Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and the town board recognized 14 extraordinary community members for contributions to their local neighborhoods at the 15th Annual "Make A Difference" Awards ceremony. In addition, Supervisor Murray posthumously honored a man from Lido Beach who was a dynamic presence in the seaside community.
"The inspirational people being honored this evening are truly the unsung heroes of our communities," said Murray. "Their selfless acts of volunteerism and leadership are true symbols of Hempstead Town and make our township such a great place to live, work and raise a family."
The honorees have all dedicated themselves to enriching the lives of others. Hundreds of nominations were received for the prestigious award. Those selected, Murray noted, have quietly carried out acts of selfless generosity for many years.
The following honorees were recognized at the November 15th ceremony:
Edward Corrado moved to East Rockaway 16 years ago, and it didn't take long for him to immerse himself in the goings-on of his small town. Ed is an East Rockaway village trustee and a member of the Knights of Columbus, Saint Raymond's Parish Council, Saint Raymond's Prayer Group, Holy Name Society, Sons of Italy, the Boy Scouts and Veterans of Foreign Wars. As a village trustee, Ed has made it his mission to preserve the suburban character of his beloved hometown. Beyond his remarkable service to so many community groups, Ed also makes a difference by driving a handicapped parishioner to St. Raymond's Church where he sits with him during services. This parishioner has no family support system, so it means the world to him that he is able to participate in church services.
For all intents and purposes, Garden City resident Tom Deierlein was a hero from the day he signed up to serve our nation in the U.S. Army. In 2006, during his deployment in Iraq, Tom was shot by a sniper. He then rehabilitated at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. But Tom did not let his battle injuries get in the way of his calling to help others. His affinity for helping children originated during his deployment, as he often handed out clothes, food, water, toys and vitamins to needy children living in the slums of Iraq and Afghanistan. After rehab, he formed the Tom Deierlein Foundation, which has raised more than $500,000 to help children in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing for 5 to 10 life-saving surgeries annually. Tom also helps his fellow Wounded Warriors, mentoring veterans and helping them brush up on job search and interview skills.
Heriberto "Tony" Giron of Freeport carries a full-time job, attends college full-time and raises a child as a single dad. He does all of this without access to a car. Tony enriches the lives of young people as a soccer coach, mentor and friend. Indeed, Tony is a beloved coach to not one, but two soccer teams in the Freeport P-A-L program. Mr. Giron's coaching abilities go beyond strategy, he instills the values of team work, sportsmanship, and most importantly, fun. Even during the summer, when the soccer league season is over, Tony can usually be found at Randall Park running free impromptu practices and training sessions for all kids, regardless of their team or skill set. The hours of life-enhancing interaction with young people are particularly important for many of the children who are from single-family homes, as well as those who can't afford expensive private sports camps.
An interest in history, a yearning for knowledge and a love of their hometown combined to inspire Franklin Square residents Kiera Grassi and Hannah Mutum to pen the story of Franklin Square from the 1600s through today. Last year in pursuit of their Girl Scout Gold Awards Kiera and Hannah volunteered to assist the Franklin Square Historical Society. The duo created a photographic survey to visually record present-day Franklin Square. The project was time consuming and all encompassing, but it provided the foundation for what became a 128-page book on the history of Franklin Square. Working closely with Paul van Wie, the president of the local historical society, the girls published a literary work that has become a great source of pride within the local community. Flip through the pages of our honorees' narrative and discover the facts of George Washington's 1790 visit to Franklin Square, the community's growth as a 19th century German speaking farm community or the creation of the first-ever credit card by the Franklin Square National Bank in the early 1950s.
Claudia Ledwith of Valley Stream takes her artistic talent and applies it as therapy for countless sick children and their families at North Shore University Hospital. In fact, she has devoted more than 1200 hours and donated numerous art supplies and toys over the past decade. As young patients sat listlessly with IVs attached to their arms, Claudia's art therapy helped them forget their troubles. In addition to drawing and sculpting, she plays games with the children and listens to their stories. During her time at North Shore, Claudia also took on a leadership position in which she coordinated the youth volunteer program and planned events. Claudia's art therapy brightens otherwise gloomy situations for children, which in turn, brings smiles to their faces and those of the concerned family members.
In 1980 Joseph and Kristine McGarry of Levittown became certified by the county to become foster parents. In the intervening 30 years, the couple has fostered more than 100 children. Many of these youngsters were born addicted to either drugs or alcohol and many were severely disabled. The McGarrys had children come to them at the tender age of two weeks old, suffering from withdrawal. The couple lovingly nursed these children through each of their issues. While Joe was working seven days a week, Kris tended to the needs of these children at home. Joe and Kristine offered each child that came into their home unconditional love and support. Many of these foster children remained a part of the McGarry clan bringing the number of family members to 3 sons, 7 daughters and 14 grandchildren. New York City Transit Police Officer Joe McGarry is also a member of the Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance (POPPA), volunteering his time as a responder to a 24-hour hotline that addresses domestic issues for other police officers. He is currently vice president of the organization. For the last 15 years, Joe also drives, picks up and visits police officers and their families when they are hospitalized. A member of the New York Shield Pipes and Drums, Joe plays the bagpipes for organizations such as the Wounded Warriors and the Widows and Children Fund.
Many people in Oceanside credit Marybeth Rein with saving the local Fast Pitch Softball League when the game appeared over several years ago. A tireless worker and a spirited supporter of girls softball, Marybeth refused to give up when the league's outlook was gloomy. Teaming up with Senior Councilman Anthony Santino, Marybeth secured the league a home base at Wright Field and than dedicated herself to all aspects of league operations including scheduling, registrations, equipment purchase, supervising umpires and of course fielding complaints from over-spirited parents. As league president, May Beth has provided the organization with great focus and direction. Under her leadership, membership has doubled to over 300 players, and success on the field has included district and state championships. Marybeth believes that good sportsmanship and fostering friendship are more important than the final score. Our honoree has built a youth program that every Oceansider can be proud of. Ten years ago the Oceanside Girls Fast Pitch Softball League hit a home run when they selected Marybeth Rein as their president. For a decade now, Marybeth has proven herself to be a champion on the field and off. Having become a pillar of the local community, Mary Beth's influence can also be seen in numerous civic activities and charitable programs.
