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Volunteer

Photo from TOB

The Town of Brookhaven has announced that registration for the 16th Annual Great Brookhaven Cleanup is now open. The event, which is co-sponsored by the Town of Brookhaven’s Department of Recycling and Sustainable Materials Management and Teachers Federal Credit Union, will be held on Saturday, May 18 at various locations throughout Brookhaven Town. It is part of a national effort that draws over 5 million volunteers in more than 20,000 communities across America who come together to pick up litter and clean miles of roadway, rivers, lakes, and more. Last year, the Great Brookhaven Clean Up drew more than 2600 volunteers.

Free gloves, trash bags and t-shirts will be provided by the Town for the Great Brookhaven Clean Up volunteers. The supplies will be available for pick up at the Department of Recycling and Sustainable Materials Management’s third floor office at Town Hall during regular business hours (9:00 am to 4:30 pm) from May 6 to May 17. Evening pick-ups are scheduled for May 14 and May 15 from 4:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Appointments are necessary and must be scheduled during the registration process. Brookhaven Town Hall is located at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville.

Individuals or groups can register online for the Great Brookhaven Clean Up and get more information at www.brookhavenny.gov or by calling 451-TOWN (8696).

Kelly Ng and Adelaide Matthews. Photo by Lynn Hallarman
Stony Brook University pre-health students step up as volunteer EMTs

By Lynn Hallarman

Stony Brook University master’s student Kelly Ng didn’t intend to be an emergency medical technician. Then, a friend took her to a training as part of the Port Jefferson Emergency Medical Services volunteer program.

“At first, I was tagging along,” Ng said. Her friend eventually quit the program, but Ng discovered she loved emergency care and the adrenaline rush of helping people. 

 I met with Ng and her fellow EMT, Adelaide Matthews, a junior also at Stony Brook, at the headquarters of the not-for-profit PJEMS, based in Mount Sinai. Both live at the station as part of the “bunk-in” program open to full-time university students. Matthews decided to undergo EMT training because “it seemed cool,” and thought it would be a good way to get hands-on experience in medicine. Both are planning on applying to either physician assistant school or medical school. Ng has been with the program for almost four years, and Matthews for two years. 

PJEMS developed the bunk-in program as part of an organizational initiative to engage pre-health care university students as volunteer EMTs. “We had an urgent need to get creative in our approach to recruiting and retaining volunteer EMTs,” said Mike Presta, paramedic and deputy director of special operations for PJEMS. Presta saw the initiative as a win-win: Pre-physician assistant, pre-medicine and pre-nursing students would get the volunteer hours they need as part of their application process, and the organization would have a pipeline of volunteer EMTs.

In 2015, the Port Jeff organization started the College Student EMS Program. Students train to be full-fledged New York State-certified EMTS and respond to calls in the community alongside paid professionals. “They get invaluable experience as primary patient-care providers” Presta said. 

At first, the organization focused on recruiting from the pre-PA program since they have the largest hourly volunteer requirement. “Then it just spread like wildfire because there weren’t a lot of opportunities like that around for the students,” Presta said. 

In 2016, the bunk-in program was added. Students must be willing to commit to three eight-hour shifts per week. In return, the students get free room and board at the station and the opportunity to serve in leadership positions in their mentorship program. The bunk-in program is the first in New York state, according to Presta. “A couple of EMS upstate have replicated their program, but none locally,” he said. The Port Jeff College Student EMS Program currently has about 135 student volunteer EMTs, 15 of whom participate in the bunk-in program.

Over the years, Presta has seen a massive increase in the total number of calls per year as the population density in their coverage area has increased: “When I started here in 2007, I remember we broke 1,000 calls a year. And that was a big deal. But now, I can’t believe how busy it is. Last year, we did about 3,500 runs.” 

A visit to Port Jeff EMS

The day I met with Ng and Matthews, the station was quiet. A cluster of unassuming low-slung buildings houses PJEMS on the corner of Route 347 and Crystal Brook Hollow Road. A row of ambulances sits in front of the garage, repurposed as a makeshift gym. 

