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Rebecca Anzel

Helping the Port Jefferson Station community has been Celina Wilson’s, center, mission since the 1980s. Photo from Facebook

By Rebecca Anzel

When Celina Wilson moved to Port Jefferson Station in 1985, she noticed her new community was underserved — and that she could help. Some Spanish-speaking female residents had problems accessing health care, specifically mammograms.

A nurse and Spanish-speaker herself, Wilson worked to partner with the American Cancer Association to bring these women informational materials, teach them how to conduct self-examinations and schedule mammograms with a mobile service.

She founded Bridge of Hope Resource Center in 1998 with her husband to continue helping Port Jefferson Station residents get free health care by partnering with other organizations and community leaders. As other issues the community faced came to her attention, Wilson expanded the scope of Bridge of Hope to include them.

The organization gets feedback from residents and takes them straight to public officials. So far, it has tackled issues such as safety in schools post-Sandy Hook and drug abuse awareness and prevention.

“I believe that the more awareness you raise about issues communities face, the less chance there is of our communities becoming unstable,” Wilson said. “I really want Port Jefferson Station to stay strong.”

For her work advocating for Port Jefferson Station residents and fighting to combat drug abuse, Times Beacon Record News Media is recognizing Celina Wilson as a Person of the Year.

“Celina Wilson is a resource for Port Jeff Station — she’s been doing this for decades,” Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant said in an interview. “She does this because she cares so much about not only her own children, but all our children, and I am just so impressed by her.”

Bridge of Hope uses education as a tool to help show community members why drug use is dangerous. Wilson said she thinks it is important to share information about the “basics” of drug abuse — what changes it makes in a user’s brain, risk factors that might lead to someone turning to drugs and signs someone is using.

“We work to make sure that when you look at Port Jefferson Station, people know it’s a community that’s got it together and can weather any problems.”

— Celina Wilson

She shared that information in an educational forum at Port Jefferson High School in mid-October. Also on the panel was a Stony Brook Children’s Hospital doctor of adolescent medicine and a scientist who focuses on addiction’s effect on the brain. The event marked the first time Bridge of Hope was able to host an educational event in a school.

The goal of the forum, Wilson said, was to educate parents and others in attendance about the “root causes” of drug abuse. She expressed to parents there are signs to look for and risk factors that might lead their children to turn to drugs — such as not understanding the world around them and a lack of confidence and self-esteem — and stressed the importance of keeping an open line of communication with their children.

“It’s important that parents are educated about these things so they don’t feel helpless,” Wilson said. “I found out a week or two later the parents there were receptive to the information we shared at the forum, which was a big accomplishment for us.”

Other educational efforts include publishing an article called “The Amazing Human Brain” on the Bridge of Hope website that focuses on brain function and working to create a traveling museum exhibit to make the community more aware of drug abuse.

Dori Scofield, founder of Dan’s Foundation for Recovery, worked with Wilson on the exhibit, which will launch next year. She said she loves the work Bridge of Hope does making a difference in the community.

“Celina is amazing and I love working with her on community issues,” she said. “She is an inspiration to all of us who work in the field of improving life for all.”

Bridge of Hope also works in Brentwood, Central Islip and Bay Shore, but creating a support system for residents in Port Jefferson Station is not any less important to Wilson now than it was when the organization was founded 18 years ago.

“We really want our community to stay strong and our families to have stability. We don’t want to hear about our youths overdosing,” Wilson said. “We work to make sure that when you look at Port Jefferson Station, people know it’s a community that’s got it together and can weather any problems.”

The organization also offers mentoring opportunities for teens in need of extra guidance.

To contact Bridge of Hope Resource Center call 631-338-4340 or visit www.bridgeofhoperc.com.

COPE Officer Angela Ferrara smiles with students in Huntington. Photo from SCPD.

By Rebecca Anzel

Suffolk County Police Department Officers Angela Ferrara and Jamie Wendt are no strangers to Huntington residents.

The 2nd Precinct’s two community-oriented police enforcement officers, otherwise known as COPE officers, are dedicated to working with and getting to know their community. Instead of focusing on enforcement and policing, Ferrara and Wendt attend community meetings to hear residents’ concerns, host events to connect with members of their community and even spend afternoons helping local kids with their homework.

“We want to help residents,” Ferrara said in a phone interview. “We want to make them safer, make their lives better. We love what we do. The COPE unit is here for the community and we’re always available for anyone that needs us.”

For their work connecting with residents in Huntington and bringing together the community with the Suffolk County Police Department Times Beacon Record News Media has named Officers Ferrara and Wendt as People of the Year.

