Town Honors Outstanding Women at Annual Pathfinder Awards

Supervisor Kate Murray and members of the Hempstead Town Board honored ten women who live or work in the Town of Hempstead for their outstanding contributions to the community at the town’s annual Pathfinder Awards ceremony Tuesday, as well as presenting a posthumous award in recognition of the dedication of a past Town of Hempstead employee.

An inspiring keynote speech was delivered by East Meadow resident Randi Shubin-Dresner, President and CEO of Island Harvest. She has taken a respected relief charity and grown it into a powerhouse philanthropic organization. Since Hurricane Sandy hit, Island Harvest has been serving a whole new population on Long Island. People who have donated to food banks and related charities in the past were added to the numbers of those being served by the organization. Randi managed this change with grace and sensitivity. “As I read our honorees biographies, I marveled at stories that demonstrated strength, intelligence, compassion and so many impressive qualities and characteristics,” said Murray. ”Several of the ladies whom we are honoring have battled adversity, risen to their individual challenges and emerged victorious.”

The winners of this prestigious award are as follows:

Arts & Entertainment: Sharna Jenkins of Baldwin has always warmed to the glare of the spotlight. Whether singing, reciting, acting or lecturing Sharna has charmed many an audience. A beautiful voice, an insightful mind and a talented hand, have inspired song, verse and script from Sharna. A book of poetry, three full screenplays, and three television shows are among Sharna’s literary achievements. In 2002, her dramatic play “Daddy’s Girl” was produced as an Off Broadway Show and performed by a renowned New York City Company. Sharna’s love of theatre is now being shared with youngsters throughout our township who enjoy her insights and instincts as she directs their portrayal of her earlier scripts. She has also created a teenage stage troupe entitled “Theater in Motion.”  The group’s 2011 portrayal of Sharna’s original work “Four Hours Equals a Lifetime” received rave reviews. A recent production of “The Hallway” impressed audiences in shows throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Proud of her heritage and her heroes, Sharna has been a prominent contributor to the Black History celebration at Molloy College in Rockville Centre.

Business: Rose Fuger and Monica Tarantino, the owners of the acclaimed “A Taste of Home Bakery” in North Bellmore are dedicated community members. The success of their bakery is recognized through the four categories in which they were named “Best of” in the Long Island Press’ 2012 Best of Long Island Awards. A Taste of Home claimed victory in best soup, best lunch deal, best dessert place and best cup of coffee categories. Those successes pale in comparison to the rewards that come with the smiles of children who walk out of the bakery holding a cookie they are given from behind the counter. While Rose and Monica’s business skills are outstanding, what is truly impressive about these two sisters is their willingness to help out wherever they can, even during some of their company’s leaner times. During the holidays, Monica and Rose run a “Joy of Giving” Program, donating a portion of all holiday proceeds to local charities including the Alzheimer’s Association of Long Island, Island Harvest and the Long Island Crisis Center. For Valentine’s Day, they have donated individual wedding cakes to Veterans and Hurricane Sandy victims who have chosen to renew their vows in Hempstead Town.

Community Affairs: If Shannon Boyle simply went to work each day and carried out her day-to-day tasks, most people would still consider her to be one of the most dedicated citizens in the Village of Hempstead. As Executive Director of New Ground, an agency that helps homeless veterans and families find housing and become independent, Shannon directly assists those less fortunate on a daily basis. But when five families placed by New Ground were forced from their homes during Hurricane Sandy, Shannon didn’t “punch out” at the end of the day – in fact, she kicked it up a notch. Shannon immediately got to work in finding housing and supplies for the displaced families, which had been living in Freeport and Long Beach. She collected so much clothing, toiletries and other items for the families that she was able to donate the surplus items to a local soup kitchen and the Salvation Army. Shannon accomplished all this while also taking care of her own family, which has been displaced from its Long Beach home for over four months.

Education: Lorraine Poppe epitomizes the educator that should be in every school across America. She has been the principal at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore for the past 18 years. Since her arrival the number of Advanced Placement Scholars has increased, Regents Diploma numbers have soared and acceptance into elite colleges and universities has become the rule. Most importantly, the spirit in the building is one of family and love. Never has this been more evident than in the days after Hurricane Sandy when Lorraine put aside her own home destruction in Long Beach to support those families of the Kennedy school community in South Bellmore and South Merrick who were affected by Sandy. With more than 80 families initially displaced and hundreds more suffering severe damage to their homes, families looked to the school for support and comfort. Lorraine helped organize a community dinner to bring people together, and assisted in the collection of clothing, food and basic supplies to help those most affected by the storm. While Lorraine has been relocated from her own home and continues to deal with insurance and FEMA issues, she never acted as a victim and never wavered in her dedication to the students, parents and staff at Kennedy by providing unrelenting support.

Health Services: For more than a quarter century, Lynn Bert has been passionate about pediatrics, constantly striving to improve ways to care for children. Lynn oversees operations of the Pediatric Unit at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside. She is on the hospital’s Safety Committee and Family Violence Committee. A trained Perinatal Bereavement Counselor, she offers support to women who have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. Lynn also extends her caring into the community through a number of innovative programs. In conjunction with the Asthma Coalition of Long Island, she helped develop a successful Pediatric Asthma Program, linking hospital departments including pharmacy, social services, home care and child life to increase awareness of Asthma prevention. Through the program, South Nassau’s Respiratory Therapy Department networks with the Asthma Coalition of Long Island and connects patients and their families with community resources. Lynn recently launched an initiative to help high-risk adolescents in crisis. Called Project HELP (Hospitals Empowering Lifelines Through Peers), this program supports the work of the Long Island Crisis Center by getting the center’s hotline number into every teenager’s cell phone. The goal is to have a Crisis Center counselor be a text message or a phone call away for a troubled teen.

