Girl Scouts of Troop 991 got to work on their Silver Award Project at the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce Train Car.
Pictured above are scouts Vanessa Molinelli, Olivia Vecchio and Emily Gaide. Behind them are volunteers pressed into service.
The Silver Award leadership project is one that scouts plan, prep and execute. These one entrails refurbishing the deck, rails, steps and handicap ramp at the early 1900s baggage coach “train car.”
The scouts organize schedules, responsibilities and fundraisers. They received building material donations from Home Depot of South Setauket and Margaritas Café Port Jefferson Station have been keeping them fueled.
The Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening of Long Island Lending a Helping Hand, Inc. at 341 Route 25A in Rocky Point on August 2.
Guests who attended included Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Chamber President Gary Pollakusky and the RPSB Chamber board, the Girl Scouts, volunteers, local media and residents.
Long Island Lending a Helping Hand is a food pantry and resource center that helps provide assistance for families in need. They offer families and individuals school supplies, food, diapers, formula, clothing, furniture as well as other resources and support around the holidays.
Founder, Dawn Lang, said “In 2014, I realized that there was a real need in my local community. Many people “in need” have jobs, sometimes more than one, and are still struggling to get by sometimes having to make a difficult decision of whether to pay a bill or buy food / diapers. Some have family and friends to lean on but many others do not. That’s why I created…Long Island Lending a Helping Hand…we do our best to fill in the gap and help people who are in need.”
“We are so appreciative of founder Dawn Lang and Donna McCauley’s commitment to our community. It is with great pride that the chamber formally welcomes this brick & mortar Food Pantry and Resource Center to the community,” added Gary Pollakusky.
Operating hours are Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday. For more information regarding Long Island Lending a Helping Hand, please visit www.lilahh.com.
The Sound Beach Civic and North Shore Youth Council joined together to clean up a spot that will soon be home to a frontline hero dedication.
Bea Ruberto, president of the civic, said that the group was joined by local scouts and the NSYC to clean up parts along New York Avenue. With all groups combined, more than two dozen community members helped prepare for the tribute that is set to be installed at their Adopt-a-Spot this summer.
From 9 a.m. until 12 on Saturday, May 8, Ruberto said it was a successful event.
“Everything was done by noon because pretty much everybody was there by nine, and everybody just jumped in and started working,” she said. “They were really great.”
Stephanie Ruales, director of communications and public relations, and executive director Robert Woods said a handful of kids from NSYC joined in the cleanup, and stayed to make sure the spot was perfect.
“We love working on community projects with our local organizations and are always looking for ways to get our young kids involved in community service,” they both wrote in an email. “It’s also a great way to raise awareness about initiatives that our civics are working on and the great things happening in our towns.”
While there, the volunteers from the youth council helped edge out one of the garden beds and weed and prepped the area for some new plantings and transplants.
Ruberto said cleaning up the spot is paving the way for the tribute they began planning months ago. The idea is to have a large stone, adorned with a plaque honoring frontline workers who worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A tree will be planted behind it.
To raise funds for the project, the civic created a cookbook, “Signature Dishes of Sound Beach and Beyond,” earlier this year. Donations were made in exchange for the book, and the civic “sold out” of the first 100 copies almost immediately.
“It was because people want to support this,” Ruberto said. “People really care about saying thank you to all the people who work to keep us safe.”
Ruales and Woods said not only was the cleanup helpful to the future tribute, but it also instills a sense of community in young people.
“It helps them feel connected to where they live, especially as we continue to navigate the pandemic,” they wrote. “There’s that feeling of accomplishment that they contributed to something greater than themselves.”
Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) stopped by to help, too.
“It is thanks to our committed community volunteers that our community’s green spaces stay beautiful and clean,” she said. “The Adopt-a-Spot will be the perfect place to honor and thank our frontline and essential workers who continue to keep us safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Three local Girl Scouts have turned their Silver Award project into a continuous act of giving.
Caroline Woo, Mia Cottone and Abbi Sasson, all from Troop 551, decided for their Silver Award project that they would build birdhouses for the patients at Stony Brook Cancer Center. Because the project was involved, and would take some time, the girls decided while their project was in the works they would lift patients’ spirits with handmade wreaths.
