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port jefferson rotary club

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club and “Call Brian” Senior Services will sponsor a Friends of the Pantry Food, Personal Care Items & Back to School Drive for the Open Cupboard Pantry at Infant Jesus Church, 110 Hawkins St., Port Jefferson on Sunday, August 6 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Currently the pantry is in extreme need of juice, pancake mix (complete), pancake syrup, macaroni & cheese, pasta, pasta sauce, canned tuna, canned chicken, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, Maseca flour, cooking oil, Chef Boyardee canned meals, cereal, jelly, hot chocolate, evaporated milk, almond milk, canned mixed vegetables, coffee and healthy snacks.

They are also in need of personal care items such as shampoo, conditioner and size 6 diapers and back to school items including mechanical pencils, blue and black pens, post-it notes, dry erase markers and lined 3×5 index cards. Grocery store gift cards and cash also accepted.

Please help them help those in need during these difficult times. For more information, call 631-938-6464.

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club and “Call Brian” Senior Services will sponsor a Friends of the Pantry Food and Personal Care Items Drive at the Open Cupboard Pantry at Infant Jesus Church, 110 Hawkins St., Port Jefferson on Sunday, June 4 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Currently the pantry is in extreme need of juice, pancake mix (complete), pancake syrup, mac & cheese, pasta, pasta sauce, condiments, Maseca flour, cooking oil, cereal, oatmeal, canned fruit, canned mixed vegetables, coffee, tea and healthy snacks.

They are also in need of personal care items such as shampoo, conditioner, feminine products, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, toilet paper, baby wipes, Enfamil formula ad baby lotion. Grocery store gift cards and cash also accepted. For more information, call 631-938-6464.

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce president Jen Dzvonar, above, is a declared candidate for Suffolk County’s 5th Legislative District. Photo courtesy Dzvonar

The race to replace Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is now a three-way contest as Jen Dzvonar, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, has declared her candidacy.

Hahn’s 5th Legislative District spans Three Village, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, Terryville and parts of Coram and Mount Sinai. The incumbent cannot seek reelection due to 12-year term limits for county offices.

Former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and 2022 GOP primary candidate for New York’s 1st Congressional District, Anthony Figliola of East Setauket, have received their respective party committee’s nominations. [See story, “Legislative races ramp up across levels of government,” The Port Times Record, March 9, also TBR News Media website.]

Dzvonar’s campaign is unaffiliated with a political party. She owns the Port Jefferson Station-based Bass Electric and has served as chamber president for over a decade. She is also a Port Jefferson Rotary Club member.

In an exclusive interview, Dzvonar told TBR News Media she entered the race to build upon ongoing efforts within the 5th District.

“I wanted to make sure that our community is moving in a forward direction, still making progress, still revitalizing,” she said.

The chamber president suggested local initiatives often stagnate due to bureaucracy. She expressed interest in “streamlining” government services, limiting paperwork and removing other impediments within the county government.

“Especially being in the chamber, I see the struggle of local and small businesses — even small developers — that have a hard time getting things to happen,” she said. “It just seems to take so long, and I want to streamline that whole process.”

Among other policy concerns, Dzvonar said she would focus on addressing homelessness, maintaining that the county offers valuable services that are not used to their full potential. Accessing social services, she noted, should be simple.

“There are so many great programs already established for homeless people, people with addiction, with mental health,” the candidate said. “We just need to make those services more readily available.”

She added, “There just seems to be a disconnect somewhere. They don’t make it easy for people that have these issues to be able to obtain help.”

Dzvonar also proposed expanding sewer access into Port Jefferson Station, a measure she contended could bolster further community development. “We can’t get rid of the blight until that is done,” she said.

Dzvonar added that increasing the number of mental health personnel within the county and promoting the Safer Streets initiative are also items on her agenda.

To get on the ballot, Dzvonar has a tall task ahead, needing to obtain 1,500 signatures between April 18 and May 23. Election Day is November 7.

Food Drive

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club and “Call Brian” Senior Services will sponsor a Friends of the Pantry Food and Personal Care Items Drive at the Open Cupboard Pantry at Infant Jesus Church, 110 Hawkins St., Port Jefferson on Sunday, March 26 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Currently the pantry is in extreme need of boxed milk, Ramen soup, juice, pancake mix (complete), pancake syrup, peanut butter, jelly, mac & cheese, pasta sauce, condiments, Maseca flour, cooking oil, cereal oatmeal, canned fruit, black beans, canned mixed vegetables, coffee and healthy snacks.

