Tags Posts tagged with "Huntington"


The 2022 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Huntington. Photo by Raymond Janis

A former Huntington resident for many years and local financial consultant has been chosen as this year’s grand marshal in the town’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Greg Kennedy at this year’s Grand Marshal’s Ball. Photo from Kennedy

The parade’s organizers, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 4, named Greg Kennedy to lead the 89th annual parade through Huntington Sunday, March 12.

Kennedy has been a financial consultant in the town for more than 25 years, and while he has lived in St. James since 2010, he was a Huntington resident for decades before his move.

A St. John’s University graduate, Kennedy is the founder of the financial services business Atlantic Financial Group, which has been located on New Street in Huntington village since 2008. Before opening his own business, he was an adviser with MetLife and then joined A.G. Edwards.

Tom Dougherty, a Hibernian member, said Kennedy is more than a local businessman. This year’s grand marshal, who was president of the Hibernians division during 2015-17, is the president of The Townwide Fund of Huntington, and a member of the foundation board of directors of the Visiting Nurse Service and Hospice of Suffolk in Northport. He also is involved with the food bank at St. Patrick’s Church and other local charities.

“Our motto is friendship, unity and Christian charity, a model that we live by, and we try to pick somebody that lives by that motto, and those are all the things that he’s lived up to,” Dougherty said.

The Hibernian added that in addition to Kennedy’s contributions to Huntington he does a good deal for the division, including helping members who may need a ride to a doctor’s office or grocery store.

“He’s a put-other-people-first kind of guy,” Dougherty said.

Kennedy said being named parade grand marshal is a tremendous honor for him.

“I was just humbled and honored to be chosen among such great past grand marshals,” he said.

Past Huntington grand marshals include former state Supreme Court justice Jerry Asher and Northwell Health president and CEO Michael Dowling.

Kennedy added because he’s adopted, he’s not sure of the exact percentage of Irish heritage he is.

The businessman attends the parade every year with his wife Cathleen and children Sara, a college junior, and Ryan, a high school senior.  His daughter was a parade Colleen in 2020, according to Kennedy, and this year his son will march with him as one of the parade aides.

“My family has been with me since the beginning, since I started with Hibernians,”
he said.

Greg Kennedy, above left, with his children Ryan and Sara in a 2007 photo. Photo from Kennedy

The parade

While the Huntington parade was canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, a virtual event was held that year, and in 2022 the event returned once again to Huntington’s streets. Dougherty said this year there has been an increase in participants in the parade and ad journal, which helps the Hibernians raise money for the event.

Kennedy had advice for those planning to attend the parade, including taking the time to visit a few stores and having lunch.

“Get there early, and long johns aren’t a bad idea because it can be cold,” he said. “Be prepared to enjoy a great day because the parade starts at 2 but it goes for a good few hours.”

Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks off at 2 p.m. on March 12 on Route 110 and Church Street. It then continues to Main Street and ends at St. Patrick’s R.C. Church.

The Setauket branch of Investors Bank will close in February. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Many Investors Bank customers will soon find an empty building where they once traveled to take care of their financial matters.

Last year, Citizens Bank, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, acquired New Jersey-based Investors Bank. While Investors’ doors remained open to customers, the process of the merger began in August as investmentaccounts transferred to Citizens, and in October, mortgage loan services transitioned from Investors to Citizens.

According to the Citizens website, the merger will “offer Investors’ customers an expanded set of products and services, enhanced online and mobile banking capabilities, and more branch locations, along with a continued commitment to making a difference in our local communities.”

While the East Northport location on Larkfield Road will remain open doing business under the Citizens name, the Investors Commack location on Jericho Turnpike will close Feb. 14. The Huntington branch on Main Street and the Setauket location on Route 25A will close their doors for the last time Feb. 15. All three due-to-be closed branches have Citizens operating nearby.

Nuno Dos Santos, retail director of Citizens, said the banks located in Commack, Huntington and East Setauket are less than 2 miles away from the Investors branches that are closing.

“As we continue to integrate Investors with Citizens, we have been reviewing customer patterns and branch locations to ensure we are serving customers when, where and how they prefer,” Dos Santos said. “As a result of this review, we will close the Investors branch locations in Commack, Huntington and Setauket.”

Current Investors employees have been encouraged to apply for positions at Citizens, according to a company spokesperson.

