Thank You for Making the Veterans’ Holidays Brighter

December 3rd was a day to grant wishes, the wishes of veterans who have bravely served our country and are now residing or receiving treatment at the Northport VA Medical Center.  The Manhasset American Legion Auxiliary asked for assistance to make it a joyous holiday for our veterans and the help came in abundance.

Boy Scouts from Troop 97 and Pack 101 and Girl Scouts from Troops 527, 545, and 556 sat in the cold outside of Raindew which willingly supported the effort to provide our veterans with a memorable holiday season.  Manager John Hults said, “We can never forget them and we’re proud to support our local veterans.”  The Scouts made signs requesting monetary donations that would be used to purchase items on the “Veterans’ Wish List” and greeted each customer as they informed them of the project.

While that was happening, other Scouts, students, and American Legion Auxiliary and community members were in the American Legion Hall writing Christmas cards and making paper doily angels to adorn the packages.  Donations of toiletries, new clothing and Christmas ornaments arrived so volunteers began the long process of categorizing articles and putting clothing in size order.  Care to Knit donated a dozen handmade lap robes.  Local dentists, Dr. Harvey Passes and Dr. Steven Kornhaber, donated hundreds of toothbrushes, boxes of toothpaste, Polident and various dental hygiene products.  Our young volunteers made individual packages of these and the toiletries.

Everyone was introduced to an organization that was familiar to some but is now known to many more, Ace in the Hole Foundation.  Just before Thanksgiving, American Legion Auxiliary President, Pat O’Brien, received a call from Greg LiCalzi, Jr., President of Ace in the Hole Foundation, inquiring about the mission of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary.  After a lengthy discussion, both realized that their organizations had many common goals.  Greg and his Dad, also Greg, founded the Ace in the Hole Foundation following the death of Greg’s twin brother, Mike.  1st LT Michael LiCalzi USMC lost his life in May 2006 while serving our country in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Mike was a member of the 2d Tank Battalion, 2d Marine Division.  The Battalion’s slogan is “Ace in the Hole.”  Greg and his Dad decided to turn their grief into a tribute to Mike’s bravery and sacrifice and to assist others through their charitable organization, Ace in the Hole Foundation.  On “Giving Tuesday,” just prior to the collection on December 3rd, Greg, Jr. sent a message to the Foundation’s followers asking for donations.  The response was tremendous and Greg took the donations, shopped, and provided more than $900 of items on the “Wish List” for the veterans.  They also visited the Scouts at Raindew and gave them each a medal to remember Mike and to thank them for the work they were doing that day.  They did the same for everyone working at the Legion Hall.  Our youth experienced firsthand, up close and personally, the message that we have all been trying to teach, “Freedom is not free.”

As the day continued, the generosity of the Manhasset community increased.  The donations were immediately turned into items on the “Wish List.”  The staff at Raindew showed amazing patience as they helped search for the veterans’ requests and as items worth many hundreds of dollars were paid for with dollar bills and change!  The elves were busily wrapping at the Legion Hall and it became apparent that additional days were needed both to finish shopping and to complete the wrapping.  Manhasset’s youth and American Legion Auxiliary members remained undaunted and willingly agreed to come back on two other occasions to complete the task.

When finished, 193 individual gift bags had been prepared for our veterans.  There were many boxes of toiletries and decorations remaining which were also donated.  The gifts were valued at more than $5,000.  Three SUVs were filled on December 19th with only enough remaining room in each for the driver.  When the little caravan reached the Northport VA Medical Center, the volunteers were greeted with hugs and looks of total amazement.  There were actually tears in the eyes of the staff accepting the donations.  It was extremely heartwarming that they were tears of joy in a location where tears are too often shed in sorrow.  Santa and his helpers arrived the next day to distribute to the veterans these and all the other generous donations that had been received from all over Long Island.

Thank you to each of you who contributed to such a huge outpouring of support for our men and women who have served our great country with no thought of self.  May you be blessed a hundredfold as we begin a new year.

