Tags Posts tagged with "Mallika Mitra"

Mallika Mitra

by -
0 40
The Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Cross on Main Street. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Mallika Mitra

A Boy Scout at Ward Melville High School has completed an Eagle service project that beautifies and benefits the Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Cross on Main Street in East Setauket. Justin Russo, 15, got a gazebo donated by John T. Mather Memorial Hospital installed at the church.

Justin said he was on his way home from searching for possible projects when he decided to see if the church could find something for him to work on. Father John, a priest at the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross, explained to Justin that the church used to baptize under a tree that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and that they were looking for a gazebo for baptisms.

The 10th-grade Boy Scout of Troop 117 began searching for a gazebo for the church.

When he called Gera Gardens in Mount Sinai, he was told that they had sold a gazebo to the hospital and that the hospital was now getting rid of it. With the help of his father, the assistant Scoutmaster of the troop who knew a Mather Hospital board member, Justin was able to get the gazebo donated to the church.

They hired East Setauket-based Hurricane Tree Experts Inc. to remove the stump of the tree that had been there since the tree was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy and a local roofing company to restore the gazebo’s roofing.

Justin was able to raise money by collecting donations from friends and family.

“Thankfully I had a lot of support,” he said.

He worked after school and on the weekends doing paperwork and completing business transactions for the service project, with the help of his father.

At the end of November, the Boy Scout organized younger members of his troop to help put in and power wash the gazebo, and put in new banisters and railings, which were destroyed when they got the gazebo from Mather Hospital.

“To teach, you’ve got to be a good leader,” Justin said about organizing the younger Scouts to help him with his project, and added that working with the younger boys was a great experience.

The original plan was to stain the gazebo as well, but they ended up not doing so because “The people at the church said it was perfect the way it was,” Justin said.

Now that the project is completed, Justin, who has been a Boy Scout for about six years, still keeps in touch with Father John at the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross. He said that because he still has some funds left over from the project, he will be able to help Father John with future projects related to the gazebo, if they come up.

The Boy Scout still has a few tasks to finish before he officially becomes an Eagle Scout, but his service project is now complete.

“It was a really good experience,” he said. “I’ve never been involved in anything like it.”

by -
0 44

Betty Bezas celebrated her birthday on Christmas

Betty Bezas photo by Mallika Mitra

By Mallika Mitra

In her 101 years of life, Betty Bezas has seen a lot of the world. Bezas, who just celebrated her birthday on Christmas Day, was born on Dec. 25, 1912, in Greece, where she lived until she was 15 years old.

After her father died in a fire when she was only 1 month old, Bezas lived with her mother, grandmother and uncle.

On Oct. 20, 1929, she had an arranged marriage to Zachary Bezas in Salonika, a city in northern Greece. After honeymooning in Paris, the couple moved to the United States, where Bezas knew no one but her husband’s family.

On Oct. 28, 1930, Bezas gave birth to her first of three daughters. Her daughters Catherine Krusos, Irene Usher and Loretta Janelis currently live in Huntington, Setauket and South Carolina, respectively.

With five grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and twin great-great-grandchildren expected any day now, Bezas is excited to have five generations in the family.

When she first came to the United States, Bezas lived in Brooklyn where her husband worked in a bank until he lost his job during the Great Depression. The couple then moved to Dix Hills, where Bezas worked as an assistant district manager in food services at the Half Hollow Hills school district for 25 years, and her husband ran a chicken farm. His business of selling eggs and chickens lasted until the beginning of World War II, when he went to work at Republic Aviation in Farmingdale, an aircraft manufacturing company that is now Republic Airport.

When her husband died of leukemia, Bezas moved to North Babylon and now lives at Sunrise Senior Living in East Setauket.

Bezas loves to travel and has done quite a bit of it, including trips to Italy, France, Spain and Canada.

“You see all different cultures. You learn a lot,” Bezas said. “People who live in every country have something to offer.”

In her spare time, Bezas likes to crochet and knit. For much of her life she has made hats and blankets for premature babies, which she donates to hospitals, and blankets for senior citizens.

Bezas celebrated her 101st birthday with fellow Sunrise residents and friends from the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson, where she is a member. She has also been a member of Saint Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church in Greenlawn for more than 50 years.

