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Middle Country Public Library

Scenes from Centereach's Class of 2017 commencement ceremony June 25. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Jill Webb

Leading Centereach High School Class of 2017 are valedictorian Demi Lambadis and salutatorian Kelly McLaughlin.

Lambadis divided her time between a busy academic schedule, student government involvement and extracurricular activities.

Since seventh grade, Lambadis has had it in the back of her mind that becoming valedictorian was “more of a personal goal as opposed to anything external.”

Demi Lambadis

She  graduates with 10 AP classes under her belt, along with three additional college-level courses. Her extensive AP course load has earned her recognition from the College Board as an AP Scholar with Honors.

In addition to academic success, Lambadis has served  as both the president and vice president for her class. She was also acting vice president of the school’s Leaders’ Club.

Agnieszka Taciak, an AP Environmental teacher at Centereach  whom Lambadis was close with, said she’s proud of the dedication her student continued to give to her curriculum.

“There’s no secret to it — she simply does work, and is very proud of the quality of the work,” Taciak said. “And she’s very humble about the approach to work.”

Dance is one of Lambadis’ favorite hobbies, and this year she’s once again on the road to nationals. She noted she also placed at every regional and national dance competition she entered.

Taciak recalls one instance where Lambadis’ work ethic stood out to her. The teacher had given an assignment over the same weekend her student had to travel to a dance competition.

“I was reasonably expecting that she would have to be asking for a time extension,” Taciak said, but was surprised when instead, Lambadis came into school that Monday smiling with the assignment ready in hand.

For students looking to be a future valedictorian, Lambadis said, “the main thing to focus on is to not worry about everyone else, and to worry about yourself.”

Come September, Lambadis will be a freshman at Lehigh University, studying biomechanical engineering.

Kelly McLaughlin

Salutatorian Kelly McLaughlin, like Lambadis, has completed an extensive amount of AP courses, finishing with 11, and adding four college-level classes onto that list.

Outside of academics, McLaughlin had a busy schedule. She balanced her time between serving as  president of her school’s National Spanish Honor Society and as an active member of the National Junior Honor Society.

Laura Melfi speaks very fondly of McLaughlin’s presence in her AP calculus class, regarding her as sometimes being a secondary teacher.

“Kids would ask her questions ‘Kelly, how’d you do this? What’d you do?’ if I was busy helping someone else,” Melfi said.

In the future, McLaughlin hopes to become a math teacher, citing her teachers, including Melfi, as inspiring her to take that career path. Melfi said she feels McLaughlin possesses the traits needed to be an effective math teacher.

“She doesn’t let her intelligence make her feel like she’s better than anybody else,” Melfi said. “She will help everybody and anybody.”

McLaughlin also sets aside time to give back to her community by volunteering as a tutor for students at the Middle Country Public Library. Her volunteer experience has landed her some tutoring jobs, usually in math and science.

McLaughlin said she enjoys being able to help out.

“For me to make someone understand it — that feels really good that I have that impact on them,” she said.

This experience will be handy as McLaughlin goes off to study mathematics and education SUNY Geneseo.

Attention job seekers! Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach will host a Job Fair on March 7 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Presented by the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center, representatives from over 40 businesses are scheduled to attend, including ACLD, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, BJG Electronics, Castella Imports, Catapult Staffing, Comfort Keepers, Developmental Disabilities Institute, DiCarlo Distributors, Dollar Tree, East End Bus Lines, East End Disabilities, Eastern Suffolk BOCES, EOC of Suffolk, Express Employment Pros, FREE, FJC Security, Goodwill, Home Depot, Home Instead Senior Care, HW Staffing, Ideal Home Care, Interim Healthcare, LI Cares, LIRR, Lowes, New Vitality, NRL Strategies, NY Life Insurance Co., NYS Civil Service, Options for Community Living, Precious Lambs Childcare, Prudential, Right at Home, SCO Family of Services, South Shore Home Health, Suffolk County Water Authority, UCP of Suffolk, Urban League Mature Workers Program, US Postal Service, Utopia Home Care and Windowrama.

All are welcome and no registration is required. Bring copies of your resume and dress to impress. For more information, call 631-585-9393.