Members and friends write cards for our Veterans

Members and friends write cards for our Veterans

More members writing cards

More members writing cards

Angel makers

Angel makers

An Angel for every gift bag

An Angel for every gift bag

Greg LiCalzi and Greg LiCalzi, Jr., founders of Ace in the Hole, dropped off many donations that were courtesy of their followers

Greg LiCalzi and Greg LiCalzi, Jr., founders of Ace in the Hole, dropped off many donations that were courtesy of their followers

Thanks again

Thanks again

There are so many thank yous to be given to all

There are so many thank yous to be given to all

Greg and Greg, Jr. presented Ace in the Hole medals to all who assisted

Greg and Greg, Jr. presented Ace in the Hole medals to all who assisted

Thanks to our Boy Scouts

Thanks to our Boy Scouts

Our Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and Junior Auxiliary members sought contributions all day from Raindew customers

Our Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and Junior Auxiliary members sought contributions all day from Raindew customers

Thank you for sitting in the cold to make our Veterans feel the warmth of kindness

Thank you for sitting in the cold to make our Veterans feel the warmth of kindness

Thank you for your donations

Thank you for your donations

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thanks to the generosity of our Community and the management of Raindew, we filled many carts for our Veterans

Thanks to the generosity of our Community and the management of Raindew, we filled many carts for our Veterans

More carts are filled

More carts are filled

Each gift was wrapped with care

Each gift was wrapped with care

Wrappers busily at work

Wrappers busily at work

A view of what was accomplished

A view of what was accomplished

More gifts

More gifts

And still more gifts!

And still more gifts!

Time to transport everything

Time to transport everything

The halls of the Northport VA Voluntary Services Department were filled with the donations for our Veterans

The halls of the Northport VA Voluntary Services Department were filled with the donations for our Veterans

Santa and his helpers had much to do when our gifts were delivered

Santa and his helpers had much to do when our gifts were delivered

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Holiday Luncheon

Manhasset Unit 304 held its annual holiday luncheon at the Jolly Fisherman on December  9.  In addition to enjoying the delicious food and splendid company, the Unit continued what has also become an annual tradition.  Corresponding Secretary Anne Hedberg shopped for and packaged children’s gloves/mittens, hats and scarfs.  Members purchased the gift packages, prepared cards for each and the gifts were then delivered to the Northport VA Medical Center for the children of our active military and returning veterans.  Thanks to everyone for another great year!

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Members Assist at the Gift Shop for Veterans

Front - second from the right: Elizabeth Parrella at the Gift Shop with other members of the Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary

Front – second from the right: Elizabeth Parrella at the Gift Shop with other members of the Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary

The Nassau County Committee of the American Legion Auxiliary sponsors an annual Gift Shop for veterans at the Northport VA Medical Center.  The veterans are offered items from which to select holiday gifts for family members.  This year they also received gifts for themselves.  The Gift Shop took place during the last week of November.  Vice President and Treasurer, Elizabeth Parrella attended the Gift Shop.   She helped to set up the room, sort items, fold clothing and cut wrapping paper in preparation for the selection/distribution of gifts for the veterans.  In addition, she donated Christmas cards that were used by the veterans for their family.  Thank you, Elizabeth, for spreading holiday cheer to those who have given so much for our great nation!

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Members Assist at Veterans’ Stand Down

Elizabeth Parrella and Carol-Anne Condon spent Tuesday, November 22nd, at the Freeport Armory assisting our struggling and homeless veterans.  Manhasset Unit 304 purchased new clothing items for the veterans and Elizabeth and Carol-Anne helped our veterans choose from a large selection of donated items for the winter.  The veterans also received information from the VA Medical Center, the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency and various other organizations providing information, assistance and, hopefully, opportunities for future employment.  The veterans enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast prior to departing.

Thanks, Elizabeth and Carol-Anne for giving so freely of your time!