The rear of the building has been extended with a trailer unit to make room for the bunk-in program, which now replaces the spaces in the main building once used for offices. The largest space in the building is part command control and part community center, with a circle of comfy oversized recliners meant for weary bodies in need of rest between runs. A spotless kitchen overlooks a fenced-in backyard designed for the canine unit. Big screens line a wall, tracking deployed crews. EMT students — “probies” (shorthand for “on probation”) — lounge around a conference room table in Uggs and sweatpants, waiting for a teaching session to start. 

PJEMS is the primary ambulance service for the village of Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and Mount Sinai. According to its website, the coverage area comprises several schools, hospitals, medical facilities, a ferry terminal, two harbors and 6 miles of residential and commercial waterfront on the Long Island Sound. 

The organization is one of the region’s few “station-based” response units, meaning every shift has two professional paramedics and a crew of volunteer EMTs on site 24/7. The system is tightly designed with checks and oversight. Paramedics are trained in advanced lifesaving techniques beyond the basic skills learned by EMTs. No Port Jefferson volunteer EMT is left on their own or without backup from a paramedic. 

PJEMS, which has existed since 1959, started as 100% volunteer. However, as the area’s population grew and demand increased, the service added paid staff. According to Presta, community residents represent only about 10% of the 150 total number of EMT volunteers, with the rest mostly university students — including those in the bunk-in program. Still, Presta wishes more residents were interested in volunteering. “But there is no sell,” he said. “A person must have a strong intrinsic motivation to serve.”

New York State EMS crisis 

In 2019, a NYS Emergency Services Medical Council report identified insufficient EMS workforce reaching critical levels. EMS agencies statewide identified workforce shortages as impairing their ability to respond to need, causing delayed response times or resulting in missed calls. 

The report identified a tsunami of circumstances that have led to the workforce shortage, including the aging of volunteer EMTs, lack of pay equity for professional EMTs and antiquated insurance reimbursement models. Add in an uptick in mental health calls, older patients with complex care needs plus drug and alcohol-related calls, EMS programs across the state started showing signs of critical strain. These problems worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an alarming overall drop in volunteerism to today’s levels, characterized by the NYS Association of Counties as a crisis. 

I was surprised to learn from state Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) that EMS are not designated as essential services by New York State. I met with the senator at her office in Hauppauge to better understand the statewide response to the EMT crisis. Martinez has been at the forefront of advocating for policy changes at the state level as part of a legislative initiative called Rescue EMS. She has sponsored or co-sponsored several bills meant to bolster the volunteer EMT workforce, including increases in tax credits for volunteer EMTs, establishing a “Vets to Vollies” program which encourages veterans to join their local EMS or fire department and establishing a 90-day death benefit payment for volunteer EMTs and firefighters. 

Martinez loves what PJEMS is doing with its student program, and imagines replicating the program in her 4th District at perhaps the high school level or as part of their junior leadership program. 

Ng and Matthews are happy to be part of the Port Jefferson EMS first responder community. “It’s not just the medical knowledge we learn, it’s about how to talk to people and get them to trust us,” Matthews said. “And I really like the crew I work with.”

Marc Perez

By Julianne Mosher

Not only is Marc Perez an executive for Bank of America Long Island, but he has been recognized for being an active local leader and community servant striving to help others.

After initially joining the Bank of America team in 2000, Perez was named president of Bank of America Long Island – based out of Melville – in September 2021. As president, he leads initiatives to positivitly impact Long Island communities while aligning volunteer efforts for the more than 1,200 employees across the island. 

Marc Perez volunteers at Long Island Cares.
Photo courtesy Long Island Cares

In addition, he is responsible for delivering access to the capabilities of Bank of America’s eight lines of business to help enhance the well-being of the people, businesses and institutions that call Long Island home. Perez also serves as a market executive for Bank of America Private Bank, delivering responsible growth and client satisfaction. 

“Over his 20-year career at Bank of America, Marc has established deep relationships with teammates, clients and the Long Island community,” Brian Moynihan, chief executive officer of Bank of America, previously said in a statement.

As a 20-year resident of Northport, Perez has also dedicated himself to his community – a passion he shares with his family, and that he often combines with his role at Bank of America.

