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Donations

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club is just one of many rotaries across Long Island with the goal to donate a million masks worldwide. Photo from Bob Huttemeyer

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club joined other Long Island-based rotaries to help people in need of masks earlier this month to gather and distribute masks to people who need them in their local communities. 

In a campaign called The Million Mask Challenge — originally created by Rotary International — the Port Jeff Rotary joined 40 other rotaries from district 7255 to gather their share of masks. The goal is to distribute a million masks to those in need worldwide. 

According to Bob Huttemeyer, program coordinator of the rotary, the district that includes Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens, gathered in Hicksville on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to pick up almost 4,000 masks. They also ordered 5,000 more. 

Huttemeyer said that as of right now, they distributed the masks to 24 different local organizations and groups who could use extra masks. 

“Everyone was excited to fill a need,” he added. “We were happy to bring this to the local community.”

The rotary, like the others across the island, devote their time and services to helping the community. Huttemeyer said that throughout the pandemic, they raised more than $12,500 to donate to Open Cupboard Food Pantry.

“If there’s more to be had,” he said, “We’re there to help.”

Huttemeyer said that the local rotary is an organization that brings so much to the community and will continue to gather and distribute masks to meet the one-million mark. He added that are always looking for new members or donations. 

Right now, the Port Jefferson Rotary is holding small, in-person and hybrid meetings at Café Spiga in Mount Sinai on Tuesdays at 12:15 p.m. 

To make a donation to the Port Jefferson Rotary, you can mail a check to PO Box 461, Port Jefferson, NY, 11777 or visit portjeffrotary.org.

A sharing table at Heritage Park. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher and Rita J. Egan

Give a little, take a little — sharing is caring. 

A new phenomenon that has made its way across Long Island — and now the country — is a discreet way to help those in need. 

The Sharing Tables concept, of New York and California, was started up in November by a Seaford mom and her young daughter. 

“I woke up on Sunday, Nov. 22, and me and my 6-year-old daughter didn’t have anything to do that day,” Mary Kate Tischler, founder of the group, said. “We went through our cabinets, got some stuff from the grocery store and started publicizing the table on Facebook.”

The Sharing Table is a simple concept, according to her: “Take what you need and leave what you can, if you can.”

Tischler, who grew up in Stony Brook, said the idea is that whoever sets up a table in front of their home or business will put items out that people might need, with the community coming together to replenish it.

“The very first day people were taking things and dropping things off,” she said. “It was working just as it was supposed to.”

When the table is set up, organizers put out anything and everything a person might need. Some put out nonperishable foods, some put toiletries. Others put toys and books, with some tables having unworn clothing and shoes. No one mans the table. It’s just out front, where someone can discreetly visit and grab what they need.

“Since there’s no one that stands behind the table, people can come up anonymously and take the item without identifying themselves or asking any questions,” Tischler said. ”Some of our neighbors are in a tough time where they can’t pay their bills. I think the Sharing Tables are really helping fill those needs.”

And they’re popping up everywhere. In just three months, the group has nearly 30 Sharing Tables in New York, with one just launched in Santa Monica, California.

Mount Sinai

From clothing to toys, to food and books, Sharing Tables, like the one pictured here in Mount Sinai, are a way to help in a discreet and anonymous way. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Sunday, Jan. 18, a Sharing Table was put outside the Heritage Trust building at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

Victoria Hazan, president of the trust, said she saw the Sharing Tables on social media and knew that the local community needed one, too.

“It was nothing but good, positive vibes,” she said.

When she set up the table with dozens of different items that were donated, people already started pulling up to either grab something they needed or donate to the cause.

“Some people are shy,” Hazan said. “What’s great is that you set up the table and walk away. There’s no judgement and no questions asked.”

What’s available at the tables will vary by community and what donations come in.

“The response from the community blew my mind totally,” Hazan said. “This was the right time to do this.”

St. James

Joanne Evangelist, of St. James, was the first person in Suffolk County to set up a Sharing Table, and soon after, other residents in the county followed.

The wife and mother of two said it was the end of the Christmas season when she was cleaning out drawers and her pantry. On the Facebook page Smithtown Freecycle, she posted that she had stuff to give away if anyone wanted it, but she would find sometimes people wouldn’t show up after she put something aside for them.