 

Carol-Anne Condon and Vice President and Treasurer, Elizabeth Parrella

Carol-Anne Condon and Vice President and Treasurer, Elizabeth Parrella

Past Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary President Mary Hansen-Sterger with Elizabeth Parrella

Past Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary President Mary Hansen-Sterger with Elizabeth Parrella

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Junior American Legion Auxiliary Member, Lauren Moschitta, Speaks at Meeting

On Wednesday, November 16, Junior American Legion Auxiliary member, Lauren Moschitta, served as Guest Speaker at the Manhasset Unit 304 meeting.  Her topic was the work being performed by Sister Rita Giaretta, a Catholic Ursuline Sister, who supports young women escaping from impoverished areas within Africa and the Middle East in search of a better life, only to become the victims of abusive human sex trafficking.

After reading about Sister Rita in a Sunday New York Times article, Lauren performed months of research and communicated back and forth via email and post with Sister Rita in her safe house in Caserta, Italy. Arrangements were made for Lauren to visit Casa Rut, the safe house, and she did so in August.

The week-long visit allowed Lauren to enter their home and their lives.  She viewed firsthand the struggles the young women face and the hope that has been given to them by Sister Rita.  Sister Rita provides for their bodily needs but also educates their minds and helps them to escape the abuse through productive work that allows them to establish themselves economically.

Lauren spoke of the struggles Sister Rita has faced in assisting the women, including her battles with the mafia.  Sister Rita’s work has been blessed by Pope Francis who is a major advocate for the poor and abused.

Sister Rita has a website (http://www.coop-newhope.it/) that is accessible in the United States and that promotes the products produced by the young women she is helping. You may need a translator for the words but the products are self explanatory!

Lauren returned home, spent time as an intern in a court house and resolved to become an attorney whose primary work is advocating for abused women and children.  With a little push, we may be able to have Lauren take her presentation “on the road” in Manhasset to increase the level of understanding within our community of  a very serious issue and to remind ourselves how important it is to protect our youth.

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Veterans Honored

Manhasset American Legion Auxiliary Unit 304 was proud to join American Legion Post 304 in its annual Veterans Day Parade and ceremony.  Members of the American Legion were escorted in their Parade from the Post and along Plandome Road to Mary Jane Davies Park by the Nassau County Police.  Local Boy Scout and Girl Scouts Troops, as well as members of the Manhasset community, also joined in the solemn ceremony. Chaplain James Sharkey led us in an opening prayer.  Legionnaire Tom Buzzitta raised the American Flag as Taps was played by a Manhasset High School student. Commander Killian reminded everyone of the sacrifices made by our veterans and cited several examples of veterans whose service and lives were particularly poignant on this day.  A wreath was placed in front of the Memorial and Catherine Lau led us all in the singing of both the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America.  Commander Killian graciously invited everyone back to the Post for refreshments and pizza.  The Girl Scouts presented the veterans with homemade cards and cookies to thank them for their service to our great nation.

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Two New Officers Installed and Empire Girls State Citizens Address Membership

The September meeting of Manhasset Unit 304 of the American Legion Auxiliary included the installation of two Officers.  Alice Guariglia became the new recording Secretary and Anne Hedberg continued in her position as Corresponding Secretary.  The membership is grateful to them and the other officers of Unit 304 (who were installed in June) for their contributions to the American Legion Auxiliary’s objective of assisting veterans, active military and their families.

In addition to the officer installation, the meeting featured presentations by three very enthusiastic Empire Girls State citizens from our Manhasset schools who were sponsored for the program by Manhasset Unit 304.  Their families also attended the meeting.  Julia Greco of Saint Mary’s High School and Emma Fleishman and Lauren Moschitta of Manhasset High School each spoke of what they considered to have been a life-changing experience.  They met other young women from all over New York State, many with completely different backgrounds from their own.  Some even lived on farms and in rural settings (very different from Manhasset) but, regardless of lifestyles, they all had some very important things in common – a love of learning and a great desire to understand our two-party system, the legislative process and other aspects of the inner workings of government.  Our three citizens from Manhasset ran for offices in their fictitious 51st state and met with success, even if it took several tries.

Julia Greco was elected District Attorney of her county.  She also served on the Homeland Security committee for her party.  She spoke of how moved she was by a presentation by one of our veterans, and how it has motivated her to form a club at St. Mary’s to write letters to our veterans and our troops serving overseas.