One of Bellmore resident Susan Salem's ideas began as a seed - as many seeds, in fact - and blossomed into a 5,000-square-foot organic garden at St. Mark the Evangelist Episcopal Church, a garden that has provided half a ton of organic produce for needy residents. Susan brought this unique idea to the church last January, and in the next several months, the church received a grant from Episcopal Charities to help subsidize the cost of the garden. St. Mark's has also forged a partnership with The Long Island Council of Churches Emergency Food Pantry in Freeport, which helped distribute 1,000 pounds of organic foods to underprivileged residents. Through Susan's efforts, the garden has inspired participation from residents, local scout troops and the Bellmore-Merrick Clergy Council. Susan Salem's ingenious idea has grown into an incredible outreach program for people who need it most, making a remarkable difference in her hometown.
Whether speaking of people with special needs, the elderly or the less fortunate, Danielle Sander of Seaford is making a difference for so many, especially those who are particularly vulnerable. As the owner of All Stars Gymnastics in Levittown, Danielle has a successful business that she uses in her mission of making a difference. Danielle recently celebrated her business' 10-year anniversary by showing her appreciation to the community, hosting a free carnival in the gym's parking lot. Each day, she makes a difference in the lives of her students by teaching them the value and rewards of hard work and building up their confidence and self-esteem. Danielle hosts a Special Olympics program for children with autism at the gym, helping to increase their self confidence as well. She also adopts a family in need each year, as well as adopting a nursing home during the holidays, donating gifts for the seniors. Demonstrating her love for people and the depth of her character, Danielle donates her hair for wigs to go to cancer patients. Danielle Sander is also an active member of the community, working with the Levittown Chamber of Commerce, the Seaford-Wantagh Broncos Organization and donating to many local school fundraisers.
"Generous, helpful, kind, caring, loyal, and thoughtful, a true gentleman, these are the words used by a dozen neighbors in describing Valley Stream resident Salvatore Spinicchia. As one neighbor says, "Sal's entire adult life has been marked by service to others." For Sal, service began as a young adult, when he fought during World War II as a member of the U.S. Army and later, as a Marine, in the Korean War. Decades later, Sal still finds himself on the front lines, only this time he's helping fellow veterans, friends and neighbors in Valley Stream, New York. Sal regularly visits war veterans, particularly those who are unemployed, to educate them on the veterans programs and benefits for which they may be eligible. Sal also exemplifies the ideals of a "good neighbor." Last winter, when neighbors had a serious fire in their home, Sal - a member of the Valley Stream Fire Department - went over and fought the flames with a fire extinguisher until fire trucks arrived. Then, Sal invited the family to stay in his home until the insurance company could make arrangements for them. Sal's standard greeting to his neighbors and friends is "Let me know if I can help." And he's backed that phrase for decades, assisting veterans, friends, family, and neighbors with a helping hand.
Florence Stabile of Wantagh is 97 years young. Born into a gifted family, Florence first began her passion, playing the piano, at the tender age of seven. She studied classical music, with her style greatly influenced by Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. Now in her golden years, she maintains her status as a professional entertainer and enriches the lives of others- from school children to seniors- with her talent. As the director of music at the Bellmore and Wantagh Senior Centers, Florence is continually making a difference in the lives of our golden residents right here in the Town of Hempstead. Since 1978 Florence has been volunteering her musical talents at senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities from here on Long Island to Queens to the Florida Keys. She is a gifted artist who can perform just about any song the seniors request without having any music from which to play. She brings special memories to all those she entertains and truly makes a difference in each of their lives. And while Florence brings joy to the lives of her fellow seniors, she also educates and enthralls the young by volunteering at the North Bellmore School District's After School Cultural Arts Program.
Hempstead resident Edith Whitaker became an icon in the Hempstead School District through a remarkable career that included 12 years as a volunteer and 27 years as a full time employee. Now retired, Edith stays active in the field of education with membership in the Hempstead Retired Educators Association and the New York State Retired Educators Association. A dynamic member of her beloved hometown, Edith works diligently with the Village Beautification Committee and the local Kiwanis Club. She can often be found bringing food to the needy and providing friendship and comfort to area seniors. A deeply religious woman, Edith is a prominent member of the Union Baptist Church, practicing her faith while teaching, counseling and administrating. Today, Edith shares her charitable nature with three children and three grandchildren. Along with her family, she still aspires to help wherever and whenever she can.
Mark Dirolf (posthumous award): When Mark Dirolf was taken from us in April, he left behind a legacy in the Lido Dunes community. Mark proudly served as president of the Lido Beach Civic Association until his final days, when he lost his courageous bout with a terminal illness. During his 15 years as president of the Lido Beach Civic Association, and 25 years as a member of the board, Mark worked tirelessly with neighbors and local elected officials to ensure that the needs of the Lido Dunes community were effectively addressed. When he was not advocating for his community, Mark owned a business as an insurance adjuster and was active within the local business community. He also served as a Boy Scout troop leader and as a council member for two churches and he was active in the Point Lookout Fisherman's Club.
"Our award recipients do not seek recognition, expect rewards or even look for a simple thank you. These special people just care. They care for their neighbors, their colleagues, their friends, their families and their communities," concluded Murray. "Tonight we are personally thanking them for making the world a better place."