“I have always admired the passion of people who volunteer and who dedicate their career to serve,” Perez said. “Volunteering of your time, effort or expertise is critically important – helping people in need helps empower our communities.”

Perez has served as a board member of Long Island Cares for seven years, but his involvement with this nonprofit dates back more than a decade. 

“Along with my wife and two daughters, we have participated in several Long Island Cares volunteer initiatives, including food drives and collections to assist families in need,” he said. “Additionally, in my role as [Bank of America] Long Island president, I have the great opportunity to partner with local nonprofits to advance initiatives like the Power Up! program with the United Way of Long Island and Bold Future Leaders with Girls Inc.”

Perez said that this year, the Bank of America team on Long Island volunteered approximately 9,000 hours and Bank of America was able to provide funding, as well.

“Together, it’s the impact of both that makes me most proud,” he said. 

Under Perez’s leadership and connections, his team has consistently supported initiatives in partnership with Long Island Cares, Island Harvest, Girls Inc., Habitat for Humanity and more. 

This past year, Perez said he has two special memories of his volunteerism. 

“It was an honor to be able to meet and speak to graduates of Island Harvest’s Workforce Skills Development Institute, a program that Bank of America helped to launch,” he said. “Engaging with the graduates, their families and the people involved in the program was inspirational and uplifting knowing that these graduates will go on to prosper in a new career.”

His second favorite memory? When he and his wife, Maryann, helped prepare Thanksgiving meals for Long Islanders in need. 

“Not only do these moments keep me coming back to volunteer often but participating in these events helps fulfill a duty we all have to make our communities better for us all,” he said. 

But just because 2023 is nearing the end, that doesn’t mean his community service stops, too. This coming spring, under his leadership, Bank of America will be hosting a Clean Up Day in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity in the Riverside community. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that volunteering is motivating,” he said. “If you can get involved in volunteer work, I recommend that you find an organization whose mission you support and join their efforts.” 

While running a company, managing a team and being a dad to two kids, Perez said that any spare minute of volunteering is 100 percent worth it. 

“I realize that time is precious, since people have responsibilities at home and at work. However, every time I volunteer and give back, I am grateful to have contributed to building up our community,” he said. “There’s nothing like the feeling you get after positively impacting the lives of others. To quote Maya Angelou, ‘I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.’”

For his considerable volunteer work, Marc Perez is honored as a TBR News Media 2023 Person of the Year.

Seymour’s Boatyard owner, Dave Weber Jr. Photo by Sabrina Artusa

By Sabrina Artusa

The Village of Northport, known for its beautiful waterfront, thriving art sector and flourishing downtown, is widely appreciated by visitors and residents alike. Dave Weber Jr., a longtime resident, has consistently shown his love and appreciation for his community through fervent volunteerism, hands-on leadership and consideration for the overlooked.

Weber began his career in service as a junior firefighter in high school, following in his father’s footsteps, who was also a firefighter. After graduating from college and living briefly in Florida, Weber moved back to Northport, joined the fire department and took over Seymour’s Boatyard, which is listed in New York’s Historic Business Preservation Registry. Three years ago, he became a member of the village board of trustees.

One of Weber’s most consistent efforts has been fundraising for Paws of War, a nonprofit that trains shelter dogs as service dogs for veterans and first responders, like firefighters, who have physical or emotional traumas. This past summer, he raised over $15,000. The fundraiser was held alongside a free concert Weber organized in celebration of the Seymour’s Boatyard 100th anniversary.

He also raised money for the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association when the status of their paychecks was uncertain. With community support, he raised money for gift cards to give to the officers at a dinner held at the firehouse.

“Not much is said of the Coast Guard, but they are one of the branches of service that should be taken care of. They are putting their life out on the line out there for others so we as community members should be taking care of them also,” Weber said. 

Veterans affairs has been a significant concern of Weber’s. New York has the fifth largest veteran population at 790,000, according to the New York Health Foundation. Veteran suicide rates are significantly higher than the general population.