The group learned the craft from Carmen Tornos, a professor with the Renaissance School of Medicine, and the completed decorations were hung in the common patient areas. After a few months, the hospital raffled the wreaths to the cancer center staff to show appreciation.
The three said they enjoyed designing the wreaths so much that they decided to continue making them to raise money for the nonprofit Room4Love based in East Setauket, which provides bedroom makeovers for children with cancer.
The girls, who are all ninth-graders at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, said the Silver Award project, where each Scout must create something that can have a lasting impact, requires Scouts to put in 50 hours of service. In addition to the birdhouses and wreaths, the girls put together goody bags for the patients and handed out birdseed for them to go outside, feed the birds and get some fresh air. The three said they chose the cancer center to help older patients, who are sometimes overlooked.
“We really learned that just little things can make a lasting impact on people’s lives,” Abbi said.
The other girls agreed.
“Even the small things that you don’t think matter to anyone, they do matter to a lot of people,” Caroline said.
The Girls Scouts said their parents have been a big help in providing materials for the wreaths, which they have been making all year round for every season. When it comes to Room4Love, the girls have been making the decorations for the nonprofit to raffle off, or they create them for family and friends who in turn donate to the organization. Mia was already familiar with Room4Love, which was started by her cousins, Maggie and Bella Diehl, eight years ago.
“It’s a good organization, and it helps a lot of kids,” Mia said.
Girl Scout Leader Sonya Cottone, Mia’s mother, said that she and co-leader Anne Hansen-Crowley are proud of the girls, who are willing to help out as much as they can.
“It makes us really proud, and we feel lucky to have a great group of kids,” she said.
Lucy Diehl, from Room4Love, said her daughters Maggie and Bella, despite being away at college, are still actively running the nonprofit, and she said all of them are humbled and grateful for all the support those in the Three Village area have given.
She added she’s not surprised that young people like the Girl Scouts are helping out.
“We live in a really good community that is always looking to give and looking to help, and certainly these kids, by making these wreaths, are doing just that,” Diehl said.
Eydie Woo, Caroline’s mother, said she credits the Girl Scouts for laying down good values for her daughter and friends. She said while the girls didn’t work directly with the patients, they did tour the hospital and saw the pediatric side, as well as the adult side, which had an impact on them.
“They’ve realized how fortunate they are, and that they’re able to do things like that and give back because there are kids who are really sick and they want to help them,” she said.
As for a large project such as the Silver Award, the girls had some advice to share.
“Even if it seems like getting started is hard, once you get in, you see just how rewarding and how almost eye-opening it is to realize the impact of what you can have on the world,” Abbi said.
For more information about Room4Love, visit www.room4love.org.
Three Shoreham-Wading River Girl Scouts were each honored with their Gold Award June 7.
At Shoreham-Wading River High School, Natalie Epp, Kathleen Loscalzo and Alanna Santa Maria, of Service Unit 669, all received the highest Girl Scout award. The event was attended by Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and high school principal, Frank Pugliese.
“Congratulations to the Scouts from Service Unit 669 on receiving their Gold Awards,” Anker said. “These young ladies are great role models for the other girls in their troop and I look forward to seeing their future accomplishments with our community.”
Service Unit 669’s Gold Award projects included creating silk flower arrangements and pens to be used during services at the First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, making fleece blankets for residents of the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook, and creating alphabet audio books in Spanish and English for the Southampton Head Start preschool.
The Gold Award requires that a Girl Scout identifies an issue, investigates, gets help by building a team, creates a plan, presents that plan to a Girl Scout council, gathers feedback, takes action, and educates and inspires others.
A piece of history has been organized and preserved thanks to the hard work of a Mount Sinai teen.
Girl Scouts looking to achieve their Gold Award, the highest honor a scout can earn, are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, conducting research, pitching a project, and shepherding it to completion in a leadership role in the hopes of achieving some greater good for the community. Rebecca Muroff, a Mount Sinai High School student heading into her senior year, stood at the William Miller House, the headquarters of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society on North Country Road in Miller Place, Aug. 11 and shared the byproduct of months of hard work as the culmination of her Gold Award project.