“So, I put it on a table outside — not even knowing about the group or thinking anything of it,” she said, adding she would post what was outside on the freecycle page.

Joanne Evangelist stands by her table in St. James filled with food, cleaning supplies and more. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tischler saw the Smithtown Freecycle post and reached out to Evangelist to see if she would be interested in setting up a Sharing Table. The St. James woman thought it was a good idea when she heard it. While Evangelist regularly has food, toiletries, cleaning products and baby products on the table, from time to time there will be clothing, toys and other random items. Recently, she held a coat drive and the outwear was donated to Lighthouse Mission in Bellport, which helps those with food insecurities and the homeless.

She said she keeps the table outside on her front lawn all day long, even at night, unless it’s going to rain, or the temperatures dip too low. People can pick up items at any time, and she said no one is questioned.

Evangelist said she also keeps a box out for donations so she can organize them on the table later on in the day, and the response from local residents wanting to drop off items has been touching.

She said helping out others is something she always liked to do. 

“I was a candy striper in the hospital when I was younger,” she said. “I just always loved volunteering, and I’m a stay-at-home mom, so, honestly anything I could do … especially with the pandemic.”

Evangelist said she understands what people go through during tough financial times.

“I’ve used a pantry before, so I know the feeling,” she said. “I know the embarrassment of it.”

Northport

Lisa Conway, of Northport, and two of her five children, Aidan, 16, and Kate, 14, set up a Sharing Table after their garage was burglarized on New Year’s Eve.

Conway said her children, who attend St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, were looking for a community outreach project. She had seen a post about the Sharing Tables on Facebook and was considering starting one, but she was debating how involved it would be.

Then the Conway’s garage was burglarized where thousands of dollars of tools were stolen, an electric skateboard, dirt bike and more including a generator that was taken from the basement. The wife and mother said the family felt fortunate that the robbers didn’t enter the main part of the house.

Conway said after the experience she realized that some people need to steal to get what they need and decided the Sharing Table would be a good idea.

“They can come take what they need without having to steal from anyone,” she said.

Her children have been helping to organize the items they receive, and every day Aidan will set everything up before school and clean up at night. He said it’s no big deal as it takes just a few minutes each day.

Aidan said there have been more givers than takers.

“People are a lot more generous than what I expected them to be,” he said.

The mother and son said they have been touched by the generosity of their fellow residents. Conway said she’s been using the Nextdoor app mostly to generate contributions. She said she started posting on the app to let people know what they needed for the table. One day after a posting indicating they needed cleaning supplies for the table, they woke up to find the items outside.

The family has also received a $200 Amazon gift card to buy items, and another person bought them a canopy to protect the table. 

Conway said every once in a while, she will be outside when people are picking up items. One woman told her how she drove from Nassau County. Her husband was suffering from three different types of cancer, and he couldn’t work due to his compromised immune system. She told her how they had to pay the bills first, and then if there was money left over they could buy food.

Another day Conway went outside to see that someone had left gum and mints on the table.

“I just was so touched by that,” the mother said. “They wanted to leave something they didn’t just want to take, and that’s all they had.”

Conway said it’s a learning experience for her children to know that there are people on public assistance who can’t use the funds for items such as paper goods or cleaning items, and there are others who are struggling but not eligible for any kind of assistance.

“My youngest one is 9, and even he can’t believe when he sees people pulling up,” she said. “He’s not really in the helping phase but I love that he’s seeing what we’re doing.”

Aidan agreed that it is an important learning experience. He said before he wasn’t familiar with those who had financial issues.

“It’s not good to know that there are people out there with financial issues, but it’s good to know that you can help them,” he said.

Conway said the Sharing Tables came around at the right time as she was suffering from “COVID fatigue,” and it changed her outlook on life.

“I feel like my faith in humanity has been restored,” she said.

How you can help

Tischler said that if people would like to donate but cannot get to a Sharing Table, there is an Amazon wish list on the group’s Facebook page. Items ordered through the site will be delivered to Tischler’s home, where she will personally deliver to the Sharing Tables across Long Island. Addresses for locations are listed on the Facebook page.