Robert Montano performs at the Middle Country Public Library last weekend. Photo from MCPL

By Kevin Redding

Middle Country Public Library stands as one of the busiest and most admired institutions not just on Long Island but in the country. A “dynamic community hub” that’s constantly offering up unique programs and services to benefit residents of all ages, the library also provides visitors with impressive decor and hallmarks, like the aquarium and outdoor “girl and cat” bench. This is all due in large part to the Friends of Middle Country Public Library, a noncommercial organization made up of loyal volunteers who strive to keep the library strong and the community happy — which they’ve been doing since they started more than 20 years ago.

Grace Miller performs at the Middle Country Public Library. Photo from MCPL
Grace Miller performs at the Middle Country Public Library. Photo from MCPL

Currently made up of 155 active members, the Friends serve as “ambassadors” to the library. Whether it’s getting the word out about programs or hosting fundraising events and membership drives to raise money for purchases that the library wouldn’t normally be able to afford as a taxpayer institution, the group utilizes its spirit and volunteerism to help enhance the library any way it can.

“Generally, we don’t raise money for a specific project,” said Kathryn Sekulo, a former president of the Friends of Middle Country Public Library, who takes care of group membership. “What we do is we raise money and really look for guidance from the library staff, like what they would like to see in the library. We have some really great support from the staff, so we work closely with them. We really bridge a gap between the library and the community and supply funding that they can’t.”

The Friends’ hard work has helped enrich the library’s overall appearance, contributing many things like a custom-made dollhouse to sit in its early childhood area, a Chase Waterfalls display to hang on the wall, matching dragonfly benches to adorn the outside fountain area and a Yamaha grand piano for the Centereach branch. Most recently, the group provided the library with a mural in the Heritage Area in Centereach, iPads for the children’s department, a new fish tank and iPods for the Music and Memory program — which helps patrons that have Alzheimer’s. A majority of its funds come from two book sales held in April and November of each year — which normally raises a combined $4,000 — and an annual garage sale that occurs on the first Saturday in August — which normally raises over $1,000.

With help from sponsors King Kullen and the Allstate Foundation, the Friends have also established and funded the Island Idol contest, a full-fledged music concert and competition that takes place every summer wherein local teens entertain a crowd of hundreds with their range of talents, get evaluated by a panel of judges and have the opportunity to go home with a $500 prize. On Oct. 16, in recognition of National Friends of Libraries Week, the Friends kicked off a series of activities with 13-year-old Robert Montano playing piano in the library’s lobby. Once a month, as part of the group’s Sunday Sounds events, the Friends reach out to local school districts in search of pianists, guitarists and singers looking for a venue in which to play. On Nov. 10, a fundraiser Laughter for a Cause will be held at McGuire’s Comedy Club in Bohemia and all proceeds will go toward the needs of the library.

“They’re very committed; they’re very loyal to the library and they really have the best of intentions,” said Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, the library’s director. “Their goal is to help us and to help provide and extend our services and our resources — and they really do that. They are like the true definition of a Friends group. We’re definitely grateful for the relationship that we have with them.”

Founded in 1994, the Friends were just a small group of local patrons who loved the library and came forward to help when it needed it most. According to group founder John Hoctor, there was a pack of angry residents at the time who were bent on reducing taxes and going after public institutions — complaining especially about the library — as taxes have always been its main source of income. They were extremely disruptive and resorted to picketing, Hoctor offered his help to Sandra Feinberg, the library’s director from 1991 to 2012. He had read up on Friends groups, which had existed within different libraries throughout the country, and worked to ensure that Middle Country Public Library had its own.

“[The library] has been very important to me. That’s why I’ve been involved all this time. It’s such a wonderful place, and I want to give back.”

—Donna Smosky

“The library is such an important part of the Middle Country community,” said Hoctor, who currently serves as vice president of the library’s board of trustees. “We don’t really have a town hall or a village center, so the library became the community center of Centereach and Selden and the Middle Country district. It’s a way to share resources, whether it’s books, computers, video, DVDs … there are lots of outreach programs. The Friends group is there as a place for very positive encouragement to show that we have a strong library and the wherewithal to take care of all the patrons in the community.”

Donna Smosky, a former elementary school teacher who served as president of the Friends for many years, and currently helps develop their quarterly newsletter, feels great pride for what the group has accomplished as “cheerleaders” for the library. She says that Middle Country Public Library is a jewel and that not many people realize it’s received national recognition, with librarians coming from all over the country to learn about programs that have been developed there with hopes of replicating them elsewhere.

“[The library] has been very important to me,” she said. “That’s why I’ve been involved all this time. It’s such a wonderful place, and I want to give back. It was important to me when my children were small. Every single person here has a story about how this library has impacted their lives. In fact, I have a whole notebook of stories that members have written about why they love it. These people have become great friends over the years, as we share a love for the library. There’s something for everybody here.”