Of the Sunrise staff members who organized her birthday party with decorations, good food and many friends — “They went out of their way,” Bezas said.

By Mallika Mitra

Three eighth-grade girls in the Huntington school district have made a difference this holiday season by raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County.

Maggie Giles, Erica Vazquez, and Gaia D’Anna, who attend J. Taylor Finley Middle School, have spent the past several weeks selling holiday cards at the school. The girls raised more than $1,000, which has been sent to Make-A-Wish, an organization that grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions.

Finley PTA President Julie LaBella said Vazquez was watching a television show a little over a year ago in which a Make-A-Wish child had her wish granted, according to a school press release. The story inspired her to start this fundraiser with her two friends. This is the second year the girls have sold the holiday cards, which exhibit original work by Patrick Giles, Maggie Giles’s father.

Finley students Gaia D’Anna, Maggie Giles and Erica Vazquez. Photo from Jim Hoops
Finley students Gaia D’Anna, Maggie Giles and Erica Vazquez. Photo from Jim Hoops

Last year, the girls raised $350. This year the girls’ original goal was $700, but they surpassed that and made more than $1,000, LaBella said.

“They are an amazing group of girls,” LaBella said in the press release. “It’s so refreshing to see young kids put so much effort into such a wonderful cause.”

The girls have received help from their parents, Finley Middle School Principal John Amato and Sharon Holly, a family and consumer science teacher at the school.

According to LaBella, the cards that the girls have been selling are popular with kids, teachers and parents. The eighth-graders sold so many cards that a second printing was required.

Jim Polansky, the Huntington school district superintendent, bought a package of cards from the girls.

“When listening to Gaia, Maggie and Erica describe their efforts, their caring, compassion, and selflessness simply jumped off the page,” Polansky said in a phone interview. “It was easy to discern how much they wish to make a difference. I was beyond pleased to purchase a package of cards and help contribute to their initiative, which was to do what they could to brighten the lives of others through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.”

Jim Hoops, the Huntington school district public information coordinator, said he believes the girls plan to make this fundraiser an annual event during the holiday season.

“This is an account of three incredible young people who are destined to make a difference,” Polansky said in a statement. “It is refreshing and energizing to speak with them about the initiative, to learn how much it means to them, and how readily they will place the needs of others before their own.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation relies on donations from fundraisers, such as the one Maggie, Erica and Gaia hosted, to grant wishes and change lives.

by -
0 48
Members of UNICO Islip/Smithtown with the Good Samaritan Hospital staff at an Easter event. Photo from Joan Alpers

By Mallika Mitra

While educating their communities on Italian culture and heritage, UNICO members participate in civic engagement to help those in need. And last month, the Islip/Smithtown chapter of UNICO celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Dr. Anthony P. Vastola, who was discriminated against in the United States because he was Italian, founded UNICO  — meaning “unique” in Italian — in 1922. The nationwide organization is focused on funding education of Italian heritage and language, research for cancer and Cooley’s anemia — a type of anemia that occurs in people of predominantly Mediterranean descent — and grants for people with mental challenges, said Pat Pelonero, the office manger of UNICO national and editor of the organization’s publication.

The group also promotes positive images and opposes negative stereotypes of Italian Americans.

According to Pelonero, the 128 chapters of UNICO hold their own events, which range from pasta dinners to gala balls, but all donate to national causes.

Members of the North Shore chapter and Islip/Smithtown chapter, which are within the same district, attend one another’s events, said Ellen Leone, president of the North Shore chapter.

The Islip/Smithtown chapter, chartered in 2003, holds fundraisers and events throughout the year for the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry, the Bay Shore United Methodist Church’s soup kitchen, the Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center Pediatric Unit, among others, said Elizabeth Hansen, president of the UNICO Islip/Smithtown chapter.

The chapter also funds six scholarships for high school students of Italian descent.

According to Hansen, some of the fundraising events throughout the year include wine tasting and raffles, but their main fundraising event is an annual golf outing that takes place in July. The UNICO Islip/Smithtown chapter meets once a month at La Famiglia Italian Restaurant in Smithtown, where the members welcome Italian language lessons and speakers who discuss Italian heritage.

Hansen said her family members in Pennsylvania have been UNICO members for generations and convinced her to join her local chapter.