Photos by Media Origin

Chabad of Huntington Village hosted a Grand Menorah Lighting at the Huntington Village Winter Wonderland at Main Street and Wall Street on Monday, Dec. 19.

Residents were able to witness the lighting and enjoy juggling and fire entertainment by Keith Leaf, doughnuts and more. 


Mallory Braun, right, is set to open a new bookstore in Huntington Village. She was mentored by former Book Revue owner Richard Klein, left. Photo above by E. Beth Thomas;

A new independent bookstore is set to open on New York Avenue in Huntington Village after one entrepreneur’s yearlong journey to find a location.

In the last few months, Mallory Braun has held pop-up events at businesses such as Nest in Northport. Photo from The Next Chapter’s Facebook Page

Many business owners struggled to keep their doors open during the COVID pandemic even after restrictions were lifted. One of the stores that shut its doors for good during 2021 was the Book Revue in Huntington village.

However, former Book Revue store manager Mallory Braun, of Huntington, realized the importance of a community bookstore and launched a Kickstarter campaign on Nov. 1, 2021, to raise $250,000. Her hope was to open a new store in the village in the spirit of Book Revue. After 45 days on the crowdfunding platform, more than 2,200 people donated over $255,000.

Opening a new bookstore didn’t happen overnight though.

Braun has spent several months acquiring books and records that were donated and sold to her and stored them at a warehouse. While she waited for the right location, the business owner and employees ran pop-up stores over the last few months in locations such as the Huntington Fall Festival, Nest on Main in Northport, Glen Cove’s Southdown Coffee and more. The pop-ups were fun and successful, she said, and after the new store is open, she would like to do more.

“It allows us to build relationships with local businesses,” Braun said. 

Regarding finding the right location, the entrepreneur said she had to find a space that was big enough for the quantity of books she wanted to carry and hold events that she hopes to organize in the future.

She said there were serious talks about a few locations until they found the storefront at 204 New York Ave.

“This one was the one that has worked out, and it was the right choice,” she said, adding that it’s a five-minute walk from the old Book Revue building, in a northerly direction.

A grand opening date has not been chosen yet, but she said the store will open in time for the holiday shopping season. Braun added there is still a lot of work to be done. The Next Chapter employees are still shelving books and vinyl records at the future store, and Richard Klein, former Book Revue co-owner, has also been helping her prepare for the big day.

Braun, who specializes in used and rare items, is currently ordering new books. She said it would enable her to have authors visit for book signings, something she said customers enjoy.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take to build up the same type of author as Book Revue had, but it’s important, and we’ve already been working on it,” Braun said.

She added that people have been volunteering to help get the store ready. Anyone interested in helping can reach the store by emailing: [email protected] 

For more information about The Next Chapter, visit the website www.thenextchapterli.com.

All photos by Media Origin

For nearly 30 years, the Long Island Fall Festival has welcomed autumn to Huntington during the Columbus Day weekend. This year the event took place Friday, Oct. 7, though Monday, Oct. 10.

The admission-free festival, hosted by Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Huntington, featured carnival rides, live music, beer garden, international food court and more than 300 vendors on Saturday and Sunday.

Stock photo

Voters on the North Shore of the Town of Huntington will have the opportunity to vote for school budgets and board of education candidates Tuesday, May 17.

Below is a summary of the budgets and BOE races in the Huntington, Harborfields, Elwood and Cold Spring Harbor school districts.

For information on the Commack school district, see page A4. For the Northport school district, see the May 5 edition of The Times of Huntington & Northport or visit tbrnewsmedia.com and search for the article “Northport BOE budget vote, trustee elections set for May 17.”

Huntington Union Free School District


Those in the Huntington school district will be voting on a school budget that includes no increase in the tax levy.

The proposed budget of $142,968,343 will be an increase of 2.62% over the current spending plan. However, it will not raise the tax levy if approved by residents. According to the district’s website, the lack of an increase to the tax levy is due to a $4,087,007 increase in state aid to $26,253,748, low debt and the district lessening expenditures.

Residents will also be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on a proposition to authorize the expenditure of $6.6 million from building improvement capital reserves. The district aims to complete various projects, including electrical work at two primary schools as well as three gas/carbon monoxide detectors at three primary schools. Funds would also be used to renovate the parking lot and replace tiles at Finley Middle School. A second field is also planned for the high school to be used for sports such as soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football, and it would also be used for physical education classes and marching band rehearsals.

Candidate information

Trustees Bill Dwyer and Michele Kustera will be running again for three-year terms and will run unopposed.