They are also in need of personal care items such as shampoo, conditioner, deoderant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, toilet paper, baby shampoo, baby wash, baby wipes, Enfamil formula, Desitin and lotion. Grocery store gift cards and cash also accepted.

 Please help them help those in need during these difficult times. For more information, call 631-938-6464.

Judith ‘Judi’ Betts. Photo courtesy Ronnie Ridolfi

Everything Judi Betts ever did, she did with persistence. Whether selling raffle tickets, hosting guests or persevering through the sharp bouts of orthopedic pain later in life, she did so with a tenacious, indefatigable spirit.

Those who knew her say a love of family, friends, community and country guided her. Like a high-speed locomotive, her wheels were always churning and churning away. Betts channeled her abundant energies and limitless altruism into the charitable causes that defined her life.

Now those wheels churn no longer. Betts died in her sleep Wednesday, Jan. 4, at the Sunrise of Holbrook assisted living center. In her passing, she leaves an enduring legacy of community service and an indelible mark upon the lives she touched.

A dynamic team

Judith “Judi” Betts was born on Sept. 8, 1941, to Dominick and Jessie Annibale. She, her brother Kenneth and her parents soon moved to Bellerose, Queens, in the early ‘50s. Her father’s untimely death in 1955 was a profound loss to the Annibale family, prompting Jessie to raise the two kids on her own.

In 1959, Judi graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, where she remained an active alumna and patron of the parish. She married in 1961, and then remarried in 1982 to Earle Betts, a World War II Navy veteran and board member at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson.

Judi’s cousin, Ronnie Ridolfi, described Earle as a “perfect gentleman.” The Betts couple settled in a historic home on High Street, the nexus for various social gatherings and benefit events. Together, they were a dynamic team, joint advocates for numerous charitable causes and local organizations. Following Earle’s death in 2002, Judi carried her husband’s torch, Ridolfi added.

With unparalleled compassion and enthusiasm, Betts thrust herself into the world of Port Jefferson with the goal of continual community advancement. “She liked representing her area,” said Mary Ann Ridolfi, Betts’ cousin by marriage. “And she liked helping people.”

Master fundraiser

Betts was renowned for her untiring support of the many charitable causes and organizations to which she was committed throughout her life. The four organizations encompassing her values and community aspirations were St. Mary’s High School, Mather Hospital, Port Jefferson Rotary Club and the Boy Scouts of America.

Michael Sceiford, a friend and fellow Rotarian, characterized Betts’ community involvement. “She immersed her life in these charitable causes,” he said. “Her personality was to never sit idle, to be out there trying to help the community through these different organizations that she was extremely passionate about.”

She also served on the Suffolk County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Brian McAuliff, a past council president and longtime Scoutmaster, touched upon the intensity and conviction with which Betts pursued her fundraising obligations.

“If we had a meeting to do a fundraiser, everyone would take some notes, and a few days later, they would get to their tasks that they committed to,” he said. “Judi was on that task the very next minute. Being persistent about the cause, she was able to do some really great things.”

Jolie Powell, a friend and neighbor, said Betts excelled in fundraising. “She could sell tickets better than anyone I’ve met,” Powell said. “She loved the challenge, and she loved to hear that she was the one that sold more tickets than anyone.”

Interpreting this competitive impulse, Ronnie Ridolfi saw in Betts an earnest desire to effect positive change in the lives of others. “That was a drive that was in her, always to be more than the best,” he said. “By doing that with the fundraisers and the charitable contributions,” she had found her life’s task.


A doctor once told Betts that the word “persistence” represented her outlook on life. “She didn’t give up,” Mary Ann Ridolfi said. “She would always tell you to be involved, don’t sit around, get involved and know what’s going on around you.” 

Ronnie Ridolfi suggested this quality, along with her community-centric approach and relentless determination for service, were all innate qualities. “As a young lady, that was her calling,” he said. 

Powell viewed this quality as an inherent feature of Betts’ personality. “She was like a warrior,” she said. “That’s what made her who she was and as far as doing what she loved to do best, which was volunteering.”