High School Senior: Last summer, Natalie Thomas of Elmont went on a quest to Nicaragua. The mission was to spread her passion for knowledge. At Floral Park Memorial High School, Natalie is a top student, stars as captain of the track and field team and leads in various organizations. Natalie jumped at the opportunity to spread her passion for learning to children in need. When she joined the local “Build-On” chapter, she committed to help build a school for poverty-stricken children in a tiny Nicaraguan village with no electricity or running water. To make her pilgrimage possible, Natalie had to apply for grants, seek donations from fellow church members and organize fundraising events. Despite fighting illness, fatigue and difficult living conditions, Natalie spent her summer break digging foundations and mixing cement to build a center of learning for young children. When Natalie returned home from her trip, her quest did not end. She continues to lead her fellow students in many clubs and programs. Her role as a student representative in the school’s Shared Decision Making Committee with parents, administrators and faculty members spearheads important changes within the school community.   

Humanitarian: A banker for more than 40 years, Lois Cornibert has spent the last 25 years managing the Astoria Federal Savings in Levittown, where she has made a real investment in the local community as both a businesswoman and a volunteer. Her business acumen has advanced Lois to the role of Vice President of the Levittown Chamber of Commerce. And while Lois can be all business when it comes to the bank, she is also a humanitarian who has paid dividends to a host of community causes and activities. Lois serves on the boards of YES Community Counseling Center and the Long Island Center for Independent Living, as well as being an active member of the Levittown Kiwanis and Lions Clubs. Even the American Heart Association can bank on Lois’ humanitarian nature as she serves on the organization’s Go Red for Women Luncheon Committee and is co-chair of the American Heart “Circle of Red,” a society dedicated to women’s heart health. A role model for young people, especially young women, Lois also co-chairs the Island Trees School-to-Career program and has been instrumental in securing Astoria Federal’s funding for the initiative.

Volunteer: While Superstorm Sandy blew through our area leaving a path of devastation, Ann DeMichael of Woodmerehad the staying power to outlast the storm’s effects and help neighbors to rebuild their lives and their homes. Residents of the southwestern communities in our town were wet, cold and in the dark after the storm had leveled its wrath. Ann brought light to neighbor’s lives, literally, by fighting for power restoration with LIPA staff. Ann’s persistence with the County and FEMA brought heat to homeowners through an emergency home repair program called STEP.  And, residents who lost everything were directed to Hempstead Town food, clothing and cleaning supply distribution centers by Ann.  Her outreach to local businesses, including Trader Joe’s, Keyfood, BJ’s and The Pizza Place, paved the way for countless food drives and shipments to local community centers. She even helped to put shoes on people’s feet by contacting Steve Madden, an alumni of Lawrence High School and founder of Steve Madden footwear, to provide shoes and gift cards to families in need.  

Town of Hempstead Employee: A young Spanish-speaking Jo-Ann Delgado of Oceanside stepped in to raise a large family of siblings after her mother’s untimely death. She took her unexpected matriarchal role seriously, enrolling in night school courses to develop and improve her English language skills. A motorcycle riding Jo-Ann has steered multiple community endeavors, as a past Lieutenant Governor for New York District Kiwanis, and as an active volunteer for various charitable organizations including Toys for Tots and Children of Hope. She also kicks the popular “Bikers for Babies” into gear every year, to help promote and support the health of babies. Jo-Ann also teaches a driver’s safety courses for fellow employees and their families. She is always willing to get in the driver’s seat for a friend, colleague or even strangers. In fact, she even makes herself available to drive intoxicated people home safe to avert potential danger. Starting as a receptionist for the Town of Hempstead in 1985, she worked her way up to the title of Parks Supervisor. Jo-Ann is also an advocate for her fellow employees as a Vice President of the CSEA Local 880, which serves and represents thousands of town employees.

Posthumous Town of Hempstead Employee: The Pathfinder Award might not have been created in the image of Pat Rhodes of Rockville Centre but it sure seems that way. The Pathfinder Award for town employee reflects a woman of true distinction, a perfect blend of professionalism, personality and performance.  Strictly disciplined and supremely dedicated, Pat personified the model town employee. Stylish and strong willed, Pat was the picture of efficiency in the office of three town Supervisors. When the Office of Communications was determined to need the “Rhodes Touch” Pat quickly imparted an ethic and attitude that sharpened performance and shaped reputation. A unique blend of “no nonsense” and “life of the party,” Pat applauded a good job and appreciated a good time.  Pat wasn’t the star of the show she just ran the show. And even the stars of the show knew never to cross Pat.  After thirty plus years at Hempstead Town Hall, it’s hard to believe she’s gone, but here at town hall, her second home and second family will never forget her.

“All of our honorees are strong women,” concluded Murray. “While they may have ‘hearts of gold’ or be gentle in manner, our ladies have fought, persevered and prevailed.”