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Senior Dreams Come True

Gift of hearing made possible through nonprofit program Senior Dreams Come True

Sally Lepis gets fitted for new hearing aids at the McGuire Hearing Center in Centereach. Photo from Seiden Communications

Thanks to a nonprofit program, one Selden senior is calling her new hearing aids a dream come true.

Sally Lepis, who lives independently at St. Joseph’s Village, a subsidized housing complex, was granted her wish for new hearing aids by Senior Dreams Come True. The nonprofit program founded and run by the elder law firm Genser Dubow Genser & Cona in Melville benefits low-income seniors on Long Island by granting wishes — from helping a senior meet basic needs to fulfilling a lifelong dream. The program especially looks to grant wishes for seniors who have given back to their communities or helped others in their lifetime.

With significant hearing loss, 102-year-old Lepis could not afford to replace her more than 25-year-old hearing aids. Whether speaking to one person or in a group, she has difficulty communicating.

To fulfill Lepis’ wish, Senior Dreams reached out to David Carr, owner and director of McGuire’s Hearing Centers, which is headquartered in Centereach with 10 facilities in the New York City and Long Island areas. He agreed to donate two of the most advanced, custom in-canal hearing aids plus four appointments with the audiologist to do testing, programming and fine tuning of the devices. The total cost for the hearing aids and services is $7,500.

“I was intrigued with this important program to help seniors and the amazing story of Mrs. Lepis and her family,” Carr said. For many years, he has helped seniors in need throughout the U.S. by donating hearing aids to the less fortunate through a program he started called the Foundation for Sight and Sound.

Often referred to as “Mother Teresa,” Lepis has remained the anchor for her family, maintaining a positive attitude no matter what personal hardships she goes through. When she was 57, her husband died. She also lost her twin sister at a young age and raised her then 14-year-old niece Olivia Schmidt in her home.

“No one is more deserving of a Senior Dreams wish than Sally,” Schmidt said. “[She] has devoted her life to caring for many family members and friends while coping with her own sadness and losses she has endured.”

Lepis worked as a seamstress from a young age and only recently got rid of her Singer sewing machine. When her husband died, she worked at B. Altman Department Store in Manhasset as a sales clerk before retiring.

Before she stopped driving at age 95, Lepis did her best to care for friends by driving them to doctor’s appointments. She even saved a friend’s life when she found her stuck in a bathtub for several days.

“Mrs. Lepis has given so much of herself over the years to friends, family and those in need in her community,” said Jennifer Cona, managing partner of Genser Dubow Genser & Cona. “She is exactly the kind of person for whom Senior Dreams Come True seeks to grant wishes.”

Dr. Harry Boutis, Denise Marino, and Janet Russell and Melissa Negrin-Wiener from Senior Dreams Come True are all smiles after Marino’s new dentures were ready. Photo from Senior Dreams Come True

Thanks to Stony Brook dentist Dr. Harry Boutis, Denise Marino can smile again.

Boutis donated his services to replace Marino’s dentures. The two were connected through the elder law firm Genser, Dubow, Genser & Cona’s Senior Dreams Come True program, which grants the wishes of low-income seniors. Marino, 75, a former corrections officer, said her 45-year-old dentures, top full and bottom partial, were extremely worn down, and when she heard that her wish to get new dentures was going to be granted, she was thrilled.

“Having a full set of teeth is of the utmost of importance due to function for chewing and eating, facial support and soft tissues. Just as importantly the patient’s mental well-being and self-confidence.”

— Dr. Harry Boutis

“I was very surprised, and I thought, ‘Gee, I’ll try it and see what happens,’” she said in a phone interview.

Boutis, who helped with a previous wish, said he became involved with the program through his patient Melissa Negrin-Wiener, a partner in the Melville law firm and one of the founders of Senior Dreams Come True. Marino said she heard about the organization from her niece, who told her all she had to do was write a letter to the nonprofit.

Marino said before receiving the new dentures she was hesitant to smile, and it looked like she didn’t have any teeth and her top lip was sinking in. Boutis, who has been practicing dentistry for 23 years, said a full set of teeth is required for much more than smiling.

“Having a full set of teeth is of the utmost of importance due to function for chewing and eating, facial support and soft tissues,” the dentist said. “Just as importantly the patient’s mental well-being and self-confidence.”

The dentist said Marino needed to visit the office eight times for appointments that lasted 30 to 45 minutes long. During the time Senior Dreams Come True was helping Marino get her dentures made, the great-grandmother said she was also having car problems so the firm’s legal assistant Janet Russell would pick her up and take her to all her appointments.

Marino, who raised six children and got her first dentures when she was 30, said she is a “chicken” when it comes to going to the dentist but Boutis made her visits pleasant ones.

Dr. Harry Boutis and Denise Marino before the dentist began her denture work. Photo from Senior Dreams Come True

“Dr. Boutis is such a wonderful, wonderful man,” she said.” He makes you feel so comfortable and he talks to you, and he’s just a real person.”

Marino said after receiving her new dentures she can’t stop smiling.

“It’s so wonderful to have teeth,” she said.

Boutis said he was also pleased with the outcome.

“I was ecstatic with the result we achieved for Denise,” the dentist said. “Being such a nice person that she is, her happiness and new smile are the rewards that make practicing this profession what it’s all about,” the dentist said.

Negrin-Wiener said Senior Dreams Come True started after she and her fellow elder law attorneys, who are involved with many different medical causes such as Alzheimer’s research, realized there weren’t any organizations to raise money for seniors’ basic needs.   

The lawyer said in order for a person to qualify for a wish they must be over 65 years old, and a couple cannot make more than $2,000 a month and a single person can make no more than $1,500. The organization just asks the hopeful wish-recipient to write a paragraph about his or her life, and they also look for people who have been involved in their communities. 

“What they’ve done for me is just amazing. They’re my little guardian angels.”

—Denise Marino

She said when it comes to requests, “They aren’t asking for lavish things.”

The attorney said people have wished for simple items such as mattresses and ramps, and dentures have been a popular request. She said the program will even help pay for a trip, which was the case with a Smithtown woman who couldn’t afford to go see her new grandchild.

The program also brought Marino’s car to a mechanic to get it repaired. Negrin-Wiener said there are no limits on the amount of granted wishes one can receive.

“We fundraise throughout the year, and we grant wishes on a rolling basis,” she said. “It just depends what the wishes are, if we get help from the community. What we are able to do financially in that point of time.”

Marino said she has been telling everyone she knows about Senior Dreams Come True and handing out pamphlets.

“I couldn’t have done it without them, because I’m on Social Security,” Marino said. “I just get a little over a $1,000 a month to live on, and what they’ve done for me is just amazing. They’re my little guardian angels.”