By Spencer Thomas, PhD
I’d like to talk about patterns. In particular, the pattern that you might see if you look at this sunflower.*
Before you even think about it, I’m sure you can see spirals. Maybe you see them whirling clockwise, maybe counter-clockwise. Let your eyes refocus and another set of spirals will appear. They almost seem to pop out in your vision, but hang on; which is it? Are they going left or are they going right?
We have an incredible talent for picking out patterns out of noise; you can recognize a friend in a crowd or a familiar song over construction noises without thinking about it. Our sense for patterns is so sharp that we see faces in the moon or in potato chips, or shapes in the clouds. This is probably for the better; thinking you saw some food, some hidden danger, or even a friend where there is none is a lot safer than missing the one that actually is there, so I’d definitely take some silly crossed signals in exchange for this power of ours.
These are harmless examples, but there is a dark side. Gamblers see patterns in their wins and losses and make catastrophic bets. Con-artists exploit us, claiming to tell the future or read minds. Confirmation bias is a dangerous habit that has pervaded our political discourse, where we pick out evidence and patterns in data that suit our preferred answer. We don’t do this with ill-intent; it’s something our patterned-tuned brains do beyond our control. We can only fight it if we watch ourselves, think twice, and double check the news we forward it to our friends.
We also see patterns on another level; we find curious connections throughout the world, linking ideas that don’t seem related. Sometimes it looks like magic, others like design. Sometimes, it’s our minds searching for something that’s not there. As a scientist, this can be frustrating for me. I see articles about psychic powers and fake science, dangerous alternative medicine, and this prevailing tendency to make science mystical and unknowable. I think many people would be surprised as to how much they can understand with a little patience. We don’t need to scrutinize every detail in our experience, but I don’t like it when people assume that that is beyond them. Sometimes, with some care, the microscope lets us peel back the veil of nature and find the truth behind a pattern.
The Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio are patterns that pop up all the time in nature and in media. The Fibonacci sequence follows a simple rule; I start with the first two numbers, 1 and 1. If I add these numbers I get 2. If I add the 2nd and 3rd numbers (1 and 2) I get three. Add the 3rd and 4th I get 5, etc. The sequence looks like , etc. It sounds like the kind of thing a bored mathematician would do for fun, but it has a peculiar habit of showing up all over nature. Plants seem especially fond of it; you can see it in the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the scales of pineapples, and as it happens, the florets of a sunflower. If you go back to that first picture of a sunflower and counted the spirals in the seeds, you’d notice something interesting. I can pick out spirals at a bunch of different angles and directions, but the number is always a Fibonacci number.
This is a peculiar quirk of the way these florets grow. The plant spirals out as it produces them, following a rule - each seed is some angle from the last. This angle happens to be a full divided by , where (the Greek letter ‘phi’) is the Golden Ratio, about equal to 1.618.
Like the Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio appears everywhere in nature. People have known about this number for a very long time; the ancient Greek sculptor Phidias (400s BCE) worked it into much of his art. A quick google search will tell you how people have associated it with the ratios of beautiful faces, sections in pieces of music, etc. The ratio itself also has some neat properties, for example (in fact is sometimes likened to ’s little brother).
So what does have to do with Fibonacci number? The two are intimately related. If I divide the 1st and 2nd Fibonacci numbers (1 and 1), I get 1. The 2nd and 3rd (1 and 2) give me 2, the 3rd and 4th give me 1.5, then 1.666…, then 1.6, etc. If I keep picking later and later Fibonacci numbers, I get closer and closer to . That’s that mystery solved, but why does a sunflower care? Sunflowers probably don’t know math, but they’re also not stupid. They’re carefully optimized by evolution to make the most out of what they’ve got; their mission is to fit as many seeds as possible onto their face. As a material scientist, I could tell you the very best way to do that looks like this:
It looks a lot like a honeycomb and that is no mistake. This is how bees achieve the same goal, but the sunflower kinda wrote itself into a corner. The spiraling mechanism that sunflowers use to grow can’t make a honeycomb; it’s terrible at making packed arrangements, always leaving some empty space. Instead of completely altering how the sunflower grows to solve this problem, evolution tuned it to do the very best with what it has, and with its Fibonacci spirals happens to be the optimal turning angle.
It was shown by J.N. Ridley** that this is the best possible way to pack seeds on a sunflower’s disc and this video is a beautiful demonstration of the idea. What it comes down to is that is almost 21/34, and it’s almost 34/55, and almost almost 55/81, but these are all really bad estimates. By comparison, 22/7 is a pretty good estimate for Pi. You need really large numbers to get a ratio that’s close to, so a turning angle of is a sunflower’s best hope at making the messiest spirals it can.
Give yourself some credit; that sunflower is doing everything it can to hide its spirals, but you can still see them clear as day!
Spencer Thomas recently received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He is now doing his Postdoc at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He also happens to be Katie's brother. Spencer studies metals at the atomic level; the way atoms are arranged in a material can change its properties; one can take ordinary metals make them stronger, more flexible, corrosion resistant, even radiation resistant.
Spencer believes that no matter who you are, good communication can put scientific concepts within reach. The modern world demands scientific literacy and it is the responsibility of scientists to make that possible.
* As an aside -- I learned something else writing this article. The "flower" of a sunflower isn't actually a flower. Every one of those individual seed pod-looking things ("disc florets" clustered in the center, "ray florets" around the outside) is an individual flower. It's not terribly relevant here, but has made it a little tricky to talk about concisely! The whole head is called a capitulum.
It seems ray florets don't possess both male and female reproductive organs, but disc florets do, which means the disc florets can self-pollinate so the sunflower has some florets dedicated solely toward sexual reproduction (which is often considered healthier), while the disc florets can do both as needed.
Apparently, when people started figuring out how all this worked, it was considered a very scandalous line of inquiry! It's actually kind of interesting. Lots of flowers are capable of self-pollinating, but most of them only do it as a last ditch resort because diversity is good.
** Ridley, J. N. (1982). Packing efficiency in sunflower heads. Mathematical Biosciences, 58(1), 129-139.
The primary partners in this endeavor are the Fairway Foundation of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp, the Long Island Board of Realtors (LIBOR), the Interior Design Society of LI (IDS LI), and the NYC/Long island Chapter of the National Association of Remodeling Industries (NYC/LI NARI). Go to their websites. Check out their Facebook pages. In doing so, you can find out about what they do for a living and for giving. This is huge to them, but it's not the only thing!
You can see what they had to say to us about the project here. The story got a lot of coverage, including a feature on the CBS Evening News. The core team offers many grateful thanks to so many who in one way or another helped them purchase and transform this house into a beautiful home for veteran Kevin Palacios, who did two tours in Afghanistan, was wounded by IEDs on multiple occasions and now has as his top priority being a good father to his young son.
Donations of Products and Services
Demolition of kitchen and bathrooms – Probst Construction – John Probst
Riverhead Building Supply – Sheetrock
Speonk Lumber – base and door molding
Fairway Foundation – Doors – Steve Probst
Installation of bathrooms, doors, sheetrock, moldings –
LI members – Laurence Carolan & staff,
John Hogan. Jason Braithwaite, Eric Vogel,
Kitchen to Mud room entry construction – Dean Camastro
Basement Restoration – Bulovas Restoration – Rory
Dumpster Supply – Maggio Environmental Services
Brick Stairs and Retaining Wall - Farmingville Masonry Supply - Tony Melo
Coastal Cabinet Works – kitchen cabinets – Ricky & Karen Young
Installation of kitchen cabinets – Dean Camastro, Eric Vogel, Jason Braithwaite
Cabinet Hardware – Hardware for kitchen cabinets, bedroom,
media cabinet and all doors – Kolson Korenge Hardware- Dale Landy
Installation of cabinet and door hardware – Dean Camastro
Media cabinets – Nava Slavin
Painting of media cabinets – Debbie Viola
Renovation of cabinets for media – Joe Calise & PIF committee
Stone Top for media cabinet – Farmingville Masonry Supply – Tony Melo
Quartz Stone Countertop for Kitchen – Cambria Stone – Wendy Brady
Installation of kitchen countertop – North East Quartz
Vanities – both bathrooms – Merri Interiors – Meredith Weiss
Vanity stone tops – All Island Stone
Installation of vanities – Dean Camastro
Kitchen appliances – Plessers Appliance – Jason Braithwaite
TV – Hampton Appliance – Frank Ingraldi
Installation of appliances – Jason Braithwaite, Eric Vogel
Installation of TV -- Sights-N-Sounds/Joe Calise
Gabe Lissy, Electrician – installation of lighting fixtures, new
wiring, replace panel box, recessed lighting.
Revco electric – wiring supplies, recessed lights
Rons East End Electric – supplies & staff
Elements at Home – Lamps, etc. – Brian Kellenberg
Elegance Lighting – ceiling fans vanity light, bath fans – Harry Caldera
Lighting Gallery – Pendant Lights - kitchen peninsula – Michael Lichtenstein
Continental Lighting – ceiling fan, semi flush fixture – Stephen
Hafele – Under Cabinet Lighting – Michael Reichert
Dynomite Floors – refinishing wood floors – Mike DeRasmo
Karndeen – Vinyl flooring for kitchen & mud room – Daryl Pines
Designers North & Pro Source
Installation of Kitchen sub floor – Dean Camastro
Installation of kitchen & mud room vinyl floor – John Hogan,
Rugs – Area rugs for living room, master bedroom, blue bedroom –
Designer Rugs & Carpet by Peykar – Robert Hakimi
Area Rug for green bedroom – Harry Katz Carpet One – Cindy Sigadel
Area Rug – Bonnie Reich & Sheree Jeanes
Living Room Etagere, two bedroom dressers – Designs by Peggy Peggy Guerrin
Sofa, cocktail table, ottoman for living room – The Robert Allen
Duralee Group – Nina Belczynski
Dining Table – East End Interiors – Sal Campitiello
Dining Room Chairs – Rich Designs, Lisa Aiello D. Manicone Designs – Dee Manicone
End Tables, Accent Chairs – Elements at Home – Brian Kellenberg
Dining Room Console – base – Elements at Home, Glass
Top – Merrick Glass – Bob
Master Bedroom Furniture – Dressers & Nightstands – All County Millwork – Terry Gagliardo
Delivery of furniture – Living Room – Corporate Transport - Bill
Delivery of Master Bedroom furniture – Transolutions – Tom
Kitchen Banquette – Wood supplied – Designs by Peggy, Peggy
Guerrin & Ruth S. Interiors, Ruth Seidenberg
Kitchen Banquette – Construction – JG Construction – John Gardner
Chair reupholstery & banquette cushion – Creative Upholstery –Ralph DeLella
Headboards – Fabrics – Kravet Fabrics – Ellen Kravet
Headboard construction & supplies: wood – Symmetry Closets –Bonnie Reich,
Batting – D.Manicone Design – Dee Manicone
Fabrication – PIF committee team
Designers Workroom, Sadie Dunbar
Corner Cabinet – green bedroom – Kathy & Barry Gluckin
Mattresses – Queen & twin set – Frank & Marianne Matera
Twin Set – Harry Katz Carpet One – Cindy Sigadel
Bedding – blue bedroom – Designs by Peggy – Peggy Guerrin
Master & green bedroom – IDS/Long Island
Outdoor Table & Chairs – Rich Designs, Lisa Aiello Out of the Box Outdoor Furniture
Security System Sights n Sounds – Joe Calise
Sherwin Williams Paints – Nikki Parnell
Painting – all interior painting – Pic Painting – Louie Picarella
Tile for both bathrooms – Cancos Tile – Bernadette Valva White, Neil Swenning,
Tile Installation – Hall Bath – Tony LaBarbera, Global Ceramic Tile, John Hogan
Tile Installation – Master Bath – Tile to Perfection – Joey DiPasquale
Fixtures – Shower Body, Tub Set, Faucets for kitchen &
Baths – Hansgrohe – Dean Camastro
Toilets, Sinks, Tub, baseboard covers – Utica Plumbing – Josh Brandner
Installation of toilets, tub, shower body, faucets – Dean Camastro and Chris Attard
Repair – baseboard & service burner – PJ Bruno plumbing
Recondition Air Conditioning System – Jen-Air HVAC
Blinds for all windows – Wendy Interiors, Wendy Lepkoff and
Benco Construction, Pat Bentivegna , NARI
Installation of Blinds & Cornices – Sal Palmeri
Fabrication of Cornices – Designers Workroom, Sadie Dunbar
Fabric for Cornices – Kravet Fabrics
Drapery – Living room, dining room, master bedroom – fabrics
Drapery Fabrication and installation – living room & dining room –
Eclectic Window Fashions – Nora Milheron
Drapery Fabrication – Master Bedroom – On Beyond Windows –
Drapery Installation – Master Bedroom – Joe Calise
Drapery Hardware – living, dining and master bedrooms –
Van Wyck Hardware – Lisa Messina
Closet systems for all closets – Symmetry closets – Bonnie Reich
Art & Accessories
Artwork – Nancy Ganzekaufer
Framing – Sidewalk Alley Art Gallery – Jane
Artwork – La Mantia Gallery – James La Mantia
Debbie Viola, Art & Finishes by Debbie Viola
Accessories – Nancy Ganzekaufer, Elements at Home,
Interiors by Dafna – Mirror – Dafna Adler
Wall Sconces – Christine Conte Interiors
Isabel Interiors – Mirror, Counter stools
IDS/Long Island – Mud room accessories
Cornhole Game – Design & Construction – Ken Denninger
Gift Baskets - Denis & Rosemarie Conway
Power Wash of house – Pic Painting, Louie Picarella
Old Town Landscaping – planting & clean up
BB&GG Nursery – Shrubs
DeLea Sod Farms – mulch & seed
Farmingville Masonry – Bluestone Steps & Border – Tony Melo
Irrigation System – Get It Wet with Brookhaven Irrigation
Dumpster supplied - Maggio Environmental Services
Removal of window and siding repair – Probst Construction – John Probst
Use of sound system for presentation – Lets Think On It
Donor List Sign – Signwave – Dan Simon
Selection, Scheduling, Coordination, Pick up, Deliveries, and various installations – PIF Committee members, IDS/LI
Dee Manicone, Lisa Aiello, Isabel Melo, Peggy Guerrin,
Ruth Seidenberg, Mary Nolte, Dafna Adler, Sandra Asdourian,
Dean Camastro, Joe Calise
Sometimes, social media is terrible. There are certain people, though, who make it wonderful. We have been fans of Kim Skillen since we met her back in 2012 as part of an intrepid tribe, the "Friends of Long Island," who rose up in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to help their neighbors across the South Shore. Soon after we “friended” her, we started seeing posts about her artistically talented, delightfully, uniquely-herself daughter, Mackenzie. Kim’s mother, Judy is wonderful, too, but that’s another story.
Over the years we have watched Mackenzie assist her mom in all manner of helpfulness, gradually becoming a force for kindness all her own. We have witnessed her drag enormous bags of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into New York City to feed the homeless folks she passed. She’s also done quite a bit to gather supplies for those in need at home. We’ve watched mother and daughter travel to Puerto Rice to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. We’ve seen them work together to beautify their own West Babylon Community, and do other many things we can hardly count here. We witnessed Mackenzie be inducted into the Town of Babylon Youth Court and win a much deserved “Eagle Award” for compassion, and a Leadership Award at her West Babylon High School. She is generally revealed to be a great, fun friend.
Last May, Mackenzie began preparing for a second voyage to Haiti to work with orphans there as part of a project called Open Door Haiti . This is what we read:
“Everyone this is Mackenzie! I have taken over my mom's Facebook page to talk to you about the Bracelet Project for Haiti! I NEED YOUR HELP! We will be going to Haiti in the end of June to work with Open Door Haiti. My favorite part of the trip is working with the orphans. Last year we made over 125 bracelets that I handed out to the orphans and children in the community to let them know we care. I would like to bring even more bracelets to Haiti this summer. The look on the children's faces when they got a gift was unforgettable!”
"This is what I need from you... make a homemade bracelet, take your picture, write a note (Creole or English) and put it all in a zip lock bag (see the pics below). I will hand out the bracelets to all the kids I see and try to take as many pics as I can so you can see the child who got your bracelet. I feel this project is important because it gives kids here a connection to kids in Haiti. It also gives the kids in Haiti a present and picture of someone who cares about them. I am willing to come talk to anyone who is interested and wants to learn more about Open Door Haiti and the Bracelet Project..”
When asked if there were other ways to help, Mackenzie created an Amazon wish list of things she knew the orphans would love, including shoes, art supplies, jump ropes, and hair clips for the girls. She invited people to send things they thought would be useful. She noted that she would love to make sure all the orphans have new shoes.
“I wish I took a picture of Mackenzie’s face when we got home and found the first delivery from Amazon,” said Kim, “She was so excited to see that people took the time to help her efforts!!
Bracelets began to be made all over town. More items from Mackenzie’s Haiti Amazon Wish List arrived. Teachers opened their classrooms to Mackenzie to speak
“I must admit it was pretty fun to watch Mackenzie as she spent time with the students!!” wrote Kim, as they offered grateful thanks.
She ultimately collected 408 Bracelets, complete with notes and friendly pictures of the children who sent their love. People from ages 4-80 participated, including friends, Sunday school kids, Girl Scouts, elementary and middle school classes. The bracelets nearly filled her entire carry on. Her suitcase was packed with crocs, soccer balls, art supplies, hair accessories and school supplies.
It was enough to make sure every orphan she worked with would get a new pair of shoes. Reporting on a what she had just heard from her daughter, Kim said Mackenzie told her that “she designed and painted a mural at the orphanage today and is feverishly handing out bracelets. She was excited because she saw a girl playing and realized the shoes on her feet were a pair of crocs she brought down!!”
Says Mackenzie, “I am overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and support.”
We are overwhelmed by her. Awesome.
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation Serves Those Who Serve, IDS Members Pay it Forward, LIBOR and NARI are All On Board -- Thank You to ALL Who Made This Happen!
We were first introduced to this endeavor to purchase and remodel a house in order to give it, mortgage-free, to a post-9/11 Purple Heart recipient by Rosemarie Kluepfel of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. and Daphna Adler of Interiors by Daphna Adler at a SCWBEC (Suffolk County Women’s Business Enterprise Coalition) meeting. We’ve mentioned it more than twice over the last year and a half, and have become fully enamored with the merry band of designers, remodelers and others who have given so much to make this happen.
Most of the quotes here come from a pre-gifting gathering at the house featuring many who had participated. A few others come from the day they actually got to see the winning veteran’s face and give him a hug. They've endeavored to thank the many involved here. To say they were uplifted by the process, despite every challenge, is an understatement.
The Fairway Foundation started on this project five years ago. It took over two years to identify and purchase the house. They enlisted the Long Island Interior Design Society (IDS LI) and their “Pay It Forward East” campaign. to brighten the place up a bit. Several of them were also members of the NYC/Long Island branch of National Association of Remodeling Industries (NARI). They started getting a little more ambitious, and that group came on as a full-fledged partner. The donations of expertise, elbow grease and materials began to snowball.
“The fundraising. What a miracle!” said Steve Probst of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. “The $150,000+ that it took just to buy the house, including the closing costs and everything, had our Foundation pretty much tapped out. Then these comedians and bands stepped up to perform for free at fundraising concerts for our Purple Heart Campaign. That, together with so many suppliers and designers and builders and other professionals donating so much are really what made this happen.”
“This was a total collaboration of IDS members coming together to work with the Fairway Foundation,” said Joe Calise of Sights-N-Sounds, President of IDS LI. “Others jumped in, all coming together for this wonderful cause. We needed contractors. A lot of our members are also members of NARI, so it was natural for us to ask them. They stepped up in a big way. It was great!”
Lisa Aiello of Rich Designs noted that, “I think this project is so successful because everyone managed to check their egos at the door, making it that much easier to work cohesively together.”
“We renovated this house from top to bottom. There’s well over $100,000 worth of renovation work in here.” said John Probst, Steve’s son, who happens to be a builder.
“Coastal Cabinet, Plessers Appliances and the charitable arm of NARI probably donated about $15,000 in labor alone,” said Eric Vogel of Coastal Cabinet Works, “Sheetrocking, doing the bathroom and the whole kitchen…. The leadership did a great job of rallying our troops to serve this veteran.”
“The volunteers were fantastic. For example, an electrician named Gabe put countless hours into this. He is just an incredible young man. I feel so blessed to have met him. I’m glad he and my son are now good friends,” said Steve Probst, adding, “This is great to be able to do this for this veteran. I’ve got to say, though, it’s had a big impact on all of us, too. It’s an amazing thing. We’ve gotten so much out of this.”
(This in particular, really tickles Trudy and I because it was one of YOU dear readers – an incredible asset to LI in his own right -- who tapped Gabe Lissy on the shoulder to see if he might like to get involved. Thank you, Jon!!!)
“This whole thing took on a life of its own,” said Steve, “It was an amazing journey that I don’t think anyone could foresee. The amount of people stepping up and their level of generosity was just incredible. In some cases we didn’t even have to ask – One guy called me up, Dan from North Carolina, said he was sending his brother over to install a six zone sprinkler system!”