He got close to the Coast Guard community after organizing a CrossFit workout fundraiser for Nate Bruckenthal, a young Coast Guardsman who was killed in the Iraq War in 2004.

Weber also started Cow Harbor Warriors, along with several others. Under the Cow Harbor Warriors, Weber arranged for veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to visit Northport, where they enjoyed the water and attended a welcome dinner at the firehouse and a fundraising party. The goal was for the veterans, who came from across the tristate area, to feel appreciated.

Weber’s compassion is inexhaustible but is occasionally limited by external factors, such as participation, as was the case with the Cow Harbor Warriors, which, after several years of events, came to a halt.

“Everything revolves around volunteerism,” he said. “We come up with the ideas and put them to paper, but sometimes following through and executing is tough — it is definitely tough.” 

He continued, “We live in a picture-postcard community. It is a very giving community. All you have to do is look out the windows of my office to know that this is a very special place,” adding, “I feel lucky to be able to live here, and part of that is the ability to give back to the community.”

As Nicole Carey wrote in her nomination letter, “Often, if a person or an organization has an idea they want to bring forward, it is Dave they call.” She added, “He is the glue to all resources and often will help with the life of the project just because helping folks is second nature to him.”

For his continued dedication to his community, in both times of celebration and in times of need, Dave Weber is honored as a 2023 Person of the Year by TBR News Media.

Port Jeff Village Hall. File photo

The Village of Port Jefferson is calling upon its residents to volunteer for various boards, councils and committees that play a crucial role in enhancing local government and the community.

“Volunteering for a board, council or committee provides an exceptional opportunity to actively engage in the decision-making processes that shape our policies and programs,” Mayor Lauren Sheprow said. “It’s a chance to lend your voice, expertise and unique perspective to initiatives that contribute to the vitality of Port Jefferson.”

Members of boards and committees contribute significantly to the progress and development of the village. Volunteer contributions can help formulate policies, oversee projects and ensure the best interests of the community are represented.

Residents are encouraged to explore the wide array of boards, councils and committees by visiting www.portjeff.com/volunteer. There, they can indicate their interests, preferences and availability.

For more information contact: [email protected].

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Al Kopcienski has been a longtime member of the Miller Place Fire Department. File photo by Greg Catalano

Starting in 1959 and continuing to now, Al Kopcienski has spent 60 years in the Port Jefferson Rotary, and in a meeting Sept. 26 members described the man as the epitome of the rotary motto: “Service above self.”

Al Kopcienski was honored at the last rotary meeting for 60 years of service. Photo from Port Jefferson Rotary

Back in the day, joining the rotary wasn’t as simple as asking to join. Kopcienski said he remembered being “put through the ringer,” before being inducted, having been sponsored by his father-in-law Stuart Gracey. Meetings back then were hosted at Teddy’s Hotel, located at the corner of Main Street and East Broadway before later moving over to the Elks Lodge.

In decades past, the rotary raised much of its money through concerts and minstrel shows, though the biggest fundraiser for years was the annual event held on the grounds of Mather Hospital, which in the early years included a horse show. Then, rotary members said Kopcienski would spend hours collecting rocks from the horse show grounds in case a horse would get injured on one. He would be a part of those fundraising efforts, joining other members in building giant cement fire pits and helping in square dances and barbecues. 

Other than rotary fundraising, he has been particularly active in service projects to Camp PaQuaTuck, a summer camp for children with special needs, and the nonprofit marrow registry Gift of Life. He has built and maintained bus shelters in the Village of Port Jefferson, said Rotarian Ed DiNunzio, and has shopped for Christmas gifts for children who would not otherwise get them.

As an active member of the Miller Place Fire Department, he spent hours in 2012 on the east end of Long Island battling wildfires. His service in the face of disaster has traveled even further. He and his wife Honor have a home on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean. In 2017 the category 5 Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria decimated the island. He has traveled there several times a year to aid in the cleanup and rebuilding.

“For the past thirty-seven years, I have consistently witnessed Al using his knowledge and expertise, and devoting his time and effort, to help the Club achieve its goals of service both to the local community, the larger community of Suffolk County and the world,” DiNunzio said.