Pat Westlake, the executive coordinator of the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry, said of UNICO, “They’re very caring people. They always ask what we need help with.”

The chapter’s members also visit the pediatric unit at Good Samaritan Hospital at Easter, when a member of the chapter dresses up as a bunny and passes out stuffed bunnies to all the children.

“It is even more stressful for children and their families when children are hospitalized [during the holidays]” said Joan Alpers, the director of the Child Life Program at the hospital, and UNICO members recognized that and wanted to help out.

It is “a group that loves to give back to the community,” Alpers said.

by -
0 121
John Trodden, above, with previous grand marshals Gerry Creighton, Buster Toner and Mattie O’Reilly, at the grand marshal’s ball in November. Photo by Denise Creighton

By Mallika Mitra

The annual Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade will include a tribute to John Trodden, this year’s grand marshal.

Trodden, 67, was born in Copiague and moved to Kings Park with his family when he was 1 month old.

He was educated at St. Joseph’s elementary school, St. Anthony’s High School and Kings Park school of nursing.

He met his wife, Ellen, in Kings Park and moved to Pennsylvania where he began his career as an anesthetist but moved back to Kings Park where he and Ellen raised their five children, four of whom still live in Kings Park.

“I have traveled all over the world and I will never leave Kings Park,” Trodden said.

His mother, father, aunts, uncles and cousins, live in Ireland and he is very involved in the Irish community of Kings Park.

John Trodden photo from Cathy Cotter
John Trodden photo from Cathy Cotter

“American first, Irish always and Catholic forever,” said Trodden, a deacon at St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park. “That’s my involvement in the Irish community.”

Receiving the most number of votes from the Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee, Trodden will be the fourth grand marshal on March 1 at noon, starting at the corner of Lou Avenue and Pulaski Road and continuing down Main Street.

“John Trodden is a beautiful person,” said Kevin Denis, president of the Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade and owner of Professors Diner on Indian Head Road.

He has known Trodden for 38 years and had the deacon renew his wedding vows.

This year the deacon was chosen because “he has done a lot of good for the people of Kings Park,” said Randy Shaw, a member of the committee parade who organizes all the bands.

Trodden has served in several administrative positions at the Kings Park, Pilgrim and Central Islip psychiatric centers and St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, which at the time was St. John’s hospital.

“He is very involved in the state hospital system on Long Island,” said Councilman Bob Creighton, one of the parade organizers. “He is a progressive and enthusiastic administrator.”

Trodden was an altar boy at the councilman’s wedding 54 years ago, Creighton said. They now see each other often because Creighton is active at the church where Trodden is a deacon.

“He is a very community-oriented fellow who comes from a great family and is really a nice, decent, good man,” Creighton said.

Trodden also did administrative counseling at the Diocese of Rockville Centre after being asked by the bishop for his help, he said. He is a chaplain for the Kings Park Fire Department and the Suffolk County Police Department, where he provides pastoral counseling.

Trodden said he has also served as a deacon for Teams of Our Lady, which strengthens and provides support groups for marriage. Trodden is a member of Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal benefits organization.

“I am honored,” Trodden said about being selected as this year’s grand marshal. “It is a tribute to my mother and father, a tribute to my wife, Ellen, a tribute to my children and to my grandchildren.”

by -
0 50

By Mallika Mitra

As the clerk of the historic Setauket Post Office on Main Street greeted customers and conversed with each one, all the while stamping their packages, she said that not all residents know the post office is still open for business.

After a scare in the past few years that the small post office might close, customers who used the post office think that the old building next to the Mill Pond is no longer in business, said Stephanie Ungarino, the post office’s clerk who heads up the branch.

“People come in and say, ‘Oh, I thought this place was closed,’” she said.

The woman who now runs the historic post office worked as a clerk at the larger Setauket Post Office on Route 25A for 19 years before moving to the small Setauket branch.

Marty Donnelly was the postmaster of the Setauket branch until his retirement in February.

In April, Ungarino moved from the larger post office to the one on Main Street to fill in Donnelly’s position.

In July 2011, the United States Postal Service announced the historic post office was one of 3,700 across the country considered for closing because they were not providing enough revenue.

However, residents and elected officials rallied against the closing and spoke out and have been successful in keeping the post office open.

