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Nicole Freeley

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library board members and  staff, the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, representatives from the Three Village Central School District and guests from the community gathered on April 8 to honor the winners of the fifth annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award ceremony.

The contest called for teens in grades 7 through 12 who live in the Three Village Central School District to create a children’s picture book.  Each entry could be the work of a single author/illustrator or a collaborative effort between an author and an illustrator. The contest was divided into two grade categories, grades 7 through 9 and grades 10 through 12, with one first-prize winner and one second-prize winner selected from each group.

Library Director Ted Gutmann, along with the family of Helen Stein Shack, Legislator Kara Hahn and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright presented all of the winners’ books — bound and added to the Library’s Local Focus Collection. 

In addition, $400 checks were awarded to first-prize winners Nicole Xiao, an eighth-grader at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, for her book, “Gerald’s Share” and Juliet Weschke, a 10th-grader at Ward Melville High School for her book, “You Saved the Earth: A Plastic Bottle’s Journey.” Checks for $100 were awarded to the second-prize winners Riley Meckley, a ninth-grader at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, for her book “Lily and Liam’s Summer at the Library” and Nicole Freeley, an 11th-grader at Ward Melville High School, for her book “Simon’s Day at the Beach.” 

The speakers discussed how the contest and ceremony began 5 years ago as a tribute to the late Helen Stein Shack, especially fitting due to her love for learning and her particular fondness for Emma Clark Library. “We would come visit my grandma for a week, and she would take us straight here,” explained Mrs. Shack’s granddaughter Emma Kelly, who flew in from California for the event.

Councilwoman Cartright mentioned to the family that it is “such an amazing way to honor your mom and your grandma’s legacy, her commitment to education, recognizing that literacy is power.” 

Leg. Hahn spoke of the special lessons in each book. “When it’s a children’s book, the message does not only get through to the child. The message also gets through to the parent that’s reading it,” she said.

The winners also received certificates from Sen. John J. Flanagan, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Hahn, Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine, and Cartright. Library board President Orlando Maione, Vice President Deborah Blair, Treasurer Christopher Fletcher, Secretary Carol Leister and trustees David Douglas and Suzanne Shane were also there to congratulate the winners. 

Three Village Central School District board of education President William Connors, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Kevin Scanlon, Gelinas Junior High School Principal Corinne Keane, Ward Melville High School English Department Chair Vincent Cereola, Gelinas Junior High School English Department Chair Michelle Hanczor and Gelinas Junior High School Librarian Nicole Connelly were all in attendance.

Guests enjoyed special treats donated by The Bite Size Bake Shop, a local Three Village-owned business and Ward Melville High School teen volunteer Ashley Mullen photographed the event.

The library is grateful to the children of the late Helen Stein Shack, who have established a substantial endowment with the library to cover the cost of the awards as a tribute to their mother and her commitment to passing along the importance and joy of reading for generations to come.

Mrs. Shack’s son, Ed Taylor, spoke about the hard work and dedication that the winners and all of the participants have shown, and then imagined a glimpse into their futures. “These kids are going to grow up, and hopefully, they’ll have families of their own … and one night their kids are going to be lying in bed and ask for a good night story … and they’ll take a book off the shelf, and they’ll read it to their kids … and then they’ll tell them who the author was. That they wrote that book.”

Added Cartright, “I’m delighted today to encourage you to continue using your creativity to share with others, to uplift others, because that’s what you’re doing by creating these books.”

All photos by Ashley Mullen

From left, Eliana Sasson, Nicole Freeley, Rebecca Blumenthal, Samuel Kim

On Monday evening, April 23, Emma Clark Library, the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, representatives from the Three Village Central School District and guests from the community gathered to honor the winners of the fourth annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award.

At the ceremony in the Vincent R. O’Leary Community Room, Library Director Ted Gutmann, along with the family of Helen Stein Shack, presented all of the winners a bound copy of their book. In addition, the books will be added to the library’s Local Focus Collection.

 A $400 scholarship was awarded to first-prize winner Rebecca Blumenthal of R.C. Murphy Jr. High School for her children’s book, “Racing Star,” and Ward Melville High School student Nicole Freeley for her book titled “Wally’s Wild Ride.” 

A $100 check for second prize was awarded to P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School student Eliana Sasson for her book “This Is How I Can Help! 10 Ways I Can Help My Community!” and Ward Melville High School student Samuel Kim for his informative children’s book, “Freddy the Fish and His First Election Day.” 