Muroff and her family have long enjoyed events held by the historical society, from the annual Country Fair to the local Christmas tradition of passing letters to Santa off to Postman Pete, so exploring a project to help an organization close to her heart was a no-brainer, she said. The Gold Award recipient, beginning in October 2017, sifted through the historical society’s vast collection of old photos amassed since its inception in 1974 to create a pictorial archive, labeling the photos with numbers and a corresponding destination in a spreadsheet, including categories like location, date, names of the people in the photo and any other pertinent comments. The result is a detailed catalog available to visitors who can now quickly and easily find photos of specific people or events dating back decades. Muroff said plans are even in the works to digitize the archive in some manner.
“It shows people as we matured over the years and there are a lot of people — members — that, because we were founded in ’74, have passed or moved away,” said Edna Giffen, the society’s recording secretary and archivist, who Muroff said played a crucial role in working on the project. “I realized there are people in the pictures that I don’t even know. Members will be glad to see this.”
Muroff said she always liked going to events at the society as a kid and reflected on the idea that she’d created something that will enrich visits by future generations.
“It’s just nice I think to have tangible memories of the historical society,” she said. “Now people can look through the pictures and people can see themselves or their family members. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’m preserving history so other people can enjoy it.”
Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch, Muroff’s leaders in Girl Scout Troop 1090, attended the Aug. 11 event set up to unveil the new photo archive.
“It’s really beautiful because we started with the whole troop when they were in second grade and now they’re seniors in high school,” Broome said.
Lynch added the troop had about 20 members when the girls were young, and Muroff was one of only five to earn the Gold Award.
“We’re almost like second mothers to them really,” she said. “They really persevered and did everything that was asked of them, and they’re like a family now.”
Muroff’s actual parents, Christine and Greg, also beamed with pride over their daughter’s accomplishment.
“It really hit me yesterday when we went to the Girl Scouts store to complete her sash,” her mom said. “I’m so happy she stuck with it.”
Pediatric nurse specialist and Centereach resident Lisa Rendina helps Stony Brook Children’s Hospital take part in “Take a Pop, Share a Smile" campaign
For the young cancer patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, one of the worst side effects from chemotherapy, beyond the pain and the nausea, is mouth sores. The best way to soothe the pain, according to 12-year-old cancer survivor Delaney Unger, is with ice pops.
“When I had mouth sores, I had to tell my dad right away, because I knew they would get worse if I didn’t treat them right,” Delaney said. “Sometimes using other stuff would make [the pain] worse, so I would usually eat ice pops.”
Stony Brook Children’s Hospital announced Thursday it would be taking part in the nonprofit American Childhood Cancer Organization’s Take a Pop, Share a Smile campaign that donates a lifetime supply of freezer pops to hospitals for its cancer patients. The hospital will be receiving a total of 2,000 ice pops to start, and the ACCO will keep the freezer consistently stocked every year.
To hold the new bounty of ice pops is a new freezer named Frankie’s Freezer, which was dedicated in memory of Francis “Frankie” Antonawich, a 25-year-old who died in February from Hodgkin lymphoma before he could realize his dream of becoming a pediatric oncology nurse.
“I think he would have been thrilled about this, because he really loved kids,” Antonawich’s mother and assistant director of nursing at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lynn Antonawich, said. “He not only felt that he could help a child, but also the parents of those children who would feel helpless.”
His father, Frank Antonawich, told an audience of Girl Scouts and families at a press conference May 3, trying to hold back tears, that the disease never stopped his son.
“Frank was a very active young man — it never stopped him going to work, going to the gym — he even continued to volunteer as a wrestling coach at his alma mater, St. John the Baptist Parish,” the West Islip resident said.
Stony Brook Children’s Hospital pediatric nurse specialist Lisa Rendina, who had worked with the family before and during Frankie Antonawich’s treatment, decided she wanted to get involved and contacted the ACCO, which donated the freezer too.
“As a mother, my heart broke for Lynn, and I wanted to do something to honor Frankie,” she said. “We just wanted to bring Frankie’s story to life.”
Rendina is the leader of Girl Scout Troop 105. Her troop, along with other members from Girl Scouts Service Unit 45 from Centereach, attended the unveiling. The Scouts wrote inspirational phrases all over the freezer like “No one fights alone” and “The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell.”
The event also honored three cancer survivors from Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, including Delaney, 12-year-old Erin Ersoy and 10-year-old Aubri Krauss, all of whom are Girl Scouts from Centereach. The parents of the three girls agreed that ice pops were one of the simplest ways to deal with the mouth sores, while also aiding in hydration and nutrition.
