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Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054

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In previous years, events such as the Memorial Day Parade and the Jewish Summer Festival at West Meadow Beach, above, filled up the days of Three Village residents. File photo by Seth Berman/Rapid Shutter Photograph

Starting with the annual Memorial Day Parade down Main Street and Route 25A, the Three Village area is normally filled with activities all summer long. While many annual favorites were canceled this year due to the coronavirus, some event organizers are striving to stay connected with residents.

In previous years, events such as the Memorial Day Parade, above, and the Jewish Summer Festival at West Meadow Beach filled up the days of Three Village residents. File photo by Rita J. Egan

Jay Veronko, post commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars East Setauket Post 3054, said the Memorial Day Parade is usually the group’s biggest event that they host each year. This year’s parade was canceled due to COVID-19.

“I’m not sure of when the last time it was canceled for reasons other than severe weather,” he said.

Veronko said the event means more than simply memorializing former local soldiers who lost their lives in combat overseas or honoring living veterans.

“The parade also serves as a source of local pride in our way of life — the community getting together and coming out and celebrating life and the beginning of summer, as well as getting many diverse groups together to march and let the community know about them and what they stand for or do,” he said. “For the fire departments, it’s a way for the community to cheer them on for doing a great volunteer job and for the departments to display their pride and commitment to serving the community they protect.”

The post commander said many older post members are hesitant to socialize due to fear of getting COVID-19 and are not visiting the post for social interaction, something he said may not be good for physical and emotional well-being. Veronko said while the future may not be clear, the post doors and the members are there for each other.

“The VFW of Setauket will be there for the veterans who need help or want to gather in the comradeship of arms,” he said.

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said there have been no in-person events at the Educational & Cultural Center since the mandatory shutdowns. While events currently can be held inside with 50 people or less, WMHO, like many organizations, had to furlough a few employees, and they currently would not have enough people to work on events even if they could be held as usual. The Discovery Wetlands Cruise, which takes participants on a trip through West Meadow Creek, has been suspended for 2020, and the WMHO also decided not to hold its summer music series this year.

While it’s still a couple of months away, the organization has already canceled Walk for Beauty, which is normally held every October to raise money for breast cancer research. Rocchio said many expressed concerns about those who are battling cancer, who may be immunocompromised, attending such an event. As for the future, she said they are waiting for the updates to state guidelines.

Despite the cancellations, the WMHO president said residents have not forgotten the Stony Brook Village Center.

“We get people on the Village Green at night,” she said. “They sit there with their families usually, some might be two people, some are four people. They do social distancing, and they bring food, some even play ball at the lower part. They feel it’s a nice place to watch the sunset.”

She said residents have also noticed people taking advantage of the view more so than in previous years. To continue connecting with the community, WMHO is also offering virtual classes from the wetlands.

“We’re trying to reinvent ourselves,” Rocchio said.

Lise Hintze, Bates House manager at Frank Melville Memorial Park, said many of their usual events, including their outdoor concerts, had to be canceled this summer, but other activities have been able to take place again. She said the size of the park allows for proper social distance for various classes such as yoga, meditation and tai chi where participants have been wearing masks.

“We can continue with our community and come together, because we have the Bates House and parks grounds that are perfect for what they need with those classes,” Hintze said.

Missing this year will also be the Jewish Summer Festival at West Meadow Beach, which Village Chabad in East Setauket hosts in August. The event also didn’t take place last year due to the grand opening of its new center in June 2020. Despite the lack of in-person events, Rabbi Motti Grossbaum said the center has been trying to maintain a sense of community and connection with virtual classes and events. He said while many have said they appreciate the virtual options, the Chabad staff is looking forward to seeing everyone in person in the future.

“There’s nothing that can replace face-to-face and in-person connections,” Grossbaum said. “A community is all about interaction, sharing, schmoozing, kids playing and enjoying friendships in real life.”

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Three Village Dads hold up a check for $15,000 that was given to the Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054 in East Setauket. Photo from Three Village Dads

When it comes to raising money, members of one Facebook parent group have been busy this year.

Just a few months after donating $12,000 to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, the fathers who make up the Three Village Dads Facebook group presented a check Sept. 16 for $15,000 to Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054 in East Setauket. The group raised the funds during an Aug. 23 golf outing at Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville where 95 people participated. Among the golfers were six post members who were invited to join the online group and play some golf as well.

Group administrator David Tracy, of Stony Brook, said the VFW post came in a close second to the children’s hospital earlier this year when administrators asked members what nonprofit they should raise money for. Tracy said the fathers were able to collect $15,000 for the post by charging for golf and offering raffles including a 50/50. They also approached businesses to ask if they would like to sponsor golf tee signs and meals on the day of the event.

“Because we had such a great turnout and a good reputation from back in May with the children’s hospital, we essentially had the same returning businesses and then a few extras,” Tracy said.

Post Commander Jay Veronko said the $15,000 came at a good time. The post recently installed a fire alarm system which cost $14,000. The members have been busy renovating the building, and after Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) reached out to local unions, sheet metal workers reworked the kitchen’s vent system as a project for their trainees. In addition to the kitchen renovations, the back steps were recently redone. Masonry union members, who have donated their time and tiles, will work on the bathrooms. The post members also are hoping to replace their windows, which aren’t energy efficient.

Veronko said by renovating the post, the hope is that it can be used as a community meeting center. Three Village Dads has planned to gather there once a month, and the Titanium Twirlers — a group of baton twirlers — just held their initial meeting at the post.

“It’s part of the mission of trying to get back out in the community,”

– Jay Veronko

Tracy said the post is the perfect place to meet. In addition to a few Facebook group members belonging to the post, since they recently formed the Three Village Dads foundation to streamline the fundraising process, they are required to meet monthly. In addition to discussing future fundraising projects, he said the group hopes to talk about local issues and how they can add their voices to concerns in the community. He said the meeting space would provide members, who may be hesitant to post on a social media, a chance to discuss issues.

“It’s nice to be able to pool together the thoughts and the ideas of everybody, and put these major concerns front and center,” Tracy said. “These meetings will make that an even more viable place to sound off.”

Veronko said the post will hold an Oktoberfest event on their grounds, 8 Jones St., East Setauket, Oct. 12 from 2 to 7 p.m. On that day VFW members will present the Three Village Dads with a plaque.

“The event really is more or less a thank you to the Three Village Dads for doing what they’ve done for us,” Veronko said.

The day will include the Chris and Ronnie Polka Band from Staten Island performing, food from Pumpernickels Restaurant in Northport, steinholding, German trivia contests and a 50/50 raffle.

In addition to the group page, Three Village Dads now have a public page, www.facebook.com/threevillagedads, to inform those outside of the group of their latest activities as well as share some fatherly tips.

 

Setauket residents and friends lined Main Street in East Setauket to cheer on the participants in the 2019 Memorial Day Parade organized by the Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054 May 27.

Under sunny skies, veterans, firefighters, Scouts, and the Ward Melville High School and R. C. Murphy bands marched from the Village Green to Se-Port Delicatessen.

As tradition, the parade kicked off with an opening ceremony at the Village Green and ended with a closing ceremony at East Setauket Memorial Park on Route 25A.