The Laughter for a cause event will take place at 8 p.m. on Nov. 10. Tickets are $20 per person, and you must be 18 or older to attend. The Friends’ fall book sale will take place on Nov. 4 and 5.

By Heidi Sutton

The community was given an opportunity to kick off their holiday shopping at the 16th annual Women’s EXPO last Thursday, Oct. 6. The one-day event, which was held at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, drew an estimated crowd of more than 2,400 people who came out to support local women in business.

Presented by the Middle Country Library Foundation and the library’s Miller Business Resource Center, the occassion gave more than 80 women entrepreneurs the opportunity to introduce their wonderful products, which included wine, candles, baked goods, handbags, fall crafts, clothing, jewelry, teas, jams, pottery, soaps and much more.

“Once again we were impressed by all the successful women we meet through the EXPO,“ said Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator of the Adult Services and the Miller Business Resource Center at the library. Vendors interested in participating in next year’s event are encouraged to visit www.womensExpoli.org.

Above, from left, Elizabeth Malafi and Marlene Gonzalez of the Middle Country Public Library; Bebe Federmann, Mari Irizarry and Dawn Rotolo. Photo from Elizabeth Malafi

By Ellen Barcel

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 9 million firms in the U.S. are owned by women. Although many of these firms are large, many others are small, run by a single entrepreneur. Many are run by women who find they are able to work from a home office or studio. They are writers, artists, craftspeople, importers, designers and other entrepreneurs, many earning a living while caring for families.

Fifteen years ago, the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach began a tradition that continues to this day — the annual Women’s EXPO — a one-day event where local women entrepreneurs can network with their colleagues, display and sell their work at the library and get the word out about their great products.

At this year’s event, to be held Thursday, Oct. 6, expect 83 vendors, said Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator, Adult Services and the Miller Business Resource Center. Approximately 25 will be new vendors while the rest will be old friends. “It’s sad,” she said, “when some people you really love are no longer at the show, but you know they are succeeding.” Sometimes their business just outgrows the EXPO.

What’s really exciting about the EXPO is the great diversity of entrepreneurs. Shoppers can find everything from jewelry and pottery to beverages, from crocheted items to home goods. The one overriding theme is that the products and services are provided by women. Noted Malafi, the EXPO “is getting bigger and bigger every year.”

During the day, there will be two opportunities to dine. The EXPO Café will be open during lunchtime with food provided and sold by the Fifth Season Café from Port Jefferson. At 4 p.m., visit Sweet Street and Beats. “People can come and purchase snacks and listen to music.”

Malafi emphasized that this “is not just a trade show. We’re here to support women and help them succeed in the business world.” The EXPO, a project of the library’s Miller Business Center, provides workshops to women entrepreneurs throughout the year, helping them to establish their businesses. Here’s a sampling of vendors scheduled to be on site:

Dawn Rotolo

Dawn Rotolo, owner of Dragon’s Nest Baked Goods, fills a very special need. Many consumers find that they are gluten or dairy intolerant, or have other food allergies. Shopping for these specialty items can be challenging and what’s found in the stores either is limited or not as flavorful as the traditional ones. Here’s where Rotolo comes in. Finding out that she herself was gluten intolerant, she decided to fulfill a dream. “I always dreamed of owning my own bakery,” she said. And, that bakery would have foods that people with gluten intolerance could enjoy.

“Everything is gluten free,” but, she didn’t stop there. She went on to develop products that were dairy free, nut free and vegan. Items include a variety of breads (including a “rye style” bread made without rye flour) cupcakes, cookies (even meringue and rainbow), cakes and muffins. She will even take orders for other specialty items. Rotolo has no classical training in baking, but has always loved it. While it was her mother who was a professional cook, her father was the one who frequently asked her to bake. “That’s where my love of baking started. It reminds me of my dad.”

Where did the name Dragon’s Nest come from? “I’ve always loved dragons and I didn’t want a company named after me.” Think of a dragon breathing fire — there’s the oven for the baking. In addition to appearing at the EXPO, Rotolo is at selected farmers markets (check Instagram or Facebook for specifics).

Bebe Federmann

Bebe Federmann of Soul Vessel Designs said that she “stumbled on pottery. I always wanted to take a pottery class.” Then she came across Randy Blume. “I was with her when she was working in her basement” before opening her Hands on Clay studio in East Setauket. Federmann worked for her for a number of years before Blume moved out of the area.