“I remember what happened with my daughter and mouth sores, it was terrible,” said Delaney’s father Berk Unger of his daughter who finished her final treatment last August. “Ice pops were the only thing that helped.”
Lynn Antonawichsaid her son was in such severe pain following a stem cell transplant that he couldn’t eat.
“They were thinking of tube feeding him,” she said. “And he was a 24-year-old man. I couldn’t imagine what the pain must be like for a kid.”
Those who work in the children’s hospital said one of the most important things young patients need is to feel like their lived are as normal as possible.
“Anything helps,” Lynn Antonawich said. “From donations of gifts, such as iPads and game systems, they are able to take part in a more normal life like they would at home.”
A Sound Beach Girl Scout recently solidified the organization’s highest honor by helping children who live in a temporary shelter feel a little more at home.
Brianna Florio, an 18-year-old Sound Beach resident and a member of Rocky Point Girl Scout Troop 2945, has been working since last year to better the lives of 16 children who reside at Halo House in Sound Beach, a shelter for families in crisis.
While staffers within the home — which gets its funding from the Department of Social Services — do all they can to help the four families currently living under one roof get their cases under control, find employment and locate more permanent housing, helping young children adjust to their new environment is a constant challenge.
So when it came time to pick a community outreach project in summer 2016 to fulfill the requirements for her Gold Award, the Rocky Point High School graduate, who learned of the shelter from one of her troop leaders, set her sights on making it more kid-friendly.
“I knew this would be a good fit for her,” said Donna McCauley, her troop leader who first became aware of the Halo House through St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach. “Brianna is very dedicated, has a very generous spirit and is always ready to help anyone in need. It also gave her a way to express herself creatively, which she’s very good at.”
Florio utilized her artistic talent and painted a large mural on the wall in the shelter’s dining room depicting animals having a tea party, installed a bench to be placed in the property’s yard and hosted a toy and book drive at her high school. Through that event, Florio brought multiple boxes of donated entertainment for children of different ages to the Halo House — items that are sorely needed, according to shelter manager Joe Pellegrino.
“[Brianna] definitely helped bring the kids a sense of community within the neighborhood of Sound Beach,” he said, adding the children in the shelter were eager to be involved in her mural project. “The younger ones would wait for her to come, and when she got here, they would say, ‘Can you paint a snake? Can you put a hat and bowtie on it?’ It betters the children’s state of minds when they’re at the shelter, because they get a sense that it’s a home and not just a place they’re forced to live in.”
Pellegrino said the mural has become a center of pride in the home and is even used as an educational tool to teach the children about the different animals depicted.
“It really warmed my heart to see the kids and their smiling faces and just how excited they were about it,” Florio said of the mural. “It was really nice to see it all finished, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it.”
She will officially receive her Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County council in December.
Although it was an independent project for the Girl Scout, Florio was able to acquire paints and various supplies through local donations, like from Costello’s Ace Hardware of Rocky Point. She also received support from her school district, where she was a member of the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club, a group that cooked for the homeless and performed songs at senior citizen homes during the holidays.
“Brianna is very dedicated, has a very generous spirit and is always ready to help anyone in need. It also gave her a way to express herself creatively, which she’s very good at.”
“I think if anybody is deserving of a Gold Award, it’s Brianna,” Rocky Point High School Principal Susann Crossan said. “What sets her apart from everybody else is she has a constant concern for other people. She’s been involved in so many activities within the high school that involve giving back. She was an extremely well-rounded and kind student.”
Florio’s project was also no surprise to Nancy Kloska, the director of an aftercare program for children at Mount Sinai Elementary School, where Florio currently serves as a mentor helping students with homework, playing games with them and leading fun activities.
“She’s warm, approachable, responsible and the kids really love interacting with her — Brianna always has a large group around her,” Kloska said. “I think she just brings out the best in the kids and is such a positive role model. I can’t say enough good things about Brianna. I think she’s wonderful.”
Florio was bestowed a certificate of appreciation by elected officials and community members for her Gold Award efforts during a Sound Beach Civic Association meeting Nov. 13. Civic president Bea Ruberto later said in an interview that Florio is a shining example of upstanding youth in the community.