“It’s been such a whirlwind,” she added. “I have to stop and pinch myself and take stock of what’s happening.”

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Dear Friends and Supporters,

Rick Giovan

I am proud to contribute my time and energy as a Lion in support of many local charities. As a member I am able to help sponsor a guide dog, aid local veterans, support charities like Lions Eye Bank, Meals on Wheels, and Angela’s House. Most rewarding has been our food basket drive where we deliver groceries to families in need during the winter holidays. A typical delivery is to a single mom with several children living in a small apartment nearby. These families are so thankful to get this food.

We will be going out this year on Saturday, Dec. 12 and we need your financial support. Last year our food bill was nearly $10,000 and we helped about 100 families and a local shelter.

I’m asking members of our local community, both businesses and individuals, to support our worthwhile project by sending a check to the Port Jefferson Lions Club, PO Box 202, Port Jefferson, NY 11777, Attn. food baskets. Suggested sponsorship is $50. Any amount will be much appreciated.

Thanks for your support.

Stony Brook Trauma Center staff member Colby Rowe and Wang Center Building Manager Scott LaMarsh accept donations for the COVID-19 Donation Center. Photo from SBU

Grateful for donations ranging from chapstick to gum to tissues and coveted personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and goggles, Stony Brook University is asking for residents to donate iPads, which they plan to repurpose to provide more telehealth services to the community.

Stony Brook Trauma Center staff member Colby Rowe and Wang Center Building Manager Scott LaMarsh accept donations for the COVID-19 Donation Center. Photo from SBU

The university asked for donations starting on Sunday and has received a constant stream of email requests to deliver goods to help the medical staff that are offering vital comfort and care during the coronavirus crisis. Interested donors can contact Joan Dickinson, the Stony Brook University Community Relations Director at [email protected]stonybrookmedicine.edu or call (631) 219-0603.

Stony Brook is asking donors to clean the device, reset it and place it in a ziplock bag with a usable power chord.

Telehealth medical services will “reduce the need for personal protective equipment,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson has requested that interested donors make an appointment before bringing any items to support the busy medical community. Community members can make donations between 10 am and 1 pm.

“Even though we’re asking the public to respond, we are very diligent about social distancing and everyone’s safety,” Dickinson said.

For anyone who might get the urge to make a home cooked meal or bring in cookies made from scratch, Dickinson said the school appreciates the gesture but can’t accept any such personalized dishes, as they seek to protect staff. The school can is accepting pre-packaged food.

People who don’t have access to medical supplies or comfort items they can donate can send in video messages. Indeed, numerous community members have shared messages of thanks.

The variety of home-made donations has delighted and surprised Dickinson. People have sent in knitted stress balls and crocheted blankets, as well as hand-made masks.

“All the donations are evaluated by folks from environmental health and safety,” Dickinson said. A mask that’s “not surgical grade wouldn’t make it into an operating room, but there are other uses.”

The donation channel started because community leaders eager to help reached out to Dickinson, whose job in community relations has put her in touch with these groups over the years.

“We decided we better put a process in place so everybody stays safe and we know what’s coming in,” Dickinson said.

Donors can bring their contributions into the assigned building or can leave it in the parking lot if they want to minimize contact or don’t want to enter a building.

When Dickinson logs off each night, she comes back to her computer the next morning to find over 100 requests for donation times in her email.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

The Three Village Civic Association and numerous Facebook groups have reached out to her on a regular basis to see what else she might need.

Dickinson said one of the many people who reached out to her expressed her appreciation for how Stony Brook reacted when she had an issue with the university. The resident was frustrated with equipment on campus that was causing a humming noise in her house.

“We were able to modify how much sound came out” of the equipment, Dickinson said. As the university manages through a crisis that strains their staff and resources, the resident said she wanted to return the favor.

The resident told Dickinson, “you were so helpful to me. Now, we want to help you,” Dickinson said.

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Robert Niedig, Robin Hoolahan and Sean Leister deliver bags of food to students who need it. The program is expected to continue as long as the schools remained closed. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though schools in the Port Jefferson area may be closed, districts have been working constantly to get food to the children who may need it now more than ever.