She noted, “There hasn’t been anything to replace it.” Federmann went on, “I was then in the corporate world until four years ago … but never gave up [on pottery making], doing it as a hobby.” But then she wanted to go back to her pottery studio full time. Where does the name of her business Soul Vessel Designs come from? “I put my heart and soul into what I make.” She noted, “With clay, possibilities are endless.” Her pottery is primarily tableware, mugs, bowls, pitchers, vases, etc. “They are functional art, designed to be used every day, very long lasting.” She added, “and planters. I’ve done a lot of those lately.” Her color palette is primarily neutral, with “a lot of white, some blues and greens” for decoration.” Federmann added that she also takes special orders. “I do a lot of custom designs, including work for restaurants.”

This will be Federmann’s third year at the EXPO. “It’s one of the best, such a great show.”

Jessica Giovachino

Jessica Giovachino, owner of GioGio Designs
Jessica Giovachino, owner of GioGio Designs

Jessica Giovachino of GioGio Designs is a residential architect by profession. “That’s how I got involved in home goods,” she noted. Sometimes after designing a home, she is asked to design related home goods. Giovachino’s home goods are eco-friendly, made from bamboo. “Bamboo is a sustainable wood.” After being harvested, bamboo can be replanted and regrows quickly. Giovachino joked that when people hear her products are made from bamboo, they quickly say, “You can come to my yard.”

Many of her home products are slotted. “They fit together like a puzzle … candleholders can be taken apart to store,” she said, adding that she wants her products to be not only useful, but fun. For larger products, “I work with a cabinet maker,” to cut the pieces. “I finish them in my studio. Others I cut out with a laser cutter. Because I’m an architect I’m used to designing on the computer … then send the file to my laser cutter.” After the pieces are cut she does all the finishing. In addition, “I do a whole line of jewelry as well. All the jewelry is laser cut from wood, stainless steel and leather,” she said.

Giovachino has been involved in designing home goods and jewelry for three years — “starting my fourth year.” However, this is her first year at the Women’s EXPO. “A friend does catering for the event. She told me about it … it looked great, really exciting.” In addition to the EXPO, she and her work can be found at local craft shows, but “I’m moving to wholesale, getting crafts in boutiques.”

Alaila Lee

Alaila Lee, owner of Clovesz
Alaila Lee, owner of Clovesz

Alaila Lee, owner of Clovesz, may be the youngest vendor at the EXPO. “I’m just 21,” she said. After graduating from Bay Shore High School, Lee went to the Culinary Academy of Long Island in Syosset. Then she “started selling hibiscus flower drinks [Sorrel]. They’re representative of my culture — Jamaican,” using a family recipe. The beverages come in several flavors, including pineapple and mango and can be “served hot or cold, still or sparking.” The drinks are sold in really unique bottles. When she was looking for a unique shape, she found that many shapes and designs were on the shelf already with other products. “I looked around and saw a light bulb,” and so the light bulb bottle came into existence. Lee markets primarily through expos and farmers markets but “I would like to expand in the culinary world.”

Products she is considering include tea bags and other beverages. Since so many of these vendors have items that make great holiday presents, this is a wonderful opportunity to start your shopping in a relaxed and fun atmosphere, knowing that you are helping the local economy.

Mari Irizarry

Mari Irizarry of Hook and Wool is one of the vendors presenting her work at the Women’s EXPO for the first time. Irizarry is from Brooklyn and moved to Long Island two years ago. “I was a graphic designer and marketing director” in Brooklyn, said Irizarry. “When I moved here I left that job and made more time” for her handmade items.

“As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, times were occasionally tough and we moved around a lot … Looking back, a lot of the things we had, that outlasted apartments we lived in, were handmade. Not only were they made with someone’s energy and love, but they were high quality — truly pieces of art. One of the only material things I have from childhood is a hand-crocheted Christmas stocking that our neighbor, Mrs. Genovich, made for me,” she said.

Irizarry learned crocheting, sewing and knitting from her mother, who learned from her mother. “I didn’t do much as a child,” she added but “it was 1999 and I was broke. I had a lot of family and friends I wanted to give holiday presents to … so I got to stitching.” She added that some of those items are still being worn today. Irizarry’s wool and acrylic items are handmade by her and include scarves, hats and blankets. She noted, “I’m at my happiest when I’m creating something to share and enjoy with loved ones.” Speaking of next Thursday’s event, she said, “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s so exciting to be invited to the EXPO.”