Members of Miller Place Fire Department, EMS volunteers and community members come together at Stop & Shop in Miller Place to raise donations for those in need this holiday season. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Local families in need have a group of Miller Place volunteers, generous strangers and a big red bus to be thankful for this holiday season.

Cold, windy weather did nothing to stop Miller Place Fire Department members from gathering outside Stop & Shop at 385 Route 25A for five hours last weekend. In fact, the dozen volunteer EMS members, engine company officers and firefighters were all smiles as they collected 800 pounds of nonperishable items from passing shoppers, whose contributions were packed into a fire department bus and dropped off to St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach the next morning.

Former Miller Place captain of EMS
Debi Rasweiler, on left, collects
donations. Photo by Kevin Redding

Canned food, condiments, paper towels and much more stock the shelves at the church’s food pantry for Miller Place, Sound Beach and Mount Sinai families struggling to make ends meet. The donations will help them have a proper Thanksgiving.

“The outpouring is always incredible — people here are just amazing,” said Debi Rasweiler, a former captain of EMS at the fire department and organizer of the 7th annual EMS Stuff-A-Bus Nov. 17, which ran from 3 to 8 p.m. “Last year we stuffed the bus from floor to ceiling, rear to front. It just grows every year.”

During the event, shoppers on their way into the supermarket were handed a list of items needed for the pantry — including pasta, dry cereal, canned vegetables, soaps and toothpaste — and asked to donate if possible. It didn’t take long before residents wheeled their carts over to the bus to chip in. Some dropped off one or two items while others outdid themselves, handing over full bags of groceries and cash.

“I just think we all have to give back,” said Shoreham resident Peggy Debus, who donated peanut butter, jelly and cereal. “When people stop giving back, the world gets very bad.”

John Barile from Mount Sinai, who handed over paper towels, said he takes any opportunity he can to help others who need it.

“If everybody gave something, we would never have any problems,” Barile said.

“If everybody gave something, we would never have any problems.”

John Barile

When asked what inspired her to donate multiple items, another shopper simply said, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Stephen Rasweiler, Debi’s husband and a lifelong volunteer firefighter, voiced his appreciation for the community as he held up a donated bag of yams and turkey stuffing.

“This is somebody’s Thanksgiving dinner just in one bag,” he said, beaming. “This time of year is very stressful, the economy’s tough for a lot of families and we know we’re helping a lot of people. It’s sad that this is needed but it’s been a great department and community effort.”

It was the Rasweiler’s daughter Jessica who initially brought Stuff-A-Bus to the community seven years ago after being involved in a similar event with her sorority at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. When she came home from college, and joined the fire department as an EMT, Rasweiler was determined to adopt the donate-and-transport event.

She got local businesses to sponsor it and went door-to-door from Setauket to Wading River to spread the word. As a full-time nurse at St. Catherine of Siena in Smithtown, she was unable to be at this year’s event, but said over the phone that the event’s continued success makes her heart smile.

“I wanted to do more for the community,” she said. “I knew we could do something greater than just wait for the whistle to blow for any kind of call that we get at the fire department. I just can’t believe it and it’s amazing the community has just latched onto it. It’s a very special event.”

For Bobby Chmiel, 2nd Lieutenant of EMS, the Stuff-A-Bus is a highlight every year.

St. Louis de Montfort’s outreach coordinator Jane
Guido shows off her new inventory as a result of the
annual Stuff-A-Bus event. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s not just residents helping people, it’s helping people they might know,” he said. “They could be your friends or neighbors. The community in Miller Place and Sound Beach will unite around a common cause. When it’s one of our own that needs help, especially during the holiday season, we’re there.”

On Nov. 18, the big red bus delivered its boxes upon boxes of items to the church. The various foods were stacked into the church’s pantries and will be given out to families, many of whom the church takes care of year-round.

“It’s a blessing and I can’t thank them enough,” said Jane Guido, St. Louis de Montfort’s outreach coordinator. “The families are very appreciative because a lot of them wouldn’t’ be able to put that kind of spread on their table for a holiday. It’s just too costly. People are so generous — we get plenty of stuff that holds us through the year — without their help, our pantry would be bare.”