“The COPE officers are phenomenally effective and popular in the community,” Police Commissioner Tim Sini said in a phone interview. “We want to make sure we break those barriers and always enhance the relationships that we have with the communities we’re tasked to protect. They are very much a part of the fabric of our community.”

The unit has been in existence for a long time, but it was redefined in 2014 as part of SCPD’s community policing model. COPE officers are tasked with building a trusting relationship with the communities the police protect. Sini said community partnership is a key aspect of SCPD’s mission and this unit is an integral part of that.

COPE Officer Jamie Wendt skates during an event. Photo from SCPD.

Ferrara has been a COPE officer since 1998. She left the 2nd Precinct between 2007 and 2010 to become an academy instructor but has been in her current position since she returned. Ferrara also leads the Police Explorers program, for kids ages 14 to 21 who show an interest in law enforcement careers.

Wendt is a Dix Hills native. She has been a COPE officer for about a year and also volunteers with local fire departments. Between the two of them, Ferrara and Wendt attend community meetings and events, and they plan their own as well.

Wendt organized a successful one in April — an ice skating event at the Dix Hills Park Ice Rink for children from the Tri Community and Youth Agency to teach them how to skate. She is a United States Figure Skating Association double gold medalist and has been coaching various skating disciplines for 19 years, so she said it was a fun way for her to share her expertise.

Tri CYA Regional Director Debbie Rimler said Wendt and Ferrara spend time with the kids whenever they can and always attend the organization’s events. The ice skating event attracted children ages 8 through 17, and they left asking when they could skate with the officers again.

Ferrara said events such as that one are her favorite because she gets to interact with the younger generation.

“I just love being around the children because they’re the future,” she said. “It’s rewarding to see the kids grow up and become adults too. If any of our guidance is helpful, that’s a great thing.”

Most recently, the officers participated in the SCPD’s Shop with a Cop event at Target. The department gives $50 gift cards to kids in the community who may not have the resources to purchase Christmas gifts, and officers take them shopping, helping them pick out toys and other presents.

“The faces on these children when they’re able to pick out gifts with a uniformed police officer is something special,” Sini said. “The event is such a great way to have our officers interact with and serve as role models for children while bringing holiday cheer to them.”

It is events like these that Jim McGoldrick, a Huntington Station resident, said is what makes the COPE officers so invaluable.

“Without Angela and Jaime, I don’t know where Huntington Station would be,” he said. “They’re so involved with our community, our kids — everything. They’ve become part of our family.”

Sean Lehmann and Linda Henninger work to bring new life to downtown Kings Park. Photo from Sean Lehmann

By Rebecca Anzel

Three Kings Park community leaders partnered to improve and invigorate the hamlet’s downtown area.

Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Tanzi, Civic Association President Sean Lehmann and Civic Association Vice President Linda Henninger had received feedback from residents and business owners for years that the area needed to be revitalized.

Together, they hosted three meetings attracting about 300 residents each to create a vision plan representative of the community’s wishes for downtown Kings Park, which includes parts of Main Street, Pulaski Road, Indian Head Road and Meadow West. The plans included ideas for more sewers in the town to help accommodate new businesses and affordable housing.

Tanzi and Henninger proposed the completed vision to the Smithtown town board at a meeting in November. The town is waiting on a marketing study to be completed before accepting the plan.

“You just have to drive through Kings Park to see we have great bones and offer a lot,” Henninger said in a phone interview. “We can really make this the jewel it can be.”

For their leadership and commitment to improving Kings Park, Tanzi, Lehmann and Henninger are being recognized as three of Times Beacon News Media’s People of the Year.

Tony Tanzi works to bring new life to downtown Kings Park. Photo from Tony Tanzi.

“They work hard to make Kings Park a better place to live. It’s their persistence against resistance from the county, the state and the town that makes them successful — they just keep going,” Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. “This is something that kids should look at and say, ‘These guys don’t stop and when you don’t stop, you get results.’”

Tanzi, a third-generation Kings Park resident, owns a hardware company, construction firm and several properties in the area. He said he hopes by revitalizing downtown, younger residents, including his four children, will want and can afford to stay in Kings Park.

“Younger residents not only want the ability to move around without having to get a car, they want to live in an area that has an entire community built into an offshoot of where they live,” he said.

Henninger, a mother herself, agreed that upgrading downtown Kings Park is a way to keep residents and attract new ones. She has always been active in the town. A Fort Salonga resident, Henninger has been a member of the civic association since 1992 and formed a group called Kings Park Neighbors Association, which helped prevent the sale of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center to a private developer.