An account executive for an educational technology company, Dwyer works with school districts throughout the Northeast. He was elected to the board of ed for the first time in 2008. After his first term, he left the board for two years, and then was reelected in 2013, 2016 and 2019.

Kustera is running for her second term. She has been involved in the district on the long-range planning and food allergy committees and as a member of the district’s PTA organizations. 

Voting information

Residents of Huntington school district can vote from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on May 17 at Huntington High School lobby.

Harborfields Central School District


Residents in the Harborfields school district will vote on a $92,895,995 proposed budget for the 2022-23 school year. The amount is $2,579,731 more than the 2021-22 budget of $90,316,264, which comes to a 2.86% increase. The budget is within the district’s allowed tax levy increase of 2.28%.

Candidate information

Current trustees Hansen Lee and Colleen Wolcott and newcomer David Balistreri will be vying for two at-large seats.

Lee has spent nine years on the board and is a director at Enzo Biochem where he oversees laboratory operations. On his profile in the district’s meet the candidates page, Lee listed “creating an inclusive and welcoming community” as being important to him.

“I currently serve on the Town of Huntington’s Asian American Task Force and was also fortunate enough to be a part of the recognition of the two Muslim holy days as official school holidays, the first district in Suffolk County to do so,” he said.

Wolcott has been a board member since 2016, and she is a case manager with the not-for–profit Angela’s House and owner/graphic designer at Gold Coast Impressions, Centerport.

Wolcott’s past experiences include working as a special education teacher with a dual certification in early education and special education up to age 21. In her candidate profile, she said, “Today’s students need more.”

“Success is no longer solely defined by strong academic achievement, but by life skills learned in a well-rounded, diverse atmosphere with a focus on mental wellness, enriched academics, the arts, elective and athletic opportunities,” she said. “It’s not enough to keep Harborfields among the best academic school districts on Long Island. We must prepare all of our children for life after school and in our competitive world.”

Balistreri works in the financial industry, in his candidate profile he said he is a concerned father who is running for various reasons. He is looking for more fiscal responsibility in the district.

He aims to “improve communication between the board and stakeholders.” Balistreri also listed working “with other school boards to stand up against Albany’s unconstitutional and nonsensical edicts.” In his profile, he said “parents are the best advocates for their children.”

Voting information

Voting will be held at Oldfield Middle School on May 17 from 2 to 9 p.m.

Elwood Union Free School District


Elwood school district’s proposed budget is $69,181,071. The dollar amount reflects a $2,267,492 increase and 3.39% increase over the previous budget of $66,913,579.

The proposed budget represents a tax levy increase of 2.9% which is under the district’s allowable tax levy of 3.4%.

Candidate information

Incumbent Deborah Weiss is being challenged for her seat by Sean Camas. There is only one three-year term up for grabs.

In his profile for the Elwood Septa meet the candidates event, Camas is listed as a local student “who wishes to bring a new youthful dynamic” to the board. The lifelong resident of Elwood served as a student council vice president when he was in middle school. He has worked part-time as a dishwasher while maintaining a 3.8 GPA and achieving cum laude honors for three years in a row. In the fall, he will attend SUNY Old Westbury and major in political science.

Weiss has served on the board of ed since 2016. In her candidate profile, she said in order to ensure educational equity for all students “while being fiscally accountable” to taxpayers the board must “streamline expenses whenever possible.”

“The last place cuts should be made and felt is in the classroom,” she wrote. “We must continue to provide an exceptional education while pursuing real legislative relief to address the state’s unfunded mandates and restrictions on district finances. I will work hard to ensure that all our budget decisions remain student focused and fiscally responsible.”

 Voting information

Voting will take place May 17 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Elwood Middle School cafeteria.

Cold Spring Harbor Central School District


Cold Spring Harbor school district is asking residents to vote on a $73,420,423 proposed budget for the 2022-23 academic year. This is a $1,403,005 change from the 2021-22 budget of $72,017,418. The proposed budget reflects a 1.64% tax levy which is below the cap.

Candidate information

Voters will choose among three candidates, incumbent and current president Amelia Walsh Brogan, Alex Whelehan and Bruce Sullivan, for two at-large board of education positions. Incumbent Julie Starrett is not seeking reelection.

Voting information

Voting will take place May 17 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Ralph Whitney Field House of Cold Spring Harbor Jr./Sr. High School.