After all the boxes were brought inside, Debi Rasweiler announced that on top of the food, one resident who asked to be anonymous donated $1,400 worth of Visa gift cards.

“It was a single parent who had been needy for a long time,” Rasweiler said.

An emotional Guido hugged her.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you everybody,” Guido said.

20th Street renamed Thomas Lateulere Street in memory of firefighter, good neighbor

Wading River Fire Department unveiled the new Thomas Lateulere Street sign on 20th Street Aug. 30. Photo by Robert Quaranta

By Kyle Barr

Under the newly-placed sign that says Thomas Lateulere Street high above their heads, family, friends, neighbors and volunteer firemen of the Wading River Fire Department could only remember the man the street was named after as a modest, kind and gentle soul who gave everything he had to the fire department and the community.

“It was great of the fire department to honor him like this — I never expected it, and the crowd that came, never,” Thomas Lateulere mother Joann said as she walked back to her house on the street now named after her son. “They all came to honor him, which was wonderful.”

Family memebrers, friends, members of the Wading River Fire Department and Riverhead Town were on site for the renaming of 20th Street as Lateulere Street, in memory of Thomas Lateulere, an ex-chief of Wading River Fire Department who lost a battle with cancer in 2016. Photo by Robert Quaranta

Volunteer firefighters, public officials, neighbors and friends of Thomas Lateulere, a commissioner and ex-chief in Wading River who died last July after a battle with cancer, all came to honor the man as his name was dedicated to the street where he grew up.

“He worked up until the last day he had to go to the hospital and he died,” said Latuelere’s former girlfriend Raegin Kellerman. “He was still there training students, and he was just a good man, a very good man. He loved it, too, it was a passion for him. He just enjoyed training his members on all these new advancements. He was all into new technology, new medical care and he did his research on everything. He just really loved them, it was a family to him.”

Lateulere had worked with the Wading River Fire Department and EMS for 35 years. He started when he was a young teen as a junior for the department, and he moved up through the ranks until he reached commissioner and chief. He was also one of the first paramedics to work with Suffolk County’s medevac helicopters, which are used to transport those in need of medical attention to a hospital.

“He was a really caring guy, cared about the members down here,” said current Wading River Fire Chief Kevin McQueeney. “He was the kind of guy that if your son was hurt, you wanted him to show up on the call — you knew that he was the best of the best. He is missed down here; he was a guidance down here.”

Neighbors who lived close to Lateulere said they felt safe with him nearby. Many of them knew him as “Tommy.”

“Almost everybody on this street had to call an ambulance at some time or another,” said Wading River resident and neighbor Chris Hopkins. “He heard it on the radio and he was there within two minutes He personally came twice in the middle of the night when I needed an ambulance, he was in my house within a minute taking charge of everybody, even telling the ambulance people to take good care of me. Everyone up and down our street he was there for. He was a shy fellow, but he was amazing; he was so amazing.”

Members of the Wading River Fire Department honored former chief Thomas Lateulere during a street-renaming ceremony. Photo by Robert Quaranta

Few roads have been dedicated to individuals, so Riverhead Town Highway DepartmentDeputy Superintendent Mike Zaleski said that it would be a nice way to remember the man who touched the lives of so many.

“I would say we might have dedicated fice streets to individuals, and I’ve been with the town going on 24 years,” Zakesji said.”It has to be very noteworthy, somebody special,. It’s well deserved here.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the steet renaming was the least the town could do.

“I mean he’s a 35-year volunteer and commissioner of the fire department, EMS worker and trainer — there are very few people in the world who excel at that level, especially to protect life safety,” Walter said.

Kellerman said that the street sign should also serve as a call for more people to volunteer their time to the local fire department and EMS, showing how the service of the men and women on call all day ever week does not go unoticed, and how the dedication and service can affect and save lives.

“They’re out at 2 or 3 in the morning helping people, and the rest of us are sleeping,” she said. “The ambulances, the fire departments, we need volunteers, we need volunteers to keep people safe.”