Although Ungarino has the same responsibilities at the historic Setauket branch as she did at the larger Setauket branch, she said it is different working at the smaller building.

“This is just a one-man show,” Ungarino said, and she likes it that way.

“I know them all,” she said about the residents who come into the small post office.

“I wish it was a little busier,” Ungarino said of her new workplace. “I like to keep busy.”

According to Ungarino, after all the talk about whether the small post office would be closed, some people who had previously used the historic Setauket Post Office began to go to the larger branch.

Because of the support the post office receives from Setauket residents, “this place is not going anywhere,” Ungarino said.

by -
0 60
Kathy O’Sullivan, the Rev. Pete Jansson, Sandra Swenk and Ken Brady wave at the Biddle Fountain's dedication. Photo by Bob Savage

By Mallika Mitra & Elana Glowatz

Through hard work and dedication, pieces of Port Jefferson’s history that were lost or crumbling have been restored, preserving tales of the village’s past for future generations.

The historic First Baptist Church building that was once languishing has been renovated and a landmark fountain that disappeared from its front lawn at East Main Street and Prospect Street has been returned.

For their efforts in keeping village history alive while beautifying the area, the Island Christian Church, led by the Rev. Pete Jansson, as well as community volunteers Kathy O’Sullivan, Ken Brady and Sandra Swenk, are some of our People of the Year.

The Biddle Fountain, donated by famous village resident John Biddle in 1898, was once a gathering place in the village, a focal point of parades and other events. Unfortunately, a couple of decades later it became difficult to maintain and when Brookhaven Town removed it to widen the intersection at East Main and Prospect streets, it was lost to history. But our People of the Year stepped in, bringing in a replica of the fountain that sits in front of the church building, now the home of Island Christian Church, as it did before, many years ago.

After the fountain was put in place, Laura Schnier, a member of the church who was on the committee for the Biddle Fountain project, added plants.

The new Biddle Fountain stands in front of the Island Christian Church. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The new Biddle Fountain stands in front of the Island Christian Church. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Each volunteer played a vital role in bringing the fountain replica to the village.

According to Jansson, Brady, the village historian, brought all of the knowledge about the original fountain, put out a search for the lost landmark and then searched for a replica of the old fountain.

The Rev. Joe Garofalo of the Island Christian Church, which also has locations in Northport and Holtsville, said Brady has “a wealth of information.”

Port Jefferson Village’s digital photo archive, which Brady set up and includes numerous historical images, proved helpful during the Biddle Fountain project, Brady said.

The historian, in turn, said Swenk, a former village mayor, was helpful in reaching out to people for fundraising.

“Sandra has really great ideas,” Jansson agreed. “She put tremendous effort into connecting with people in the neighborhood and soliciting money.”

According to O’Sullivan, Swenk has always been involved in the beautification of the village and keeping the historical aspect of the town alive.

“Sandra is very concerned about the town,” Schnier said.

For her part, O’Sullivan “was the driving force in the whole project” and stayed with it through several setbacks, such as early trouble with fundraising, Brady said.

“She is a good leader,” the historian said. “She brings out the best in people.”

O’Sullivan has watched the church transform over the years, since her father was a minister at the First Baptist Church of Port Jefferson from 1978 to 1980. The struggling church had its last service on July 4, 2010, before it was renovated and became the Island Christian Church.

“It was such a small church with no money at all,” O’Sullivan said. “It was extraordinarily wonderful to see how they rebuilt the church.”

She said in a previous interview that though she is not a member of Island Christian Church, after she saw the building’s renovation and the good it did for the village, she decided to return the favor by lending her help to the fountain project.

Jansson, who began leading the Port Jefferson congregation once the Island Christian Church opened, said, “We wanted to restore it back to what it used to look like in the 1850s.”

by -
0 52

Dennis Sullivan is a Man of the Year for selfless work

Dennis Sullivan blows a bugle at the 2011 Veterans Day Ceremony at the Centereach VFW post. File photo by Brittany Wait

By Mallika Mitra

As state surgeon of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York, Dennis Sullivan works hard to ensure that his fellow veterans are cared for.

Sullivan is also the quartermaster and financial officer of VFW Post 4927 in Centereach, which he joined in 1984. According to Richard Autorina, chaplain of the VFW post, Sullivan continuously displays “caring, compassion and commitment toward veterans.”