Sceiford said Betts’ philanthropic enterprise was undiminished despite declining health later in life. Fighting through chronic pain, she continued to support these causes until the very end. In the face of health problems, “she continued to persevere and push on,” he said.

Several people recounted one notable fundraising event organized at Betts’ historic home that raised $50,000 in 2021. The benefit brought together Mather Hospital and the Boy Scouts of America, Northwell Health president and CEO Michael Dowling, and various local officials.

McAuliff referred to the immense logistic challenges in bringing that event to fruition, especially given Betts’ health. “She was in a wheelchair, sometimes in and out of the hospital, and she still was able to pull off that amazing event,” he said. “It’s just a testament to her tenacity and persistence.”


Betts brought in several foreign exchange students, highlighting another aspect of her character. Two such students, Elizabeth of Venezuela and Wenzel of Germany, remained in close contact with her and visited until the end of her life.

Friends and family remember Betts as an eccentric, charismatic, vibrant individual, a connoisseur of wine and an active promoter of the East End-based Pindar and Duck Walk vineyards.

She was also a proud American patriot. The Ridolfis maintained that she passionately supported her brother Kenneth, a Vietnam War veteran. “She helped Kenny a great deal with the VA,” Ronnie said. “He became sick, and she got involved with the VA to help him with his benefits.”

McAuliff said Betts’ patriotic fervor expressed itself through her volunteer activities. “She was a very proud American, very proud of the country, and saw the Boy Scouts of America as something that represented what was best about America,” he said.

For Sceiford, Betts’ inviting personality drew others into her web. Through this, she developed lasting relationships throughout her life. “She took her friends in as her family,” he said. 

Through her example, he added that community members “can learn that they can truly make a difference in the community. … She did the work of what 25 other people maybe did. She made a huge impact to the community.”

McAuliff voiced a similar opinion. Reflecting upon Betts’ model of service, he added that her love for people and her selflessness would leave an abiding impression on those who remember her. 

“Everybody who knew her became a part of her family,” he said. “I think that she adopted the community and the community organizations as her children,” adding, “It’s a life of giving, a life of persistent giving.”

Betts was laid to rest Tuesday, Jan. 10, alongside Earle at Calverton National Cemetery, her procession escorted by Suffolk County Highway Patrol, the bagpipers performing a moving tribute to a life well lived. 

The four organizations to which Betts devoted her life were each represented at her visitation and funeral services. She will be greatly missed by family and friends.

Al Kopcienski, right, with his great-grandson in a Miller Place Fire Department Ambulance. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Schwartz

Born 90 years ago this past Sunday, Al Kopcienski of Miller Place has led a life of uninterrupted service to his community.

Kopcienski’s sizable extended family flew in from around the country Oct. 22 to honor his life. On this joyous occasion, his daughter Elizabeth Schwartz thought it necessary to look back on her father’s life and reflect upon his achievements.

In an interview, Schwartz shared her father’s long commitment to the area. “My dad has been so invested in this community in a very quiet way,” she said. “The community needs to know. We need to remember people who are our unsung heroes.”

Kopcienski’s legacy of community service spans nearly a century. Among his many posts, he served as president of the Mount Sinai School District Board of Education, more than 60 years with the Port Jefferson Rotary Club, and the Miller Place Fire Department where he served as chief from 1967-68.

He lives by the Rotarian motto, “Service above self.” Schwartz said she and her siblings were also raised to follow this ethos.

“We were all raised — all eight of us — were raised with this mantra, ‘Service above self,’ that hard work is good work, that our job is to give to the community,” she said. “It is about community and not always about one person or self.”

Over the past nine decades, Kopcienski has witnessed firsthand the gradual transformation of the area. He said the little farming economy he once knew has gradually become a bustling environment.

“This area was a big farming area, and through the transition of years the farmers have disappeared,” he said. “The farming industry disappeared, and then the developers came in and started building houses.”

Despite the differences today from the undisturbed landscape Kopcienski knew growing up, he said young people can still derive vital lessons from his generation.

“One of my favorite sayings is ‘rest means rust,’” he said, emphasizing the value of physical movement and manual labor. “The service industry is well organized and has well-paying positions.”

