Feola said. “It’s great to see all this support from the community.”
Nine barbers and hairdressers volunteered their time to shave heads, including the owner of Rockabilly Barbers of Stony Brook’s Vinnie Ferrara. He and his crew of barbers have also been involved in the event for 16 years.
“The greatest thing about it is that we’ve been doing it for so long and seen so much money raised,” Ferrara said. “It just goes to a great cause.”
“The people are so into it,” owner of Centereach-based Blondie’s Creations Inc. Mary Beth Mastando said. She and her team have been shaving heads at the event for three years.
“The community gets together, and everybody helps,” Mastando said. “They’re excited to be shaving their head, and I’m the one doing it, so that’s pretty cool.”
The Centereach St. Baldrick’s organizers are accepting donations until next year’s event. To join in the cause, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/10953/2018.