Another volunteer from IDS tugged our arm and pulled us over to a group that included Lisa Aiello of Rich Designs, Dee Manicone of D. Manicone Designs, and Sandra Asdourian of Sandra Asdourian Interiors, “Look at these draperies! Kravet Fabrics donated all the fabrics! Then we had three suppliers do a ton of sewing for us. These curtains here are so well made, beautifully lined. It’s just so nice!”
“As a collaborative effort by designers from different places, we had a very eclectic collection of people who donated,” another of the three reflected, “Things came in from everywhere. I mean, we had a creative team of designers, but we really weren’t sure how we were going to make such a random variety of stuff work. It’s really remarkable how it all just fit!”
“All different pieces, odds and ends, really,” echoed Isabel Melo, Interior Designer and IDS member, “and it all WORKED. It’s such a feel-good project. I love how we all worked together for the same cause. WE DID IT!!!”
Yes, said Dee Manicone, “The real beauty of this project is the dedication and excitement of the entire team, who worked together and created the energy that you feel here. There are 100 people on that sign out there, and I’m still getting names to add!”
As we walked through the house, John Probst led us into one of the bedrooms, “This is a great project. Our whole family has been involved. My 8-year old son John helped me install the molding in this bedroom. I was grateful to be able to help – wish I could have done more!”
“What a great team effort. The gift baskets make me so happy,” said Sandra, referring to wrapped goodies on the two beds, “We’d tell somebody what we were working on and they’d just want to help.”
“This is a life changing gift,” said Dee, “We’re giving this veteran a start that would take years to accomplish. We’re getting to help him catapult 10-15 years ahead. We’re really happy to be able to give him this leg up.”
It wasn’t always easy. Some said it was impossible. They refused to be deterred.
“Everyone said it couldn’t be done. Today is proof that it could be done,” said Lisa Aiello of Rich designs.
Said Sandra Asdourian, “When a group of people have a common goal, anything is possible!”
“This was probably one of the best projects I’ve worked on with other designers,” Said Peggy Guerrin of Designs by Peggy, who worked closely with Ruth Seidenberg of Ruth S. Interiors, another committee member, “Then there were the industry partners, and the suppliers. When we asked them – especially when we told them it would benefit a veteran – they were so generous. We all came together to make this happen and we can’t wait to see the veteran and his reaction when he gets those keys!”
By the time we caught up with everyone in mid-June, 30-year old Marine Veteran, Kevin Palacios, had already been selected from dozens of applicants. He did two tours in Afghanistan, suffering the impacts of IED blasts twice. He has faced a lot, but has also endeavored mightily to get his civilian life in order. His main priority now is to be a good father to his two-year old son.
“I am so happy we have selected this particular veteran to give this home to,” said Sandra Asdourian, “The color of one of the rooms is Dignity Blue. Long before we chose this particular recipient, we chose this color, and I was always hoping there might be son to live here.”
The process to award the home, like the endeavor to build the house itself, was exceptionally thoughtful. Palacios knew he was a finalist, but didn’t think the award was going to occur until the 4th of July. He thought he was coming with fellow finalists for a last interview, serving on a panel explaining challenges returning veterans face, particularly when it comes to achieving home ownership.
It happened on June 25th. The setting was a Continuing Education accredited course designed to help Realtors serve veterans. It was hosted by Fairway Independent Mortgage and held at Brookhaven Town Hall. They brought in a talented National Trainer named Terri Murphy who also did an excellent job of emphasizing to attending veterans how much compassion, care and understanding a broker can bring to these unique clients, on and beyond simply understanding the technical process of VA loans. Steve Probst, a former national speaker himself who has clearly taken his leadership training seriously, chimed in at key moments with important information, including his own moving “Why” that makes him so dedicated to serving those who serve.
“This is what we work for as realtors,” said LI Board of Realtors (LIBOR) President Diane Scalza, ”It’s the American Dream to be able to have your own home. Look at what we accomplished today!
By the time they got around to bringing up the finalists, some folks’ eyes were already getting misty. Among the panelists brought up was a gentleman who had helped Kevin Palacios get a job, and another who had guided him through his higher education. He still didn’t seem to realize – or maybe didn’t dare to believe – what was happening. They showed a brief slideshow documenting the rebuild, and then handed Kevin the key. Far from the only one crying, he immediately went to go hug his mom.
Said his father, “Thank you. What a surprise. We are very thankful for everything.”
Later, still shocked but able to get his breath for a moment, Palacios reflected, “I just kept telling myself, ‘Don’t get your hopes up. Just go with it.’ I told myself I was just part of a panel, and then, out of nowhere, they said it.”
“What do I want to say?” he continued, “That this is for my son, Noel.”
“People think of New York as being impersonal,” reflected Terri Murphy, whose own home is Chicago, “but, you know, this was a flat-out, 5-year, full community demonstration of the heart of New York. You guys are unstoppable and limitless. What a way to show it!”
“When do you have the opportunity to thank a vet for his service in person and really give back something so meaningful to them?” asked Wendy Lepkoff of Wendy Interiors, Board Member of NARI and Vice President of the IDS Virtual Chapter, “That’s why I jumped. It’s not just money. It’s a mortgage free, decorated home.”
“I’m actually new to IDS,” reflected Sandra, “I joined in May 2018. At the first meeting I attended they talked about his project. I have three brothers and a dad who are each veterans. Two of them are career veterans, who served in Vietnam and the Gulf War. I have heard so much about what it’s like to have to constantly move from base to base, and about the things they see. When I heard this guy was a Purple Heart recipient, I was so in to help, especially because if something like that ever happened to one of my family members, this is what I’d hope would happen to them.”
“Personally,” said Peggy, “I’m happy to be able to give back to someone who gave so much for my family.”
Eric Vogel agreed, “Working with Coastal Cabinet Works as well as NARI and IDS enabled Coastal Cabinet Works and me the ability to give back, which is what it’s all about.”
John Hogan, past President and current Treasurer of NARI NYC/LI reflected on this, “As NARI Community Service Chairman, I have learned that our members and most people in our industry want to be charitable with their time and pocket books, and appreciate a push in the right direction. We prefer to work with credible organizations, so we know the people in need have been well vetted. In the last few years we have helped major renovations with Fairway Mortgage, Habitat for Humanity, Long Island Harvest, Make a Wish Foundation and Ronald McDonald House. I spend many weekends and nights, sometimes with dozens of NARI members, planning these projects. After a week of dealing with my customers, spending the weekend working for a great cause makes me feel great. I sleep better knowing I made a difference."
John is grateful to his company, Boston Cedar / US Lumber, for their donations and endorsement of his work on these projects, including his service on the Habitat For Humanity Suffolk County Board of directors.
Diane Scalza of the LI Board of Realtors added, “This is our 13th year as, basically, a group of realtors representing over 28,000 members, and I don’t know if people realize how much we give back. Each year we pick different projects and outreach campaigns to get behind. We’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity, Island Harvest, the Brooklyn Council of Churches. We’ve collected over 100,000 lbs of food to distribute to local food pantries. This, with Fairway Mortgage, has been very special. Today makes me really proud to be a realtor.”
Said Dean Camastro from HansGrohe, Vice President of IDS LI and NARI member, who with Dee Manicone, IDS LI Pay It Forward Committee chair, Steve Probst and Rosemarie Kluepfel of Fairway Independent Mortgage served to lead the endeavor, “It’s been a great project that’s really taken on a life of its own. This was just supposed to be a basic remodel, some paint and stuff. It became so much more.”
“This is a house. Through the generosity of the Long Island Community, we made it a home,” said Rosemarie Kluepfel, “This project benefits this veteran tremendously. It benefits his family. It’s good for the community. The ripple effect is tremendous.”
We are grateful.
Appreciating a Tour and Visionary Plans at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe
We are grateful that the rain held off while we traipsed about the property that holds Nikola Tesla’s last and only surviving laboratory, “Wardenclyffe,” last May. It was a privilege to listen to board member Neil Baggett talk about the great scientist and his time on Long Island, and plans to advance his legacy. While nothing can replace an in-person tour with a devoted expert – we highly recommend taking one if you can! -- here is a bit of what we learned:
Nikola Tesla was a highly prolific inventor, a gifted electrical and mechanical engineer, and a pioneering physicist. He was a futurist, an innovator and a risk-taker. As a deeply mysterious genius with a gift for showmanship who was reportedly born around midnight in the midst of a terrible lightning storm, many consider him a wizard. Some, even, a great mystic.
A true historian, Baggett’s philosophy about dealing with Tesla is to stick to what can be confirmed, “There’s a lot said about Tesla,” he remarks, “What we don’t know for sure, we try not to say.”
That goes for the board and staff of the developing Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. Others who support the effort to restore his laboratory and otherwise pay pilgrimage may subscribe to more speculative theories. When it comes to Tesla, these are in ample supply, ranging widely to include but hardly be limited to him being a mystic seer, a native of Venus who didn’t die but rather just went home, a champion of free power for the people undone by corporate bandits, and a mad scientist whose tower to power the world was more effective as a death ray which accidentally caused one of the largest, most unexplained explosions on record in Siberia by flipping a switch in Shoreham.
That’s fine, says Baggett, “They are free to believe what they wish. We stick to what we know.”
What we know is fascinating in its own right. Tesla was born in 1856 in Serbia, the son of a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church. The rest of his family were military men and scholars. He stood 6’4” and throughout his adult life weighed almost invariably 142 pounds. He was a man of many quirks: Although he dressed elegantly and fancied crystals, he despised pearls to the point of being unable to speak to people wearing them. Touching hair and shaking hands were also taboo. He was obsessed with the number three and multiples thereof. There’s a Room 3327 with his name on it where he lived in the Hotel New Yorker.
Tesla worked exceptionally long hours, claiming 3am to 11pm, walked 8-10 miles per day, and hardly slept. Although he earned no academic degrees, he was granted 12 honorary ones. He spoke eight languages and was said to have a photographic memory that enabled him to memorize books and visualize plans in great detail before putting them down on paper.
Tesla first came to New York City at age 28. Prior to that, Tesla worked for the Continental Edison Company in Paris, France designing dynamos. Overseer Charles Batchelor found him to be brilliant to the point of sending Tesla overseas with a letter of recommendation that said, “Mr. Edison, I know two great men. You are one and this is the other.”
Tesla’s biggest and most elusive accomplishments were about electric power. Much is said about the “War of Currents” between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Tesla had invented the AC motor, but Edison used only DC power. After leaving Edison due at least in large part to this difference, Tesla spoke widely and was recognized as an “Extraordinary Electrician.” He was a strong proponent of AC power, which eventually won out in the United States despite Thomas Edison’s incredible efforts to make DC dominant.
Giants Among Men, Legendary Rivalries: Tesla, Edison and “The War of Currents”
Some believe quite strongly that Edison’s hard nose and exceptionally capitalistic, factory-driven approach to innovation played a large role in driving Tesla mad and undermining his success, to the detriment of humanity today. It is fairly well-documented that Tesla thought he had been promised a bonus of $50,000 (roughly $1.5M in 2019 dollars) for working out kinks in one of Edison’s DC projects, while Edison insisted that the somewhat younger, foreign-born genius didn’t understand American humor. It is also well documented that Edison secretly funded the first electric chair powered by his rival’s AC current which led to a brutal public display emphasizing his argument that AC was too dangerous. This was in addition to other unpleasant public shows, one of which famously included electrocuting an elephant.
Still, Baggett’s assessment is less accusatory: Although they were by no means great friends and had a massive split over the promised payment to Tesla and their diverging ideas regarding the best form of electric power, Tesla did win the 7th Edison Award, which he treasured for the rest of his life. Edison was a ruthless and often unsavory businessman, but Tesla’s solitary methods didn’t help him to thrive in the political and economic systems of human beings who – like it or no - ultimately end up determining who is rewarded and who is not. He had little close association with any big companies and the support systems that come with them. Fiercely independent, he didn’t collaborate easily. One exception was George Westinghouse, who played a major role in adopting Tesla’s AC system, which he then used during a major project conducted with both innovation giants. Westinghouse generated AC power at Niagara Falls and General Electric transmitted it to Buffalo. Edison participated as part of General Electric, into which his company had recently been merged by JP Morgan.
The World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition, celebrating the discovery of America in 1492, was planned for 1892. In 1893 it actually happened, hosting 27 million people. Westinghouse and Tesla generated the AC power that lit the fair. This marked Tesla’s most triumphant victory: Winning “The Current War.”
Ultimately, Tesla’s income largely came from patents, many of which he sold outright to Westinghouse. He agreed to forgo the AC motor royalties to keep Westinghouse afloat rather than ruin the company. Still, self-sacrificing though that may have been, one may still observe that this was a poor decision, especially as Westinghouse was a sharp businessman who likely could have taken care of himself. Plus, although it’s true he spent latter years of his life almost penniless, subsisting on meager fare and communing with pigeons, Tesla didn’t exactly live humbly or modestly, himself.
Prolific Invention & Fantastic Dreams; a “Worldwide Wireless Network”
Tesla’s inventions were many, not the least of which included the induction motor, neon and phosphorescent lights, and the remote control, which was used for a boat. Tesla made substantial contributions toward radio, so much so that although many still credit Guglielmo Marconi with the invention, a 1943 Supreme Court decision overturned many of Marconi’s patents to recognize Tesla as the primary pioneer. He also studied x-rays. As late as 1913, he designed a bladeless turbine that was used in flow meters, speedometers and odometers. In the 20’s he had already worked out details that basically envisioned the cellphone. His last patent was for a flying machine capable of vertical takeoffs.
In addition to Westinghouse, there were some other prominent supporters. John Jacob Astor gave Tesla $100,000 in 1899, which is roughly equivalent to $3.1M today. Astor felt burned, as he thought he was making a far more conservative investment in the continuing development of cool-bulb lighting systems while Tesla spent the funds on elusive dreams of powering the world in Colorado. Still, Astor did later work with him on aircraft and propulsion systems. This ended when Astor went down with the Titanic in 1912.
Another investor was JP Morgan, whose daughter Ann and Tesla were close friends, despite her penchant for pearls. Tesla had some success in Colorado, studying the effect of lightning bolts on the ground, getting wireless light bulbs to light within a field. He also produced a great deal of lightning with his own equipment, the impacts of which succeeded in burning his relationship with the El Paso Electric Company that had been providing him free power. Still, Tesla was convinced his experiments had him on the verge of a major breakthrough, enabling him to elicit $150,000 from Morgan in return for a 51 percent interest in his patents and inventions, including future ones.
This passionate pursuit of global energy and information transmission – a “Worldwide Wireless Network” -- is what brought him in 1901 to develop “Wardenclyffe,” his Shoreham, Long Island laboratory. (At that time, Wardenclyffe was the name of the village now called Shoreham.) At this point, communications between North America and Europe relied on a Trans-Atlantic cable. Tesla planned to send information through the earth without a cable. However, while Tesla’s construction was still underway, rival Marconi sent the letter “S” across the Atlantic in wireless Morse code, proving radio would work. Although, as mentioned, it was decided shortly after Tesla’s death that many of those patents should have rightfully gone to him, Tesla himself hadn’t pursued that line of research. He thought those signals, which travel in a straight line, were ineffective. In light of Marconi’s plans, he decided to go bigger. Despite Morgan’s refusal to supply further funding, Tesla persisted.
The tower at Wardenclyffe was a monstrous 187 feet high and 68 feet across, topped with a giant metal hemisphere and rooted with a grounding rod that ran 120’ down into the ground. Tesla envisioned this as the centerpiece of a system that would be equivalent to today’s cellular telephone system plus radio and television, and establish the Earth itself as one giant wireless power grid. A quote of Tesla's that we found on the Tesla Science Center website reads thus:
"As soon as completed, it will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere. He will be able to call up, from his desk, and talk to any telephone subscriber on the globe, without any change whatever in the existing equipment. An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant. In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place. Millions of such instruments can be operated from but one plant of this kind. More important than all of this, however, will be the transmission of power, without wires, which will be shown on a scale large enough to carry conviction."
Tesla was on a mission to provide free power to all, anywhere they happened to be. Baggett’s assessment of that is guarded, “We don’t know if he would have followed through on that. Only that he said he would.” Still, this was the stated intention, and Tesla was a patently terrible capitalist.
By 1915, Tesla had run out of money. Astor was dead and Morgan was no longer interested. His debt at the Waldorf-Astoria where he’d been living would have been valued at nearly $500,000 in 2019. The tower was dynamited for scrap to help pay for this. Tesla didn’t quash rumors that his tower had been used by Germans in World War I, in order to keep news of his personal ruin quiet.
Tesla lived until 1943. He had some successful inventions and awards, and a number of challenges both with his work and his mental health. His passion for pigeons found particular focus on an injured white bird that he claimed was his true love. He spent over $2,000 on that bird, building her a device to support her body while her bones repaired. In 1934, after some years of poverty, Westinghouse – for reasons not entirely clear – began paying him $125 per month plus his rent at the Hotel New York. This continued for the rest of Tesla’s life. He became famous for his birthday reports, which involved grand celebrations, memoirs and opinions, as well as grandiose claims that included, among other things, a motor that ran on cosmic rays, energy that ran counter to Einstein’s physics, metallurgical breakthroughs and photographs that captured thought.
Baggett will note that Tesla’s trajectory had one thing in common with Albert Einstein, who also experienced great success early on in his career, only to have his biggest dream – A Unified Field Theory – frustrate him until his passing. “People with this great a scope of dream find it tough to realize. Both were men of great vision. While his path was challenging, Tesla built and made great things.”
Serbia loves this genius son. Although he achieved US citizenship, Tesla is said to have been very proud to have been one of them. When he died in 1943, it is said that agents from the U.S. Federal Government inspected a safe that held a number of papers, some of which had been rumored to blueprint a Death Ray that Tesla believed terrible enough to successfully scare mankind away from war forever. No such plans were found. His beloved Edison Prize, also, has never been found. The nation of Serbia requested what remained of his estate. In 1957 it was all given to them. They are apparently still going through the papers to this very day.
Advancing the Legacy
While the property now owned by Friends of Science East is 16 acres, Tesla originally had 200. James Warden had built Wardenclyffe (now called Shoreham Village) to house wealthy New Yorkers in the summertime. Now, more of his land would be developed to add houses for workers at Tesla’s new power plant.
Between 1940 and 1987, the site was a photo processing plant owned first by Peerless Photo Products and then by Agfa Photo. Tesla’s lab essentially became a factory. Other buildings were constructed and are still on the site. Between 1987 and 2012, when folks came around to save the place, it basically became a jungle. There were three factors precipitating the purchase: the land was about to be re-zoned by the Town of Brookhaven, the hazardous materials cleanup had been concluded and the property was cleared for sale, and there was an interested European investor.
Baggett will tell you that he is thankful for what he sees as a series of miracles.
One is the crowdfunding miracle, led by a man who came forward to champion the cause, Matthew Boyd Inman, author of an online comic called The Oatmeal. Inman wrote a passionate piece: “Why Nikola Tesla was the Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived'” He also launched an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $850,000 to match a New Yorker state grant, buy the Agfa property, and save Tesla’s laboratory.
That goal was met with a climactic $33,333 donation from the producer of a film called “Fragments From Olympus – The Vision of Nikola Tesla.” It was then surpassed by donors who raised the total to more than a million dollars between August 15 and August 24, 2012. The campaign ended after 45 days, bringing the grand total raised to $1.37M. Contributions ranged from $1 to $35,000, with an average donation of about $40. Together with funds from a NYS matching grant, they had amassed over $2M.
On May 2nd, 2013, the members of the Board purchased the grounds. The next day saw the volunteer miracle, when local (and some distant) volunteers descended on the property, clearing the overgrown grounds in record time. They brought not only rakes and shovels, but bulldozers and electrical technology and legal assistance.
That fall, the nation of Serbia gifted a statue that now stands on the property surrounded by a patio crafted via an exceptionally creative buy-a-brick campaign. In 2014, also with the illustrated encouragement of Inman, complete with a tweet to provoke response, Elon Musk stepped up to pledge $1M and a Tesla charging station for his electric cars.
The donors as a whole are known as “Tesla Village.” They number roughly 33,000 people in 108 countries. Several Eagle Scout projects have also helped to move things along. Last August, the site was added to the US National Historic Register.
The board, itself, Baggett would describe as “regular people with ideas, dreams and a little bit of money.” During the first few years, most of the resources they had to offer came in the form of sweat equity. Now they have an Executive Director, Marc Alessi, and a growing staff to build and operate the Center. The board will focus on keeping the dream, setting goals to achieve it, approving the budget requests, and raising the money to fund them.
All in all, the progress to date has been an amazing show of the power of volunteers. The pervasive repetition of Tesla’s beloved number 3 and its numerological multiples (i.e., 108 countries is 1 + 0 + 8 = 9, also 108/3=36) is a source of delight to those involved.
Plans for the Site
A building called the “Bauer Residence” is one of the first on the slate for renovation. It will become an administrative building and visitor center. The vision is to recreate the lab and create a STEAM museum that honors Tesla’s memory and his legacy of visionary innovation.
