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Community Unites Against Drug Problem

Drug Free Awareness Walk Draws a Spirited Crowd

The weather failed to cooperate, but neither rain nor hail could stop the Massapequa community from coming together last Saturday to take a stand against substance abuse.

From 9 a.m. until noon, a Drug Free Awareness Walk took place at John J. Burns Park.

The day featured not just a walk, but also videos, a poster for children to make and walk with, T-shirts, sign up for a monthly email, a presentation by both a Peer Aides Coordinator and such local officials as New York State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino, Town of Oyster Bay Clerk Steven Labriola, and Village of Massapequa Park Councilman Joseph Pinto.

The day was sponsored by Drug Free Massapequa, a grassroots movement organized to eradicate illegal drug sales in the Massapequa’s and surrounding communities.

The founders of the organization are Vicky Honohan and Janice Talento, both of whom also gave presentations to those assembled.

Despite the weather, up to 150 local residents and dignitaries showed up for a grass-roots cause that has taken hold in the Massapequa’s and surrounding communities.

With the generous and full cooperation of Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, park employees contributed to the success of the walk by willingly providing a mobile unit, speaker systems, and as noted, display tables.

During their opening comments, Fuschillo, Saladino and Pinto all pledged their support to the newly formed organization.

Also on hand was Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey. Commissioner Mulvey announced a soon-to-be-publicized department endeavor to aid the Massapequa area’s fight against drug trafficking, especially heroin. Lucille Iconis, assistant superintendent of elementary education, spoke in behalf of other School District 23 walkers, including Berner Middle School Dean of Students, Don Nobile, and Aims Campus principal, Barbara Williams.

Visible for the safety of walkers were officers from the 7th Precinct and Park Safety Patrol. Local agencies and organizations, such as YES Community Counseling Center, SADD, and Peer Aides manned tables, providing literature and answering all questions.

Beginning at 10 a.m., as holiday music played through park loudspeakers, the day’s participants eagerly slashed the proverbial red ribbon, and the spirited walk around the internal perimeter of the park began.

The rain continued as participants, soaked from the experience walked toward their cars, satisfied with the importance of participating in a walk for a drug free Massapequa.

Although the walk ended early, the organizers were determined to accommodate all those who took time out from their busy weekend to participate.

 “We will wait for the last stragglers to walk for a safe, drug free Massapequa,” said Janice Talento. Which is exactly what happened. Until noon, cars continued to arrive, filled with parents, children and teenagers, unconcerned about wet clothes or soggy sneakers, but instead motivated by hope and recovery.

A Long Island Problem

This walk was held to alert local residents of all ages of the drug problem that not only Massapequa, but all of Nassau County, is facing. Prior to the event, the organizers of the walk issued a statement. “This [the drug problem] is happening all over Nassau County and Drug Free Massapequa is taking the first step and asks your help to get rid of drugs and drug dealers from our town,” it read.

The Massapequa area is being hit particularly hard by the drug problem. The Nassau County police department has issued a map of the county, and with it, a listing of heroin arrests in that entity from Jan.1 to Oct. 15 of this year. The Massapequa’s have seen 33 heroin-related arrests, while 13 such arrests have been reported in Wantagh and seven arrests in Seaford.

Such arrests tend to come in bunches. For instance, in two days, Jan. 21 and 22, there were eight heroin-related arrests in Massapequa. From Feb. 4-5, another three arrests were also made in Massapequa. From June 2-5, eight such arrests were made in Wantagh, while on Aug. 16, three heroin arrests were recorded in Seaford.

But now Drug Free Massapequa and its supporters are aiming to turn the tide and give young people alternatives to such dangerous activities.

True to their mission statement, Drug Free Massapequa founders Vicky Honohan and Janice Talento, intend to advance through public awareness, education and advocacy the transformation of Massapequa, Massapequa Park and surrounding towns into a drug free environment for the safety of our children, most especially those of middle and high school age. Visit www.drugfreemassapequa.com for upcoming events. Vicky and Janice stress the importance of donations which can be posted through their website or by mailing to Drug Free Massapequa, P. O. Box 21, Massapequa Park, New York 11762.

– Vicky Honohan and Janice Talento contributed to this article.