The annual Women’s EXPO will take place on Thursday, Oct. 6, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Boulevard, Centereach. Admission is free and there is ample parking. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393 or go to www.womensexpoli.org.

Amy Hagedorn worked with Middle Country Public Library

After teaching, Amy Hagedorn continued to dedicate her life to helping others. Photo from Darren Sandow

By Kevin Redding

Amy Hagedorn, whose generosity and activism as co-founder of the Hagedorn Foundation, provided millions of dollars for children, families and immigrants across Long Island, died Sept. 8 after a lengthy battle with lymphocytic leukemia at her home in Floral Park, surrounded by her family. She was 79.

Hagedorn was called an incredibly strong, passionate and kind-hearted person by family and friends, who said she dedicated her life and wealth to making an impact on a wide variety of groups and causes. She deeply cared for others, especially those who were in low places, and was hands-on with everything within her foundation and fund up until her final days.

Born Amelia Maiello in a small apartment in Queens in 1936, she had a humble upbringing. Her mother — a first-generation immigrant from Italy — struggled with poverty her whole life. Hagedorn understood that every cent counted. She was an accomplished student who went to Jamaica High School and went on to graduate from Baruch College. Even with college costing $15 a semester, money was tight. For years, she struggled financially as a single mother of four — having to juggle parenting, a house in Great Neck that constantly needed repairs and a job as a preschool teacher at a number of schools, ultimately Hillside Grade School in New Hyde Park. But she never let it be known. She loved teaching and brought a certain serenity to her classroom.

Longtime friend and fellow pre-school teacher Anna-Marie Quinlan said that she had a very caring and respectful way of treating children that was different from a lot of teachers.

“She was a very gentle, serene person. For all that she did, she was just always easy to be with.”

— Anna-Marie Quinlan

“Amy brought security and calm into their lives,” Quinlan said. “She was always very careful about the way she set things up to them; they were set up to be accomplished and they learned how to be successful in that small manner. When she was a teacher, she was a team member and those are the kinds of things I appreciated about her. She was a very gentle, serene person. For all that she did, she was just always easy to be with.”

In the mid-1980s, Hagedorn began the transition to being an activist for many people on Long Island, by writing a singles ad in a weekly newspaper. She sought a “warm-hearted man with a cool head and charming manner” who would share in her yearning for romance, love of reggae and dreams of sailing.” Recent widower Horace Hagedorn — the born-wealthy marketing genius behind the hugely popular Miracle-Gro gardening product — responded, and in 1986 the two were married. They couldn’t have come from more differing backgrounds, but for the first time in her life, Amy Hagedorn was in possession of a great deal of wealth. But she wasn’t about to spend it on yachts or jewelry. Instead, she was adamant to give it to those who truly needed it.

In 1993, she and Horace started a fund at the Long Island Community Foundation — geared toward children and families in need of help — which has since donated $65,403,917 in nearly 2,985 grants to more than 500 nonprofit organizations. After Horace died in 2005, he left her $50 million to continue their charitable activism. With the help of Darren Sandow, a longtime member of the Long Island Community Foundation staff, the widow started the Hagedorn Foundation, a limited-life organization that continues to provide much-needed attention and care for families and children, especially those of an early age.

“As a preschool teacher, Amy was very concerned with the early years of a child’s life,” said Sandow, executive director of the foundation. “That was a very big passion of hers; she basically wanted every kid to get to the same starting line, no matter what ZIP code they came from.”

Hagedorn believed that parents who are emotionally available, educating children as early as possible, and providing safe environments are greatly improving the health and future job prospects of their child, as well as reducing involvement in crime and substance abuse. Her passion led to programs like the Parent Leadership Initiative, among many others like it, which provides intensive advocacy training for parents.

“She basically wanted every kid to get to the same starting line, no matter what ZIP code they came from.”

— Darren Sandow

Her contributions to the world around her were limitless and awe-inspiring.

The Hagedorn Foundation helped establish a more family-based system at Middle Country Public Library and was instrumental in transforming it into a community center — providing childhood education and support for families in need of a nurturing environment.

Another huge passion of hers was immigration. The foundation worked tirelessly in helping immigrants and making Long Island a more comfortable place for them to live and thrive and advance. Having grown up hearing stories of what her mother went through in a country brand new to her, Hagedorn was proud to grant them the money they needed to get going. She also hired an outreach coordinator on behalf of the foundation to speak at schools and avert prejudices and hate crimes against immigrants.