Volunteers and staff help deliver meals at both JFK Middle School and the Comsewogue High School March 19. Photo by Leigh Powell

Port Jefferson Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister and a few volunteers stood inside the high school’s cafeteria Friday, March 20. For the weekend, the district was handing out three meals, one for Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. 

The program is based on the district’s previous reduced cost lunch program, but now its being donated to anybody 18 or under free. Nobody has to sign up, and nobody at the door checks if the person lives within the district.

“The program is not restricted, it’s for any child 18 and under that feels they have a need,” Leister said.

When school was normally in session, Leister said the district had 110 students signed up for the program, where around 65 normally picked it up. In the last week or so, the district has been producing around 50 to 60 meals each day. Middle School Principal Robert Neidig has also volunteered to deliver to those resident’s houses who said they were unable to come out to pick their meals up. He said families have been really appreciative, even one young girl who comes to the door so excited to see the meals he’s brought.

“It’s like if I were delivering them candy,” Neidig said.

Each bag comes with a sandwich, bagel or wrap, along with fruit and milk. Any untaken meals are being given to Infant Jesus RC Church for them to distribute any remaining food.

Leister said the district has also applied to New York State to allow them to make breakfast and dinner meals as well. Local residents can get these meals at the Port Jefferson High school from 11 to 1 p.m. on weekdays.

Meanwhile in the Comsewogue school district, staff and a score of volunteers worked Thursday, March 19 at two separate schools to donate around 1,800 meals to children in need within the district.

Volunteers and staff help deliver meals at both JFK Middle School and the Comsewogue High School March 19. Photo by Jennifer Quinn

Comsewogue School District Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said the staff took everything from the schools cafeterias and even raided the faculty food pantry. Originally the district thought they would be able to only give out 1,100, but they went far above what they expected. 

This is one of the toughest things we’ve ever experienced — we will do what we need to do, together,” Quinn said. “We need to make sure our families are fed and our children are educated, and we are as whole as possible by the end of all this.”

Food included in bags were cold cuts, bread, apple sauce, juice, milk, cereal, cereal bars, and frozen hamburgers and meatballs. Staff and volunteers placed the bags inside the cars of those who drove up to the high school and JFK Middle School. Volunteers also drove meals to families who said they were unable to come by the two pickup locations.

There were around 30 volunteers who came by to offer aid. Quinn said they were offered aid by over 100 residents, but she felt she had to turn most away to try and reduce the chance of any kind of contagion.

The Comsewogue district is expecting nonprofit food bank Island Harvest to donate them another 300 meals come this Monday. Quinn added the district is likely to raid the cafeterias in the other schools, and should have another 1,100 meals after they receive aid from a New York State program giving food aid to schools during the mandated shutdown.

The Comsewogue School District is expecting to host its next bagged food drive Thursday, April 2.

 

The Community Food Council on East 5th Street in Huntington Station needs help. 

Over the last three months, the food pantry has seen a 33 percent increase in demand for groceries. 

The nonprofit, all-volunteer organization has been feeding the hungry of Huntington Township since 1972 and expects to provide over 40,000 meals this year. 

They need more volunteers, to pick up bread from Stop & Shop once a week on Tuesday and to work at the pantry. Typically, volunteers help for about two hours at least one day a month.  

If you and your club or organization want to help restock the shelves, the council is in particular need of chicken soup, peanut butter and jelly, pasta, sauce, toilet paper, etc. 

Religious organizations in the area, as well as a couple of food markets and restaurants, provide food or support to the pantry. The group is a member of Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, which both also provide food to  for the hungry. The council is looking for additional support. 

The pantry is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon to give out food and receive donations.

For more information contact Jackie or Steven at 631-351-1060 or email the council at [email protected] or visit www.comfoodcouncil.org. 

New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran announces a donation drive for furloughed government employees Jan. 10. Photo from Gaughran's office

As the federal government shutdown drags into the fourth week, Huntington area boaters and elected officials have come together to help provide relief to furloughed federal employees and their families.

The Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs, which represents more than 20 boat and watercraft organizations, announced Jan. 10 a gift card donation drive to help the U.S. Coast Guard personnel who safeguard the waters of the Long Island Sound.