Due to the post-Tesla history, the lab requires extra work. The photo processing equipment must be removed, as well as a second floor, stairs and various walls. Asbestos remediation has occurred. Mold issues remain, keeping them from opening the building to visitors just yet. Fortunately, some pictures exist and there are plans to meet with design professionals. They look forward to recreating the laboratory. While rebuilding the tower on the foundation stones that still exist may prove to be a tall order, there is already a small-scale, simple model on the grounds beside them that has been donated.
While they may still tear them all down, it is possible that some of the later buildings will prove useful, especially as diverse craft exhibits are intended to be a major part of what is expected to be a very active museum teeming with young STEAM students. There are also visions for an incubator of innovation designed to foster fledgling inventors and entrepreneurs. Already, there are several educational programs occurring with local partners. Most are off-site, but some – like Tesla’s upcoming birthday party, which is also celebrating the centennial of Tesla’s 1919 autobiography, My Inventions! -- are already making good use of the grounds. They look forward to advancing groundbreaking partnerships with experts, venture capitalists and investors.
“Maybe we’ll keep a few shares of whatever projects are launched here,” Baggett muses.
There are talks of having an exhibit about the Tesla automobile on site, especially as Elon Musk has promised the charging station. Baggett smiles as he relates a race from Detroit to NY that occurred between an old Model T Ford and a new Tesla not too long ago, “The Model T is slow, but a Tesla needs a long time to charge. It was close, but the Tesla won by half an hour!”
All in all, The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe promises to be a fitting tribute advancing the legacy of a unique person who was, ultimately, an American Icon.
Says Baggett, “We would love to see him more appreciated.”
Note: This article was amended to fix the name of the Hotel New Yorker in which Tesla lived. We had written Hotel New York. We also were mistaken in our understanding of what's required inside the lab, which has also been corrected and given further description. Some other minor adjustments were made to improve clarity and understanding. Any other errors here are our fault, and not that of the TSCW, which endeavors mightily to provide accurate information and clear up misunderstandings regarding Tesla. We are incredibly grateful to both Neil Baggett and Jane Alcorn for helping minimize any errors we may have made. Thank you!
There is some value in the folks who tell us how to do things. We are most grateful, though, for the folks who truly lead the way and kindly invite us to come along.
There are many touching events that occur on Memorial Day. For roughly 30 years, the one in Syosset has been led by Gus Scutari, who counts himself exceptionally lucky to have survived a Kamikaze attack in World War II.
In Syosset, Memorial Day starts with a fairly large parade that brings out a significant community showing. The tribute event at the end features elected officials, religious leaders and, of course, key representatives of local veteran organizations. There is a rifle salute and exceptionally talented young singers that well-represent the quality of Syosset Schools' award-winning art programs. The entire community is then invited back to the local American Legion for refreshments sponsored by local businesses.
The hamlet also boasts two Boy Scout troops, one of which was proud to carry large flags, some of which were donated by the local VFW. They did this in honor of both the solemn occasion and our dear Gus, who has also long been an important part of local Eagle Courts of Honor.
Gus celebrated his 98th birthday last April. This year, he organized the event from his room at Cold Spring Hills nursing facility, which he is now sharing with his wife, Fran. We are grateful to the extended family and community that empower Gus to keep doing this, and who also made sure that Fran could join him.
While each loss remains in the hearts of those who loved them forever, this was a freshly poignant day for the hamlet as its close neighbor, Locust Valley, lost Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, aged 25, to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan this past April.
Thank you, Gus, thank you Syosset, and thank you to all who help us pay tribute to all who gave all. We are ever mindful of the tremendous weight every military family bears, and grateful for their service. May we endeavor to be true to our noble principles and to somehow be worthy of such great sacrifice.
You can read an article we wrote about Gus last year here.
There's also video of Gus, Fran and others from the Syosset Memorial Day Parade on our Facebook Page
Here's another article on the history of Memorial Day,
Did you know that one of the very first Memorial Day celebrations involved newly-freed black slaves undertaking an extraordinary effort to properly bury and otherwise honor over 260 Union Soldiers? We didn't!
A conversation with David Okorn of the Long Island Community Foundation on making philanthropy easy, fun and effective, and why it's so important.
If you have charitable intent, the Long Island Community Foundation (LICF) is an excellent resource and probably one of the best kept secrets on Long Island. They provide all levels of philanthropic support, including research to help identify the best performing charities to fulfill your objectives, as well as vetting to ensure they meet best practice standards for charities. They review and evaluate to determine who’s getting the best outcomes, and how your giving may be most effective.
We’ve known David Okorn since he was Executive Director of the Keyspan Foundation and the Director of Community Relations for Keyspan, which merged with National Grid in 2006. He then became Senior Vice President of development and external relations at the Viscardi Center, which is dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with disabilities. Since 2008, he has served the Long Island Community Foundation, becoming its Executive Director in 2010. We recently sat down with David to talk about this local division of the New York Community Trust, and what he sees from his unique vantage point of philanthropy on Long Island.
The LICF Website is a great resource. There, you can not only learn about their services and read about the organizations their donors help support, you can also access valuable information to better understand the issues facing our region. It’s an excellent resource for people who care about the health and welfare of Long Island.
PROFILE IN PHILANTHROPY: DALE LEWIS AND THE ARTS REACH FUND
We started out talking about one particular donor, Dale Lewis, who’s remarkable passion for the arts was emphasized to us by longtime arts and education advocate and philanthropist Roger Tilles. We hope to make his Arts Reach Fund the focus of a future article. For now, we’ll share it as an example of someone who works with the LI Community Foundation.
Dale established a “Field of Interest Advised Fund” at LICF to support arts programs and/or organizations. It’s almost as though he’s running his own foundation, combining his own extensive experience with the resources provided by the LICF.
Working with the LICF doesn’t have to be nearly this involved. There are various options making it extremely flexible to meet ones charitable needs and desires. For as little as $5,000, one can name and establish a fund from which the creator(s) can recommend grants as small as $250 to nonprofit organizations of their choosing. Again, LICF will vet the organization to ensure they meet both financial and governance best practice standards. The fee for the service is either 50 basis points (1/2 of 1%), i.e. $500/year for a $100,000 fund, or 2.5% of grants made, whichever is greater. With a Donor Advised Fund, one simply recommends the organization(s) to which they would like to make a grant, and then LICF handles all of the back office support.
David and his family have a fund like this and use it to support a multitude of issues and organizations such as the Interfaith Nutrition Network, which addresses hunger and homelessness; The Morgan Center that provides preschool aged children with cancer the opportunity to learn and socialize in a safe environment; Sisters of St. Joseph, who have numerous programs assisting the underserved and promoting justice; and many more. For those who simply do not have the time to research and identify charities of personal interest, they can also simply state an intent and let the Community Foundation make recommendations of potential grants.
For many years, Dale Lewis was Executive Director of USDAN, a unique summer camp for the Arts based in Melville, NY. David agrees: If you want to know about the arts, he’s an excellent resource, “Dale is among the most committed individuals to his work of anyone I have ever met. He has an extraordinary passion for music, theater, and the arts in general. He is also among the most giving people I know; a true gentleman. He knows everyone and is happy to connect them with each other.
“When Dale retired from USDAN, he decided he wanted to give back in a deeply meaningful way. He started the Arts Reach Fund at the Long Island Community Foundation, which partners with organizations that enrich our communities through program innovation in the arts and arts education.
The stated mission of the Arts Reach Fund is, “Providing tools that will allow talented, high needs students to become arts educators, supporting arts teachers with enriching professional development, and providing local arts organizations with strategic help that will allow them to use their resources more effectively.”
“Dale believes in the power of the arts, and he does all he can to bring that to people,” said David, “If he sees a need, he doesn’t offer platitudes, he finds solutions.”
More on Dale Lewis
HELPING PEOPLE DEFINE THEIR MISSION
“We offer as much or as little support as needed,” explains David, “You can find organizations and we’ll vet them for you, or give us parameters and we will recommend organizations from which you choose, or leave it entirely up to us and we will make grants and report back to you on how the funds were granted along with outcomes. We have RFP processes for specific funds as well as published, competitive grant applications that address important needs on Long Island that we’ve identified.”
“Helping people clearly define their intention is the most important part,” says David, “especially when working with people who are writing LICF into their wills. They won’t be around to ask if things change or are unclear.”
It’s about defining a donor’s personal mission, charitable intent and the strategies they would like to see implemented to achieve it. “We bring people in and talk with them,” David explains, “Say someone is interested in animal welfare. We help them define what that means – Are we talking about pets? Wildlife? Making sure pets have homes once owners pass on? Veterinary care? Is this about abuse prevention? Education? Would you be interested in supporting service animals?”
Another common example is Breast Cancer. “What are they looking to accomplish around this health issue? Is it research? Outreach? Family support? Prevention? Say we cure it, or manage to prevent it entirely – where shall we direct your funds in the future?”
“Yes, I agree this organization you’ve chosen is wonderful, but what if things change? What if it goes out of business, or the leadership changes dramatically? What would you like us to do then?”
“What if what you’re seeking to do becomes impossible or impractical to carry out in the future?”
David talks about one famous example where these kinds of questions came into play: The March of Dimes was originally founded to deal with Polio. While it’s a fantastic example of a rare organization that managed to adapt with the times to now address birth defects, it’s also an example of a well-reputed group that no longer does what it initially set out to do. Maybe the donor wouldn’t choose that alternative mission. Maybe they’d prefer to redirect their funds elsewhere.
“Getting back to Breast Cancer,” says David, “What if it’s cured? Would you like to support another women’s health issue? Or perhaps some other cancer research?”
“How can we define your terms to keep meeting the spirit of your intent even as the world changes?”
It’s important to make sure that the language is prescriptive and yet open enough; to make sure that the donors’ intent is clear even to folks who have never met them, so that the LI Community Foundation can help realize it well into the future.
Given the number of individual funds the LICF manages, they also have the capacity to get creative and effect synergy among funds. “When an organization comes to us with a program, sometimes we can cobble together comprehensive funding that more effectively addresses a complex issue, or simply pool to achieve more substantial support from diverse funds. It’s nice to be able to do that.”
LICF Competitive Grants
VETTING CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS, STAYING TRUE TO THEIR OWN INTENT
The Long Island Community Foundation comprehensively evaluates each and every nonprofit it considers for a grant, “We have 20-plus criteria that we use to evaluate organizations in terms of how they conduct their governance and manage their finances.”
“In addition to our own research, we do a lot of networking and other endeavors out in the community,” says David, “We talk to a lot of people, and a lot of people talk to us. We end up with a fairly comprehensive view of the landscape.”
The organization takes its stewardship role very seriously. While a donor may choose to override the guidance of the Community Foundation, there are lines they will not cross in the interest of maintaining their own integrity. If an organization isn’t passing muster, they will offer several alternative ones that do.
As an example, David recalls an Alzheimer’s research organization in Maryland that a donor wanted to fund. “It had a beautiful brochure,” He remembers, “Unfortunately, it turned out that only a very a small fraction of funding was going to Alzheimer’s research. The majority was going to marketing!”
There is also a system of checks and balances in place to make sure the LICF is fulfilling its mission. David explains, “After we get the donor to clearly state their intent, and how to adapt that with the changes of time, there’s a process that provides multiple and independent review to help ensure that we are fulfilling our promise to honor and appropriately carry out the donors wishes.”
First the LICF Board of Directors has to approve each grant, followed by approval from both the New York Community Trust Vice President of Grants and the General Counsel. Final approval is granted by the New York Community Trust Board.
TWO STEEP PATHS IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS: CHALLENGES TO LONG ISLAND'S SAFETY NET
While the LICF’s primary client and sole source of revenue is the donors who hold their funds with them, the organization considers itself a steward of 501(c)3 organizations Island-wide. David sees his role, ultimately, as endeavoring to partner with charitable individuals and organizations to establish an endowment that acts as a safety net for the Long Island nonprofit sector.
“These organizations work day and night to achieve a mission,” says David, “They need significant financial support. Beyond other challenges they face, they’re often responsible for funding shortfalls.”
A primary challenge David points to is that government funding has and continues to dwindle while needs have grown dramatically. “It gets even worse,” says David, “Often there will be specific requirements when government agencies contract with nonprofit organizations, particularly in terms of Human Services. However, government funding does not cover all the expenses that these requirements entail, so agencies get left trying to fill the gap.
Adding to that challenge is the dwindling number of mid- and large-sized companies that provide charitable contributions on Long Island. David talks about how Keyspan, where he once worked, provided nearly $5 million in community grants a year supporting nonprofits on Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. As many of these once local companies are bought out by others not headquartered in the region, we have seen a steep decline in the commitment and level of the financial support to our nonprofit sector.
Another major impact on the fundraising landscape is the number of banks that have merged over the last twenty years, reducing their number significantly. What we have seen following mergers and acquisitions of these financial institutions, is that the totality of the charitable contributions from the individual entities prior to a merger or takeover is typically greater than that of the newly combined entity.
What’s more, notes David, “Many of the smaller businesses don’t seem to be participating in supporting our local charities that are truly improving the quality of life for all in our community. We’re not sure why, but many feel that they just don’t seem to care.”
“It’s two steep paths in opposite directions,” David remarks as he goes on to talk about how the plunge in major funding sources is being outmatched by skyrocketing needs on Long Island, “Something must be done to ensure the health and welfare of Long Island.”
“Nonprofits need money to provide programs. The folks who do this work need to be paid, too. We need everyone’s help to build an endowment for Long Island that will serve as a safety net for the nonprofits who are on the front lines each and every day to improve the quality of life for our families, friends and neighbors.”
“It’s two steep paths in opposite directions,” David remarks as he goes on to talk about how the plunge in major funding sources is being outmatched by skyrocketing needs on Long Island, “Something must be done to ensure the health and welfare of Long Island.”
ADJUSTING UNREALISTIC STANDARDS, ENCOURAGING GIVING ON LI
The conversation has a familiar ring. It’s very similar to observations offered by Dr. Jeff Reynolds of the Family and Children’s Association that we shared in early 2017.
They both also discussed challenges in securing donations from individuals. Although there’s a tremendous amount of wealth on Long Island, the giving doesn’t seem to reflect that. Often, charitable individuals bypass their own region entirely, giving to more well-known city-based and national organizations that don’t generally do much on Long Island. Then there’s a matter of unrealistic standards that have been popularized over recent decades. David pointed to a statement reflecting this challenge that was made by organizations dedicated to nonprofit best practices, including the Better Business Bureau, Guidestar, and Charity Navigator. It’s called “The Overhead Myth.”
“There are some donors who don’t want to give to any organization for whom the administrative portion of the budget is more than 5 or 10%,” explains David.
We’ve seen this kind of recommendation before, and never really understood how groups can function that way. We are grateful to hear David validate our concerns, “It’s not realistic and, frankly, when I see a successful organization claiming that they’re managing that, I become a little suspicious.”
Plus, he explains, there’s a lot of leeway in how these numbers can be assigned. “Some folks think they have to list their entire Executive Director’s salary as administration,” says David, “Others do the opposite.” There’s truthfully a lot of room for interpretation.
He goes on, “I think a more realistic number is around 30%. Then I know there’s room for professional development, strategic planning, and evaluation; that they’re able to do the fundraising they need to broaden their base of donors; that maybe people doing this work – which is generally so much more than a 9-5 – are actually being paid at least barely enough to live on Long Island and focus on what they’re doing; that the organization can plan for succession or disruption. That they can do the creative thinking required to come up with innovative solutions to the complex problems they are focused on.
Another challenge is donor demands that funding go exclusively to direct services. “It’s not practical if 100% of funds go exclusively to whomever an organization is serving. While very specific donations can be of value, an organization can’t survive without administration.” This includes not just overseeing programs, but also functions such as tracking what donors want and making sure that’s actually what’s happening. Sound organizations have accountants, lawyers and often rent to pay.
“We are always seeking ways to help meet the needs,” David explains, “With our resources, yes, but also with anything else we can connect folks with, be it information or time. In reality, we’re still kind of bound and we know we will never have enough money to address all the needs. We are always willing to share information with nonprofits and other funding agencies. Every little bit counts.
BUILDING THE LICF RESOURCE BASE
Trudy asks how the LICF expands its own base of funders. The primary method is word of mouth. Donors tend to be quite proud of the work they do with the Foundation. The LICF is most grateful when these happy donors encourage their friends and family to join them in giving. They also work with professional advisors – accountants, attorneys, and financial advisors. If someone becomes aware that a client has a tax situation, is writing a will, or simply has a charitable intent, they will explain available resources, including the LICF.
“We do a lot of outreach to such professionals, and welcome opportunities to build more relationships,” says David, “We will work with them however they want to work with us. Sometimes they’ll ask us to come with them to meet a client. Sometimes they’ll ask us to reach out to them directly. Sometimes they feel most comfortable just taking the materials and leaving us out of it entirely. Whatever works for them. We are grateful for the referrals.”
“Cities are gentrifying,” explains David, “Where do you suppose the folks they are pushing out go? They end up here on LI, which does not have the same infrastructure as the city. This leaves them even more vulnerable. You can’t just hop on a bus or train to access services. These folks end up more isolated and without services. If you really care about poverty, you can’t only have a city-centric view.”
METROPOLITAN AND NATIONAL CHARITIES: WE NEED YOU
It’s not just wealthy individuals who want to give to Manhattan charities that David hopes to inspire to support Long Island.
“There’s a really big push to educate big NYC or National Funders, who generally only fund the metropolitan area. We’re trying to get them to understand that there are now more poor folks in the suburbs than in the cities.”
We used to see poverty here as an urban crisis. Now, the tables have turned, “Cities are gentrifying,” explains David, “Where do you suppose the folks they are pushing out go? They end up here on LI, which does not have the same infrastructure as the city. This leaves them even more vulnerable. You can’t just hop on a bus or train to access services. These folks end up more isolated and without services. If you really care about poverty, you can’t only have a city-centric view.”
“We want these NYC and national funders to consider more regional approaches. Even better, we want to bring them out here and get them to make grants directly to our local Long Island nonprofit agencies. We are here to be their partners and to provide support.”
He notes that as a major local philanthropic entity with strong ties to a more regional organization, the LICF is in a unique position to make this case, “We can be the agitator without any risk/harm to the agencies. If a local non-profit tries it, it not only wastes their resources, they might actually build a bad relationship with a foundation. We don’t have that risk, so we see it as our responsibility. We consider this an important part of our role.”
As it encourages regional entities to give to Long Island, the LICF also endeavors to be a part of regional solutions. In addition to what they do through donor advised funds and competitive grants, the LICF engages in partnerships to address important regional issues.
One is the Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative, a joint initiative with funders from New York City, Westchester and Connecticut. Together, the partners have crafted a proposal to protect, preserve, and clean up the major water body that they share.
“Basically, it brings environmental funders together to determine what’s worked, what hasn’t, and how we can work in concert to have a greater impact.”
The collaborative commissioned a Long Island Report Card, based upon an extremely successful model established in Maryland for the Chesapeake Bay. David pulls out a map, noting that while the further one gets from the Metropolitan area the better the water quality grade gets, the actual rating along the shorelines are typically significantly much worse.
“It would be really neat to have an app on one’s phone that told them if the water was clean enough to swim in that day. It would be even better if this work woke up enough people to demand solutions from our local and regional governments to invest in cleaning up our local water bodies.”
“It would be really neat to have an app on one’s phone that told them if the water was clean enough to swim in that day. It would be even better if this work woke up enough people to demand solutions from our local and regional governments to invest in cleaning up our local water bodies.”
Another collaboration is an effort to make sure that Long Island gets its fair share of Federal Funding by Encouraging 2020 Census Participation.
In 2017, New York State paid $40.9 billion more in federal taxes than it received in benefits—the largest deficit of its kind in the nation. The Long Island Association released a report showing that in 2013 residents and businesses on Long Island sent $42.5 billion to the federal government and got back $19.4 billion. A more accurate census count could help close that gap.
An accurate population count is also important to our hundreds of charitable donors who support education, the arts, environmental protection, food programs, and other safety net programs. Generous donations cannot meet a community’s needs alone. Appropriate government funding informed by census is critical.
LICF and several local philanthropic partners, like the Rauch Foundation, are once again involved in “getting out the count” efforts. They did this for the 2010 Census as well because census data affects so much of what matters to them, their donors, and our region. In 2010, LICF and Rauch pooled $500,000 with other funding partners, which they distributed to 22 Long Island organizations to reach out to typically undercounted populations. They received additional support from business and municipal partners like Northwell, LIPA, Cablevision, WLIW, the Nassau and Suffolk County bus systems, and other community stakeholders. In turn, 19 of the 23 Census tracts in which the initiative focused its efforts showed increased response rates, including a dramatic 21 percent increase in Central Islip and a 7 percent increase in Roosevelt
In 2017, New York State paid $40.9 billion more in federal taxes than it received in benefits—the largest deficit of its kind in the nation. The Long Island Association released a report showing in 2013 residents and businesses on Long Island sent $42.5 billion to the federal government and got back $19.4 billion. A more accurate census count could help close that gap.
“There will be many challenges to getting an accurate population count in 2020, and as such, our collective efforts are more important than ever,” explains David, “In partnership with foundations statewide, we are strategically pooling and distributing resources to hard-to-count communities across the State to ensure that our State keeps its 27 congressional seats and receives its fair share of federal funds to support education, health, social services, infrastructure, and other vital programs and services that New Yorkers and Long Islanders depend on for the next decade.”