The name Thomas Lateulere is an addition to 20th street, so that maps will not be affected or changed, and so that the renaming doesn’t lead to confusion. Lateulere might have appreciated that — just another small sacrifice for even the smallest greater good.

“I think he would be shy and embarrassed by it, all this hoopla,” Hopkins said. “But I think he would secretly be quite proud.”

Scenes from Centereach's Class of 2017 commencement ceremony June 25. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Jill Webb

Leading Centereach High School Class of 2017 are valedictorian Demi Lambadis and salutatorian Kelly McLaughlin.

Lambadis divided her time between a busy academic schedule, student government involvement and extracurricular activities.

Since seventh grade, Lambadis has had it in the back of her mind that becoming valedictorian was “more of a personal goal as opposed to anything external.”

Demi Lambadis

She  graduates with 10 AP classes under her belt, along with three additional college-level courses. Her extensive AP course load has earned her recognition from the College Board as an AP Scholar with Honors.

In addition to academic success, Lambadis has served  as both the president and vice president for her class. She was also acting vice president of the school’s Leaders’ Club.

Agnieszka Taciak, an AP Environmental teacher at Centereach  whom Lambadis was close with, said she’s proud of the dedication her student continued to give to her curriculum.

“There’s no secret to it — she simply does work, and is very proud of the quality of the work,” Taciak said. “And she’s very humble about the approach to work.”

Dance is one of Lambadis’ favorite hobbies, and this year she’s once again on the road to nationals. She noted she also placed at every regional and national dance competition she entered.

Taciak recalls one instance where Lambadis’ work ethic stood out to her. The teacher had given an assignment over the same weekend her student had to travel to a dance competition.

“I was reasonably expecting that she would have to be asking for a time extension,” Taciak said, but was surprised when instead, Lambadis came into school that Monday smiling with the assignment ready in hand.

For students looking to be a future valedictorian, Lambadis said, “the main thing to focus on is to not worry about everyone else, and to worry about yourself.”

Come September, Lambadis will be a freshman at Lehigh University, studying biomechanical engineering.

Kelly McLaughlin

Salutatorian Kelly McLaughlin, like Lambadis, has completed an extensive amount of AP courses, finishing with 11, and adding four college-level classes onto that list.

Outside of academics, McLaughlin had a busy schedule. She balanced her time between serving as  president of her school’s National Spanish Honor Society and as an active member of the National Junior Honor Society.

Laura Melfi speaks very fondly of McLaughlin’s presence in her AP calculus class, regarding her as sometimes being a secondary teacher.

“Kids would ask her questions ‘Kelly, how’d you do this? What’d you do?’ if I was busy helping someone else,” Melfi said.

In the future, McLaughlin hopes to become a math teacher, citing her teachers, including Melfi, as inspiring her to take that career path. Melfi said she feels McLaughlin possesses the traits needed to be an effective math teacher.

“She doesn’t let her intelligence make her feel like she’s better than anybody else,” Melfi said. “She will help everybody and anybody.”

McLaughlin also sets aside time to give back to her community by volunteering as a tutor for students at the Middle Country Public Library. Her volunteer experience has landed her some tutoring jobs, usually in math and science.

McLaughlin said she enjoys being able to help out.

“For me to make someone understand it — that feels really good that I have that impact on them,” she said.

This experience will be handy as McLaughlin goes off to study mathematics and education SUNY Geneseo.

Community responds to call for help following car crash involving a volunteer fireman

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. is a volunteer fireman for the Sound Beach Fire Department. Photo by Stefanie Handshaw

By Kevin Redding

Friends, family and community members did their own quick responding for a beloved Sound Beach firefighter who suffered serious injuries in a recent car crash.

A GoFundMe page to support Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. was set up Dec. 23, one day after the 24-year-old volunteer was rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital following a collision with another vehicle on Route 25A and Harrison Ave. in MIller Place at 5 p.m.

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr.’s car following his crash on Route 25A Dec. 22. Photo from Sound Beach Fire Department

According to those close to him, McLoughlin Jr. was pulling into a lot to get a haircut when a driver ran a red light and broadsided his vehicle.