“Year-round the brave and dedicated men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard stand ready to
respond to any emergency,” said Jackie Martin, executive officer of the boat council. “They continue to report to work even though they are not getting paid. They still have bills to pay and many have families to feed.”


Donations of food, personal hygiene items, household supplies, pet foods and gift cards for federal employees can be dropped off at:

• Gaughran’s District Office
   99-111South St., Suite 250
  Oyster Bay, NY

• Stop & Shop
   60 Wall St.
   Huntington, NY

• Long Island Cares
   220 Broadway
   Huntington Station, NY

• Long Island Cares
  10 Davids Drive
  Hauppauge, NY

Donations of gift cards for U.S. Coast Guard personnel can be sent to:

  The Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs
    P.O. Box 2124
    Halesite, NY 11743

All checks must be made payable to “Chief Petty Officer Association” with Shut Down Fund CT-NY in the memo line.

Martin said the idea for a gift card drive came from her husband who previously served in the U.S. Navy. She said he knew the Coast Guard personnel operating out of Eatons Neck and Hartford, Connecticut, are considered part of the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and, as a result, have not
received a paycheck since the shutdown began Dec. 22.

“He remembered how tough it was to live from paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “When you have a young family and are trying to live paycheck to paycheck it’s difficult.”

Coast Guard staff has cut back on all nonessential services but must be available to respond to emergency  situations. Some of its members travelfrom as far away as Jersey City to do four-day shifts at the base.

“There are people out there boating even in this weather,” Martin said. “There’s commercial fisherman and clammers out on our waterways.”

In addition to gift cards, the boating council will accept monetary donations to purchase gift cards to
be distributed among the Coast Guard by their respective commanders based on need.

Huntington’s boaters are not the only ones to have launched a donation drive in efforts to help out federal
employees in need. New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) made one of his first acts of
office Jan. 10 to announce a food and supplies drive alongside state Assemblyman Charles Lavine
(D-Glen Cove) at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, which has been shuttered by the government shutdown.

“Our federal workers don’t have the luxury of sacrificing their paychecks for an undetermined amount of time,” Gaughran said. “Federal workers on Long Island are now expected to choose between feeding their families or paying their mortgage.”

Gaughran and Lavine are working to set up a network of supermarket, business and offices to serve as
collection sites for donations to go to federal employees. Items being collected include food, personal care items, common household supplies, pet food and gift cards. He stressed that due to state laws the elected
officials and their offices cannot accept cash donations on behalf of federal workers.

The state senator said he started the initiative after speaking with Paule Pachter, chief executive officer of Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares food bank, who stressed that winter is often the most difficult season with the agency already helping approximately 450 families. Resources are quickly becoming stretched thin.

LI Cares will help collect and distribute food, personal hygiene items and other donations collected
to federal employees already directed to the agency through its channels, according to Gaughran.

“I hope this is a short food drive that it won’t be necessary for a long period of time,” he said.  “I hope the government in Washington, D.C., does its job and reopens soon.”

Robert Nasta from My Creperie prepares to leave for New York City and donate to the Homeless. Photo by Kyle Barr

It may be the season for lights, for holiday cheer and for family, but for many people across the North Shore, it’s also the time for giving to those who may not have the capability or money to participate in the holidays.

“My main hope is other people catch on, not necessarily the donating, but the dropping off, the doing,” said Robert Nasta, the co-owner of My Creperie in Wading River. “It’s one thing to think it, but it’s another thing to do it.”

Stacy Davidson holds the donation box for Holiday Magic. Photo by Kyle Barr

Below are some of the people and organizations in the area that have made it their mission to make others’ holidays a little brighter. While no one person could possibly support all at once, all those listed said they would appreciate support of any kind.

Stacy Davidson, the owner of Pattern Finders & Stacy’s Finds on East Main Street in Port Jefferson, is working with a number of businesses in the area to gather toys and clothes for the Hauppauge-based nonprofit Holiday Magic, which collects toys for homeless and underprivileged children all across Long Island.

Davidson said often these underprivileged or homeless children, beyond any other gift, only ask for a house.

“It’s very common, very common,” she said.