“We are concerned that many people in our region will be afraid to be counted,” says David, “whether it’s because they are undocumented, or simply have an unauthorized accessory apartment in their home. As such, we need to raise awareness, debunk myths, and support efforts to ensure an accurate population count for Nassau and Suffolk Counties.”
EVERY CONTRIBUTION MATTERS – PLEASE GET INVOLVED
We talk about non-profits that make a tremendous difference, and about people and organizations who make their work possible. We talk about philanthropic organizations and others pooling their resources to meet needs in ways they realize they are uniquely positioned to help. We talk about the need to pay attention, not only to those who aren’t doing the right things, but to appreciate and positively reinforce those who give so much to make things better for more than just themselves. For David, it’s all about working together with all who are willing, and encouraging others to step up and help make sure our region is as economically, environmentally and socially healthy as it can be.
“Everyone plays a role in making Long Island the greatest place to live,” says David, “As such, I would encourage individuals, families, and business to support the local charities whose missions align with their concerns, interests and passions. Please feel free to reach out to the staff at LICF as we are always here to assist.”
Thank you, David. We appreciate it.
Kate Sydney was one of the very first Fireflies, a co-founder in fact. She has served us well as Managing Partner throughout our existence. Though she's stepping back a little bit to spend more time with her beautiful boys, she will always be one of our primary artists. We like to think that when we put on her gorgeous jewelry we are channeling a little bit of the calming, uplifting spirit that has skillfully guided us thus far. Here's her bio:
"Kate Sydney is an alchemist of timeless designs with a modern edge and natural feel. She employs striking gemstones and precious metals in each of her one of a kind creations. Kate takes Mother Nature’s gifts and concocts wearable vessels, which are reflections of the staggering beauty of our planet.
'I create pieces that I infuse my heart and being into. I carefully select each gemstone and think about how I want to showcase the magic it possesses just by being itself. I want my clients to feel like the best version of themselves when they’re wearing my designs….like the glow from the gems might seep into their body and light up their spirit.'
Although she has been making and selling jewelry since the age of twelve (more than 25 years), in 2013 Kate earned a certificate in Comprehensive Jewelry Training from the only licensed and accredited jewelry trade school in New York, Studio Jewelers, Ltd. There, she added fabrication, forging, stone setting, wax carving, and casting to her skill set.
In 2011, Kate co founded an artists cooperative in the heart of Northport Village called The Firefly Artists. In the last eight years, Firefly has showcased the work of over one hundred Long Island artists of varying media.
In 2018, Kate Sydney was selected for two juried exhibitions through the Huntington Arts Council. Her piece, ‘Eaton’s Neck Arrowhead’ was awarded an honorable mention for the ‘Discovering Long Island’ show.
While the Firefly eagerly awaits the moment we get to open a new set of doors, Kate's gorgeous jewelry can be found on her website www.katesydney.com .You can also see her work at Nest on Main Market on Main St. in downtown Northport, which is celebrating it's first full year in business!
As MLK day comes to a close, I am once again posting the name of Miss Pearly Busey on the internet because it will mean that her memory is not lost.
Miss Pearl, or as she eventually allowed me to call her Pearl, was born before WWI on a sharecropper farm in Alabama. She was a mix of Black (she used the term Negro) and Native American. When I knew her, in the very early 80's, the term African American was not yet popular, not sure if she would like it. Her Native American roots were very apparent in her face, flat with high cheekbones. She would be attractive, almost exotic in our time. In her day, she struggled with not being clearly one race or another. I think when she was a girl she was not treated well in this regard and it left its scars.
Anyhow, as soon as she could, which in her case ended up being during the Depression, she escaped the horrors of a life in the segregated Jim Crow deep south and came to Washington, DC. She was part of the wave of young people who were streaming out of the south, seeking opportunity and a better life in the north. She had almost no education but was sharp as can be. She worked in factories for years and then, because she was older and not physically fit, ended up working for a store in downtown DC, where I met her.
We worked together for a year and a half and went through some intense experiences. We were robbed at gunpoint together and I learned so much from her in the experience. She kept her cool like a sphinx, probably kept us alive. Every morning she sent me out to run errands, which included getting her coffee, newspapers and cigarettes. We had very few customers because we were a decor store. We had lots of time to sit around talking and doing crossword puzzles.
She referred to me as the KID. She told the KID her life story over that time. I choose this day to talk about Pearl and breathe life into her memory because the day that meant the most to her, of all of her days, was Aug. 28, 1963. On that day she felt brave enough to go down to the Mall to attend what was actually scary for her; the civil rights movement was not something she was comfortable with. When she was a girl, she witnessed the aftermath of lynchings. She was not interested in stirring up trouble and just wanted to live her life. But it was stifling hot that day and several of her friends were attending. It was promoted to be a peaceful event and that preacher was going to speak...they didn't yet know his name, but he had a growing reputation and Mahalia Jackson was rumored to being singing gospel songs. So she went with her friends to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
That day changed her life. Prior, she never felt strong or proud and even that being a Negro was OK. That preacher's words changed all of that. As if she were reborn, she felt hope and suddenly she wasn't an unattractive woman just existing any longer. She didn't become a civil rights leader nor did she fully commit to active involvement, especially as downtown DC exploded in racial violence in the years to come, but she was changed. She started going out more, being less afraid, eventually she got a car, with air conditioning! She developed a love for jazz because she loved jazz clubs, that was where the interesting men were. She dated and had a life.
None of this sounds like a big deal, but to Miss Pearl it was massive. Before our downtown store moved to White Flint (suburbs north of DC), I showed Miss Pearl an ad for Lena Horne performing at a jazz club off of M Street in Georgetown and suggested that she go with a friend. I had forgotten about it until the day of the show when she insisted that I drive her car over there because she didn't know Georgetown. Evidently, I was the friend she choose. The store moved and she started to call in sick a lot. It wasn't long until she was 'retiring'. I had already quit the job and was moving on with my future when I got a call to come visit Pearl. Saying goodbye was a honor. She died proud and brave with a feeling of hope and freedom.
I thank Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for giving her that, for giving millions of Miss Pearl Buseys out there that.
Editors' Note: We often lament how fast everything is flying, and how little time is afforded to reflect. We give it our best to take in diverse sources, even when the tone of one or another bristles us, so we might better understand where different folks are coming from and maybe get a fuller picture ourselves. Honestly, though, the world is geared to rile us up and often succeeds. Maybe even rightly, sometimes. Still, the recent incident with the "MAGA Hat Boy", the indigenous activist and a fringe group we hadn't yet heard of was a good reminder of how fraught our knee-jerk reactions can be. We still don't really know the full truth of anything, except that we were reminded that there are many angles to every story. and that the whole scene seems to offer a great object lesson. David Brooks of the NY Times apparently felt similarly, in his own way. So did Long Island's own Jed Morey, whose words we are grateful to share here:
A couple of days ago I joined the chorus of self-righteous outrage and posted the image of the now infamous MAGA hat wearing kid and Indian activist face-to-face. It’s been years since I posted anything purely political and I rarely, if ever, post something without context. But this image stuck with me. So I posted it without commentary, context or linking it to an article. Just the photo. What ensued on my wall happened all around the country on social media, at dinner tables and on television. Those who shared a canned emoji emotion or commented on the thread brought their own biases and interpretations to the image. I didn’t engage, nor am I interested in doing so, regardless of my personal beliefs or world view.
I spent 15 years in print journalism and have continued on this path as producer of a social justice podcast that tackles important and often underreported issues. Nothing I’ve produced over the years, however, will ever be as potent as an image such as the MAGA boy and Indian activist. Images are powerful. Words are as well. But the incendiary nature of social media is more powerful than anything we’ve witnessed in history.
The day in D.C. that produced this image drew together Trump supporters, indigenous rights advocates, Women’s March participants, the Pro-Life movement and even a fringe group, the Black Israelites. Talk about a tinderbox. We instantly thrust our beliefs on the participant groups and became online sleuths, determined to uncover deeper narratives that reinforced our positions. No hearts and minds were won over. The loudest, most persistent voices prevailed and we sunk further into our tribes.
As a progressive writer and producer of a social justice podcast who has covered indigenous issues for years, I could comfortably and arrogantly claim the mantle of authority and weigh in on this. But I didn’t and I won’t. Not because this image or the unfolding drama that surrounds it doesn’t pique my interest or touch a nerve. (It does.) And not because I’m not arrogant. (I am.) It’s because we’ve passed the point of no return. Civil discourse is gone. Historical perspective and proper contextualization of stories no longer shape public opinion.
Then why post the image at all?
So I could write this. I posted the image knowing that the furor would be instant and unfiltered. The comments and reactions are the perfect mirror image of the national sentiment and our ahistorical, knee jerk reactions (I’ve been guilty at times as well) are doing a disservice to our children.
In this protracted, self-imposed hiatus from political posts, I have gained much needed peace and grounding. Instead of shouting at the rain I have chosen to channel my time, energy and money into producing News Beat, a show that gives voice to the voiceless, sheds light in dark corners and inspires true learning through art. I want my daughters to know that it’s important to stand for something in the real world and not just online. But I also want them to know that it’s important to know one’s history and take an empathetic view of the history of others. This comes from real dialogue and engaged learning. Having uncomfortable conversations. Understanding what makes your ideological foe press as hard for his/her stance as you do for yours. It’s difficult, time consuming and sometimes messy. But we’re not here for long. Hopefully we can do better. Together.
Jed Morey produces US News Beat: Unconventional Podcast Challenging Conventional Wisdom. Billed as a hypothetical love child of Hamilton and 60-minutes, it is "a short-form educational and political news podcast focused on social justice and civil liberties issues, that melds the worlds of journalism and music." It has a beat, rhythm and poetry, and is designed to grab your heart and make you think. It is the 2018 New York Press Club award winner for Best Podcast.
We hold out hope that those elected to the highest offices in our government will somehow navigate away from the broken politics of today toward respectful, intelligent, evidence-based, compassionate, practical, collaborative, solutions-oriented problem solving regarding our immigration system and border security, as well as a vast number of other issues impacting this nation that we share.
We feel the need to add that we are also often saddened to hear it expressed that because it is “government” it must therefore necessarily be wasteful and incompetent. While we firmly agree that corruption and other ills must be overcome, we are also exceptionally grateful for so many who serve our nation professionally and highly competently, including those impacted by the current shutdown, such as those in meteorology, food safety, the TSA, the Coast Guard, the SEC and Justice Department, and so many others who keep us safe and informed, and who hold in trust our nation’s treasure for the benefit of US all.
Among the many covering this issue, Reuters offers a “Factbox” on the impacts of the current shutdown from the end of the year. The NY Times offers an article that goes a little more in depth. Vox seems to have one of the more updated analyses of what’s being funded right now, what’s not, and who’s going to work anyway, The Washington Post offers this analysis of the contractors whose work depends on a functioning federal government. WNYC has pieces on the impact to low-wage workers, and what might happen with Federal Courts. VentureBeat wants you to remember that there are Cybersecurity implications as well.
Of course, our purpose is not to focus on problems, but to count blessings. So, for our part, we want to take a moment to thank all of those who are giving all they can to override the desperate political dysfunction to support our hardworking public servants, especially the ones who are showing up to work anyway just because it’s the right thing to do.
We offer special thanks to organizations like Island Harvest and Long Island Cares, who have been at the forefront of stepping up to make sure those who aren’t getting paid are at least getting fed. Keep in mind, these folks already have their hands full. The number of folks who face tough decisions between food and rent and medicine on Long Island is sobering. This most recent Oxfam report which shows that “Billionaire fortunes increased by 12 percent last year—or $2.5 billion a day—while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 percent” is a bit global in its view, but Long Islanders are no strangers to the “Tale of Two Cities” feeling that this study validates.
For Newsday, Bart Jones and Zachary R. Dowdy wrote “LI Groups Gearing Up to Help Those Hurt by Government Shutdown” The article includes video of an event convened by Island Harvest, that further explains impacts of the shutdown on Long Island and highlights donations from Stop & Shop, American Portfolio in Ronkonkoma, and the Connecticut-Based Coast Guard Foundation, as well as what Suffolk and Nassau social services officials, utilities, and local elected officials are doing to try and help. At the end, there’s a specific list guiding folks to LI Cares, Angels of Long Island, Nassau FCU, The Suffolk County SPCA and Island Harvest to get (and to offer) help.
Another Newsday article by Daysi Calavia-Robertson, “LI Businesses Reach Out with Freebies to Help Furloughed Workers” profiles a number of small businesses who are doing their part to lend a hand. The offerings include everything from a cup of tea, to lunch, to a haircut or manicure, to mechanics offering free labor for repairs. We know what kind of margins Main Street works on. We also know how giving they still tend to be. Thank you!!!
Alex Costello, writing for the Wantagh-Seaford Patch writes about how “You Can Help Long Island Coast Guard Members During The Shutdown" via a donation to the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, which represents the Coast Guard and other Veterans.
In the Long Island Business News, Bernadette Starzee wrote “NEFCU Offers Interest-Free Loans for Furloughed Workers". and Adina Genn reported in “Island Harvest: More Help For Federal Workers Affected by Shutdown” about some assistance that can be applied for, as well as a few other entities offering their support to Long Island federal workers and contractors.
Here’s a piece by Alex Meier for ABC7NY: "Government Shutdown: Resources for Furloughed Employees in Greater NYC Area" that breaks down services by topic, including beer and music, in addition to much more practical requirements.
Sara-Megan Walsh wrote this for TBR Newsmedia: “Huntington Boaters, Officials Launch Drives to Aid Federal Employees" It lists several sites where folks can donate food, personal hygiene items, household supplies, pet foods and gift cards, as well as simply write checks.
They shouldn’t have to do this. We hope they don’t have to do it for long, and that the end doesn't come in a way that somehow rewards holding our Nation hostage. We pray for the day where we can work out our differences like responsible adults, without sacrificing our economy, our security and the well being of our people. Meanwhile, we're grateful for these folks who are helping make sure we get by, and welcome suggestions of any other resources we may share.
By Kim M. Ciesinski, Esq., PLLC
Divorce can be one of the most difficult experiences of a person's life, impacting every member of the family. We are thankful for this guest submission that talks about the author's professional passion for helping people find a better way to part company.
This is the happiest time of the year and ironically one of the times that people are most likely to get divorced. Troubled couples often hope that the holidays will make everything better, and then ultimately when it doesn’t, it’s time to make a change.
Life is full of changes. Some of them voluntary, some- not so much. So, here you find yourself…the decision to divorce has been made either by you, for you or together which is the best-case scenario. We have all heard horrendous war stories, we all know people who have experienced this nightmare or about to… breathe! You have options. And it’s called Collaborative Divorce. The fact that most people have never heard of this method of divorce is one reason we have generations of families who witness the unhealthy, adversarial litigation and very often continue this cycle in their own lives.
Most people have heard of mediation, however, with a mediator, there can be no legal advice and the lawyer who is mediating cannot advocate for either party. Collaborative divorce is a voluntary process that couples enter into with a signed participation agreement that they are agreeing not to litigate. Couples enter into the Collaborative process thereby eliminating the threat of Court and committing to align their interests to work out the structure of their family, finances, property and any other assets they have created during their marriage.
The Collaborative divorce process provides support for the couple so they take the lead in decision making, through respectful communication, with the assistance of the appropriate professionals, in a private, pressure free setting. The team of professionals include an attorney for each spouse, a mental health professional and a financial advisor.
In the context of Collaborative divorce, the couple commit to finding a mutually beneficial solution as their highest priorities. The concepts of “winning or revenge” and “retribution” have no place in the collaborative process. The hope of having a positive future co-parenting (if relevant) is often a primary motivation for entering this process. This results in the creation of a new bi-nuclear family built upon a foundation of respect, incorporating a creative and realistic distribution of assets and a new way to live apart and divorced in harmony.
When couples who are getting divorced, find solutions that serve both parties, healing begins, successful co-parenting takes place and children can grow up to be emotionally secure and healthy adults. Families benefit from the collaborative process, and engaging in a communicative and understanding process sometimes results in healthy reconciliation. Society as a whole reaps the benefits of this process, because people can divorce with dignity and respect, children learn how to have difficult conversations with positive outcomes and the process makes us whole, individually and as a family.
Collaborative Divorce needs to be the new norm and most people have never heard of it. Please help us and tell everyone you know who may be getting divorced, about this option. The only option that will help to sustain the nuclear families of the future. For more information, please visit us at adrlawny.com.
We are grateful to know great librarians. Recently, we've thoroughly enjoyed working with Ellen Druda, who is doing incredible things for the Coltrane Home Project. We also deeply appreciate Susan Goldberg, who's known to have people who happen to stand next to her smiling, and who has built a library for Elwood. We were privileged to work with Michelle Lauer-Bader on crafting "Community Conversations," and have caught her around town helping out Long Island Cares since her own retirement. Recently, we had the opportunity to nominate one for national recognition through the "I Love My Librarian" award. For that, we chose Helen Crosson, who we find embodies and amplifies the spirit of the American Library.
Helen was, perhaps, the primary force behind the multi-organization effort to launch Long Island's library-hosted "Community Conversations." Prior to that, Helen championed Long Island's second true community visioning process in order to transform a collection without a library into a full-fledged community living room, town square and environmental resource center. Helen is now bringing her second such process from vision into reality for the Half Hollow Hills community.
The Nation is filled with extraordinary librarians. We know we may need to submit this nomination several times before Helen gets the recognition she deserves. Still, we find her more than worthy, thoroughly enjoyed the process of nominating her, and thought you might like to read what we put together, too...
Question 1: Please tell us in 2-3 sentences why your nominee should win this award. What sets them apart?
A librarian once endeavored to inspire me by singing about “that ant that moved a rubber tree plant.” It was helpful, but I was much more deeply moved by another librarian who actually WAS that ant. Helen Crosson guides communities in building their dream libraries, fills them with incredible resources, and dedicates her life to ensuring these keys to the American Dream remain relevant and of great service well beyond her own tenure.
Said Robert C. Hughes, Trustee and former president, Cold Spring Harbor Library: "Helen is a dynamo who devotes every waking hour to the promotion of libraries. Few librarians have a chance to build a brand new library--Helen is working on her second one. We were fortunate to have Helen at the helm when the Cold Spring Harbor Library was faced with the tremendous task of building a new library building--one that was four times larger than our previous home. Helen was the perfect person to lead the effort. Twelve year later we couldn't be happier with the results. And now Helen has taken that unique experience and is helping a neighboring community realize its dreams of a new state of the art library."
Question 2: Please list a few ways in which the nominee has helped you and made your experience of the library a positive one. For instance, did the nominee inspire in you a love for literature; assist you in a project or finding other information?
I met Helen Crosson during my service as Assistant Director of Vision Long Island, Long Island’s premier Smart Growth Organization. Our relationship deepened significantly during my time as Acting Director of Leadership Huntington, Long Island’s premier community leadership program. I mention these two organizations because her outgoing interest in these two groups that focus on bringing diverse interests together to advance the common good is fundamental to Helen’s spirit of advancing libraries boldly into the new millennium.
Make no mistake, Helen is dedicated to libraries in the classic sense, designing, building, and filling them with books and other media. She is deeply focused on understanding and providing the highest quality resources and programs to the communities that she serves. Helen’s outward-looking endeavors are largely intended to find great resources that she can bring home. At the same time, however, Helen maintains a view of libraries that is much broader, as well as a sense of their critical importance and a dedication to doing what she can to best serve that mission that far transcends any one location.
I have always loved and appreciated libraries. Helen made me realize what an extraordinary force for the American dream that they are, their power to overcome social, economic and cultural barriers, and what a critical mission it is to ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come. She was a primary inspiration for this article.
I have worked very closely with Helen, both in her time as a member of the Leadership Huntington Class of 2013, and as a partner in an endeavor she spearheaded called “Community Conversations.” Throughout, Helen Crosson consistently reinforced the fundamental value of libraries, while at the same time expanding the conception of what they are capable of to whomever was willing to listen.
Helen inspires poetry:
By David Fuchs
Librarians open gates
that lead to wondrous
places and are keepers
of order in their quiet
ways, perhaps like no
others in bringing us
to things that bring
us to others, because the
rewards never cease.
Builder, keeper and
leader, our Helen sets
Question 3: How has the librarian made a difference in the community? Please be specific.
A Community Living Room
In this 2014 video, Helen shares how the Cold Spring Harbor library went from being a collection without a home, to becoming a small castle of a “community living room” on Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor, NY. She also speaks about the “Community Conversations” that she pioneered. Helen brings this spirit to everything she does with her family, her church, and the new libraries she is serving.
Beth Fuchs, President of the Cold Spring Harbor Library Friends Foundation, remembers: “Helen Crosson came to us ten years ago as the new Director of a suddenly defunct Public Library. Housed in an unused portion of our Goose Hill School for the previous twenty years, the library had just been informed that its lease could not be renewed because of an unexpected growth in school registration. Her problem: there was no Library and no place to put one. No existing building was available and no land for new construction. So she set out to solve both problems head on. First, she formed and led a search team.