Huntington councilmembers Joan Cergol and Sal Ferro, shown above on the right, hosted free Earth Day festivities at Manor Farm Park April 23 along with co-sponsors the Town of Huntington, Covanta and not-for-profit Starflower Experiences.

It was the first time the event was held at the park and included hands-on activities, raffles and giveaways. Activities included a marine touch tank operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County; an exhibit of formerly wild animals hosted by Volunteers for Wildlife; water chemistry and conservation demonstrations by the Town of Huntington Maritime Department; garden planting, composting, and beekeeping demonstrations by Starflower Experiences, and face painting and arts and crafts booths

All participants received a raffle ticket with the chance to win electric-powered landscaping equipment courtesy of a $2,500 donation from Covanta, including a string trimmer/leaf blower combo kit, a compost tumbler with a cart, a lawn mower, and a pressure washer. Several event attendees also took home a birdhouse courtesy of Love of Learning Montessori School in Centerport.

The town’s Planning Department distributed bare root tree saplings, provided by the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, to everyone in attendance, and volunteers from the Robert M. Kubecka Memorial Town Garden gave away vegetable and flower seedlings.

The event also provided free paper shredding, e-waste and medical pill disposal services.

Thomas Manuel inside The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Long Island Arts Alliance is asking artists, performers and creators to share their stories amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lauren Wagner, executive director of LIAA, said that over the last two years, the group has been asking creatives to share the experiences pre-pandemic and onward in hopes that new legislation will be created to further help the art and culture sector locally.

“The percentage of job losses in the arts is three times worse than other nonprofit organizations,” she said. 

LIAA serves as an alliance of and for the region’s not-for-profit arts, cultural and arts education organizations.  LIAA promotes awareness of and participation in Long Island’s world-class arts and cultural institutions in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. 

Formed in 2003, LIAA offers leadership and diverse support services to arts organizations, serves as an advocate for arts education in our schools and collaborates on strategies for economic development and community revitalization.

An advocate for artists, painters, sculptors, dancers, performers and musicians, Wagner added that when things were shut down two years ago, LIAA decided it wanted to reach out to its community to find out how people were handling the stressful changes.

That’s when LIAA came up with surveys to give a platform for creators to explain what’s going on in their lives.

“The surveys are to poll everyone’s status,” Wagner said. “Then, we use those numbers to go back to our new legislators and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on and we need help.’”

Most recently, a 2022 update has been posted to the LIAA website. This is the third survey to make its way around the arts community.

The survey states, “As COVID-19 extends into 2022, it is important to secure updated information about the continuing impact of the pandemic on the creative sector and creative workers. The information you provide is critical to advocacy efforts for the arts and culture sector across Long Island.”

Wagner said the more creatives who participate, the better.

“Artists/creatives were — and remain — among the most severely affected segment of the nation’s workforce,” she said. “The arts are a formidable industry in the U.S. — $919.7 billion (pre-COVID) that supported 5.2 million jobs and represented 4.3% of the nation’s economy.”

She added that they have not seen significant relief funding earmarked for the arts from the local government despite the impact the sector has on the local economy.

“The American Rescue Plan provided $385,003,440 to Nassau County, $286,812,434 to Suffolk County, and an additional $170 million to our local townships,” she said.

But when it comes to the higher levels of government, Wagner said that things often get “skewed” because of the Island’s proximity to New York City.

“I hate to say compete with the city, but we do,” she said. “We’re a great economic driver on Long Island and we get forgotten about.”

She said the surveys could “paint a real picture of what it’s like to be an artist on Long Island.”

The artists

Patty Eljaiek. Photo from Patty Eljaiek

Patty Eljaiek, a visual artist from Huntington Station, said that many people might not realize the impact art has on the community — especially financially.

“I think it’s part of the perception that art is not a business,” she said. “Art is a business.”

Elijaiek added that if an artist is looking to share their expertise with the world, they are, in fact, a business. 

“Art has been something that people appreciate but they don’t know how to put value to it,” she said.

Wagner agreed. She said that early on during the pandemic, people looked to the arts for solace.

“Artists are second responders,” she said. “First responders save lives, but artists put everything back together.”

Alex Alexander, a musician in Rocky Point, said that people who work in the arts — such as being a working musician — don’t have the typical 9-to-5 routine.

“You can plan with a 9-to-5,” he said. “I can’t plan my life as other people would.”

