Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi, email@example.com Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00
Abby and George O’Neill greeted their Garden Party guests in front of a old fashioned carriage decorated with balloons at their annual Memorial Day weekend fundraiser for the Community Foundation of Oyster Bay-East Norwich (CF) on Sunday, May 26. “We’ve been very lucky with the weather over the years,” said Abby O’Neill.
Joseph Donohue, CF Board President mentioned the weather too, as he welcomed guests thanking the O’Neill family for their generosity and adding, “They have magical powers over the weather.” It rang true in that it was once again an exceptional day of meeting friends, neighbors and supporters of all things Oyster Bay on the day that officially starts the summer season.
Once again, Helen and Charles Dolan and the Dolan Foundation underwrote the expenses of the garden party.
“We like the yield,” said Donohue. He thanked Leslie Armstrong and Rose Russo, “The unsung heroes of the Community Foundation. Events like this don’t just happen without lots of work from Leslie and Rose and the committee members.”
He reminded people that last year he told them that all the canned goods guests brought as donations were consumed within two miles of the O’Neill’s beautiful garden party location as he spoke about the CF’s mission. It began in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty and appointed Sargeant Shriver, as its director. Shriver vowed to help disadvantaged students and in NYS, they parsed Oyster Bay as the perfect location for the work but only if a legal entity was the touch point. That was when George and Abby stepped in and started the Community Foundation in 1965, with a board that was committed to a long running program, in perpetuity.
Donohue said in two years they will be celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary. He said it first focused on low-income housing; then senior citizen programs to help them remain vital. Then there were issues of drug and alcohol abuse that impacted the community that needed to be addressed.
To fund the groups the CF supports, in 2012, they raised $200,000 of which $285,000 was used to support several local groups. The Community foundation supports seven local groups including: The Youth & Family Counseling Agency of OB-EN, and their Horizon Bullock program; the Life Enrichment Center; the Hispano Centro Cultural; the Main Street Association of OB; the Parent Home Child Program; the WaterFront Center, which gets a grant to use as they wish, and the BOB program, now known as the YFCA Summer Experience.
Donohue acknowledged the heads of several of those organizations, including the Youth & Family Counseling Agency of OB-EN, and Barbara Rakusin saying, “We are joined at the hip since the beginning.” He also mentioned Sylvana Gullo, executive director of the Life Enrichment Center of Oyster Bay LEC; and Adolfo Zepeda, program coordinator of the Hispanic Centro Cultural: both groups that receive CF funding.
He also acknowledged Dave Waldo, WFC executive director who has provided marine education programs. Donohue said he was not sure there is an organization in the US that does more with less — and does incredible things. “The Community Foundation funds organizations that make Oyster Bay better.”
To fund the groups there is the official annual appeal and the garden party. He said that those events needed to raise $200,000 — “and with your help, and this blue sky, it seems we can get there.”
The First Hire
Barbara Rakusin, YFCA executive director told friends that Shirlee Gerstein retired from the agency on May 1, after 45 years on the job. She was the first person hired in the new organization. “She just thought it was time,” said Rakusin.
Gerstein was a key employee working in her capacity to keep anonymity as the key to helping people. She compiled the list for recipients of the annual Holiday Sharing Programs for the community outreach. She knew the needs of community members and knew who to go to, to fulfill those needs.
“We honored her by developing the Shirlee Gerstein Fund for Children and will use it to fun various needs for children in the community. Shirlee was all about the children and meeting their needs. Shirlee was so excited about the new fund, so we are glad we did it,” shared Rakusin.
The WaterFront Center has experienced an aftermath to Hurricane Sandy: their annual Bay Day event held at Beekman Beach, had to be cancelled. It is a day of marine education and includes free rides in Kayaks and on the oyster sloop Christeen. It was additionally disappointing Waldo commented in that Newsday was going to name the event one of the top 50 events of the summer, that would have brought people to the outdoor celebration of the Oyster Bay marine environment. Nassau County is using the Beekman Beach parking lot as a staging area for the work being done on West Shore Road. “They were to use half the parking lot in the original deal. There was a fence and they were to work west of it,” he said.
Unfortunately the work has spread out to fill up the field.
“It’s an emergency and everyone understands. There is a need to get the road done,” Waldo asserted.
Amidst all the controversy about using West Shore Road as a bike trail, Patricia Sands said that Derrick Nobman has come up with a solution. He has organized a trail bike club that rides from Oyster Bay to Bayville at low tide. He is teaching everyone how to ride. He sells the large wheel bikes at Nobman’s Hardware Emporium and it is taking off. He still maintains his hardware business in the store located on the corner of South Street and East Main Street. “Tell him I told you,” she added.
The education of local youth is always a welcome topic of conversation and this reporter learned that the daughter of James and Leslie Armstrong, Hilary, has a Ph.D in epidemiology from Columbia University and is a cardio-vascular exercise physiologist working at Columbia Medical Center on a full time basis.
Richard and Anita MacDougall shared that their daughter, Marie is studying Medieval Nordic Studies in Reykjavik, Iceland. They were chatting with Andy Cohen of London whose daughter is an archeologist working for the National Trust restoring the Knole mansion, which has 365 rooms: one for each day of the year.
Donations to the CF of OBEN are always welcome and can be mailed to: Community Foundation, 200 Sunset Road, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.