They uncovered an old N. Y. State Department of Transportation map indicating acreage set aside several decades ago for a major highway that was never built, then worked with our State Senator Carl Marcellino to sponsor a bill in Albany to acquire it. With that in hand, the next job was to raise the money for an entirely new building. That entailed a persuading the School District (who’s boundaries define Library districts in New York State) to submit a $9,000,000 bond issue for voter approval. This would be combined with a $4,000,000 private funding campaign to arrive at an overall $13,000,000 budget. This would cover site clearance, design and construction of a brand new, state-of-the-art edifice that would sit on a hill overlooking beautiful Cold Spring Harbor.”
Helen also brokered a unique agreement with NYS to establish a local environmental resource library and to serve as a terminal point for a Long Island Greenbelt Trail. Following a model that had been recently introduced to Long Island, Helen then led a full-fledged community visioning process. She kept residents abreast through a branding campaign, a redesigned newsletter, website and mobile app, as well as a social media presence.
Said Beth Fuchs, “Outside, a special path leads walkers to our section of the Greenbelt Trail. All this activity revolves in and around a stunning building designed to reflect the architecture of the North Shore’s fabled Gold Coast era.”
Bess recalls that Helen’s studious diligence had lasting value, “Helen led all of these efforts and, when the work began, spent her days carefully tracking every aspect of this complex process, keeping her own detailed notes on the work – notes which later proved to be invaluable in negotiations over insurance claims for the inevitable faults that accompany a task of this order.”
The greatest music to Helen’s ears was people coming through the doors and saying, “You listened to us. This is incredible. Thank you.”
An alum of the Leadership Huntington Class of 2013, Helen made among the most intense use of the program of anyone we have known. She also recruited other local librarians to join the program. Further, she managed to unite all eight independent public libraries in the Town of Huntington, engaged Leadership Huntington, the Huntington League of Women Voters and the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce in a pilot program called “Community Conversations,” engaging diverse local leaders, experts and residents in discussing key topics:
Suburban America: Problems & Promise Part I
Suburban America: Problems & Promise Part II
Growing Community: Who are we? How do we live together?
Suburbs for the Next Generation: What do we value most?
Our Next Generation Speaks Up: Who’s Listening?
Common Core: Uncommon Challenges
Helen and librarian Michele Lauer-Bader, then brought the conversation to the 2014 Public Library Association (PLA) conference. Focusing on the potential of libraries as public squares, they discussed partnering with others and playing leadership roles in civic engagement.
Helen has since moved on to her next great endeavor, rebuilding the Half Hollow Hills Community Library, which encompasses two buildings in Dix Hills and Melville, New York. Helen is also now working with Leadership Huntington on a new round of Community Conversations. We look forward to seeing them develop, too.
Question 4: How has the library, and the nominee, improved the quality of your life?
Helen improves my quality of life primarily by improving the quality of life for every member of the communities she serves. She advances libraries as vehicles for learning and development, not only through books and other media, but as centers for civic engagement. Helen is an antidote to ignorance, and a force for civilized discourse. She does it all in a spirit of partnership, lifelong learning and community development.
Personally, when I want to remember that there are people dedicated to the common good, I think of Helen. When I’m facing a tremendous challenge, I think of Helen and endeavor to transform it into a great opportunity. When I need to be reminded that everyone deserves an opportunity to learn and grow, I think of Helen and her commitment to making that possible.
When I get to actually be in her presence, I invariably come away informed, inspired and grateful. She consistently leads me to think about big ideas and practical solutions, and can always be counted on to help find the information I need. Moreover, it is ever evident that Helen is always coming from something and going somewhere; that she is busily thinking about what her recent experiences mean, and how they may be leveraged into some powerful force for good. She is thinking about how she can infuse this sense of purpose into those she anticipates encountering at her next stop. It’s ever a pleasure to hear how that went, and what it next inspired.
Said fellow Leadership Huntington graduate, Raymond Homburger, “Helen’s expertise goes beyond the walls of the library. She is not only a wealth of information but she also brings an energy level and enthusiasm to all projects that is infectious. She is a true asset to the community. Helen gets things done and involves the community.”
It is a distinct privilege to know her.
Question 5: How does the nominee make the library a better place? Please be specific.
Once conceived, made feasible and built, Helen then equipped the 26,700 square foot modern library that replaced the 7,000 square feet of space they’d previously had in a rented school building, via a measured and timely personnel expansion. She managed to do this while holding the budged stable, and more than doubling both the number of visitors and events. The creative environment that she fostered resulted in teamwork, shared responsibility and low staff turnover.
Beth Fuchs recounts that during Helen’s tenure the library, “developed into a combination library-community center. Every day dozens of our students are seen working at computer consoles, while citizens are scouring the magazine racks and bookshelves, community organizations fill the meeting rooms, new display are mounted on the gallery walls and an entire floor is filled with youngsters reading, listening to story time in our special room surrounded by a hand-painted mural that displays various aspects of our local flora and fauna."
Among numerous multi-media outreach endeavors, Helen commissioned a video that highlights some of what she fostered, with a focus on the connections between the Library and its environment through the eyes of children: Always thinking about the next generation, Helen also provided opportunities for students in Cold Spring Harbor to satisfy their community service requirements by assisting their Children’s librarians in the creation and implementation of programs designed to instill a love of reading and learning in young children.
Throughout, Helen maintained the Library as a leader in the adoption of new technologies to further reach the community. She was a key force in launching the Library’s website and mobile app, facilitating e-book downloads and deploying social media such as Facebook and Twitter pages.
In terms of programming, my closest experience was with Helen and Leadership Huntington. That program involved a 9-month in-depth experience meeting community leaders from throughout the town. Whether it was an expert on the opioid crisis, a legislator who cared about our environment, or someone involved in community development, Helen found a way to incorporate their expertise into library programming. The program on the drug epidemic was a notable example, bringing top expertise into the library to meet a full auditorium and help her community learn how best they could help solve this problem.
When Helen embarked upon her latest library visioning, she invited the community with this message:
Imagine your family enjoying a public library for the 21st century.
Imagine a building with energy efficiency built-in, a place for reading, learning, exercising, music, recording, creating and gathering.
Imagine a space filled with natural light and plenty of spaces for simultaneous meetings, classes and workshops.
Imagine children, parents and grandparents sharing stories and crafts, creating memories to last a lifetime.
Imagine state-of-the-art technology to meet your needs today and tomorrow.
Please attend community meetings and discover how you can get the public libraries you deserve in Dix Hills and Melville.
If you have any questions, suggestions or concerns, please contact me at 631-421-5940 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to catch you reading,
Helen M. Crosson, Library Director"
You can see her real-time updates here.
Said Diane Lettieri, “I know Helen from my being the PTA President at Half Hollow Hills High School East. We’ve collaborated on several projects, such as the ‘Save a Life’ drug awareness program. Working so closely with Helen, I see her drive and enthusiasm, and just how much she cares about this community. Her latest endeavor is to build a new library in Half Hollow Hills; one that will serve the community for many years to come. Her campaign was called ‘IMAGINE.’ She wanted community members to imagine what they wanted for their new library. She listened to everyone’s suggestions, concerns, wants and needs. I supported and helped her every step of the way. The night the bond passed in favor of building a new library, she cried tears of joy. Her commitment to our community has never faltered. Plain and simple, she cares, and the Half Hollow Hills community is so lucky to have her.”
The winner of the 2018 I Love My Librarian Award will be announced in December, 2018. Best of luck to all involved! Want to nominate your favorite librarian? Sign up here to be notified when the 2019 nomination process opens. Want to learn more about libraries and how you can help support them? Visit www.ilovelibraries.org
By Judie Gorenstein
To vote in the upcoming elections, you much get registered THIS WEEK! We are grateful to guest blogger, Judie Gorenstein of the Huntington League of Women Voters for this Election Day FAQ:
Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. In New York, in order to vote, you MUST BE registered 25 days before the election. Therefore, the last day to register this year is Oct. 12. You can click on suffolkvotes.org website to make sure you are registered, see if you are enrolled in a party and if so which one, and where your poll site is. If you check and your name does not come up, you can call the Suffolk Board of Elections to try to resolve any issues. If it is before Oct. 12, you can register and mail in your form. If you wish to be enrolled in a party and are not or enrolled in another party, you must re-register before Oct. 12 to be in your new party for the 2019 elections.
What else can you do? Speak to people you know to see if they are registered. If they are turning 18 in 2018 they should register. If they are 18 by Election Day and register by Oct. 12, they then can vote. If they turn 18 after Election Day, they will be able to vote next year.
What happens if you cannot get to the polls on Election Day? Thirty seven states have early voting, when people can vote before Election Day. Not NY. What you can do is request and vote on an absentee ballot. NY is one of only 13 states that has no early voting and requires an excuse for voting as an absentee. If you will be out of the county on Election Day for vacation, school, work, are in a hospital imprisoned, have a disability or primary care responsibilities that do not allow you to get to the polls, you can vote absentee. This is a two step process. First you need to send in an application requesting your ballot. You can get the request from at a library, post office, on line which must be completed and mailed to the Board of Elections by Oct. 30. The Board of Elections will then mail you your ballot which must be completed and postmarked by Nov. 5.
What should you do if you are uncertain that you will be able to get to the polls for the reasons mentioned? In these cases, you CAN and you SHOULD request and mail in an absentee ballot. The absentee ballots are only counted after Election Day when the poll books are back at the BOE and names are with signatures of those who votes. The absentee ballots mailed by people who voted are not counted. In fact, the Board Of Elections keeps data of how many absentee ballots are requested, how many mailed back, and how many not counted for various reasons : i.e., postmarked too late, not signed or filled out correctly, person voted at the polls. All other mailed in ballots are counted and tabulated and added to the poll numbers reported election night. At times, the absentee ballots have changed the outcome of elections.
What happens if you anticipated being able to get to the polls and find out after Oct. 30th, that you will be unable to do so? The Suffolk County Board of Elections will be opened the weekend before Election Day. Check on their website or call to see times and days they will be opened. You can go to the BOE at those times and vote on your absentee ballot. The absentee ballots completed at the BOE will be counted with the mailed in absentee ballots.
Remember your vote counts and will be counted but only if you vote.
It is important that you not only vote but are an educated voter. Before voting, know who is on your ballot. You can access your ballot on LWVNY’s electronic voter guide by going to my.lwv.org/new-york-state and clicking on the voter guide VotingNewYork. You will learn about your candidates, their background information, who is endorsing then, and their positions on major issues. If you choose, you can also get a reminder to vote.
In addition, you should try to meet and hear from the candidates themselves. Attend candidate events such as debates, forums etc. Sometimes the organizations who are sponsoring them are partisan. Organizations like the LWV are nonpartisan and are fair to all the candidates. You can check the LWVNYS webpage or your local leagues to find out their schedule of candidate events.
On Nov. 6 Election Day turn out to vote. You checked and know where your poll site is and hours it will be open. Many states require you to bring id when you vote In fact 17 states require photo id. NY does not. If when you registered you put in either your driver’s license or last 4 digits of social security number, you will not be asked for any id at the polls. If you did not include these when you registered and this is your first time voting, you will be asked for some ID.
What happens if for some reason your name is not in the poll book? Never leave the polls without voting! Ask for a provisional ballot, also called and affidavit ballot. Complete the form and vote. The affidavit ballot will be brought to the BOE with the other ballots. Often the omission of a name is a clerical error. If you are a registered voter and at the correct poll site, be assured that your vote will count and be counted correctly. Our voting machines which are paper ballot optical scanners, makes certain that if there is any question about the outcome, your actual ballots which drop into a box when you vote, can be recounted and if necessary counted by hand. In these times, when there is so much question about security, NY does have the safest system of voting.
Voting is not only a right but a responsibility. It is your power. Don’t abdicate it to others. Be a voter!
By Trudy Fitzsimmons
Trudy here! I want folks to know about The Klaber Award and its latest recipient, Sheila Pariser. The award is given by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. It honors long term dedication to the Town of Huntington, NY and is bestowed upon an individual, age 60 or older, who has spent more than 15 years building a record of distinguished and exceptional voluntary service to the community, including key leadership positions with diverse town-wide organizations. The award is not given every year. It was recently given for the first time since 2015, when I was honored to be selected!
The honor itself memorializes a prominent local architect named John Klaber. Born in 1884, Klaber did not make his home in Huntington until 1945. Despite the late start, he had a profound impact, endeavoring to both improve the quality of life and preserve the existing beauty and charm of his adopted community. In his 26 years as a Town resident, John served as Vice President of the Old Village Green and Vice President of the local chapter of the NAACP. He was a member of the Huntington Historical Society, Historical Sites Preservation Committee, Huntington Lions Club and the American Legion. Mr. Klaber continued to be an active member of the community until his passing in 1971 at the age of 87. At that time he was serving on the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce's Planning and Zoning, Human Resources, and Town and County Affairs Committees. Throughout, Klaber maintained a fascinating scrap book that was donated to the archives of the Town of Huntington in 2014.
This past August, I was pleased to join the Huntington Chamber of Commerce in celebrating the organization’s latest Klaber Award recipient, Sheila Pariser, who has been a volunteer on Long Island for 40 years. Sheila’s community endeavors began with becoming a Board Member of the Huntington Chapter of the American Red Cross in the late 1970s, where she served for five years. Since 1980 Ms. Pariser has been a member of Soroptimist International of Huntington (now Soroptimist International of Suffolk County), with roles including President, Vice President and Director. The organization has also honored her as a Woman of the Year.
In the 1980’s and 90’s Sheila served the Huntington Freedom Center (now Head Start), and volunteered at Huntington Hospital on Sundays. From 2006-2011 she served on the Board of Managers of the Greens at Half Hollow, then as Secretary of the Homeowners Association in 2011. From 2012-2014, Pariser was Vice President of the Homeowners Association of the Greens in Melville. In 2013, she was appointed Chair of the Special Needs Committee for the Community. From 2016 to present, Ms. Pariser has been member of Condo 3 Board of the Greens in Melville. She has also been appointed Government Liaison for its Government Affairs and Public Relations Committee.
Since 2010 Ms. Pariser has volunteered for the Visiting Nurse Service and Hospice Center of Suffolk. Since 2015, she has been a Board Member of the Friends of Oheka, serving on their artistic scholarship selections committee.
Previous honorees of this award honoring Klaber's spirit include:
Clayton F. Mugridge – 1973
Bryon Sammis – 1974
John Ficker – 1975
Richard E. Allen – 1976
Honorable Fred Munder – 1977
Jack Lee – 1979 Jane M. Sullivan – 1981
Robert Mitchell – 1984
Ruth F. Concoran – 1986
John Jazombek – 1988
John Staib – 1989
Quentin Sammis – 1991
Anthony Mastroianni – 1992
Walter Spilsbury – 1997
Arthur Goldstein – 1998
Vaughan Spilsbury – 1999
Mary C. Cary – 2000
Libby Hubbard – 2001
Clifford Starkins & Joy Squires – 2002
Duncan Elder – 2003
Kenneth A. Christensen & Eleanor Casey – 2004
Dolores Thompson – 2010
Robert Scheiner - 2014
Trudy Fitzsimmons – 2015
If you know someone who should be considered for this award in the future, please contact the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce at 631-423-6100, email@example.com.
Update! The home is complete and we got to witness it be given away on June 25, 2019! You can check out the Ultimate Feel-Good Story: Giving an LI Veteran a Home, and a more complete list of Many Many Thanks...
By Rosemarie Kluepfel
Our guest blogger this month is Rosemarie Kluepfel of the Fairway Foundation, who reflects on their efforts to serve Long Island Veterans though their “Purple Heat” campaign. A main project is a house that they are renovating and donating to a purple heart recipient. They are exceptionally grateful to the army of volunteers who have come together to make this happen.
While the project is coming into it's final stretch. THEY STILL REQUIRE PROFESSIONAL VOLUNTEERS WILLING TO HELP!!! This includes contractors to help with bathrooms, plumbers to do rough in and hook ups, and an electrician to wire up new kitchen lighting. Know anyone who might help? Please advise. Thanks!
Four years ago, a handful of Fairway Foundation Long Island volunteers wanted to follow the lead of some of their other branches to help local veterans. The project, now nearing completion, was to give a local Long Island veteran that had served post 9/11, had been honorably discharged, and was a Purple Heart recipient a mortgage free home. After all, Long Island has one of the highest populations of veterans in the country. Why not help our local veterans first?
What those volunteers had not envisioned were the hurdles and setbacks that they would need to overcome in order to see the project through. Broken promises, title encumbrances and other unforeseen obstacles led to some disappointment. However, the kindness of others, the generosity of the community, and the friendships and bonds forged made the experience incredibly uplifting. It was a reminder that the strength of one’s character is not tested on a calm day, but in the gusts of the winds.
With the funds raised over those 4 years through their Purple Heart campaign, a house was purchased. Today, renovations are well underway led by the Interior Design Society Long Island chapter.
We are exceptionally grateful to those actively participating in the program:
Dee Manicone, D. Manicone Design Assoc.
Lisa Aiello, Rich Designs
Isabel Melo, Isabel Interiors
Peggy Guerin, Designs by Peggy
Ruth Seidenberg, Ruth S. Interiors
Mary Nolte, Mary Nolte Designs
Dafna Adler, Interiors by Dafna Adler
Sandra Asdourian, Sandra Asdourian Interiors
Dean Camastro, Hansgrohe
Joe Calise, Sights n Sounds
Donations of Products or Services thus far:
Hansgrohe, all plumbing fixtures
Coastal Cabinets, kitchen cabinets
Plessers Appliances, kitchen appliances
Merri Interiors, bathroom vanities
Kravet fabrics, fabrics for all rooms
Eclectic Window Fashions – window treatments
ProSource – flooring for kitchen and mud room
Harry Katz carpet – carpet and tile
Cancos tile – tile for bathrooms
Peykar rugs – area rugs
Wendy Interiors – blinds
Sights n Sounds – security system
The Robert Allen Duralee group – sofa, cocktail table, ottoman
East End Interiors – dining room table
Symmetry Closets – closet systems
Van Wyck Hardware – drapery hardware
Debbie Viola – artwork
L.I Photo Gallery – artwork
Elements Lighting – lamps, tables, chairs
Sherwin Williams Paints – all paint
Cambria Stone – countertops
Hampton Appliance – TV
All County Millwork – bedroom dresser and night stands
Farmingville Masonry Supply – masonry for front entry
Corporate Transport – transport services
Riverhead Building Supply – sheetrock
Kolson Hardware – decorative hardware for kitchen
OMG Shower Doors -- shower doors
Sean - rough in plumbing
Pic Painting – all interior painting work
John Probst Contracting – kitchen installation, mud room floor
Dynomite Floors – wood floor refinishing
Straight Line Tile - tile installation
Maggio Environmental Services – carting
PSEG Veteran Employee Resource Group –landscaping
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation – project overview
Brian Moraghan PE – house inspection
ZCI Woodworks – transport of cabinets
Anthony J. Mangiaracina, Attorney at Law – legal
Pyramid Title Agency – title services
Eclectic Window Fashions - drapery fabrication
Beyond Windows - drapery fabrication
And many more volunteers
These local merchants, designers, wholesalers, and tradesmen have joined forces to transform the modest 3 bedroom/ 2 bath ranch into a home worthy of its new owner; one who has sacrificed to serve his or her country.
Together, we are offering a profound way of saying, "Welcome Home Soldier, Welcome Home."
Visit www.VeteransHomeGiveaway.org, email FairwayFoundationNY@gmail.com or call 631-881-5110 for more information on how to apply for the home or to volunteer.
Together We Can Make A Difference in the Life of a Veteran.
We asked Ron Stein, Board President of the Friends of the Coltrane Home in Dix Hills New York, what is needed next to help transform the home into a museum and cultural site to advance the musical, cultural and spiritual legacies of John and Alice Coltrane. Here is what he told us:
The specific ask is seeking to raise approximately $250K to secure the remainder of a $172K NY Matching Grant to complete the exterior stabilization. We are also looking for $50K for staffing and program funding. The Home will cost us approximately $1.4 million to complete and open to the public (hopefully within 3 years).
We have made considerable progress on the Home. Over the last 2 years, the mold has been completely remediated, with the next phases being the repairs to the foundation and brick façade. Working with the Town of Huntington for repairs of the wrought iron fence and gate – the Town has earmarked approximately $40,000 and is currently soliciting bids. Additional site cleanup is about to be underway, and the walkways and porches will be repaired once the Home’s foundation and façade is properly repaired. We are about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the façade work.
We just completed our fourth annual, and highly successful Coltrane Day. We had record daytime crowds, and aside from wrestling with the weather, performances were well-attended, the first beer garden added a new and desirable element to the event, and workshops and community jams were outstanding throughout.
We continue our pilot work both in Hempstead schools and Wyandanch library – minority areas which have seen terrible cutbacks to music programs. We are working to establish a multi-week residency program in Hempstead this Fall, and will continue with library programs. A program for seniors is also being developed which will debut at the Wyandanch Public Library in October.
We have received a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for our first significant hire – project manager, who will help oversee some of the next phases of the Home’s restoration, assist with fundraising, programming and other aspects of the overall project.