That fight is how she and Lehmann met. He moved to Kings Park in 2005 and got involved with KPPC because he thought the developer’s plan to build multifamily housing would not be good for the hamlet.

One of their immediate efforts has been to hold a concert series and farmers market on Main Street, a way Lehmann said he hoped would encourage other residents to begin utilizing the downtown area.

“This is a unique community and we love it,” Lehmann said. “Kings Park has a very small town feel and plenty of open space, so when we thought about revitalizing our downtown, we wanted it to still feel quaint and fit with the character of the community.”

Henninger was quick to point out that while she, Lehmann and Tanzi helped to organize the project and make sure a plan was created, revitalizing downtown Kings Park was a group, community effort. The best part of the 18-month project, she and Tanzi agreed, was seeing residents come together to better the hamlet.

“It’s easy to get tons of people coming out to fight against something they don’t want, but it’s very rare that you can get people to come out and talk about something they do want,” Tanzi said. “We got so many people engaged and excited about it that they came out and participated.”

Henninger echoed the sentiment.

“When you’re doing something for the good of the town, of the community, anything can be accomplished,” she said.

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Reviewed by Rebecca Anzel

A family of ducks living near a river by author Stacey Moshier’s home in Mastic was the inspiration for her new children’s book “Dylan the Singing Duck” (Squidgy Press). This 52-page book, with illustrations by Barry Sachs, is the heartwarming story of how a little duck, with the encouragement of new friends, discovers the importance of never giving up on a dream. Moshier recently took time out from writing new stories to answer a few questions about her first book and new-found passion for writing.

Tell me a little bit about your background.

I’m actually a New York State certified teacher. I subbed for many, many years in various districts but just didn’t land that full-time position.

Tell me about the book.

The story is about a little duck named Dylan who wants to sing. Despite everybody laughing at him or thinking that who heard of a singing duck, he still holds on to that and goes for it. With the help of some friends, he finally achieves that dream.

How would you describe Dylan?

I would say initially shy — determined though. And just a good little guy.

What inspired you to write this book?

One summer we had moved into a new house by a river, and there was a family of ducks there. On a whim I just started writing. My family was coming together. You have to believe in a dream, that it’s going to be okay and believe in each other and trust in that. That’s where that idea came from. And then, of course, not giving up on yourself and believing in your goals and dreams. I always want a lesson to be behind [a story] that you can carry with you throughout your life. Dylan’s lesson was “don’t give up on yourself, believe in your dreams.” I didn’t set out to be a writer but it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I’m working on other stories. Of course, life gets ahead of you, and you have to find the time. I have a bunch of ideas in my head so that’s pretty much how I got into it. I did it not knowing that I was a writer, but I am.

How did it feel when you saw the final book?

The publishing was like a dream come true. I couldn’t believe I did it. It was a very proud accomplishment to be published.

What do you hope children will learn from reading your book?

That they can be whatever they want to be and never to give up on themselves, and that it’s okay to be different.

Tell me a little about the new stories you’re working on.

One is going to be called “Why So Mean Norma-Jean?” It’s about anti-bullying. There are two cats, Norma-Jean and Babies. They are my cats actually. The other one is called “I Love You Just As Much.” It’s about Francesca who has been the only child for five years and now they’re having a baby. She’s not thrilled. And then the third one is “Tumbling Timothy Jay.” It’s about a turtle who wants to be a gymnast. Through the help of his friends he tries to overcome his obstacle.

What advice would you give to someone who is writing their first book?

Don’t give up — go for it. Even though it’s hard to get published, don’t give up that dream. If you have an idea and you’re inspired to write, do it. I carry a notebook around with me all the time. I write little things that come to my head, even if it’s just an idea. At least it came to my head, and I wrote it down and maybe I don’t do anything with it for a little bit, but I have it.

Why do you think reading to a child is important?

I know kids are all into the Kindle and all the electronics. But the physical act of holding a book is just the best thing of all. Just for you to actually read to that child I think inspires a love of reading and an interest in it. You know, if they see a parent or teacher or someone holding a book to read it to them, and they sit and enjoy it, I think that promotes a love of reading.

Readers can contact Moshier by phone (631-618-5889) or email ([email protected]) for an autographed copy of “Dylan the Singing Duck,” which the author will send with free shipping anywhere on Long Island.