Davidson, along with Amazing Olive and Sea Creations near Main Street have set up a collection box for Holiday Magic, while Captain’s Lady Salon on Main Street has set up a donation box for Toys for Tots, a national program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Those who donate any new toys or clothing are also entered into a free raffle for a gift certificate applicable to all those participating stores. While Holiday Magic picks up the toys Dec. 12, participating stores said they will continue to accept gifts to be delivered directly to the toy drive.

Other places around Port Jeff have set up donation boxes, including the Visitors Center with a Toys for Tots donation box and the ice cream shop Sundaes in Port Jefferson Station, which has set up a donation box for Holiday Magic.

All across the North Shore both groups and individuals have made it their mission to help those in unfortunate circumstances, and the need never gets any smaller. Nasta spends his one day off a week giving out donated blankets, hats, gloves, socks, jackets as well as sandwiches and water to the homeless in New York City. He is accepting donations every day but Tuesday and said the clothing needs to be in decent, wearable condition and should be sent or dropped off at his business located at 2 Sound Road in Wading River.

“At the end of the day we’re all cut from the same wood,” the creperie owner said.

Kim Marino, a Miller Place resident and admin of the Facebook group North Shore (& beyond) Mamas & Daddies working as Angels, has been active since 2017 helping support families in need with food and other items, and this Christmas season she, along with Miller Place Boy Scout Troop 204 have helped close to 20 families. Marino is looking to get Christmas presents for the family of a single mother, who has two kids with special needs and lives with the family’s grandparents. Those who wish to assist Marino or donate can request to join the Facebook page or email Marino at [email protected]

Miller Place resident Rhonda Klch is helping to host the ninth annual Holiday Dreams event that raises funds and accepts donations to bring presents for an average of 250 needy families a year, the majority of which live in the Town of Brookhaven. The nonprofit Equity First Foundation, which runs Holiday Dreams, is hosting its pick-up party Dec. 22 at Recipe 7 in Miller Place from 9 to 11 a.m. Klch said the event already has 400 people preregistered, but those interested can still register online at www.holidaydreamsli.com or call 631-714-4822, ext. 102, to get a full list of items needed and for the official drop off locations. 

“At the end of the day we’re all cut from the same wood,”

—Robert Nasta

Some Long Island nonprofits are in dire need of donations this holiday season. The Bellport-based nonprofit Lighthouse Mission hosts mobile food outreaches all throughout Long Island, including Wednesdays at 12 p.m. in Rocky Point in the Knights of Columbus parking lot at 683 Route 25A and midday on Thursdays at the Port Jefferson Station Commuter Parking Lot at the corner of Hallock Road and Route 112.

Chloe Willoughby, the office manager for Lighthouse Mission, said the group’s need goes up considerably at the end of the year. In November the group supplied about 9,750 people with food, but she expects that number to rise past 10,000 in December.

Lighthouse Mission is in desperate need of both toys and clothes to give to underprivileged children. The group projects the need to provide toys to 1,500 kids, but only currently have around 450. They are especially in need of new, unopened toys, and toys for teenagers, whom she said often feel left out of these sorts of drives. In terms of clothing, they would need jackets and boots, which can either be new or used. If one wishes to donate to Lighthouse Mission you can call 631- 758-7584 or visit the main location at 1543 Montauk Highway in Bellport.

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Pallets filled with donated water and soda at Kings Park Fire Department. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

One sign of late Commack resident Christopher Raguso’s lasting impact on his community may be his ability to inspire hundreds of Kings Park residents and businesses to donate.

It’s what happens when one of our community is down, our community helps pick them up.”
— Tony Tanzi

Kings Park residents and area businesses donated supplies to help the Fire Department of the City of New York host funeral services for the U.S. airman and New York City and Commack firefighter March 31.

The FDNY reached out to the Kings Park Fire Department while planning for Raguso’s service, according to Kings Park Fire Chief John Gallo, requesting assistance to provide for the anticipated attendance between 3,000 and 15,000 mourners. It sought donations of bottled water, soda, food and paper goods to help feed the volunteer fighters and military personnel who would be attending the ceremony.

“As soon as we heard the terrible news, we were there to support them in whatever Commack or the Raguso family needed,” Gallo said.