We have an Education Committee that is becoming quite active, and which we are looking to expand. It is led by Carol Brown, and anyone interested is welcome to participate.
Thanks again for all your photo work this past event – great stuff as always!!
Hope this is helpful,
This week, we honor the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. Its most well-known passage is the central tenet that formed the foundation upon which the colonists’ grievances were justified; a bold declaration of human rights:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
The document was written in whole by Thomas Jefferson, then mildly edited by the rest of the "Committee of Five" tasked with the undertaking: Jefferson's famous rival and friend, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston, They did this anticipating that a resolution to secede might pass a far less eager "Committee of the Whole." Here, you can read the original document and the extensive changes that greater body insisted upon, once it signed on to the project. It's fascinating.
One of our favorite books, "Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution" opens with the later story of how General George Washington talked down from rebellion the Revolutionary soldiers whom the states of our young country, united under the Articles of Confederation, were failing to pay. He then promptly turned to our diverse leadership to insist upon systemic improvements. Then, he put his own feelings aside to preside in a notably objective fashion over the Philadelphia Convention. The book details the extraordinary process that ensued, fueled considerably by ideas offered by the young federalist James Madison, and tempered mightily by the sharply differing interests of varied colonies and their representatives.
The preamble of the resulting document states that "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Thus, our Nation was framed, as much as an ongoing process as an end unto itself. It should be noted that although Madison ultimately drafted them, the Anti-Federalists are the ones to thank for the addition of our Bill of Rights, particularly one non-signer of the Constitution, George Mason, who drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He was never fully satisfied that these provisions, including the added 11th Amendment were sufficient to protect state and individual liberties in the new system. Still, the efforts did much to reconcile our country's diverse interests, to guard against extremes with checks and balances, and to provide recourse in the event of a despot. Still, the procession continues, hopefully enduring toward a more perfect union.
The recent removal of Laura Ingalls Wilder's name from the Award her works first inspired illustrates the continuing challenges in reconciling our history of boldly moving forward, with our history of failing to also honor the humanity of indigenous populations, African Americans and others. It's an interesting example as, while the criticism dates back to 1952, two years prior to the initial awarding of the honor, some would argue that the action belies a more complicated, honest and ultimately progressive reality that Wilder portrayed for those times. We are grateful the American Library Association insists that these books should still be read as we believe that, if we are going to move forward in a healthy way, then it is important that we endeavor to more fully understand where those before us were coming from….for better and for worse.
Indeed, Jefferson never freed his slaves (though Washington did). Worse, it took nearly 100 years for his original plea against slavery to be fulfilled by Abraham Lincoln, shortly before Wilder was born. Lincoln was, indeed, deeply concerned about the morality of slavery, as well as the awful puzzle of how best to overcome it. It’s fascinating to consider how Reconstruction might have proceeded had he not been shot. As it went, it was another century before the Civil Rights Movement achieved more complete realization of rights for Black people. Regarding women, the Suffragettes didn’t win a national right to vote until 1920. It finally began to be legal to be LGBT in the second half of the 20th century, when the raid of the Stonewall Inn prompted riots and, ultimately, the massive Christopher Street Liberation known today as the Pride Parade.
All of these groups, and more, continue to vie for a more fully vested place in “a more perfect union.” Make no mistake, though, from the likely gay General Wilhelm von Steuben who served under George Washington, to the extraordinary slave named Paul Jennings whose rescue of Washington’s portrait was among the least of his accomplishments, to Abigail Adams who consorted closely with and some would consider to be herself one of the founders of our Nation, to Navajo Code Talkers, to endless waves of immigrants yearning to be free dating all the way back as far as we will look…we are all “Real Americans.”
While each group, starting with white men themselves, found themselves struggling to achieve a more just Nation, we are all Americans. Our endeavors to move toward full realization of those “unalienable rights” is as fundamental an activity as our Nation has to offer. Invariably, our individual successes have involved support that defies any boundary of race, creed, or kind. While history teaches us that moral and ethical shortcomings have a nasty way of reverberating, it also shows that, despite occasional regression, we have generally kept moving forward.
As we witness the sea of humanity that is US, we are reminded that freedom isn’t free; that this holds true not only for the soldier who sacrifices his freedom for ours, but for all who would enjoy those liberties. We see the truth that, while those who hold great privilege also have great responsibility, the greatest among us remain human after all and, sometimes, the “least” among us hold power beyond fathom. We lament that human nature is a funny thing that remains a fickle constant whether we think it should or not; something we must accept as we endeavor to reconcile with changes coming fast enough to challenge our most flexible and eager for progress. We realize that, much as we’d like to take refuge in the varied clans of comfort that comprise our motley tribe of United States, the pragmatism summed up in the revolutionary Benjamin Franklin’s famous caveat was wise, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
We see that our fates are inextricably entwined, and that ceasing to create something better seems to be to submit to something less. At the same time, we also note that failing to forgive ourselves and others with some grace risks us embodying the very chains we wish to shed. We come to a sense that the American Experiment is an ongoing endeavor that requires…a lot…if we are simply to maintain, let alone rise to more closely approach our most noble ideals.
And so, on this day we consider to be one of lights in the face of darkness, we offer encouragement and gratitude to those who carry forth the best from our past, including a lot of lessons, as well as to all who endeavor in good faith to make things a bit better than they might have been before. To invoke another distinctly American enterprise, we offer this blessing:
“May the force be with you.”
I’ve mentioned my friend, Ashley, before. It was she who brought THIS to our attention, a psychotherapist invoking Maya Angelou to offer advice on how to “Change Your Life in One Second Flat.” It’s good stuff. We’re still thinking about it.
This time, Ashley offered a video about forgiveness. As sometimes happens with old, beloved friends, I resonated with what she was saying before I even “clicked here” because, well…. Those are among the heart strings that happen to bind us. I hold her dear because she often sings my soul.
So, I watched this video (which contains some rough language) about why we should forgive folks we'd generally call some pretty bad names; how it’s not an act of weakness, but of courage; a way of “taking bolt cutters” to more painful karmic ties; how it releases us at least as much as whatever we feel has done us wrong.
I decided to start where I was, and forgive the woman in the video. Why? It wasn’t so much about her course language, which as a mother I’ve found…unhelpful…It was that she was sitting in front of a bunch of stained glass wearing the collar of a Catholic Priest and that offended me. I felt pretty strongly that, regardless of how she or I may feel about the place of women in the Catholic Church, until the Pope says it’s ok and somebody granted that power ordains her, she has no right to be wearing that collar and effectively committing fraud.
It was kind of hard, because I had to separate feelings of being personally dinged from my feeling that she was doing something wrong. I had to remember that forgiveness is not an invitation to further pain; that acceptance is not condoning. Still, as things to forgive go, it was relatively small and impersonal. It didn’t take long before I felt I could move on to harder things.
I reflected on what I’ve heard about grudges being more damaging to ourselves than anyone. I thought about how hard it is to forgive, even when it’s just me and there's no one else whom I would defend tied up in it. I remembered how, even when the pain is old, out of sight and conscious mind, dreams sometimes haunt me.
So, I went back to the lesson. I decided to look a little deeper into the woman, Nadia Bolz-Weber. It didn’t take long for me to realize something: She is not posing as a Catholic. She is, in fact, Lutheran. A quick Google search confirmed what my memory suddenly screamed – Lots of Protestants wear that same collar. It’s a good thing I hadn’t leapt on to Facebook with my righteous indignation because in this case it seemed very clear: I was the Ignorant Ass.
Still, I thought to myself. I knew I meant well…and…well…the point of the whole thing was forgiveness. Not only that the experience, small as it was, made me a little bit more sensitive to how people may feel when symbols that are dear to them are used carelessly. It made me consider how it might feel when someone emulates beloved aspects of a culture without giving credit or even while outright devaluing the actual human beings who created it.
I was feeling pretty patient and forgiving with myself; fairly confident, even, that I was a slightly better person than I’d been a moment before. Then it occurred to me: I was feeling pretty full of myself, maybe even vaguely equating in my head a metaphorical light bump with crushed souls.
It also dawned on me that I had never checked to see if Lutherans are among those who also wear the collar, nor whether they allowed woman pastors, much less whether this woman, in particular, was ever ordained herself. She is and they do. Still, I’d just…assumed…again…
So that was that. I decided that if I was going to look for “stupid people” or [insert your favorite expletives here] to forgive, I’d best stick to looking in the mirror. Even better, maybe I’d be best off avoiding such judgments entirely and realize that if I – a person whose philosophy hinges on endeavoring to be good – can’t get though a simple YouTube video without making a bunch of mistakes toward that end, maybe I should recognize that judgment is out of my realm entirely. I suspect it's best to do what I can to reflect on and embody my own values, and to be discerning enough to evade and heal painful karmic chains whether or not other parties seem interested or capable. Still, when it comes to releasing those chains maybe I, as one more perfectly imperfect human being, should just focus on forgiving, and maybe even endeavoring to understand..
by Trudy Fitzsimmons
Shopping on Main Street, Northport the other day was a terrific experience. This downtown has been a favorite of mine for many years. It has waterfront, history, a beautiful park, and lots of shops and restaurants. At the top of the road is The Engeman Theater, which imports Broadway talent to Long Island. I used to go to the 99 cent movies there. Raise your hand if you did, too.
Ok. I can’t see you, but you know what I mean.
My first stop was right up by the Engeman at the Firefly Artists. There, I found two birthday gifts and a fabulous framed photo. I also learned from Katie, who’s a proud member of that cooperative gallery, that last spring they managed to raise enough money for a scholarship to help a Northport student in the arts AND to give several local high school students and their teachers an opportunity to display their work. They're on view now! In addition, they just had a great event giving a number of other local artists the chance to experience the fine art of print making – on a LARGE scale.
That's what I love about our small businesses. Most of them are anything but impersonal. What you find is unique, frequently very well made, and often much more reasonably priced than you might think. Many of the best are as much about community as they are about commerce.
There are many shops like this in Northport, and in the other down towns that Long Island has been fortunate enough to nurture. This PSA from our friends at the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce explains a little bit of why that helps all of us. Please consider them when you decide to make some purchases. Supporting local shops helps our local economy, and keeps our down towns alive. Not only is it interesting, but it is FUN!
“I shall pass through this world but once.
If there be any kindness I can show or any good that I can do,
let me do it now for I shall not pass this way again.”
~ Etienne de Grellet, Quaker Missionary
COME RAIN OR SHINE!
On Memorial Day Weekend in 2016, when many towns called it quits and stayed home for the rain, there was at least one community that carried on: Band members, scouts, chamber members, church groups, nursery schools and veteran’s organizations, of course, as well as others involved in one way or another in the hamlet of Syosset proudly marched behind 95-year old Gus Scutari. In among the throng lining the street to cheer us on, his wife waved.
It’s hard to miss Fran Scutari, especially when she’s wearing her enormous Uncle Sam hat and dressed in all red, white and blue. She’s not the type to let a little rain dampen her spirits, either. Her smile of warm encouragement has a way of brightening any day.
We remember being pleased to overhear a damp child tell his fellow Boy Scout, "We are marching in honor of those who gave their lives for our country. What's a little rain?"
By the time the parade finished at the small monument beside the train tracks, across from the old bank building, the sun was peeking through. NYS Senator Carl Marcellino spoke. So did Dr. Thomas Rogers, Superintendent of Syosset Schools. Both men are educators. Each is deeply committed to serving the Long Island community and earn a profile in their own right. This is about Gus, though, so we’ll share what Carl tells us through his website, which proudly declares that Costantino “Gus” Scutari was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2013. He was also granted a Humanitarian Award by the Syosset Woodbury Republican Club in 2015. There are other awards, too. He appreciates the recognition.
After the dignitaries he arranged had spoken, everyone bowed to Gus. He took the stage and invited up the children -- boy scouts, girl scouts, and any others who wished to stand with them -- to honor Our Nation’s fallen soldiers. There was a rifle salute, and a bugler blowing “Taps.”
Gus encouraged us, then, to go on out and enjoy each other. Be thankful for our blessings, and make the most of this beautiful day while remembering all those who made that possible.
And so we went…
“You know,” says Gus, thinking about the presentations that occur after the parade, “Each person that I introduce…I like that they say this, but…sometimes, well...
“Well, what?” I ask.
“You know, the parade is supposed to be about the veterans who have passed away, but then each one of them comes up and makes a speech about me!”
He’s right. We can’t blame them. Still, we hope in some way to help get all that over with now and invite folks to, please, when Memorial Day comes, go ahead and thank Gus for all the work he does to bring the Syosset community together. Marvel at his enduring energy and spirit. Give thanks for his commitment. Please, though, also, remember why he does it:
To pay tribute to all who gave all in defending the United States of America, and to pause to think about what this country means and what our responsibility is as a part of that.
AN ENERGY FRIENDLY AND PEACEFUL
“Let me see that paper,” Gus says, indicating a folded document on the table.
“I meant to Xerox this,” he says, opening the sheet to reveal a list of astrological sun sign descriptions, “I’m an Aries and I like what it says.”
We read the description of his sign together: “You have a profound effect on others. Your thought waves will influence the stranger passing on the street, the clerk on the grocery store, and the person picking up your mail, as well as the individuals in your inner circle. So keep your energy friendly and peaceful. Loved ones thrive in the comfort of your presence.”
“Yup. That’s me,” says, Gus, “We walk along the street, and people’s eyes meet. I sort of feel they say, ‘Hello,’ and I say, ‘Hello,’ and we start a conversation.”
He talks about his own mail person, and a few folks he often tries to get to wait on him around town. He relays a little more about a lady, whom he believes is from Pakistan or India. He tells me she’s a nice person and he likes her face. This quickly diverts to a playful dance between he and his wife, as Fran chides him for always admiring the pretty ladies.
“What do you mean?” he asks her, “She always asks me, ‘How’s your wife?’”
“And what do you respond, Honey?” Fran asks.
“I say to her when she asks,” says Gus, “I say, ‘Compared to what?’”
His eyes gleam and he looks at her.
“It’s OK,” smiles Fran, “I know he’s mine.”
We look at a photograph from when they were young, and another old picture from their 50th wedding anniversary.
“How long have we been married now, Honey?” she asks him.
He’s quick to reply, “Too long!”
“You know why he’s saying that?” she asks, “Whenever he asks me and there are people around, that’s what I say, ‘Too long!’ I don’t want them to get jealous, Honey,” she says to him, smiling. Then she leans into me, “Really, it’s not long enough! The years are going too fast! I can’t believe it!”
Their love is undeniable. Their spirits are contagious. When we first called to interview him, Gus asked if we could wait a few weeks as Fran was having eye surgery and he had to take care of her. They had one son who passed away not too long ago. Fran has a beloved great grandson, but he doesn’t live close by.
Fran does try to arrange events to keep the extended family together, “I do what I can,” she says, “I want to make sure people know who they are to each other. I think it’s important.”
Really, though, the closest family the Scutaris seem to have is the neighborhood of Syosset.
VFW POST 6394
Gus shows me a photo of himself and another man, “I’m not sure of the year, but that’s my father. He was in the American Legion Post in Brooklyn. That was before I was even connected with these organizations. He’s in uniform and I’m not.”
“He always stayed upright,” remembers Gus, “He served and was wounded in World War I.” He shows me his Purple Heart.
Gus joined VFW Post 6394 in Syosset himself in 1983. As a Post Member, he is a proud champion of the Patriot’s Pen and the Voice for America, two programs that encourage young people to consider and write about what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America. You can learn about the programs here. Winners receive scholarships and can advance through local, state and national competitions. A similar competition that focuses on appreciating the U.S. Constitution is run by the American Legion. It is called the Oratorical Contest. You can learn about that here.
"I like to do what I can to get young people interested in being patriotic and honoring the flag."
As we are talking, he takes a moment to reflect on how differently different veterans get treated, in particular noting the Vietnam Veterans, who not only took some rough treatment from people opposed to the war but also had trouble being accepted by the VFW which, due to how the engagement was technically defined, for a long time didn't consider them eligible to join, "We received honors. They were called baby killers. We may have disagreements about decisions that were made higher up, but most of these guys were just following orders and doing the best they knew how. It's not really fair to them."
Somewhere around 1990, when he was Commander of the VFW Post, Gus took on the role of organizing the Parade.
“At that time the parade was very small,” Gus remembers, “They had a flatbed truck and they used to go with it in front of the monument. It really wasn't very much. Nothing like it is now.”
We talk a little bit about how things like this ebb and flow, and how a charismatic personality who is willing to take responsibility can make all the difference.
“Who can say no to Gus?” I ask.
“Oh, I know,” says Fran, “Gus sticks his nose into everything. He doesn’t miss a thing, believe me!”
There's a lovely Patch article featuring Gus, the love of his life, and his role as the master of the Syosset Memorial Day Parade here. When we meet, he talks about a few folks who are, even now, finally coming around and want to be a part of what has become a fairly large and lively procession that annually reminds the busy people of Syosset that the fabric of the old community has not frayed entirely, but continues to loosely blanket the entire town.
He also talks about how hard it is to find folks who might help, “I tell this guy, ‘Go up to that guy and tell him to go where I tell you to put him. The guy said, ‘I can’t do that’. I said, ‘Forget it. I’ll do it myself.’”
“It’s like they’re afraid to do it or something,” says Fran, “What could go wrong?”
He wonders a little bit what will happen to the parade once he’s done with it, and wonders who will step up to be a courageous leader in general.
EUGENE S. SMITH AMERICAN LEGION POST 175
Gus is also an active and beloved member of the Eugene S. Smith American Legion Post 175 in Syosset. It was a pleasure to join them recently for a pizza party. No one there seemed entirely certain when Gus joined, but they’re pretty sure he’s always had an important title. As of now, it is Sr. Vice Commander.
Gus remembers that it was about ten years after he had joined the VFW that he approached the American Legion “At that time the two organizations weren’t very close, even though we’re right here a couple blocks away from each other. It was always, ‘this organization this and that organization that.’ I decided one day that I’d come over here and see if maybe we could get together. Since then, a lot of guys have joined me. It’s nice.”
He’s also committed to doing what he can to increase the membership of both organizations in general. Terri Squires, who serves as the Financial Officer and manages social media for the American Legion, remembers how she was recruited about 6 years ago:
She was in the parking lot of the Shop Rite in Plainview, and stopped her car to let an elderly man cross in front of her. He paused, looked at her license plate, and saluted her. He then approach the car,
“Who’s the veteran?” he asked.
“I am“ said Terri, who served as a Navy photographer and is now an event photographer and author.
“Well, in that case, you should come on down and join the American Legion.”
“How can you say ‘No’ to Gus?" Terri asked? So she said, “OK. I’ll come.”
“Gus is very straight forward. He doesn’t hold his tongue for anything and he’s a very smart, very nice man. He checks in every day to ask about his mail and is always on top of everything. I admire that,“ reflects Louisa Lola, who owns a Uniondale salon and tends bar at the Legion on Fridays, “He also has a great sense of humor. I think that takes you a long, long way.”
“Yeah,” says another post member, “Gus is dedicated, honorable….a class guy. Humble, conscientious, and he knows who he is. A great sense of humor,” the guy laughs, remembering something he does not share, “He can take a ribbing and everything else, and give it back a little bit, too. Very good demeanor...”
“He reminds me of my father,” said Louisa, “I didn’t realize it at the time, but my father was like that. Gus, just being Gus, helps me appreciate that.”
“He’s just a genuine, sweet guy. And he’s always the life of the party,” said Marilyn Urso of Homes by Mara Realty, “I mean, literally. He’s the DJ at every party we have here.”
Some are quite impressed by the range of eras and genres Gus samples from. Others think he’s perhaps a little bit heavy on the oldies. All appreciate the energy he brings.
“When the rest of us sit down, Gus and Fran get up and start dancing.”
This light-hearted Patch article talks about Gus playing the harmonica at a Labor Day Barbeque.
On a more serious note, Gus relates a story about a member who was discovered living in his van outside the post, “Two guys got together and got him into the Northport VA. Thankfully, he was able to live there.”
We lament that there are too many veterans without homes.
“It shouldn’t be that way today, though” says Fran, “They’re so updated on everything. It should never happen.”
And yet it does…
Gus remembers a guy coming up to him and asking if he was a member of the Disabled American Veterans organization.
“I’m not disabled,’ I told him. Then he asks, ‘Are you over 80 years old?’
I told him, ‘yeah.’
’Then you qualify,’ he told me.” Gus looks at me, deadpan. “Then this guy asks me, ‘Are you over 85?’
I said, ‘yeah…’
Then the guys tells me, ‘Well, then you can join for free.’
That was it,” says Gus, “I told him I was in!”
He strikes the table for emphasis, looking very pleased with himself.
When we were first tracking Gus down, it was the Boy Scouts who guided our way. They led us to a VFW fellow, who offered some very good advice:
“Gus is usually very easy to talk to and listen to. If you can, get him to speak about his experiences in the Navy and on his ship,” said the Post member, “Getting him to brag about what he does will not work for I'm sure he feels it's not all that much. He will enjoy speaking about Americanism and respect for the flag. I would suggest that you bring your son along and let Gus speak to him directly. He enjoys speaking to the youngsters whenever he can.”