And Tom Manuel, executive director of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook and a musician himself, said that his venue was shut down for 15 months throughout the pandemic, but still continued to serve its community with outdoor shows despite the lack of revenue coming in. 

Manuel said that while big industries were being saved by the federal government, the nonprofit sector was “left out” and they had to look to their sponsors to help save them. 

“We were really blessed in that we had a lot of our donors and sponsors step up and say, ‘Hey, we know that you’re closed, but we’re going to still give our sponsorship and don’t worry about programming, just stay open,’” he said.

Board members at The Jazz Loft began raising money themselves for other artists who were struggling, raising nearly $20,000 worth of assistance.

But the pain and struggle were still there as they helped their peers. 

“The statistics show of all the things that could close and not reopen, the most unlikely place to reopen after being shuttered is a performing arts venue,” he said. “That’s the data.”

Manuel said that jazz is all about improvisation — which is what musicians did — and to work through the blues.

“I think that one of the beautiful things that did come out of the pandemic is people realized how important the arts were to them,” he said. “I think there was a reconnection that was established, which is a beautiful thing.”

Artists can participate in LIAA’s survey until Feb. 16 online now at longislandartsalliance.org.

“People don’t realize this is their livelihood on the line,” Wagner said. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul. File photo by Julianne Mosher

Local elected officials are joining forces to tell Albany that their towns and villages will not lose zoning control.

During her State of the State address, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) spoke of creating more affordable housing options. When the 2022 State of the State book was released, the proposed plan, found on pages 130 through 131, stated that it would require all towns and villages in New York state to allow accessory apartments, which in turn would effectively eliminate single-family zoning laws.

The proposed plan spurred Town of Brookhaven officials to call a press conference Feb. 3, while others have spoken out via statements. The proposed legislation would require municipalities to allow one accessory dwelling unit using backyard cottages, attics, garages and basements. The plan is one that the State of the State describes as providing “an affordable multigenerational housing option that helps families live closer together.”

While local municipalities would still have a say in minimum and maximum size requirements, local zoning authorities would not be able to prevent reasonable new construction, the governor said.


In the Town of Huntington, accessory apartments may be allowed when someone listed on the deed resides at the dwelling. The living space cannot be less than 300 square feet or more than 650 square feet and must have two bedrooms or less. The accessory apartment must be attached to the home.

Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) is against Hochul’s plan.

“This is an election year overreach by the governor that no one in their right mind should support,” Smyth said. “It has bipartisan opposition at all levels of government for good reason: It would eliminate local control of development and hand it off to extremists in Albany.”

At press time, Huntington announced they would be part of a county press conference on Feb. 10 to comment further on the issue.


In the Town of Smithtown legal accessory apartments with a valid mother/daughter permit from the Building Department are the only ones permitted with limited exceptions including older two-family homes that were grandfathered in. Rules differ in the town’s villages.

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said in a statement he fears stripping local zoning control “would only result in a mass exodus.”

“The harsh reality is that Long Island, especially Suffolk County, lacks the modern infrastructure to handle the population increase which this proposal would create,” the supervisor said. “The environmental impacts alone should terrify every Long Islander. We have outdated wastewater systems underground, roads in major need of repair, archaic stormwater infrastructure and in the near future will have nowhere to put our trash. These are the issues that require resolution from the state, not removing local zoning control. This proposal will create a strain on the school system, increased property taxes, amplify traffic and burden local resources which are already stressed. Furthermore, people move out to the suburbs because the perception of the American Dream is still that quaint neighborhood home, picket fence and all, where they can raise a family. As public servants, it’s our duty to preserve and protect that dream.”

In Head of the Harbor, Mayor Doug Dahlgard echoed the sentiments.

“Taking away local zoning control with a broad brush is not acceptable and will be met by opposition claiming the character of our communities will change for the worse,” the mayor said. “Starting a conversation about how to allow generations of a family to stay together on Long Island, on the other hand, makes sense.”

Wehrheim agreed that the issue of affordable housing needs to be discussed and would welcome a task force consisting of local, county and state officials using proven studies and incorporating successful methods that could create affordable housing options in appropriate areas such as a downtown business neighborhood near a train station.

Congressmen support local officials

Town officials have received moral support from their congressmen. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) in a press release criticized Hochul. Suozzi will run in the Democratic primary for governor in June against Hochul

“Governor Hochul’s radical proposal would take away zoning control from municipal governments, erode local government authority and end single-family housing across New York,” Suozzi said. “Hochul’s plan to eliminate home rule is not what we need. I support affordable housing, building up around downtown train stations and helping the homeless. I oppose eliminating home rule and ending single-family housing.”