In addition, Hagedorn granted scholarships to deserving students from her alma mater, Baruch College, among several other colleges. She was also heavily involved in helping people become more hands-on politically, exercising their rights to vote and participating in the local governments of their communities.

She was pivotal in the foundation of ERASE Racism, which served to expose and combat structural racism across Long Island and was on the board of Northwell Health, a system devoted to providing better health care.

For Sandow, Hagedorn’s absence will be immensely felt.

“We have staff meetings every Monday, and Amy attended just about every single one of them, and it’s heart-wrenching to not see her in her normal space around our table, being part of our conversations,” he said. “I’ve known Amy for 20 years now and I considered her a matriarch and a mentor and partner at this foundation. She was very hands-on and very approachable to everyone. You would never know the kind of wealth she had. She was an amazing lady, and she was fearless.”

Amy Hagedorn is survived by her four children, as well as Horace’s six children, 34 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. A public memorial service will take place in October. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, those who wish to express condolences make a contribution to the Horace and Amy Hagedorn Fund at the New York Community Trust.

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Middle Country Public Library teen volunteers pose for Instagram photos during a celebration at the library in Centereach. Photo from MCPL

By Wenhao Ma

Teenagers in the Middle Country school district are making a difference in their community.

The Middle Country Public Library in Centereach held a teen recognition ceremony on July 20 to honor teens who have been participating in community service programs at the library. More than 100 parents and teens attended the event.

Programs at the library include Book Buddies, Homework Pals, Math Buddies, Teen Book Reviewer, Battle of Books, Mutt Club, Organic Gardening and Teen Advisory Council.

Nearly 200 volunteers and parents packed the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach for the award ceremony. Photo by Wenhao Ma
Nearly 200 volunteers and parents packed the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach for the award ceremony. Photo by Wenhao Ma

“I think it’s important for teens to have an awareness of what’s going on in their communities, and different ways that they can make a difference and make their worlds a better place,” said Kristine Tanzi, the coordinator for teen services at the library. “So I think this really opens their eyes to not just potential career paths, but also ways they can give back.”

Tanzi said that the library has been having teen programs for a number of years, and is still developing new activities in response to the needs of community.

“We have been invited to attend different events that are happening, and provide teen volunteers,” Tanzi said.

Laura Powers, a youth service librarian, said that the library usually provides 15 to 20 programs each season to teen volunteers from 6th through 12th grade.

“They build bonds not only with each other, but with some of the kids that they’re working with. And also a bond with the library.”

— Laura Powers

Mutt Club is one of those programs. Animal lovers can sign up for the club to make a difference in a shelter animal’s life. Members of the club work on projects for local shelters and animal groups, go on tours and meet people in the field. Community service hours are also given for those who participate. Teen Book Reviewers review books from the most recent lists of award-winning books for Young Adults published by the American Library Association. Reviews will be displayed in the library, posted on the library’s teen webpage and teen Facebook. As part of Book Buddies, volunteers read stories to young children. Math Buddies help a younger buddy in kindergarten through 2nd grade practice math skills and assist them with math games and activities.

“They build bonds not only with each other, but with some of the kids that they’re working with,” Powers said. “And also a bond with the library.”

Every volunteer received a certificate from Tanzi and Powers that honors and recognizes their contributions to the community.

Kendyl Zayas, a 14-year-old going into Newfield High School this fall, said it’s important to get involved in the local programs.

Kristine Tanzi, coordinator for teen services at Middle Country Public Library, thanks parents and teens for coming to the ceremony. Photo by Wenhao Ma
Kristine Tanzi, coordinator for teen services at Middle Country Public Library, thanks parents and teens for coming to the ceremony. Photo by Wenhao Ma

“You [learn] how to work with kids and it’s good for the kids to know how to be with older kids,” she said. Kendyl is part of the Teen Advisory Council, where she and other volunteers help plan and implement big library and community events, and help kids experience new things by volunteering with other events. The students also help with the website and provide input on teen services.

Nikki Renelle, 13, also a member of the Teen Advisory Council, said that the program helped her meet new people and interact with kids in new ways.

Kendyl’s parents, who came with her to the ceremony, are supportive of what their daughter is doing.

“Giving back to the community I think is important,” said Kendyl’s father Hector. He said the programs have helped his daughter realize that sometimes people should lend a helping hand.