He likes interacting with the Cub Scouts, "I teach them about the Flag and patriotism, and I ask questions and listen to them. I like to see what they know."
"I'm always handing out flags," says Gus, "I like giving them to children and watching them wave, and encouraging them to sing 'God Bless America.' "
Gus is a faithful attendee of every Court of Honor where a Scout achieves the highest rank, which is Eagle Scout.
“The VFW gives the kid a certificate,” he says, “and the American Legion gives a certificate, too." He shows me an American Flag pin, which he affixes to their collar, as a special badge of honor from Gus on behalf of all grateful veterans.
Usually, in Syosset, Joe Gehren will represent the VFW and Gus will represent the American Legion. If Joe, for some reason, can’t make it, Gus will wear both hats. He takes this responsibility very seriously. The Scouts appreciate it.
Here you can read a heartfelt tribute to Gus from Ed Gellender, a member of the local Theodore Roosevelt Council who has been active in Boy Scouting in Syosset for 25 years. While serving as Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 423 in Plainview, he is also the Unit Commissioner for all Cub and Boy Scouts who meet in Syosset. Ed helped to establish Troop 205 in Syosset about 10 years ago, which has already turned out more than 10 Eagles.
When we meet with Gus, he soon starts talking about another boy who has recently achieved that highest rank, and the celebration that he has been invited to. He asks if I will excuse him for a moment to call the folks responsible for those certificates, and make sure they’re going to be ready. He wants to make sure everything is just right.
"Eternal Father strong to save,
whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty ocean deep,
It's own appointed limits keep;
Oh hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
~ U.S. Navy Hymn
JOINING THE NAVY
It is fascinating to listen to Gus talk about his experience in the Service,
“I was born in 1921, and I enlisted in the Navy in 1942.”
He smiles and tells about how he was sitting on his stoop in Brooklyn when he saw a friend walking by with purpose.
“Hey, where are you going?” Gus asked him.
“To join the service!” replied his friend.
“Hey, I wanna come along!”
He jumped up and joined him. They went a ways together. Then, the friend turned.
Gus asked, “Hey, Where are you going?”
“Right here. This is where you sign up for the Marines!”
“Oh, I ain’t going there!” At this point, the friends parted ways, and Gus went on to join the arm of the service he feels he was destined for. He shows two pictures of himself side by side: One as a small child, and one as a young man. Both boys are wearing sailor suits.
“I tell you. Navy life is better than the Army or the Marines. I tell all the young fellas. If you’ve gotta join the service, join the Navy, because the Army or the Marines, they hit a beach, they’re in an invasion…a lot of them get killed right on the beach. They’re in the rain, in the snow. They eat right out of a bag or a can. In the Navy you sit at a table with a knife and a fork and spoon. Coffee. Ice Cream. You sleep in a bunk. If it’s raining, you’ve got your foul weather gear on.”
GREAT LAKES NAVAL TRAINING STATION
“You take a test called ‘The Eddy Test’,” explains Gus, “They want to see what’s appropriate; where to put you. So I put down that I wanted to be an Electrician’s Mate or a Fire Controlman, because a Fire Controlman also has to do with electricity and relays and stuff like that.
I think that they had enough Electrician’s Mates and not enough Fire Controlmen, so I became one of them.”
Gus went to Fire Control school at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in 1942.
“In Boot Camp, my job was to steel wool the buckets,” remembers Gus, ”That was, you know, you had to get the room ready for inspection, every Friday, maybe. I don’t know, I forget. All the guys did different jobs and me and this other guy were given the buckets. We had to steel wool the buckets until there wasn’t a spot on them.”
“How come you don’t do that here?” pipes in Fran.
“I don’t want to do it, but who does it?” he replies.
“You! Once I catch you, Honey!” She laughs.
So anyway, says Gus, “Me and another guy came out tops in the class. So, we were interviewed by a warrant officer, and since I told him I went to Brooklyn Technical High School and I studied electrical engineering and graduated from there, maybe that impressed him.
He said, ‘Ok, we’re going to keep you here as an instructor.’
So I stayed there for about a year and then the orders came out that anybody’s who’s been on the beach for a year has to go to sea. They assigned me to the Haynsworth.”
ONE OF THE FIRST GUYS ON THE U.S.S. HAYNSWORTH
“I was only on one ship, that ship, all my time. I was on that ship before it belonged to the Navy," explains Gus, "It was built in Carney, New Jersey.”
“When I reported to the Captain, he said to me, ‘The ship is not finished yet.’ He says, ‘go find you someplace to live because you can’t live on the ship and there’s no buildings.
I said, 'I live in Brooklyn.'
He said, ‘Go home and come back every morning.’ So I did that until they finished the ship. It was maybe three weeks or a month.
When we finally went on the ship the pilot house was too low to see over one of the gun mounts, they call it Gun Mount Number Two. So we went to the Navy yard and they raised the pilot House, with stanchions, about a foot and a half. That took about a month. When we were going from Carney New Jersey to the Brooklyn Navy Yard we were told that ship did NOT belong to the US Navy so no matter what happens, don’t do anything.
So when we got to Brooklyn, they raised the pilot house and in 1944 the rest of the Crew came on board.”
A FORWARD DEISEL DARKROOM
Gus shows me a photo, “This picture was taken in Maui in Hawaii,” what happened was there was a guy on the ship who knew how to develop pictures, and we asked the Captain for permission to use the Forward Diesel Room as a darkroom. So, him, me and another guy, whenever fellows gave us a roll of film, we developed it and we made a copy for each one of us. So we had a lot of pictures.”
“That must have been very special,” I said, “There musn’t have been a lot of guys who were able to do that at the time. I mean, now we’ve all got these cellphones and everyone’s constantly sharing pictures of everything...”
He considers a moment. “Yeah. You’re right about that. In fact, there was a guy named Marty Irons and he lives up in Vermont or New Hampshire and knew I had a lot of pictures and he drove down to my house and he interviewed me. I gave him all the pictures and he copied them and he made a book.”
There’s a continually updated website dedicated to the ship and the “several thousand sailors and officers from nearly every state in the union that served proudly aboard the USS Haynsworth DD700, during 26 years of volatile times.” There, you can find an article by Marty Irons that features Gus. More photos of Gus’ from the U.S.S. Haynsworth are here, and here. There's also another website dedicated to the Haynsworth, which was lovingly maintained by a veteran named Howard R. Doble, Jr. He served on the ship after Gus did, and also includes some of his photos.
There is a Facebook page dedicated to the 2017 book written by Irons, entitled Phalanx Against the Divine Wind, here. The book itself may be previewed and purchased here.
A FEW OLD WAR STORIES
All Right You Guys!
“In Boot Camp, I was called an Apprentice Petty Offer. Not even a Petty Officer. I had to go to each of the barracks because we had pot belly stoves and had to make sure there was no fire. So, I came into one place, lights were out, everybody was in their bunk. It’s not too late, but they were making noise and all that….I said, ‘ALL RIGHT YOU GUYS, IF YOU DON’T STOP MAKING THAT NOISE YOU’RE GONNA BE OUT ON THE GRINDER IN TWO MINUTES!”
"They shut right up!" smiles Gus, "They didn't know who I was. It was dark!”
Gus remembers Mogmog Island at Ulithi in the Marianas, “We were allowed to go on the beach for a short time, about 6 hours,” remembers Gus, “and they gave each guy a few cans of beer. On the Island there’s a thing called Ship’s Company. They’re there all the time. When we came about they had things where you could gamble. That’s what the guys were doing to make extra money...the guys on the beach. Some had bottles of booze, which we didn’t have, and they would sell it to us."
"So it was like a little vacation," I said.
“It was really the only land after we left Pearl Harbor that I saw.”
Always the DJ
Gus recalls how he used to play records over the Battle Circuit on the Haynsworth, "When General Quarters was called, everyone had to go to their battle stations. Most guys in each each crew could rest, or even sleep, but there was one guy who had to stay on 'Ready Alert.' This guy had to keep a headset with a microphone on and keep listening in case there were further orders. Nobody liked the job, because you just had to just sit there."
Each of these headsets was on the same circuit. Gus wrote to his father and asked him to send a record needle and housing. He affixed this to one of the microphones and used it to play V-Disks, which was a record label formed in 1943, specifically for U.S. Army personnel. You can read about that here.
"Once I taped the needle to the transmitter, the music went to all the guys' headphones on the circuit. After we got those records going, it became much easier to get the guys to do Ready Alert."
It worked really well until one day a voice crackled over the radio, "'WHERE IS THAT MUSIC COMING FROM?!?'" The voice belonged to an officer, "So I cut it out," says Gus, "Quick!"
We will post Gus telling his own story of when Kamikazes hit his ship, killing 12 and wounding 48 on our Facebook page beneath the newsletter featuring this article. According to the U.S.S. Haynsworth website, this was "the first of 25 more ships to be struck by kamikazes during a thirty hour period. Six were sunk, nearly 500 perished. The majority of the ships struck were destroyers or destroyer mine sweepers.
Gus emphasizes, more than once that he counts himself very lucky, “I didn’t get to see anything -- Anybody killed, or fire, or anything which I’m very happy about because I understand some of the fellows in these wars, they see things and they remember them.”
“…I understand some of the guys, well, there’s how many who died and a lot of them were wounded, and I didn’t see any of them.”
“You didn’t see any of them?”
“No, and then the ones that died, they sewed them in canvas and they were gonna bury them at sea the next day or the day later. So we were all called to go to the ceremonies. When we were starting the ceremonies, Japanese planes came around again and we all went to what is called ‘General Quarters’. Generals Quarters is our battle stations so, again, I was back in the Plotting Room. So I didn’t see anybody go in the ocean, and I’m glad I didn’t see that either.’
It wasn’t just surviving an actual attack that makes Gus feel lucky to be spared. It's well known that "The Pacific" is a funny name for an ocean that's often anything but calm:
"The destroyers are known for rocking around," remembers Gus, "They’re small. One time we took a roll, I think they said it was 60 degrees. Now, 45 is half over, and 50 is really far. But I don’t remember that actually happening. I guess that after a while you get used to holding on here and there. In the China seas before Iwo Jima, I’m not sure if it was two Destroyers or just one, but they turned over and everyone died. They turned over, and sank.”
“It sounds like, all things considered, you felt very lucky for your situation,” I remark.
“Yes. My watch station was in the main battery director, which is way up here, see it here?” He points to the photo, "I was a pointer. That was my watch station. I think they were four hour watches, I don’t remember now, some of it escapes me…but when General Quarters sounds, you go to your battle station, which for me was in the Plotting Room. I was very lucky to have to go to the Plotting Room. Because I didn’t see anything and I was sort of protected from the plane.”
“And you got to leave before the smoke got too bad…”
“Yeah, when we went out of the Plotting Room, when we opened up the hatch, because they’re all water tight, the smoke all cleared. We realized one of us was missing, so we went back in the Plotting room. We didn’t go topside.”
"And it turned out your chief had stayed behind to figure out which phone lines were working," I remembered.
“Telephone lines, yeah. There’s a switchboard in the plotting room, and he was there with a hand phone, plugging into all the holes to see what circuits weren't working and which were."
"This must have been really important," I suggested.
"Yeah, I imagine it was, because it was communication. You've gotta be able to communicate on the ship. That was Chief Hall. He was a nice guy, and a good guy. He was a regular Navy guy; in the Navy before the war.
I didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done.”
Gus says he also often gets asked if he ever fired a gun. So, we will also post him telling his story about operating the main battery. Again, he emphasizes that he’s glad he never had to see his target.
After the attack, the Haynsworth had to be repaired. By the time that happened, the War was over. Gus went home to a career with the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Corporation. as a Signal Maintainer in the Maintenance of Way Department. The ship went on to have a long, interesting life of its own, which you can read about here. It was eventually sold to Taiwan, which kept it for 25 years. Ultimately, it was sunk as an artificial reef.
Gus goes to a lot of reunions for folks who were, in one way or another, involved with the ship. In 2017, he connected with one of the men who was severely injured in the Kamikaze attack.
“He got hurt very badly. His head was, I would say, split open more or less.
He was top side, or in the radio shack, I think. We transferred him to a Battle Ship or a Carrier, because they had a hospital on there and they took care of him.”
We pause for a little bit to consider how grim that man’s future had looked way back then, and how hard it can be to foresee what might come next.
God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her,
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam.
God bless America, My home sweet home.
God bless America
My home sweet home.
~ Irving Berlin
Gus proudly wears the title of Americanism Chairman of the VFW in Nassau County.
“Every month I make a short talk, maybe 5-10 minutes on history and Presidents of the United States and things that happened the month of the meeting. I say the presidents who were born in this month, and anything I think they might find interesting. Once in a while I throw in something, like, if I was going tonight I would ask the men about how they felt about gun control and things like that.
I don’t like to just talk history because, well, they’re older guys and I don’t know how much interest they have in history. What I can say, though, is that, when I’m done talking, I’m the only guy whose report they clap for, because I make it fun, you know?”
I keep asking him what it means to him to be an American. He’s not sure what to answer. Finally, he tells me this:
“I really don’t know what to say to that, but I believe America is the best country in the world. Maybe I’m prejudiced because I’m an American. But I think we treat a lot of the foreign countries that are in trouble – we send them money, we send them food – and a lot of them don’t appreciate it unfortunately. Yeah, like we send this to this one, and that over there, and I don’t think many other countries do that.”
“We have feelings for people, you know?”
“A certain…kindness? A care?” I suggest. He nods.
“And I believe, although maybe I’m prejudiced again, I think the American soldier and sailor, anybody in the service, has compassion. When we capture somebody, I don’t think we torture them or anything like that. In fact, when we sunk 3 small ships, Patrol Boats, the guys were in the water because their ships were wood. They were all hanging on different things, floating.
We were out alongside them “One guy was shooting at them; at the Japanese. Word came down from the bridge, ‘Whoever’s shooting at the Japanese, cease firing.’ And he stopped.
We picked the guys up. Some of them, I believe, were afraid to come on board because they thought we were gonna torture them, but finally they came up. The wounded ones we took care of. We gave them a complete denims: shirt, pants, underwear, shoes, everything. And they ate what we ate. They ate a meal with us."
“They ate with you…” I say. He nods:
“The guys, some of them got friendly with them. And we didn’t have a jail on the ship, no brig, so they were in that compartment called the ‘Forward Diesel Room’. There was a hatch, and they’d be in there.
The guys would be talking to them and stuff, and I said to them – to the guys, not the prisoners, I said, ‘Yeah, go ahead. Act nice to them. Maybe one of them is going to grab a gun and go through the ship and shoot a few…'
But that didn’t happen. And when we were ready to pass the Japanese to a big ship that had a prison (they wanted prisoners so they could interrogate them and find out what was going on – and we sent them across – we sent a line across, with pulleys. And I saw as soon as they got on the other ship there was Marine guards, and they grabbed them and pulled them back.
We didn’t treat them that way. We treated them pretty good.”
And so, Gus asks, please respect the flag. You don’t have to like it. You have every right to your opinion and your experience, but, on behalf of so many good guys who gave so much for it, please treat it with respect, "I can't stand seeing anyone burn the flag," Gus notes, "That's one thing that really gets to me. If you don't like it, just leave it alone."
Maybe we're mistaken, ourselves, but it seems that the message from Gus is that we have the freedom to make what we will of this Nation, and that, yes, the grand actions of leaders and heroes are important, but it's how everyday people choose to conduct themselves that makes a difference, and that sometimes it may seem like a crazy thing to do, but doing the right thing seems to work out pretty well most of the time. Even when it doesn't, it's still the right thing to do.
So, go on out there, try to stand up straight, and make the best of whatever life hands you. Take it at least as well as you give it, and remember to laugh.
Heaven only knows what comes next. May God Bless America.
IF YOU APPRECIATED THIS, YOU MAY BE INTERESTED:
www.usshaynsworth.com is a continually updated website dedicated to the ship and the “several thousand sailors and officers from nearly every state in the union that served proudly aboard the USS Haynsworth DD700, during 26 years of volatile times.” There, you can find an article written by Marty Irons that features Gus. More photos of Gus’ from the U.S.S. Haynsworth are here, and here.
www.usshaynsworth.com is another website dedicated to the Haynsworth, which was lovingly maintained by a veteran named Howard R. Doble, Jr. He served on the ship after Gus did, and also includes some of his photos.
Phalanx Against the Divine Wind is the book written my Martin Irons, which features many of the images Gus helped develop. There is a Facebook Page here dedicated to the book. The book itself may be previewed and purchased here.
Louis Zamperini was an incredible story even before his incredible WWII story of being in a life boat on the high seas, and then being captured by the Japanese. You can learn all about him here.
A fellow from the American Legion in Syosset finds himself honored to work for Leonard Finz, another Brooklyn native who recently published his own memoirs: "The Greatest Day of My Life: A Human Interest Memoir of a 92-Year Old World War II Veteran and his Diverse Careers" It, too, is quite an adventure!
Anxious to get our hands dirty, and eager to do it in the most helpful way possible, we reached out asking folks in the know for their recommendations for Earth-and-Local-Ecology Friendly Landscaping resources. We received great responses!
Said Melissa Boo of Lomakatsi Living, "Wouldn't it be nice if your landscaping took care of itself? When we use local, native plants in our landscaping, we're working with nature instead of against it. These plants have adapted to the seasons, conditions, and soils of Long Island, so they require much less care and attention than imported or exotic species. Plus, native plants boost our homes' bioproductivity.
Plants that have evolved in our region provide valuable ecosystem services to the plants and animals in the surrounding environment - from pollination, to habitat, to rainwater management, and of course, food. Landscaping with Long Island's native plants saves you time and energy as a homeowner, and creates a beneficial ecosystem around your property."
Melissa noted that The Town of Hempstead and Town of North Hempstead have been doing a great job helping residents learn more about home sustainability. They offer discounted rain barrels, compost tumblers, and classes so homeowners can easily turn these waste products into resources (instead of a nuisance!).
Some of our favorite resources include:
The Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI), an all-volunteer cooperative effort of over 30 non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, nursery professionals, and citizens. The mission of this organization is to protect the genetic integrity and heritage of Long Island native plant populations and thus biodiversity from a landscape to genetic level, by establishing commercial sources of genetically appropriate local (ecotypic) plant materials for use in nursery, landscaping, and habitat restoration activities.
Long Island Natives is the largest source for native plants on Long Island. LI Natives is a division of Country Gardens Nursery, a wholesale nursery operation established in 1947, located on the southeastern shore of Long Island, NY.
Green Inside & Out is the website of environmental consultant, Beth Fiteni. They offer diverse consulting to help detoxify your life, including organic landscaping.
82 Sustainable Gardening Tips from Mother Earth News, "the most popular and longest-running sustainable-lifestyle magazine."
Beginner's Guide to Organic Gardening from Rodale's Organic Life, "an online handbook for living naturally in the modern world, a vivid chronicle of friendly, authoritative information about global cooking, gardening, design, wellness, and travel."
Anne Salmon from the Nature Conservancy -- Long Island Chapter offered this great resource:
PRFCT Earth PRJCT was founded in 2013 by Edwina von Gal. Perfect Earth Project is a rapidly expanding non-profit organization operating from offices in East Hampton, NY. They raise consciousness about the dangers of synthetic lawn and garden chemicals to humans, animals, and the environment, and educate homeowners and professionals about natural, PRFCT (toxin-free) techniques that provide beautiful, safe results at no extra cost.
One of our Favorite Local Farmers, Larry Foglia recommended the following:
The New England Wildflower Society sells native plants and provides quite a bit of guidance and information.
Also Look into:
Gary's Perennials - Mostly bare root material
North Creek Nurseries Mostly plugs/liners
KLT perennials 603-772-3698 Bare root fern and wildflowers from Vermont and New Hampshire.
Joyce's Perennials from McMinville Tennesse are a great resource for ferns and wildflowers
Our wandering Landscape Architect, Danielle Alexander, sent us this:
Hi, Love. I don’t have signal every day and haven’t had wireless in over a week. But since I magically have five bars...
I have always loved the classes at the Ecological Landscape Alliance. They are taught by the top professionals and have a focus on exactly what you are interested in. Their newsletter is GREAT...sign up! I went to a class two years ago at Prospect Park in Brooklyn - the material is so respected that my firm sent me there to collect new info and bring it back to the office.
I also always research my plants on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website and I’ve worked with the group on one of my projects.
Claudia West is an amazing writer on how to best structure plantings in order to produce a lush and healthy landscape. She’s absolutely the best. She has collected all the old German texts on plant spacing and layering and translated much for her work. Her new book is AMAZING but expensive and I think the first run is gone.
Love from the southernmost town on the Carretera Austral, Villa O’Higgins in Chile!
Huntington Gardener, Barbara Wildfier, offered these treasures to visit and learn from:
Go Native Long Island: Run by a group of Master Gardeners, park stewards and highly motivated Long Islanders who are concerned about the overwhelming growth of non-native invasive plants that are out-competing our native heritage and diminishing the value of our rich and complex ecosystems. All of them have a love of native plants and a passion for working to conserve and foster biodiversity both on Long Island and throughout New York State. They started this blog to share their ideas and experiences, and to create local connections.