“We were so proud to honor Brianna at our meeting — she’s very community-minded and is always there to help and give back,” said Ruberto, pointing out that Florio has helped with the civic’s pet adoption efforts and contributed a drawing in honor of the civic’s 40th anniversary. “We often hear about all the kids who behave badly and do this or that, and we really make an attempt in the civic to showcase the good kids. She’s a very fine young lady.”
Florio is currently pursuing a career in computer science and game programming as a freshman at Stony Brook University.
Miller Place High School has the potential to save large sums of money and energy this year thanks to the environmental efforts of a group of middle school Girl Scouts.
Sixth- and seventh-grade members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 urged the board of education during the Sept. 27 meeting to consider replacing the 120 fluorescent lights in the high school cafeteria with more energy-efficient LED lights. This installation could save the district approximately $1,044 in the cafeteria alone over the course of the 180-day school year, the Girl Scouts said.
“Switching to LED lights would allow the district to focus that money on education,” 11-year-old Lilah Lindemann said.
Analynn Bisiani, a sixth-grader, informed board members 180-degree LED lights release significantly less heat energy than tube-shaped, 360-degree fluorescent lights, making them safer.
“They do not contain dangerous chemicals and will project light only down instead of 360 degrees,” Analynn said. “A lot of energy is wasted when light is projected upwards.”
The troop’s presentation was based on an energy audit of the high school cafeteria the girls conducted in May with the help of a PSEG Long Island representative as part of their Girl Scout Journey project — a long-term initiative to find a solution to a local environmental problem.
One of the requirements for the project was to focus on conserving energy, so troop leaders and members decided to conduct an audit of a public building, specifically the high school cafeteria, where the group holds its meetings twice a month.
With the help of Scout mom Kim Soreil, a PSEG Long Island manager of customer operations, the girls studied different forms of energy, made circuit cards and calculated the energy savings of switching to LED lights by counting all 120 lights in the cafeteria. The girls figured out
approximately 17.5 cents per kilowatt hour could be saved, which, assuming a 14-hour school day with extracurricular activities, equates to $5.88 in savings per day and $1,044 a year.
“They picked up on everything very quickly and just took off with it,” Soreil said of the troop’s excitement about the project. The girls, including Soreil’s daughter Lauren, also learned about phantom energy and the benefits of unplugging electrical appliances even after they’ve been turned off.
“They were peering through windows to try and see if lights were left on in the offices in the back and trying to turn off the lights on the vending machines so the school could conserve
energy,” she said.
During the presentation, Girl Scout Sarah DiPersio offered the board another environmentally-based solution in the cafeteria.
“Although it is not an electrical energy savings, we also noticed there is a traditional water fountain in the cafeteria, instead of a bottle refill fountain,” Sarah said.
Troop co-leader Candace Lindemann, who guides the girls alongside Morgan Caufield, said while she was impressed by the research and work her Scouts took part in, she wasn’t too surprised.
“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth.”
— Lilah Lindemann
“We have a very environmentally concerned and diligent group of girls,” Lindemann said, noting their other environment-based initiatives include beach cleanups and water health studies. “I think growing up near the beach definitely encourages an interest in the health of the environment for them.”
Her daughter Lilah said she has been passionate about the environment for a long time and hopes to be an engineer one day.
“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth,” the 11-year-old said. “And helping the environment and the community is what the Girl Scouts are about.”
Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan said she hopes by saving money through this proposal, the school district could afford to provide more art programs.
At the end of the board of education meeting, Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano presented each Scout with a certificate and thanked them for their presentation.
“That was very comprehensive,” Cartisano said. “We’re very grateful you did this and we’ll certainly be taking your recommendations and findings into consideration.”
The school district is currently in the process of bringing more energy efficiency to its buildings by installing solar panels on top of its high school and Andrew Muller Primary School.
Members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 that participated in the audit are Sara Bally, Analynn Bisiani, Molly Caufield, Sarah DiPersio, Mary Cait Duffy, Lindsey Galligan, Lilah Lindemann, Maris Lynch, Ceili McNicholas, Madelyn Miller, and Lauren Soreil.
The Smithtown Service Unit 25 Girl Scouts filled 300 Christmas stockings and delivered them to the Smithtown Food Pantry, St. Patrick’s Outreach and the Smithtown Historical Society’s collection for Angela’s House. Twenty-three Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior and Ambassador Girl Scout troops participated in the project.