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frontline heroes

Photo by Sabrina Artusa

By Sabrina Artusa

Sound Beach Civic Association dedicates itself to the betterment of the locality and the well-being of its citizens. So, as the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, members knew they needed to find a way to thank the frontline and essential workers who were risking their own health to keep others safe.

The civic initiated a fundraiser by collecting recipes and creating a cookbook, “Signature Dishes of Sound Beach and Beyond.” The cookbook was sold in order to fund this tribute.

The unexpected free services, such as the delivery of the tribute stone and the stone itself, resulted in extra money from the fundraiser, money which the civic decided to donate to the Yaphank veterans home.

On Saturday, July 31, in perfect weather, Sound Beach residents and others gathered on the lawn outside Hartlin Inn. The area was packed with firefighters, police officers, grocery store attendants, delivery workers, health care workers, school board members, government workers, Girl Scouts and  citizens who wanted to express their gratitude. Also in attendance were county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Stuart Vincent, Mather Hospital public relations director.

Bea Ruberto, president of the civic association, stood at the stand in the center of the lawn to explain the tribute, but not before residents and friends pointed out it was her birthday. After the group sang “happy birthday” and the laughs had stopped, Ruberto explained the purpose of the tribute, which was inscribed on the stone: “Honoring the heroes all around us.”

After thanking her board, she commended government — “our public servants” — who have “been critical in getting us to where we are today.” New York state has one the lowest coronavirus positivity rates in the country, a feat Ruberto said could not have happened without their persistence and sacrifice.

She continued by honoring law enforcement, health care workers and educators. “Educators had to work harder to provide quality education,” she said. Susan Sullivan, president of the Rocky Point school board, confirmed that “nothing was business as usual.”

Sound Beach Fire Department chief, Darran Handshaw, talked of his experience from the past year and a half. “We were in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the likes of which we hadn’t seen in a century,” he said.

Just as citizens struggled to adjust to life in a pandemic, firefighters had to adjust their protocols to combat the virus threat. “Our emergency response protocols were never designed to deal with it,” Handshaw said. “It was a very nerve-racking time.”

Chad Lennon, special assistant/veteran affairs with state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), said “there was no time out, no pause in life.” He expressed his gratitude for health care workers and recognized their continuous efforts. “The new [Delta] variant that is spreading in 2021 continues to pose new challenges for them,” he said.

Handshaw said of the tribute, “I think it’s great.  … It’s very nice that the community decided to recognize us.”

The stone, framed by blooming flowers, American flags and a new tree, displayed its message toward the road. “We wanted as many people as possible to see it,” Ruberto said.

Commanding officer of the 7th Precinct, Inspector Matthew McCormick, started in his post just as the pandemic raged in March 2020. “It was a tough time for law enforcement,” he said, and went on to tell of how 17 officers had to quarantine for two weeks. Law enforcement coped well with the pandemic, but McCormick gave credit to Sound Beach residents. “We are only as good as our community,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed in the handout the civic had prepared with the meaningful words, “Working together we accomplish more.”

Bea Ruberto, Brianna Florio and Mary McKeown show off the new ‘Signature Dishes of Sound Beach and Beyond’ cookbook, with proceeds going to a frontline worker tribute. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Sound Beach Civic Association wanted to do something for local essential workers, and everyone knows that food brings people together.  

Bea Ruberto, president of the civic, said early last year the group wanted to do a tribute to the frontline and essential workers at an adopted spot they take care of on New York Avenue.  

Although still a concept, the plan is to plant a small tree with a memorial stone in front of it to honor all the people who risked their lives. 

But due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the civic was unable to do typical fundraising to make the tribute happen. So, instead, they decided to create a cookbook, “Signature Dishes of Sound Beach and Beyond,” for donations. 

“Because the civic is a not-for-profit, we are asking for a donation of $20 and then they get the book,” Ruberto said.  

The cookbook, which came out officially earlier this month, is dedicated to all the people who kept everybody safe throughout the coronavirus crisis, and features a section devoted solely to the local heroes. 

Ruberto and her group began reaching out to civic members and others in the Sound Beach community asking them to send in their favorite family dishes.  

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Initially, we wanted it to be just people in Sound Beach, but we weren’t getting enough recipes,” she said. “So, then we reached out beyond that, which included friends of people who live in Sound Beach, families of people who live in Sound Beach, and this is how it came together.” 

She added that by the end of production — which took about four months to put together — 64 people submitted 220 recipes for the 150-page book. 

Sound Beach resident Mary McKeown submitted the most recipes — 15 of them — and would reach out to Ruberto often to ask what kind of recipe she needed. 

“I just love all the people we’ve met here, and just to be a part of everybody doing it all together has just been great fun,” McKeown said.  

Brianna Florio, also of Sound Beach, volunteered to create the cover and drew the concept drawing for what the tribute at the adopted spot will look like when completed. 

“I think she did a beautiful job,” Ruberto said.  

The black-and-white cover features a local beach with a picnic basket and birds flying in the background.  

The 22-year-old said she took a photo of the Long Island Sound and then used her Photoshop skills to add the details.  

As of right now, more than 100 books have been sold to people throughout the whole country. 

“I actually I got an email from somebody who saw this on Facebook from North Carolina,” Ruberto said. “And he wanted to gift it to his mom who used to live in Sound Beach.” 

Ruberto said that the cookbook will appease all different types of palates because there is so much variety, but the classics still remain. 

On page 142, there is a recipe from two local boys for one of their favorites: pea-nut butter and jelly.  

Ruberto said the first batch of books has all been taken, but the civic is currently ordering more. Those who are interested in making a $20 donation to receive the “Signature Dishes of Sound Beach and Beyond” can email [email protected] or call 631-744-6952.