Friends of Hempstead Plains: The Hempstead Plains is the last remnant of native prairie grassland that once covered 40,000 acres of central Nassau County. Today, as a result of commercial development only a few acres remain. The site is considered highly ecologically and historically significant. The Hempstead Plains supports populations of federally endangered and globally rare plants among its 250 different kinds of vegetation as well as several plant species that are now considered rare in New York State. It represents one of the most rapidly vanishing habitats in the world, along with scores of birds, butterflies, and other animals that are vanishing with it. Among resources, they have a page dedicated to native plants.
North Shore Land Alliance -- Shore Road Preserve: The Shore Road property is located at 95 Shore Rd. in Cold Spring Harbor on the North Shore of Long Island. This 8 acre preserve is a former ExxonMobil fueling site turned thriving grassland with shoreline. This beach is an important nesting site for horseshoe crabs.
North Shore Land Alliance -- Cordelia Hepburn Cushman Preserve: This 15.5 acre mature oak-tulip tree forest preserve on Route 25A in Oyster Bay Cove is filled with mountain laurel and pink lady’s slippers. Relatively free of invasive vegetation, it is home to a number of New York State-protected species.
Ongoing Projects at Caumsett State Park: Explore a variety of efforts to restore native plants and remove invasive species at Caumsett State Park in Lloyd Harbor.
Thank you so much to all who contributed! We love collecting and sharing great resources. Know of one we missed that you'd like to share? Email and let us know! Thanks!
by Katheryn Laible
Photographs by Raymond Homburger
Same Theme – Different Story
Ray Homburger is the kind of guy who, when winter comes, generally welcomes it with open arms and heads straight for the mountains with his skis. He has also been known to spend New Year’s helping light up the world by beating records for fireworks displays with the Grucci’s in Dubai. While this year has been very different, it, too, has been all about mountains and lights.
From December 12, 2017 until January 8, 2018, Ray worked 16 hour days, 7 days a week in the US Territory of Puerto Rico assessing the power situation.
“I volunteered to assist back in September. However, our first group for this effort for NYPA from PSEG Long Island departed in early November and I was disappointed to not be joining them. I just kind of forgot about it until they asked what I was doing for Christmas and New Years. The assignment duration also included my wife and daughter’s birthdays. Great. However… I knew they would be understanding … I hoped!”
First – A Search Party
As they were getting acclimated to the daily routine in Puerto Rico, a good friend in NY texted Ray with a request. She had a friend (a fellow teacher on L.I.) who had family in Puerto Rico, an older Aunt; a "Titi,” whom no one on the mainland had been able to reach for weeks. Cell reception is still “hit or miss” even months after the storm. He was going to be very, very busy and didn’t know if he’d be able to help, but he offered to do what he could.
GPS led him and a few crew mates to a road with the same name that the woman had given to his friend. Ray spoke very little Spanish, “I can greet people, locate the restroom, and add an ‘o’ to the end of words, which sometimes works, but that’s about as far as it goes.”
The guard of this gated community spoke no English. Still, they managed to figure out that while the street name was right, that number didn’t exist. Eventually another guard, who spoke more English, arrived. They figured out that there was another street with the same name about three miles away.
“It was a looooong three miles,” recalls Ray. “When we arrived at the second street in the same town, with the same name – there were no house numbers. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just drove down the road slowly shouting ,“Señora Cortes! Señora Cortes!’”
As luck would have it, an elderly woman walking down the street turned and said, “¿Sí?"
“Colie from Nueva York sent me. Are you ok?”
The woman burst into tears. Suddenly, the language barrier wasn’t so high. He got out of the car and gave her a great big hug.
“That was day 5. Basically, the whole month was kind of like that.”
The Relief and Recovery Effort
Ray’s service was part of The New York Power Authority (NYPA) effort. In addition to Ray’s company, PSEG Long Island, the NY Power Authority, National Grid, Con Edison, Orange & Rockland and Avongrid are involved in the NY State Damage Assessment effort. It involves approximately 28 utility workers bringing together many years of experience from across the state, who bonded over the course of their month long assignments to assist our neighbors in Puerto Rico.
“PSEG Long Island additionally contributed 50 linemen and contractor crews and vehicles, but I was part of what fell under the NYPA contribution to perform detailed damage assessment.”
“It was the 10th biggest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic. Probably the worst thing anyone’s ever seen in Puerto Rico.” This Wikipedia article offers details.
“You saw the damage after Sandy on the South Shore first hand, right? Picture that level of destruction, but across the whole island. Add in mountains, lots of simple structures, and an outdated, apparently completely unregulated electric system.” said Ray, “That’s what I saw, and I didn’t get there until months after the storm.”
He stayed in the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar. Thanks to a significant contribution from Caterpillar Generators, there was electricity and even the one working TV that Ray saw throughout his entire stay. Most folks on the island who had some generator power were using it for essentials and to help neighbors, if they could. Normally, the hotel is a popular tourist resort. Now, it has been transformed to house a continually changing cast of approximately 500 line workers, contractor crews, the Army Corp of Engineers and others.
“You learn pretty quickly to spot the ones who just got there, the ones who’ve been at it for a few weeks, and the ones who really need to go home. Great people! All of them are a little shocked.”
To do the work itself, Ray and his co-workers were given a rainbow of Jeeps, “It was cool, because people got to know us by the colors, not only that we were the guys there to help, but which guys we were. Word got around, 'The purple Jeep is from Long Island in Nueva York'”
“The vehicles were great, but often not enough. On top of the initial damage from Maria, the storm wiped out most of the vegetation in the hills. As a result, every time it rains – which was about 30 minutes to two hours almost every day – there are huge mudslides. One day you have a road. Next day…not so much. It was an adventure.”
Powering Puerto Rico
You can learn a little bit about the grid itself here, here, and here. Electricity first came to Puerto Rico as a private hydroelectric lighting system in 1893. The system of diverse local and regional companies was then unified with New Deal aspirations as one grid under the name Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority (PRWRA) in 1941. In 1979, they changed the name to Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), largely because petroleum had by then become 98% of the power source.
PREPA has never been a great system, practically or economically. Too often, it has been subject to political whims and gross mismanagement. It is plagued by debt. Island-wide power outages have occurred on several occasions. The current blackout is the worst in US history.
“It’s a big mess,” says Ray, “and without a game plan, it would stay that way. We now have a very good process in place to rebuild smartly. It breaks our hearts that these good folks still are without power, but they are very resilient, tolerant and realize it will still take a while.”
The patience and gratitude of the people of Puerto Rico is something he repeatedly comes back to. It is beyond anything he has ever experienced.
The Job at Hand
The Island was broken down into regions for grid assessment. Ray’s team focused primarily on the San Juan area, the territory’s capital and most important seaport.
The job was to start at a substation and inspect each pole site out to the end of each circuit. In an apparent effort to avoid corruption, Puerto Rico assessments must be painstakingly detailed, itemizing the state of a 50’ pole, transformer, fuses and 400’ of wire. A phone app called Theodolite enables photos to be taken with detailed GPS information on the picture to back up the claims. Given the age, and patchwork assembly of the system, notes were also made as to whether the issues at each site were storm-caused or otherwise. All of this must be fully detailed to allow FEMA to process the claims and send the required equipment to repair and rebuild the system.
Ray was well-equipped for this mission. He has extensive experience with power grids, and is happy to explain precisely how they work to anyone who takes an interest. This job was unlike anything he’d ever seen. In addition to ancient, already weather beaten equipment rendered to rubble, the system is complicated by the unregulated, piecemeal way in which it was crafted.
“On Long Island, each circuit has a pole line going from start to finish, typically with only the one unique circuit on the pole line. In Puerto Rico, often three circuits can exit on one strand of poles and branch out – wherever. You were often following the lines strictly by walking so you could remain focused as lines crossed over one another, changed attachment positions form one pole to another and then they were all down in one heap on the ground. There are places where the poles predate the concrete structures that now stand on either side – I don’t know how they’ll get them out of there, much less put new ones in! Sometimes, you can’t even see the pole because of the overgrowth”
With skill and patience, Ray’s team was able to complete their assessment of the capital city. They were then sent inland to the Caguas area in the central mountainous region. The rugged terrain multiplied the challenges of access and assessment. It was not uncommon for people to come directly down the overgrown hillsides to let the crews know they were there, where their roads and electric poles used to be, and to offer food and water to the Team members, who were not used to working in such humid conditions day in and day out.
Ray cannot overstate the power of this experience, “People say this all the time. Now, I think, I get it. We REALLY need to be so thankful for everything we have at home. The people here are so appreciative and thankful for our efforts - EVEN AFTER WE EXPLAIN it will still be a while before material and crews can get to this mountain hillside location. One circuit we were on here had 188 major damage locations. Another had 90...yet when we tell them that it may be another 6-8 weeks at best they say, ‘Thank you for helping us.’”
“I swear this will make me try to be a better person.”
A History of Giving
Ray was not exactly uncharitable to begin with. Nor was his service to Puerto Rice limited to his month of 16-hour work days. A graduate of the Leadership Huntington Class of 2013, Ray has long served Habitat for Humanity. He is also a board member of the Moonjumpers Charitable Foundation, which raises fund for children, families, war veterans and charitable and not-for-profit organizations, as well as a proud member of the Good Fellows of Suffolk County, which empowers members to make cash donations to those in need as they see fit.
Ray saw fit to offer all kinds of help. Shortly after he located the woman’s aunt, Ray and his crew mates met a stray puppy living on the grounds of a substation. They befriended “Susie” and, like they did with many of the creatures they encountered, made sure to save their leftovers so she could eat. He reached out to his cousin, Carolyn, in NY, who in turn reached out to rescue groups to find one in Puerto Rico.
The "Sato Project" has had over 1200 dog rescue requests since the storms. Ray sent in Susie's pics. Friends had to smile at Ray’s first “Christmas miracle” when, on December 23rd he proudly announced, “...guess who WAS JUST RESCUED!!!” Susie will be coming soon to Brooklyn, where her new “forever home” awaits.
Soon after that, Ray brought the generosity of the organizations he serves into play. Upon witnessing the devastation children of the Island had experienced, he and his crew mates were moved to buy all the toys from a local Walgreens store in San Juan on Christmas Day. Those following his journey on Facebook got to see him report:
“The best Christmas ever!”
“Thanks to The Good Fellows, The Moonjumpers and PSEG Long Island...we connected with a charitable org in Puerto Rico that needed help for children in a remote village near San Juan.
We just donated over $1400 worth of toys and necessities (diapers, shampoo, soaps) to provide a little merriment for our neighbors in Puerto Rico!
Merry Christmas to all our friends and family back home!
They gave some toys to families in the immediate vicinity, then entrusted the rest to the local group who promised to deliver them to places in need up in the hills. They were happy to be of service and never expected to see them again.
Flash forward to a major holiday, El Dia de los Reyes – The Day of the Kings, or Three Kings Day, which on January 6th celebrates the arrival of the wise men who followed the star to the Baby Jesus in order to present their gifts and honor the newborn King. Among other aspects of this rich celebration, this is the day when most Puerto Rican children receive their presents.
Ray and his crew were on their next to last day, working in the mountains of Caguas, when they saw Melchor (representing Europe), Gaspar (representing Arabia) and Balthazar (representing Africa) approach. They broke to witness the celebration as children and their families came out to greet them. Folks from local community groups came after, bearing toys, water and other items donated to help make a rough year a little smoother. They recognized the toys they had purchased on Christmas, joined in the celebration, and then found the local church leaders and made an additional donation to assist in providing necessities.
“Seeing the children of Caguas come up the hillside toward the Three Kings, dressed in their Sunday best, all smiles on their faces as they received small toys or a coloring book was a very happy moment. As we soon realized, the homes they were coming up from had all been severely damaged by Maria. Most roofs were blue tarps. Neighbors and families were all helping one another to exist. Small generators ran extension cords from home to home. Often, clothes pins were attached to the extension cords so they could double as clothes lines! Yet, these children seemed to not have a care in the world. As we continued our survey work, the Team was suddenly a lot quieter. We all seemed to be suffering from 'dust in our eyes' as we realized how precious life really is, and what is really important.”
Ray will show you a picture of an enormous double rainbow, the first he’d ever seen, and another of clouds that evoked images of an angel shining down upon the battered Island. His face shows a mixture of concern and gratitude for these people he got to serve, people whom he hopes don’t have get any more accustomed to living on generators amid a broken and tattered system.
He says it one more time, “It was an eye opener to see how lucky we are on Long Island and in the States in general. We don’t realize how good we have it. These people aren’t taking anything for granted, and they’re making do the best they can. They gave us so much even though they have so little and we couldn’t promise them anything but a long wait. They are so thankful for any help they can get.”
We are grateful for their spirit and appreciate all you gave them, Ray. You, and everyone else out there lending a helping hand.
You give us hope.
by Brian Carideo
For some time now, I've contemplated the stigma our society has placed on things like drug and alcohol abuse or mental health issues. On 12/12/2017 I posted "VII" (seven) as my Facebook status and many of my friends in and out of recovery seem to have understood it. After much thought, I've decided to do my part in moving toward destigmatizing these things.
Seven years ago, on December 12, 2010, after years of struggle, shame, depression, confusion, and a whole host of embarrassments, questions, and attempts to control it, I admitted to myself that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. When I reached out for help there were many hands there to take mine. People to help me make sense of my struggle, to assure me I was not a moral failure, and that there was hope for a better life.
Today, I have a life more amazing than I ever could have imagined. So much joy and love and light and happiness and fulfillment on so many levels. There are two interrelated, fundamental building blocks to this life: humility and gratitude.
Humility, for me, means staying “right sized” and maintaining a perspective on my place in this world. This translates to not thinking I know better than everyone else. It's me reminding myself that I don't know everyone else's story or what they've been through, and keeping from quick judgments of them or assumptions about their motivations.
There's another side to humility, too. It's the one that points back at me. It's me not expecting myself to be perfect all the time. It reminds me that I'm just another beautiful, wonderful, and perfectly human being stumbling through life just like everyone else. Turns out, none of us got the instruction book and we're all just making this up as we go along.
Gratitude necessarily stems from humility. When I remain humble, the sense of entitlement I used to have remains at bay and I truly cherish the wonderful life I have: amazing home life, beautiful child, a steady and secure job that pays a generous salary, a roof over my head and good, healthy food in my stomach. I no longer take these things for granted and assume I am entitled to them.
Before I got sober, I used to scoff at people that said things like, “I'm just thankful I woke up today.” Now, I get it. Every day is a gift. That's why it's called “the present.” The drinking-and-using me couldn't understand why I wasn't CEO of whatever company I was working for. Now, if someone asked me to dig ditches I'd dig the best damn ditch I could and be proud of it when I was done.
I only deserve what the Universe brings me. As I continue to do the next right thing, the Universe provides me a wonderful life.
So if you are struggling and/or think you may have a problem please ask for help. You can come to me or any number of people and one of us will talk to you. We can tell you our stories, including how we've recovered from a hopeless state of mind and show you how we've built new, amazing lives.
Asking for help is not a sign of failure or weakness; it is a sign of strength and the first step to success. This is something I know in my heart of hearts.
I also know this: You are loved.
Author: Brain Carideo
Brian is a Long Island native now living on the West Coast with his family.
By Spencer Thomas
Destin Sandlin, creator of the YouTube channel, "Smarter Every Day," is a rocketry engineer at the Redstone Arsenal. Arguably, his breakout video demonstrated the remarkable ability of chickens to keep their heads stable independent of their bodies. You can google “Inverted Pendulum” for an idea of how important a problem this is for engineers. His channel was a golden opportunity to get his children involved performing experiments and learning science by experience, while also supplementing their college funds. He also leveraged his success to help build an orphanage in Peru. His videos range from slow-motion videography of Prince Rupert’s Drops and explosions, to the mechanics of insect flight, to entomology adventures in South America.
In particular, I’d like to mention the recent Episode #182: Dominoes -- HARDCORE Mode. There’s amazing subtlety in something as simple and whimsical as a chain of falling dominoes and Destin captures it beautifully. Destin’s experience as an engineer sees a pattern, the signature of the corrections that rockets make mid-flight. Dominoes and rockets may seem unrelated, but no chain of dominoes is perfect and rockets have to fight through turbulence. We hope that our dominoes all fall in a row, and we seriously hope that our rockets don’t spiral out of control. Maybe dominoes can tell us something about stability, and studying dominoes might help us make better rockets.
This is where Destin makes an appeal for Basic Research. We don’t get some obvious economic benefit from understanding how dominoes fall, but we learn a lot in the process. There are many curiosities in the world and dozens of mysteries even in the most mundane aspects of daily life. For some, curiosity is enough. To others, these questions sound frivolous. However, we don’t always know what rewards we will reap when we empower thoughtful individuals to follow their noses and give them the freedom to explore.
History has shown that the rewards can be numerous, and sometimes fundamental. The transistor, the cornerstone of modern technology, would make no sense were it not for our understanding of quantum mechanics. The foundation of quantum mechanics was laid by scientists who were puzzled by the colors that objects glow when they get really hot (from red to white to blue). The eureka moment that solved that riddle changed everything about how we see the world at the smallest scales, and produced one of the most important technological revolutions of all time.
This is the foundation of science; dues that must be paid if we intend to advance. While the development of the transistor paid great dividends, it wasn’t remotely obvious that the specific color a hot poker glows would ever be understood as anything more than a novelty. Another example, we don’t study fruit flies because we want to develop medicine for fruit flies. We study fruit flies because their genetics are simple and easy to probe. As we improve our understanding of genetics in the abstract, we improve our capacity to provide treatments for people.
It is concerning that the US government share of basic research funding has fallen below 50% for the first time in the post-World War II era. While some of this is due to an increase in corporate investment, particularly on the part of the pharmaceutical industry, a significant part of it is because we as a nation are increasingly declining to contribute budget dollars. While the increase in private investment since 2012 is helpful, the findings of private and corporate investment are not as openly shared as public endeavors, including even basic data as to whether the research being conducted is actually basic or applied.
Basic research is not really conducive to business, at least not at the early stages that can have the greatest impact. The outcomes are too uncertain, desirable tangents are too frequent, and the timelines are too long. The risky and meandering path of basic research is often not good for business. It’s not just unrealistic to expect captains of industry to conduct this kind of research; it’s not really a fair expectation because people depend on them to ensure the bottom line and provide safe investments.
Occasionally, a singular individual arises like Elon Musk, who seems to regard profit as a means to innovation rather than the other way around. However, the ability, desire, and charisma required to make that work and bring people along is rare. People like him are important, but we cannot rely on them alone to address the issues that we face. Not only is his combination of qualities rare, we must also acknowledge that he's still very limited in what he alone will champion. The kinds of things he is trying to develop are still technologies with immediate practical application and relatively short-term monetary benefit.
This is not the pursuit for those who want to take advantage of the opportunities in the marketplace. This is the pursuit that creates those opportunities. We have to decide, as a society, if we wish to pursue them and how much we will invest. Philanthropists are important, but the truly altruistic are rare and, quite frankly, can't do everything we need alone. We still need public funding that supports the kinds of basic research that are only really feasible in universities and national labs.
MIT released a report in 2015 highlighting 15 research opportunities that could boost the US Economy. It also noted that while other nations are boasting great discoveries, our commitment has fallen from 10% of the national budget in 1968 to less than 4% in 2015. A 2014 article illustrated some of the extraordinary yields our past commitment enabled, from GPS, to the discovery of cancer cells and other medical breakthroughs, to LiquiGlide, which was named by TIME magazine as among the best inventions of 2012. From the article:
For more than 60 years, MIT and other American research universities have led the world in discovery and innovation—with benefits to the entire country—due to federal funding. This vital support, however, is now on the decline. In 1960, for example, 55 percent of MIT’s campus revenue came from federal research dollars. By 2013, it fell to 22 percent. Chisholm says the decline is disrupting the research process.
'Researchers are focusing on projects with a high probability of results, because these projects have a better chance of getting funded. What’s happening is faculty are doing safe things because they know they’ll work. They take fewer risks, but then the probability of discovering something really new and exciting goes down."
The challenges we face are great, and we will not meet them by hoping that great men will resolve them on the way to seeking their own fortunes. There are some endeavors that require us to come together and make investments into the pursuit of knowledge for the common good. Basic scientific research is one of them. From dominoes to rockets, from a quirk of light to the computer, we don't always know what we will find when we veer off the beaten path. It may seem like we’re merely taking the scenic route. However, we rarely find something truly new when we stick to the main road; the innovations that touch billions of lives lie in yet-undiscovered country.
Spencer Thomas, is a PhD candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He also happens to be Katie's brother. He studies metals at the atomic level; the way atoms are arranged in a material can change its properties. There are ways to take an ordinary metal and make it 10-100x stronger, but they return to normal over time by a process called grain growth. In his recent publication in Nature Communications, he develops a rudimentary theory, backed by simulations, for understanding the fundamental mechanisms of grain growth and what they mean for attempts to stabilize these materials. While we and many involved in the study of very small things are excited about that, here we look forward to sharing with you other things that stimulate his very sharp mind.