While on the Mount Sinai school board, Kopcienski pushed for expanding opportunities for students pursuing professional trades. While today, many may place higher education at a premium, he still sees the value of these alternative career paths.

“There was a local superintendent of schools that would say, ‘All my kids graduate and go on to college,’” Kopcienski said. “I said to him, ‘What about the poor kid that can’t go on to college? What about the kid who went to BOCES, a trade school, where he spent half the day at school and then learned a trade?’” He added, “One of the problems we have is that people don’t want to get their hands dirty.”

Even at 90 years old, Kopcienski is still getting his hands dirty today, driving the ambulance for the fire department. He said he receives his fair share of raised eyebrows when arriving on the scene of an emergency.

“They say, ‘That old man’s driving the ambulance?’” he joked. Schwartz interjected, adding, “He comes home and tells us about all of the old people he drives to the hospital. And I said, ‘The old people, like 20 years younger than you, Pop?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’”

Despite the many changes he has observed over time, Kopcienski sees reason for hope. With 24 grandchildren, he now gets his chance to sit back, watch and follow the rising generation as it embarks on its path. 

Still, at 90, there appear to be no signs of rust or rest on this lifelong community servant.

Golfers dressed as caddies at a previous Putt & Pub Crawl. Photo from PJ Rotary Club

By Julianne Mosher

It’s going to be a “hole” lot of fun. 

The Port Jefferson Rotary’s Winter Golf Classic fundraiser is usually held every January, but for 2021 they’re taking it to the village on Sunday, Sept. 12.

The fourth annual Putt and Pub Crawl is a community favorite where golfers from amateurs to professionals can golf inside and outside of nine of their favorite restaurants and bars in downtown Port Jeff. 

“This is one of our biggest fundraisers,” said president of the rotary, Robert Dooley. “It’s a bunch of likeminded people who come out to have fun and support our local businesses.”

The Port Jeff Rotary Club serves the local communities of Port Jefferson, Belle Terre, Port Jefferson Station and Mount Sinai. The club’s foundation gives awards and scholarships to local students, works to alleviate hunger in the community through food drives and collections and helps support local nonprofits. 

According to Dooley, the Putt and Pub Crawl started a few years ago when the Rotarians were thinking of new ways to fundraise and help local people, businesses and the community. Normally held during the village’s off-season, the golf outing is geared to bring business to the restaurant scene during a slower time of the year. 

“Port Jeff in the winter is normally a slower season,” he said. “So we let those businesses kill it in the summer, and if there’s any way we can help create a bump in sales during the winter, we’re there to help.”

That’s when the rotary teamed up with business owners to set up golf holes inside and outside their stores, so people could play, drink and eat in an easy, slow-paced event that appeals to everyone. The first outing was in January 2017.

“We tried to do something a little more active, presented this idea, and it turned out that 100 people came that first year,” he said. 

This year, the event was rescheduled from January to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You go at your own pace to restaurant to bar to restaurant,” Dooley explained. “It’s nothing that’s overly competitive — just having a good time and raising some money in a fun, casual setting.” Each restaurant creates its own setup, and many get creative with it. Some fan favorites include a station outside the Port Jefferson Brewery, Tommy’s Place and one inside Barito Tacos & Cocktails. 

Upon arrival and check-in at Danfords Hotel, golfers receive an itinerary with three drink tickets and appetizers for participating locations. 

Starting at 10:30 a.m. and concluding at 6 p.m., the Putt and Pub Crawl is an all-day event where participants can come and go as they please. The event wraps with a reception where various awards are given out including best dressed team and best and worst golfers.

“People are chomping at the bits to help people and organizations in need, and to have fun with their loved ones,” he added. “This is an opportunity to help the community and have fun while doing so.” 

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.portjeffrotary.com. Please note this event is for individuals 21 years of age or older.

PJMS Principal Dr. Bob Neidig, Mike Viviano, Gianna Viviano, Teresa Viviano, social studies teacher Phil Gianussa, PJ Rotary President Rob Dooley; Rotarian Dennis Brennan. Photo from the Port Jefferson Rotary

On Tuesday, June 8, at their first “in-person only” meeting at Cafe Spiga in Mt. Sinai in more than a year, Port Jefferson Rotary members celebrated the opportunity to see new and old faces “live” once again. 