Sullivan visits Veterans Affairs hospitals and outpatient clinics to assist veterans with personal problems, and raises money to help veterans in emergency situations, Autorina said.

“Dennis was a great comfort to me as a parent,” when her son was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army, Councilwoman Kathleen Walsh said. According to Walsh, when her son returned, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury. Walsh said Sullivan helped her understand her son’s PTSD.

Sullivan mentored many young men coming back from having been deployed, Walsh said. When Sullivan visits veterans at VA hospitals, he also helps them fill out their forms and speed up their VA claims.

“Anything I can do for the veterans,” Sullivan said of his visits to VA hospitals.

For spending his time caring and advocating for veterans, Dennis Sullivan is a Man of the Year.

The VFW state surgeon is also the chairperson of Recycled Rides, a program that provides veterans with cars. According to Chris Senior, the owner of Crestwood Auto Body, insurance companies donate to the program cars that have been in accidents, stolen or were company cars. Then, auto body shops donate time and labor to fix the cars, companies donate car parts to assist in fixing the cars and Sullivan coordinates getting the cars to veterans.

“He is a selfless man,” Senior said of Sullivan. “He is always looking to help someone less fortunate than him.”

Ed Kizenberger, the executive director of Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association, met Sullivan through the VFW when he was looking for a way to donate rides to those in need.

“He was very enthusiastic about helping,” Kizenberger said. “He is one of those people who is always happy to donate his time and resources to help others.”

Sullivan is also a member of the Veterans Review Board of the Long Island Home Builders Care Development Corp. A not-for-profit, the organization uses donations of land and dollars to build new homes for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Autorina, the organization has given away two homes and will be giving away five more in December to Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and their families. In June, Sullivan was on the panel of six VFW commanders who chose Marine Sgt. Ryan Donnelly to receive a new home.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) met Sullivan 11 years ago when Bishop was first elected to Congress. They worked together when Sullivan asked Bishop for funding to renovate the kitchen of the Centereach VFW building.

Now Sullivan is on Bishop’s Veterans Advisory Board, which reviews issues important to veterans. According to Krystyna Baumgartner, Bishop’s new communications director, the board is especially interested in legislation that deals with appropriations and protecting both active duty service members and veterans. The board advised the congressman on the REVAMP Act, which would create a grant program for veterans organizations, such as the VFW, to receive up to $250,000 to renovate their halls, Baumgartner said.

Because Sullivan is so active in VFW affairs across the state — traveling throughout the state to help veterans — the two have worked on similar projects and events, said Bishop, who described himself as lucky to be able to call Sullivan a friend.

This year, state Sen. John Flanagan inducted Sullivan into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame. Sullivan was honored for his service to the United States during the Vietnam War and his continued commitment to his fellow veterans since the end of his service.

According to Autorina, after Hurricane Sandy, Sullivan visited VFW posts on Long Island and spoke to veterans who were victims of the hurricane. He raised and distributed $148,000 to more than 350 veterans and ladies auxiliary members, Autorina said.

“Dennis is just a phone call away of anyone in need,” Autorina said. “If he can’t help them, he will go out of his way to find the right person for each situation.”

by -
0 149
Arthur Giove Jr.’s house at 65 Elm Ave. in Coram lights up every year for a good cause. Photo by Mallika Mitra

By Mallika Mitra

For the sixth year, 65 Elm Ave. in Coram exhibits holiday spirit with the help of more than 70,000 LED lights, handmade decorations and music.

In the past, Arthur Giove Jr. decorated his house with just a few lights and simple decorations. But years ago, he began researching online about how to create a show on his front lawn with bright lights, yard inflations and elaborate decorations.

The light show can now be seen every night from Thanksgiving to New Years between 5 and 11 pm.

Giove has made about 90 percent of the decorations on his lawn by himself. A computer in his garage is setup with a FM transmitter, which allows people to hear the music on 107.3 FM coordinated with the light show, as well as through speakers in front of the house. The light show is around half an hour long and includes 13 holiday songs.

“It’s not just a big cluttered mess,” Giove said. “It’s all coordinated.”

