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Gregory de Bruin

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Members of the Three Village Community Trust, left, hand out lemonade to attendees of the Setauket Memorial Day Parade May 30. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

By Chris Mellides

Founded in 2003, the Three Village Community Trust has been a staple in the community and despite the rough times wrought on by the pandemic, the land trust’s members and community volunteers remain optimistic for the future.

Since 2020 onward, COVID-19 has been a thorn in the sides of many businesses and nonprofits on Long Island and elsewhere. Despite state-sanctioned shutdowns, through a dedicated volunteer membership, this not-for-profit organization has continued its community-centric efforts to preserve and beautify historical sites Three Villagers can admire in the area. 

Members of the Three Village Community Trust, left, hand out lemonade to attendees at the Setauket Memorial Day Parade May 30. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

During the pandemic when things were at their worst, TVCT voted in one of its founders, Herb Mones, to take over from longtime president Cynthia Barnes. 

Financial manager, Greg de Bruin, has been a contributor to the trust for years. “I became truly aware of how much responsibility the trust has assumed and how much it could affect our community for the good,” he said. “Herb Mones, who was installed as the new president at [the March 2021] meeting, happens to be very good at getting those points across,” de Bruin added. 

The TVCT properties include the Setauket to Port Jefferson Station Greenway, Patriots Rock Historic Site, the Factory Worker Houses (also known as the Rubber Factory Houses), the Hawkins Homestead, the Smith/de Zafra House, the Bruce House headquarters, the Stephen D. Matthews Preserve and the Tyler House, according to Mones. 

When asked how the trust was able to stick it out during the unforeseen global pandemic, Mones said, “The trust had to be creative.”

“We developed a number of unique online events to connect with our membership, and at the same time raise revenues ‘to keep the lights on,’” the president said. “Many of our properties are under renovation, with large price tags to do the correct historical renovations. And utilities, insurance and maintenance services are a big lift.” 

Treasurer Hope Kinney said that she helps de Bruin in making sure the bills are paid the for the properties that mean a lot to the Three Village area community. 

“The trust is amazing, they do so much for our community,” Kinney said. “We preserve many properties and help beautify the Three Village community. We have many events to help raise money for all these things we do.”

Among these fundraising projects, the trust headed up a relief effort for the people of Ukraine by asking residents to donate.  The TVCT also recently installed sunflower art at its different properties throughout the area to show support for the Ukrainian people and to raise awareness of the crisis in that country. 

De Bruin said that “obtaining funding to execute our mission is a never-ending effort. We receive funding from government grants at all levels and from private donors in the community. To get people or agencies to contribute, we have to show them that we have a worthy mission, that we have plans to accomplish the goals of the trust, and that we are succeeding in executing them.”

Aside from receiving support from the local community, the trust has recently secured a $50,000 matching grant from state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). 

“The recently announced grant from the assemblyman is so critical to us,” Mones said. “We have worked very hard to emerge out of the pandemic, and this grant will be important to assure our sustainability in the future. We are honored to be the recipient of the grant and are deeply appreciative.”

The number of projects that have culminated thus far in the trust’s almost-20 years history has been impressive. Kinney said that her favorite restoration project was the Rubber Factory Houses: “We have been using the properties for many events recently and it is so beautiful.”

Sporting new gutters this spring, with newly painted windows, doors and trims, the Rubber Factory Houses are a rustic collection of three wooden buildings that were restored by community volunteers.

According to Mones, an electric feed was added to bring electric to the structures. An electrical panel, outside receptacles, outside lighting and some indoor light switches and receptacles were also added.

The houses were relocated in 2011 to the Bruce House grounds from the Setauket Fire District property on nearby Old Town Road. 

“The trust hopes to expand its community outreach and continue its momentum in ‘protecting the place you love,’” Mones said. “We see the trust as a friend, partner and leader in helping to make the Three Villages a very special place.”

For more information on the Three Village Community Trust, visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org.