 Kings Park Fire Department has provided this list of area businesses and organizations who donated or contributed to the funeral services held March 31:

Albrecht Viggiano Zureck & Company, P.C.
Ancient Order of Hibernians
Andersen’s Deli & Catering
Andrews Excavating Inc.
Bagel King
Baldor
Boy Scout Troop 410
Ciro’s Italian Restaurants & Catering
Cookies & More
Costco
Duke’s K9 Spa
Edelweiss Delicatessen & Caterers
Emilio’s Italian Kitchen
EMF Gourmet Italian Market
The Fresh Market
G Weld Fabrication & Welding Inc.
Home Depot
Key Food
Kings Park Chiropractic
Kings Park Fire Department
Kings Park Hardware
Kings Park Moms
Knights of Columbus
KP Construction
La Scala Ristorante
Long Island Cares
Liberty Mutual
Manhattan Beer
Milano Fine Men’s Fashion
New Beginnings
NY Auto Giant
Plycon Transportation Group
Pizzaiolo Gourmet Eatery
Prime Wine & Liquor
Relish
111 Deli Catering
Rothco
Sangria 71
Sterling National Bank
St. Catherine’s of Siena Medical Center
St. Johnland Nursing Center
Superior Ice Rink
Uncle Wallys Bake Shoppe
Verizon 

The request hit close to home for Kings Park firefighters. Raguso’s brother-in-law, Andrew DiChiara, is a volunteer with the fire department.

Gallo said he immediately reached out to neighboring fire departments in East Northport, Hauppauge, Nesconset, Nissequogue, Northport and St. James for help. As the estimates of those attending Raguso’s funeral increased, the fire chief said he called Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, to see if local businesses would be willing to contribute. An email blast sent out to the chamber’s membership quickly went viral. Kings Park Moms group and the nonprofit organization Angels Without Faces reposted the message on their Facebook pages.

“The people in this community took it and ran with it,” Tanzi said. “That’s indicative of Kings Park as a whole. It’s what happens when one of our community is down, our community helps pick them up.”

Long before Kings Park firefighters had posted they would be accepting public donations at 7 p.m. March 30, their storage warehouse was already filled with pallets of bottled water. A steady stream of residents pulled up in minivans and SUVs to donate cases of soda, potato chips and Girl Scout cookies saying simply “for Raguso.” Tanzi said about 50 pallets of water and more than 60,000 disposable drinking cups were collected.

The sheer volume of supplies began to raise logistical issues of how to best move them to the funeral site. Kings Park Hardware sent over a forklift to help lift and maneuver pallets, according to Tanzi, while Plycon Transportation offered free use of their trucks to drop off the goods around town.

The fire department’s Main Street headquarters and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5796 hall on Church Street both opened their doors as rest stops during Raguso’s funeral. The FDNY also set up garbage pails filled with water bottles on ice for mourners along the funeral procession route.

“On behalf of the Kings Park Fire Department, I would personally like to extend my appreciation to all the residents of our community for their extremely generous and outstanding show of support,” said John Gallo, chief of the Kings Park Fire Department. “The Raguso family, Commack Fire Department and FDNY are all thankful to all of you who assisted in supporting Chris’ funeral. It is this outpouring of support that makes our community special and Kings Park a beautiful place to live. God bless America and God bless our military.”

Uniqua holds her two new teddy bears tightly. She received the gifts from members of Mount Sinai's Students Against Destructive Decisions club. Photo by Kevin Redding

Just one night at Mount Sinai High School helped to make the season bright for local families in need.

For Christmas, all 6-year-old Uniqua really wanted was an Elf on the Shelf toy, a gift her mom struggled to afford. But Moniqua McGee, who lives with her daughter at Concern for Independent Living in Medford, knew she had nothing to worry about. She had Mount Sinai high schoolers to rely on.

A family from Concern for Independent Living receive gifts from Mount Sinai children through Hauppuage-based nonprofit Christmas Magic. Photo by Kevin Redding

On Dec. 6, during the Students Against Destructive Decisions club’s Christmas Magic dinner in the high school’s cafeteria, a beaming Uniqua not only got her wish, but two new teddy bears and holiday-themed face paint, too. She even met Santa Claus and Rudolph.