At the front of the house sits a donation box, collecting money from visitors for the Suffolk County Make-A-Wish Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Giove has been collecting donations during the holidays for the past five years. This year, he introduced a new donation box.

“Every year I add, I take stuff down and replace it,” he said.

He estimated he has collected about $40,000 over the years for the charities.

Other changes to this year’s show include the addition of 6-foot snowflakes, two 8-foot spiral trees and elves that pop out of their boxes.

“I don’t even have to tell people what’s new,” Giove said. “They’ve been coming every year, so they know.”

Giove works on the light show all year with the help of his wife and children. He begins by making the lights and decorations in February, March and April. Then, he spends the spring and summer choreographing the show. In October, Giove begins decorating. He has spent upward of $15,000 on creating the winter wonderland.

As the holidays get closer, Elm Avenue welcomes a line of cars, filled with people wanting to see Giove’s show.

“Sometimes you can’t even get down the block,” he said. “Some people stay for two minutes and some stay for two hours.”

The neighbors don’t mind having such a popular light show on their street.

“Everybody loves it,” said Lynn Sarppraicone, who lives two blocks away from Giove’s house. “We come here every year.”

“Facebook has been a tremendous help,” Giove said about making his show known. The Facebook page, titled “Elm Avenue Dancing Light Show,” has received more than 1,700 likes.

Drive over to 65 Elm Ave. in Coram on Friday, Dec. 13, at 7 pm to see Santa, elf on the shelf and Dave the minion during the light show.

A Jefferson’s Ferry resident and a staff member share a hug. Photo by Mallika Mitra

By Mallika Mitra

Sudden music, dancing and hugs surprised residents of Jefferson’s Ferry retirement community on Dec. 12, when staff members participated in a flash mob with “Hug Me Maybe,” a parody of singer Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”

Nearly 200 residents laughed and clapped along to the music while Jefferson’s Ferry management, waitstaff and elder care personnel performed a choreographed dance and made their way through the audience hugging residents.

It was the second flash mob — a sudden convergence of people, usually for a surprise performance — set to “Hug Me Maybe” that the residents have seen, the first one being in January as Jefferson’s Ferry CEO Karen Brannen started conducting a study entitled “Embraceable You.” The goal of the study, which was run by Hauppauge-based Corporate Performance Consultants and Brannen herself, was to see whether contact would enhance the lives of residents.

According to Brannen, about 200 residents participated in the study, which consisted of three surveys: one in January, before the interpersonal hugging program called “Hug Me” began, one during the program and one in April, after the program was completed.

The program period kicked off with a flash mob, followed by games and activities throughout that first week. If residents hugged staff or each other, they would receive tokens, which were later drawn for prizes. Residents could also hug staff members at hugging booths located throughout the complex and receive small prizes, such as candy and beads.

“The day we announced what we were doing, a resident came up to me afterward with tears in her eyes and said, ‘My husband died a year ago and this is exactly what I needed. I need a hug,’” Brannen said. “It all just meant so much to her.”

Although “Embraceable You” was not a clinical study, Brannen said it showed that interpersonal touch has a positive effect on the moods of residents. The questions concerning depression on the surveys given to residents were more positive after the original “Hug Me” program concluded in April.

Now the “Hug Me” program has started up again, and this time it’s here to stay.

“We want to make [hugging] part of our culture,” Brannen said. “Between staff and residents, we have very positive relationships. The culture is one that they accept a program like this.”

A waitress in Jefferson’s Ferry’s dining hall choreographed last Thursday’s dance, performed close to the holidays.

“The holidays are a very hard time for people who have lost family,” Brannen said. She added that many residents have lost loved ones and don’t have the opportunity for interpersonal touching.

The flash mob’s routine, which was taught to the staff in one week by three members of the dining room staff who had been in the original performance in January, yielded a positive response.

“The spontaneity is just wonderful,” said Nancy Darling, who has been a resident for more than four years.

Chuck Darling added, “The kids in the dining room and staff are fantastic.”

According to Brannen, for the “Embraceable You” study, residents and staff of Jefferson’s Ferry were taught how to appropriately hug each other.

As a result, “residents were getting closer,” she said.

According to Faith Littlefield, who will have been a resident for three years in March, residents were given literature about how physical contact is healthy.

“It really is good for you,” Littlefield said. “Karen, our CEO, is the best hugger.”