From left, Vanessa Molinelli, Jennifer Dzvonar, Joan Nickeson, Donna Boeckel and Lisa Molinelli from the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce. Photo from Jen Dzvonar

By Rebecca Anzel

Community members young and old will enjoy good old-fashioned family fun at the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce’s first ever Family Fun Day on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Buttercup’s Dairy, 285 Boyle Road in Terryville (at the corner of Old Town Road). From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., attendees of the free event will enjoy live music, a petting zoo, an apple pie baking contest, a chili cook-off, a scarecrow contest, selfie stations and more. Admission is free and there is no rain date.

An opportunity for community members to learn more about their local businesses, Family Fun Day will feature representatives from Old Town Blooms, Cumsewogue Historical Society, Stony Brook University, Bass Electric, Great Clips, People’s United Bank, Masone Natural Healing, Home Performance Technologies, R & B Electrical (Solar), Kiddie Academy, Port Jeff Bowl, Comsewogue Public Library, TFCU, Renewal by Anderson, Little Flower Children’s Services, Gutter Helmet, Coach Realtors, Everlasting Memories in Time, Kitchen Magic, PJS/Terryville Civic, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Habitat for Humanity and Brian Yonks Chiropractic.

“It’s really an exciting event that’s going to bring local businesses and the community together,” chamber board of directors President Jennifer Dzvonar said. “Local businesses are the backbone of the community. Why not bring the community to meet them?”

Dzvonar said she is most excited for the scarecrow contest, where families are encouraged to work together to create a unique scarecrow at home and bring it to the event to be displayed. The top submissions will receive ribbons.

To further celebrate the importance of family, the event committee asked children ages 10 and under to write essays about what family fun means to them to enter into the Little Miss and Mister of Terryville contest. The winners will receive a crown, sash and flowers the day of the event. And the apple pie baking contest, Dzvonar said, will allow members of the community to bond over the delicious fall-time dessert. “The woman next door might make the best apple pie, but you’d never know it! These contests are a fun way to get to know your neighbors better.”

Planning for the event has been underway since last November, and committee member Craig den Hartog said everyone involved is “excited to just get it started.” He is going to be on hand to help set up tents and direct traffic. A volunteer with Old Town Blooms, den Hartog will also be sharing information about the community beautification project, which has planted over 20,000 daffodils in the area over the last seven years. “The fact that our event benefits the community is the most important part,” den Hartog said.

Family Fun Day was inspired in part by similar events in surrounding towns. Rich Smith, whose family owns Buttercup Dairy, said he thought Terryville should have an event to celebrate the town, like St. James does, and members of the Chamber of Commerce agreed. den Hartog and Dzvonar both said the dairy was the perfect spot to host the event. Buttercup Dairy is the main focal point for those who live in the area and is Terryville’s longest operating business. “This event is a good way to give back to the community,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the families that will turn out for the old-fashioned fun [the committee] is planning.”

According to Dzvonar, organizing Family Fun Day was a group effort. It was “every facet of the community who pulled together and worked together to create such a great event,” she said, adding that the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce is hoping to make the event an annual affair hosted in each of its seven towns. “This year, we’re concentrating on Terryville. Next year, we might be in Mount Sinai, Wading River or we might be in Terryville again,” she said.

For more information, call 631-821-1313 or visit www.northbrookhavenchamber.org.

Abby Wambach greets fans at the Book Revue on Sept. 12. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

By Rebecca Anzel

Abby Wambach signs copies of her books at the Book Revue on Monday night. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
Abby Wambach signs copies of her books at the Book Revue on Monday night. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

Paying it forward:

Soccer star Abby Wambach, who played forward on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, visited the Book Revue in Huntington on Monday night to meet fans and sign copies of her new books, “Forward: A Memoir” and “Forward: My Story Young Readers’ Edition.”

The 36-year-old is a two-time Olympic gold medalist who, with 184 career goals, holds the world record for international goals for both male and female athletes. She retired from the sport on Oct. 27, 2015, the day President Barack Obama honored her team for winning the FIFA World Cup that year. About 500 people lined up to meet the player Obama called “an inspiration” with a “not-so-quiet dominance.”

Many in attendance were young female soccer players who came wearing their team jerseys and asked Wambach for a high five.

The Sisters of Delta Nu in Theatre Three's production of 'Legally Blonde: The Musical' at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Rebecca Anzel

Brittany Lacey stars in ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’ at Theatre Three from Sept. 17 to Oct. 29. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
Brittany Lacey stars in ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’ at Theatre Three from Sept. 17 to Oct. 29. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Theatre Three in Port Jefferson is gearing up for its next Mainstage production, “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” which will open on Saturday, Sept. 17. The role of Elle Woods will be played by 28-year-old Brittany Lacey, best known to Theatre Three regulars as Mimi in “Rent” and as Belle in “A Christmas Carol” when she was a company member there from 2010 to 2012. I had the opportunity to sit down with Brittany before rehearsals last Friday night to ask her about her latest role.