Ashley Kuzemchak, 14, who goes to Centereach High School, said that joining the Teen

Advisory Council and Book Buddies taught her how to deal with people, which she believes will help her in college. She said that everyone should participate in programs like these.

“I just want to say that you should start volunteering more because it’s a great experience,” she said. “I love it so much.”

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Taken in 1930, this aerial view of Selden’s Still Farm, owned by D. Benjamin Still and his wife Eva, shows their chicken coops and land. Photo above from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection

By Rachel Siford

After two years of researching, writing and editing, the Middle Country Public Library’s local history book is
finally in print.

From left, Luise Weiss, Theresa Arroyo, Jim Ward and Sara Fade lead creating the history book. Photo from MCPL
From left, Luise Weiss, Theresa Arroyo, Jim Ward and Sara Fade lead creating the history book. Photo from MCPL

“Centereach, Selden, and Lake Grove,” an Images of America History Book was released on May 25. The book, which is published by Arcadia Publishing, is the latest in the company’s Images of America series that showcases small towns throughout the United States.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing for our staff to do because we have the resources and it’s our duty as a public library to preserve the history of our area,” Library Director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips said. “It’s like we are giving back to our community.”

The book documents the history of the Middle Country area dating back to the 1700s, and features images collected from residents that show the transformation of Centereach, Selden and Lake Grove from small, rural communities to the commercial, vibrant area it is today.

Four librarians, Luise Weiss, Theresa Arroyo, Jim Ward and Sara Fade, headed the research and making of the book.

The book’s researchers utilized neighboring library archives, local historians and photos and information they already had at the MCPL Heritage Collection.

The Centereach 1934 fourth- and fifth-grade classes were held in a one-room schoolhouse. Photo from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection
The Centereach 1934 fourth- and fifth-grade classes were held in a one-room schoolhouse. Photo from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection

“I learned so much about the area, and we wanted to be able to pass that on,” said Arroyo, the coordinator of adult reference and cataloging services.

All four had to find pictures, track down and confirm information and then write a description detailing a special event or place in town.

“Local history is so much fun because you can put a historical lens on things you drive by every day,” Arroyo said.

Since the area does not have its own historical society or a main street, there haven’t been many books written about its history, according to Arroyo.

“Most people wouldn’t think that this area was full of farms and that Selden was known for its watermelons,” Arroyo said, smiling. “Middle Country Road is such a busy, commercial road today that it is hard to imagine it being a dirt road with no lights.”

Serlis-McPhillips said there has been a lot of public support and interest and a positive reaction so far: “People don’t realize how rich in history we are.”

The view of Middle Country Road near New Village Congregational Church in the early 1900s. Photo from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection
The view of Middle Country Road near New Village Congregational Church in the early 1900s. Photo from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection

While most Images of America books end around the 1920s, the Middle Country one is unique because it delves into historic moments from the 1950s and 1960s.

Arroyo and Serlis-McPhillips both said their favorite history tidbit was learning about the cycling craze of the 1890s, which led to the creation of Bicycle Path, a road that stretches from Patchogue to Port Jefferson.

According to the librarians, riders were called wheelmen, and needed license plates and registration to ride.

To accompany this book release, the library is revamping its heritage collection by changing how the current section is organized, and will add genealogy resources for patrons to use.

The library will begin reconstructing the section in late June with the hope of opening in early fall.

“We felt is was really important since we don’t have a historical society for our area,” Serlis-McPhillips said. “We really wanted to be able to do something for our community.”

To see more photos and historical archives, visit the library’s website at www.middlecountrypubliclibrary.org/adults/local-history.

New programs and services included in $15.2 million plan

Library visitors do work at the Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location. File photo by Barbara Donlon

An average Middle Country resident will see an increase of less than a dollar a month under the Middle Country Public Library’s proposed $15.2 million 2015-16 budget.

An average homeowner with an assessed value of $3,000 will pay $0.93 extra per month, according to the library’s spring newsletter. The budget increases by 1.4 percent over the current year and stays within the library’s tax levy increase cap.

Under the plan, the library will offer a 3D printing service. Adults can put in a request to use the printer, while children can utilize the device under the supervision of a staff member.

Outdoor games for adults are also available. Games such as Jenga and lawn bowling can be rented for seven days at a time.

“We thought this could be fun for adults,” library Director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips said. “They can now check it out instead of buying it.”