The presumptive Republican nominee for New York State governor, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) said in a joint statement with Brookhaven officials that Hochul “isn’t focused on real solutions.”

“This blatant attack on suburban communities will end single-family housing as we know it, strip local control away from the New Yorkers who live there, tank the value of their homes, overcrowd their previously quiet streets, and on top of it all, not do anything to solve our affordable housing problem,” Zeldin said.

Michael Donatelli shows off the book donations he received to bring to underprivileged families. Photo from the Donatelli family

By Karina Gerry

Generous, inspiring, compassionate and dedicated, are just a few of the ways people describe 15-year-old Huntington resident Michael Donatelli.

“Michael just as a son has taught me patience, inspiration and truly the true meaning of giving back to others especially during this time of year,” Jennifer Donatelli, Michael’s mom, said.

A sophomore at Chaminade High School in Mineola, Donatelli has a long list of accomplishments for his short 15 years. In 2018 he created the nonprofit, Books for Babies, with his brother Nicholas and friend Catarina Chelius. Inspired by their love for reading, the teenagers found a way to donate their old baby books and promote literacy to underprivileged families across the Island and abroad. 

“They both love to read and saw that there was a need for an organization like this in local communities as well as the country and abroad,” Jennifer Donatelli said. “They wanted to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children by being able to provide them with books in the hope that they too will grow up to be avid readers.”

Donatelli and his book drop-off box. Photo from the Donatelli family

Books for Babies accepts donations for babies and toddlers up to 4 years old. Once the books are collected they are sorted and packaged into custom-designed reusable tote bags with the nonprofit’s logo. Volunteers then distribute the books to homeless shelters, family service leagues, soup kitchens and orphanages. 

“They had their research backed, they looked into literacy rates and just found what a difference it makes, the books that are read to very early ages,” said Michael Strandberg, math teacher at Chaminade and moderator of Catholics for Life. “They found that if they could get more books into the hands of people who otherwise wouldn’t have many, that they could help them for the rest of their lives and improve their academic achievement.”

In November, Michael partnered with Catholics for Life, a national organization of which he is a member, to lead a week-long book drive at Chaminade where they collected hundreds of books. These books were packaged and sent to 250 parishes in the Solomon Islands, located in Southeast Asia.

“It was very impressive how Michael led a drive for a school of over 1,600 students,” Strandberg said. “He prepared announcements to be read each day, he prepared a flier and put it around the school.”

During the pandemic, Michael was concerned about the children who still wanted and needed books, but the organizations and groups he worked with were closed. He decided to create a Books for Babies YouTube channel, where each night he read a baby book and shared it to the channel, hoping to inspire children to read during their time at home. Soon it caught on and children across the country were volunteering to read their favorite books for the channel.

“It was a nice way to try to keep it going, and stay connected,” Jennifer Donatelli said.

In addition, Michael and his brother Nicholas started a book distribution drive-up. Using a local church’s parking lot, they donated tote bags filled with baby books to anyone willing to come and receive them. The response to the drive-up was a success and now the nonprofit holds  one every month.

Michael’s dedication to Books for Babies means he’s always thinking of new ways to grow the organization. He decided to create a literacy program, Opening the World of Learning, also known as OWL, to further the group’s mission of promoting reading to underserved communities. OWL brings books to life at nursery schools in underserved communities across the Island. Books for Babies’ volunteers provide a fun-filled interactive story, followed by an enjoyable activity, and at the end each child receives a free tote bag filled with age appropriate books.

On top of his work for Books for Babies, Michael maintains honor roll status at his school, is a member of nine clubs, volunteers at his church as an usher, volunteers at Huntington Youth Court and is studying for his black belt in jujitsu. 

“He is quiet, he is shy, he is unassuming but he does so much to help everybody else,” Andrew Kelapire, owner of Shindokan Budo Long Island, said.

Michael’s compassion and willingness to help others is what motivated Jennifer Donatelli to nominate him as a TBR News Media Person of the Year.

“I’m so incredibly proud of my son,’’ the mother said. “He’s the type of person that does things and likes to fall under the radar or without anyone fussing. He kind of just likes to do his own thing and volunteer and help others very quietly — and others see his generous spirit and how he is.”