Why did you decide to audition for the role of Elle Woods?

This is a dream role of mine and having the chance to perform it here at Theatre Three makes it even more special. It’s like I’m coming home and now I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m a huge fan of Reese Witherspoon. I love her! I think she’s very funny and talented. Of course, I don’t know her personally, but she seems like such a good person — like Hollywood hasn’t gotten to her.

What is your favorite scene in the show?

I just discovered it the other day. My favorite scene is “What You Want.” The song has three parts to it and all are great! Our choreographer, Whitney Stone, came up with this amazing dance and it’s just a lot of fun. It’s like one big party on stage. A lot of the cast is involved in the number. I like when you’re on stage with everyone else because you’re able to share everyone else’s energy and I think it makes it a more memorable experience.

What is your favorite song in the show?

“Take It Like A Man.” That has become my favorite one. I don’t know what it is about it — I love singing it. I play it opposite Brett Chizever (in the role of Emmett Forrest). It’s a real joy. Brett is great. How many weeks does the cast rehearse before production? Four or five weeks … I’m not exactly sure. Because most people work during the day, we rehearse from 7:15 at night to 10:30 and then on weekends, we’ll have five-hour rehearsals. It’s a lot of repetition and practice. And, after I go home, it’s all I listen to. I drive my boyfriend crazy making him run lines with me!

What is it like working with the director, Jeffrey Sanzel?

I love working with Jeff. He’s a strict director, but in a good way. Jeff cares about everyone on that stage and what they’re doing. He really works with you to make sure you’re comfortable. It’s all about putting out a great product and everyone feeling proud of their performance. What is it like working with your castmates? I only knew a handful of them going in, and everyone is so nice. This cast is very supportive. I haven’t had that in a while so it’s really, really nice.

Who is playing the role of the UPS guy? Is he cute?

He’s so much younger than me — am I allowed to answer that? But no, the ladies will be quite happy with who they’re watching up there. Kyle Breitenbach is doing a great job with the role. He’s very funny.

Brittany Lacey with the only four-legged member of the show, Taxi. Photo courtesy of Theatre Three
Brittany Lacey with the only four-legged member of the show, Taxi. Photo courtesy of Theatre Three

I noticed the show will have a real dog in the role of Bruiser Woods. What is she like?

Her name is Taxi, like a taxi cab. She’s a chihuahua. Caitlin Nofi (who plays Vivienne in the show) has a friend who was kind enough to lend us Taxi, and she’s a star! She came in with a pink and purple bow around her neck and owned that stage. And she’s so good! She’s calm.

Have you ever performed on stage with an animal before?

I don’t think so! I’ve played a lot of animals, but no I don’t think I’ve ever had one on stage. It definitely makes me nervous because you just want the animal to feel okay up there. You don’t want to scare it. It’s fun though! It’s different, because at the end of the day, you’ll see what she wants to do. If she wants to prance around the stage, she’s going to prance and we’re going to let her.

What is it like being a part of a production at Theatre Three?

It’s a great experience. I feel like this theater tries to make it feel like a home for their actors and that you’re a part of their family. You don’t always get that in other places. Everyone works really hard because they just put their whole heart into it, and that is another reason I love to come back here. Jeff [Sanzel] is the leading force of that. The heart he has for theater, for this theater in general, is ginormous. It’s great because then that falls onto the rest of us and it makes you want to put even more effort into the show.

Why should people come see the show?

Because we really want you to! No, no, I think we’re putting a lot of hard work into it. We’re just getting into tech week, but I believe we’re putting out a really good production and I hope it’s fun for them. We promise to entertain you! We all love what we’re doing, so I think that always translates to the audience. If we’re having fun, hopefully that means they’re having fun watching it.

Do you have a favorite spot in Port Jefferson that you like to go to?

As soon as rehearsal’s over, I go down to Ralph’s. I love my ices and ice cream! It’s like my after rehearsal treat. What are your plans after this? I don’t have any definitive plans yet, but I’m sure it will involve auditioning. A lot of this job, of being an actor, is putting yourself out there and hoping that casting directors like what you have to offer.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’m having fun, I’m loving this experience and I can’t wait to open this show!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Legally Blonde: The Musical” from Sept. 17 to Oct. 29. Tickets range from $20 to $35. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.