They also welcomed and honored this month’s Port Jeff Middle School Most Motivated Student, 7th grader Gianna Viviano. 

Gianna was accompanied by her parents, Mike and Teresa Viviano, as well as Port Jefferson school officials.

A true role model for her peers, Gianna is quite inquisitive, thoughtful and engaged. A talented writer, this 7th grader recently had an entry of hers selected to be published in the high school’s literary magazine. 

Despite this especially difficult school year, Gianna not only possesses a unique excitement and enthusiasm for learning, but she is a voracious reader, and she has shared her opinions both respectfully and passionately. What’s more, she was the star of the Middle School’s recent Drama Production, “Junie B. Jones,” playing Junie, a feisty, funny six-year-old whose outspoken honesty gets her into trouble at school and home. 

Memorably Junie says, “A little glitter can turn the whole day around.” Principal Bob Neidig said that though a stretch for Gianna to play a part like this, it demonstrates how far she will go to entertain all at the school. He closed his remarks by calling Gianna, “the glitter making the days, especially the ones this year, better!” 

Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown

Locals recreationally use Chandler Estate Preserve trails on a daily basis. 

Whether if it’s for exercise, walking the dog, or taking in the beautiful views, maintenance has become an integral part of keeping the trails useable. 

For that reason, Port Jefferson Rotarian Pat Sabo, has created and inspired the Port Jefferson Rotary Club to take on the beautification of Chandler Estate Preserve in Mount Sinai. 

“It used to be more open with a lot of fields and trails, but over the years it just all grew in so we maintain it now to clear it up again,” he said. “People won’t use it if they have to go through the brush so that’s why we want to open it back up.”

The members are currently focusing on the beautification of Chandler Estate Preserve due to its tremendous size of 44-acres.

With the club’s hard work, they have successfully cleared two-thirds of the land so far. 

“This preserve is overwhelming,” Sabo said. “Maintaining this park could be a full-time job for some.” 

Club members have mostly been working throughout the winter to help clean up the preserve by cutting down hazardous branches, clearing the trails and removing any garbage that has been dumped. 

“It’s nice to help people connect with the land because with work and dedication this land is going to continue to be preserved and not become just houses along the road,” Club member and village Trustee Rebecca Kassay said. 

One of the club’s goals is to mount trail marker signs. Although the locals who use the trail daily know where to go, Sabo says there are a lot of new people who come to the park every day who may get lost, so putting up markers could be helpful. 

The club happily welcomes anyone who would like to help participate in their projects. 

For more information about the Chandler Estate Preserve to assist in clean up and attend walk-around meetings, visit portjeffrotary.org.

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Josef ‘Max’ Joyner with his social studies teacher Graceanne Fallon

At their Feb. 9 luncheon at Cafe Spiga in Mt. Sinai and via Zoom, members of the Port Jefferson Rotary Club welcomed their newest Most Motivated Student of the Month, Port Jefferson Middle School student Josef “Max” Joyner.  

Max was joined by proud guests including his parents, his social studies teacher Mrs. Graceanne Fallon and middle school principal Dr. Robert Neidig. 

It was Neidig who introduced the youngster and explained why the school’s faculty chose Max for this Rotary honor.  Max, who boasts an extremely high GPA, was praised by his teachers as a school leader who is always helpful in a respectful manner.  

His Algebra I teacher noted that Max “is always willing to offer insightful responses that are both thought-provoking and exhibit conceptual understanding of the topic.” 

Other teachers pointed out that Max helps and motivates his peers in all classes, is described as hardworking, conscientious, kind, a joy to teach — a student who is a very social person, a natural leader, who looks out not only for himself but also for the well-being of others.  

He completes his classwork thoroughly, and even requests extra work before vacations so that he can be better-prepared to learn more and build on previous learning upon the return to school.  

Last year, Max was a Science Olympiad participant.  He has endeared himself to all of his teachers who are thrilled to have this opportunity to honor him because he is such an exceptional, mature, dedicated student.  

Dr. Neidig summarized the reasons for celebrating Max. 

“His maturity, thirst for knowledge, compassionate nature, and leadership abilities will continue to propel him to accomplish great things in his schooling and beyond,” he said. “Thank you for inspiring all of us.”

Courtesy of the Port Jefferson Rotary Club