Gutmann explained that the event “really helps us to showcase the wonderful talent we have here, and we thank the authors and their parents for encouraging that and being here tonight.”

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), and Carol Nucci [representing Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport)] spoke at the event, and the winners also received certificates from Flanagan, Hahn and Cartright.  

Library Board Treasurer Deborah Blair and Trustee Richard Russell were there to congratulate the winners and Three Village school district BOE President William Connors, Assistant Superintendent Kevin Scanlon, Ward Melville High School Principal Alan Baum, Ward Melville High School Librarian April Hatcher, Murphy Jr. High School English Department Chair Cathy Duffy and Murphy Jr. High School Librarian Betsy Knox were all in attendance.

The Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest called for teens in grades 7 through 12 who live in the Three Village Central School District to create a children’s picture book. Each entry could be the work of a single author/illustrator or a collaborative effort of an author and an illustrator. The award is given in memory of Helen Stein Shack by her family.  

“As Ms. Shack clearly knew, children’s literature does a lot for the community, as well as the young children themselves. It helps to promote brain development, it helps to promote language development, literacy skills, as well as creating an important bonding moment for families,” said Cartright.

Two of the grandsons of the late Helen Stein Shack also spoke at the ceremony. Regan Kelly flew all the way from California for the event. Tamir Taylor grew up in Three Village and attended Murphy Jr. High School and Ward Melville High School.  

“A lot of people thank us a lot for creating this event,” mentioned Taylor. “But we really want to thank you guys because our grandmother, mother, was really important to us and by you guys participating and making this event happen and the library for making this happen, you guys give us the opportunity to remember and honor her, which is really special to us.”

The Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award brings together a large part of the Three Village community — the library, school district, local elected officials, teenagers and their families and all of the children that read these books. As Hahn remarked, “What a great way to encourage teenagers to think about … what’s important to them and how to express that in a way that will resonate with children.”  

 

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, center, with the winners, from left, Cassidy Oliver, Eliana Sasson, Katie Zhao and Nicole Freeley. Photo from Emma Clark Library

On April 27, Emma Clark Library, the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, representatives from the Three Village Central School district and guests from the community gathered to honor the winners of the third annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award.

First Prize Winner Eliana Sasson (grades 7 – 9 category) accepting her check from Karen Shack Reid. Photo from Emma Clark Library

Library Director Ted Gutmann, along with the family of Helen Stein Shack, presented all of the winners’ books — bound and added to the library’s Local Focus Collection — along with $400 scholarships to first-prize winners Eliana Sasson (“We Can Still Be Friends!”) and Katie Zhao (“Claire and Her Bear”)and $100 check for second-prize winners Nicole Freeley (“Sammy the Sock Monkey”) and Cassidy Oliver (“Color Your World”).

Karen Shack Reid, daughter of the late Helen Stein Shack, explained how the endowment was started. “My brother had suggested we needed to do something in Mommy’s memory … we threw around some suggestions, kind of talked about it, reached out to my nieces and my nephews … got a lot of great ideas. That’s how supportive this family is. My oldest nephew, my sister’s son, is a librarian, and he said, ‘Why don’t we do something at Emma S. Clark Library that Zafta — that’s grandma in Hebrew — loves so much? … that just fit.”

First Prize Winner Katie Zhao (grades 10 – 12 category) accepting her check from Karen Shack Reid. Photo from Emma Clark Library

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) spoke at the event, and the winners also received certificates from Senator John Flanagan (R-East Northport), Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). Library Board President Linda Josephs, along with Trustees Deborah Blair and Richard Russell, were there to congratulate the winners and Three Village Central School District President of the Board of Education William Connors, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Kevin Scanlon, Ward Melville High School Librarian April Hatcher and Gelinas Junior High School Librarian Nicole Connelly were all in attendance.

The Book Contest called for teens in grades 7 through 12 who live in the Three Village Central School District to create a children’s picture book. Each entry could be the work of a single author/illustrator or a collaborative effort of an author and an illustrator. The contest was divided into two grade categories, grades 7 through 9 and grades 10 through 12, with one first-prize winner and one second-prize winner selected from each group. This award is given in memory of Helen Stein Shack by her family.

Englebright remarked to the winners, “It was an extraordinary level of creativity that you brought to this, and you will continue to show that as you develop your own adult lives and careers, which is part of the genius of this family’s gift: to make an investment into young people like this.”