In addition, the library is working to get its Music and Memory program off the ground. The program is catered toward people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Program participants will listen to music via iPods to help jog memories and improve their quality of life.

Serlis-McPhillips also noted that the notary service offered at the library’s Centereach location would expand to the Selden location in May.

“We can now offer it to our patrons in that neck of the woods,” Serlis-McPhillips said.

The children’s department will also see new things. The museum pass program is set to expand, and starting next year, tickets to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan will be offered.

In addition, a new initiative called 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten will commence in September. With the goal of getting kids to read 1,000 books by the time they enter kindergarten, young kids will take home backpacks filled with 10 books at a time. Participants will receive an incentive for every 100 books they read. There will also be new resources for the adult and children sections. Two new child-friendly databases called ScienceFlix and FreedomFlix, which specialize in science and American history, respectively, will be available.

For adults, a new program called hoopla, which Serlis-McPhillips called “very popular,” will be available for adults to download movies and books.

The library will continue to expand access to downloadable e-books.

“There’s been an increase in circulation for downloadable [books] instead of print,” Serlis-McPhillips said.

Despite the change, the director said as long as people continue to read, that is all that matters.
Middle Country Public Library Board of Trustees President John Hoctor said he is pleased at the work the library does every year.

“Middle Country is always on the cusp,” Hoctor said. “They are the leader in the field.”

Hoctor’s deep love for libraries is why he sits on the board. He said every time he visits the library he get’s a sense of joy.

“One of the things I love about our library are the programs for children,” he said.

The library budget vote and trustee election will take place April 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Centereach building. Incumbent Trustee Jacqueline Schott is running for re-election unopposed. She was unavailable for comment Tuesday evening.

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Sandy Feinberg has been at the library since 1971. File photo
Sandy Feinberg has been at the library since 1971. File photo

Visitors to the Middle Country Public Library may find it hard to imagine what the library would look like today if Sandra Feinberg had left her job as a children’s librarian to become an accountant decades ago.

Today, the library has one of the largest memberships on Long Island and is unique in its partnerships within the community and the programs it offers residents. Earlier this week, Feinberg, known to most as Sandy, and responsible for much of the library’s growth since she became director in 1991, announced her retirement.

“I always said I was fortunate to take a job in Middle Country because it’s the type of community that appreciates its library,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg began working at the MCPL in 1971 as a children’s librarian and went on to develop and found the Family Place Libraries initiative, an early childhood and family support program. In September, the library was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant of $450,000 to support the initiative, which is now offered in more than 300 libraries in 24 states across the country.

During an October interview, Feinberg said winning the award was an honor, as only a small number of public libraries receive grants like it.

“It’s really an acclamation of my work and our work here,” she said.

Feinberg said she would continue to work part time with Family Place Libraries and will volunteer for various functions after she leaves her position in April 2013.

“It’s a nice way for me to stay mentally attached to the library and the work we’ve done here,” Feinberg said.

In addition to the Family Place Libraries programs, Feinberg also established the 2-1-1 Long Island database, a free online health, human services and education directory, the Nature Explorium, the first outdoor learning area for children at the library, and the library’s Miller Business Resource Center, a resource center for businesses, not-for-profit organizations and independent entrepreneurs. For the past 12 years, the library has also held an annual Women’s Expo, a showcase of Long Island women artists, designers, importers and distributors, with the showcase’s proceeds going to help the Miller Business Resource Center.

Feinberg said it is simply time to leave her position and is looking forward to seeing her staff have the chance to lead. Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, the library’s assistant
director, will succeed Feinberg.

Serlis-McPhillips began her career as an adult services librarian and went on to work with the Miller Business Resource Center. She said Feinberg has always worked to make the library better and it has been wonderful to work with an “innovative leader” like Feinberg.

“I am really just going to work hard to continue and foster all that is in place here at Middle County,” Serlis-McPhillips said.

In addition to her work with the MCPL, Feinberg is also a founding member and former president of the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce and was one of the first women to receive the Governor’s Award for Women of Distinction. In 2007, she received the Public Library Association’s Charlie Robinson Award and in 2008 she was inducted into the Suffolk County Women’s Hall of Fame.

Feinberg said she is looking forward to spending time with her husband, Richard, who has been retired for a couple of years, and with her family who live in seven different states.

She said she has always identified with the Middle Country community and remembers how supportive they have been since her first day as a children’s librarian.

“I don’t think I could have been in a better community,” she said.