The online fundraiser hit its goal of $15,000 after just two days, and within 10, the fund exceeded the goal with $19,664. So far 350 people have donated, with individual contributions ranging from $5 to as much as $1,000.

The accident left McLoughlin Jr. with two broken vertebrae, and since he’ll be out of work for a minimum of three months, the money raised will go toward the surgery he needed to fuse part of his spine, future medical and rehabilitation costs and the eventual replacement of his totaled vehicle.

The Sound Beach native recently graduated from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut with a communications degree and has been juggling a second part-time job as a freelance cameraman for Fox 5 NY.

Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Thomas Sternberg spearheaded the campaign on behalf of the district, with the hope of giving back to someone he considers “a very dedicated man to the department and the community.”

“I was amazed at how many people stepped up to help him out … we’re very appreciative of anyone who has donated,” he said. “Jimmy has always been there when you need him. He’s always willing to train, always willing to help anybody.”

Sound Beach Captain Darran Handshaw, who compiled the GoFundMe page, said the speedy outpouring and money raised is a testament to McLoughlin Jr.’s character.

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. holding his Firefighter of the Year award with Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Thomas Sternberg. Photo from Sound Beach Fire Department

“He’s done so much for the community and he’s just an all around great guy,” Handshaw said. “He’s always a reliable firefighter, always on the first engine and somebody that I count on when I get into a fire.”

McLoughlin Jr. has a lifelong commitment to the fire department — in fact, it’s in his blood.

His father, James McLoughlin Sr., currently serves as fire commissioner for Sound Beach and was once the chief.

“When he was born, I was a fire chief,” his father said. “He was part of the department from the time he took his first breath, and there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t stop there for one reason for another. As long as he’s in town, he’s there.”

McLoughlin said it’s heartwarming to see all the support his son has in the community.

“He’s one of the go-to people when somebody needs help,” he said. “Ever since he was a child, Jimmy was very community-oriented.”

McLoughlin Jr. joined the junior fire company when he was 13 years old and served in it for five years while simultaneously climbing the ranks toward Eagle Scout. He graduated from Rocky Point High School in 2011 and on his 18th birthday, he joined the fire department and maintained his responsibilities there whenever he came home from college for summer and winter breaks.

“He got his fire academy training squeezed in while going to college; he just lives and breaths the fire service,” McLoughlin Sr. said. “Even people who went to school locally weren’t able to maintain their fire responsibilities and quotas, and he was able to do it while going to school out of state.”

As driver on one of the fire engines, McLoughlin Jr.’s responsibilities are to maintain the truck, make sure it’s in working order and train every individual that comes into the department. To this day, his father said, anyone who needs to learn how to drive or pump one of the engines, “they go to Jimmy to learn how to do it.”

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. is a freelance cameraman for Fox 5 NY. Photo from Jimmy McLoughlin Jr.’s Facebook page

In 2014, McLoughlin Jr. was recognized for all his contributions and ability to balance his fire services and academics when he was chosen by the department as Firefighter of the Year, the fire department’s highest honor. He also received his engine company’s award the same year, which is given out by the fire department for demonstrating a certain level of skill performance and recognizes one’s ability to work within a team.

According to the GoFundMe page, he’s “performed so many heroic acts of kindness for the community.”

In 2015, he fought a large house fire inside a fellow firefighter’s family home. McLoughlin Jr. manned the hoseline, went inside the house and stopped the fire that had spread through the basement and most of the main floor.

Afterward, he filmed and produced a video with the family who lost almost everything in the fire in which they shared their experience with the community to teach key fire safety lessons. The video has since been seen all over the world and has been an integral part of Sound Beach’s fire prevention efforts.

According to his father, McLoughlin Jr. is out of surgery and resting at home. He has been able to walk and move around, but because of the procedure, he has to wear a collar support for the next six to eight weeks. He’s still in a lot of pain.

McLoughlin Jr. might have a long road to full rehabilitation ahead, but his usual spirit remains intact.

“He’s determined,” McLoughlin Sr. said. “He’s got a positive outlook … it’s not ‘am I gonna be on my feet?’ it’s ‘when I’m back on my feet.’”