“I’m grateful they’re doing this for the families and putting smiles on the kid’s faces,” said Moniqua McGee, who has been coming to the event the past five years. “It works every time.”

The McGees were just one of dozens of families from the Medford nonprofit enjoying the holiday spirit in the room. An 18-year partnership between the Hauppauge-based organization Christmas Magic and the SADD club, the Christmas soiree served as the ultimate payoff of a shopping spree by the students Dec. 1. Under the supervision of SADD club advisors John Wilson and John McHugh, they spent that day rushing around Smith Haven Mall and Walmart to buy gifts for more than 60 boys and girls from Concern for Independent Living, which provides housing and employment help for struggling families, based on wish lists they wrote to Santa. The school district also raised $8,000 for Christmas Magic.

Members of Mount Sinai’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club watch children open up presents. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I’m happy and proud to be part of a program and district that not only encourages, but fosters this type of activity,” McHugh said. “The students involved display the best we have to offer … we have grown our program every year and that makes me feel great.”

With all the gifts wrapped and labeled, every kid left the dinner with at least three presents given to them by Santa, played by rosy red cheeked wrestling icon Mick Foley, who also posed for pictures. Christmas tunes blared through the cafeteria’s speakers as families ate chicken, pasta and desserts, and SADD club members — some dressed up in costume — went around the room with little gift bags of extra toys for attendees. SADD club members also played games and watched “Elf” with the kids.

“It’s so nice to be able to see all the kids here and see them get the gifts we got for them,” said Allie Garrant, an 11th grader and SADD club member, who picked up a lacrosse stick and Rubik’s Cube for a 13-year-old boy. “Just seeing their faces — it’s a whole different thing. It’s like, ‘Wow, these are real people I’m helping’ and you get to see firsthand the difference you’re making.”

Renato Lugo, whose four children were ecstatic over their gifts, expressed his gratitude to those involved in the event.

Students dressed up to entertain children during a Christmas Magic dinner at Mount Sinai High School. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s a beautiful thing to have organizations like these that help out and take care of people in need,” said Lugo, who has been aided by Concern for Independent Living for six years. “The students bring joy and cheer and they make my kids very happy.”

His 12-year-old daughter, Elena, was ecstatic receiving a long-sleeve Unicorn pajama shirt from Santa.

“I think it’s really amazing I got the present I wanted,” Elena said. “And the food is amazing and everyone’s so happy. I love SADD. They’re really like another Santa.”

Kim Dellamura, who’s been at the nonprofit agency for six months, said the event allowed her 4-year-old daughter MacKenzie to have a Christmas.

“It feels good because I don’t know how much I would’ve been able to give her this year,” Dellamura said. “So this really helps out a lot. She loves it.”

For Lawrence Aurigemma, the event is a perfect reflection of what this time of year means.

“This season is all about peace and generosity,” said Aurigemma, a military veteran whose 14-year-old son received Pokemon cards. “These students are just fantastic. They go out of their way to help out the less fortunate people here. It’s a wonderful thing. They knew exactly what to get my son … he’s so happy.”

Smithtown resident and former WWE wrestler Mick Foley dishes out gifts to children. Photo by Kevin Redding

Also at the event was Christmas Magic founder Charlie Russo and representatives of Concern for Independent Living, including case managers Ella Cantave and Julio Villarman, who were excited to see their clients enjoying the holidays.

“It’s a very special day for them,” Cantave said. “It took a lot of effort to make it happen and to make it nice for them.”

As everybody in the room sang “Jingle Bells,” Santa arrived and joined in. Each kid’s name was called out to sit down with the big man in the red suit.

Foley, who has been a volunteer with Christmas Magic since 2000 and officially assumed the role of Santa for the organization in 2014, said he looks forward to the event all year round.

“It’s a great organization — they spread joy and happiness to so many of the less fortunate in the community, and it’s an honor to wear the red suit and represent Christmas Magic,” Foley said before turning his attention to the SADD club. “I make it a point to thank all of them because I think it’s wonderful that they get involved in volunteer work at a young age. They do a great job and it’s really easy for me to show up and get a lot of the credit from children, but the truth is, without them, absolutely none of this is possible.”