Emma Fleishman ran for the offices of county senator and Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, and she was elected to both positions.  She spoke of the comradery she experienced at Empire Girls State, and how the knowledge gained there made her a better citizen.  She was very committed to informing other students about the program and the benefits she gained from it.

Lauren Moschitta served on the Platform Committee for her party, and was elected Commissioner of Environmental Conservation for her county.  She talked about how hard everyone worked, staying up late to prepare campaigns.  She also said that she learned a great deal and that the presentations she made helped to improve her public speaking abilities.

In addition to campaigning for office, they learned how to prepare Bills and to present them before more than 300 peers.  They mentioned the level of self-confidence this helped them achieve and the desire they now had to participate positively in government at different levels.  They also learned about respect for the American flag and the contributions made by our veterans.  They sincere gratitude for the opportunity and their desire to spread the word about the program.  They summed it up as “AWESOME!”

On leaving they were tasked with continuing to learn about our nation and its issues, to educate themselves before they mark their future ballots and to vote at every opportunity, regardless of how small the election.

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Left to Right: President Pat O’Brien, Chaplain Florence Parrella, newly installed Corresponding Secretary Anne Hedberg, newly installed Recording Secretary Alice Guariglia and Vice President and Treasurer Elizabeth Parrella

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Left to Right: President Pat O’Brien, Julia Greco of St. Mary’s High School, Emma Fleishman of Manhasset High School, Vice President and Treasurer Elizabeth Parrella and Lauren Moschitta of Manhasset High School.

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Emma Fleishman addresses Unit 304

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Julia Greco addresses Unit 304

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Lauren Moschitta addresses Unit 304

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Manhasset Unit 304 Mourns the Loss of Betty O’Connor

Mary Elizabeth O’Connor was a devoted member and a cherished friend to many of us.  She served as the Chaplain of our Unit for many years .  She was the mother of 6, the grandmother of 18 and the great grandmother of 10 children.  Betty loved her God, her family, her community and her country.

Betty joined our Unit in 1996 and was presented with her  20-Year Certificate at our luncheon in June.  The Certificate was not a recognition just of time spent, but rather of time well spent.  Betty attended all of our meetings and always shared in the fun at an Oktoberfest, a BINGO night and a St. Patrick’s Day party.  She supported our veterans and our active military through her participation in all of our fundraisers and always voted yes when it came to designating funds for them.  Until this year, she helped us obtain donations for Poppies at the side door of St. Mary’s.  She participated in the Veterans’ Day Parades, the Memorial Day Services and the Memorial Day Parades and award ceremonies.

Betty was a teacher at Shelter Rock School for 23 years and retired just prior to the loss of her beloved husband, Gene.  Betty certainly gave back to the community she loved, not only as a teacher, but also as a former Board member of the Manhasset Community Club.  Her love for St. Mary’s led her to become a Eucharistic Minister and a member of the Rosary Society and the Social Ministry.  She was one of the founders of a bereavement program and FOCUS or Friends Offering Care, Understanding and Support to those who were divorced, single or widowed.  She visited the home-bound and the sick at North Shore Hospital and St. Francis Hospital.  Betty thoroughly enjoyed the North Hempstead Country Club and often invited friends to join her for lunch or a special celebration.  She could often be found enjoying a game of Bridge at the home of a friend.

Betty’s spirit will always remain with us in the American Legion Auxiliary and will surely continue to be a positive force for good within St. Mary’s.

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President Patricia O’Brien Honored by Nassau County

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announced that Patricia O’Brien is Nassau County’s 2016 “Senior Woman of the Year.”  Pat was presented an award at the 42nd Annual May Conference in observance of Older Americans Month on May 19th at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale.  Pat represented Nassau County in Albany at the 2016 Senior Citizens Day Recognition Event  Ceremony on May 10th.

County Executive Mangano said, “It is my distinct honor to present Patricia as Nassau County’s 2016 Senior Citizen “Woman of the Year.”  Her dedication to homeless and struggling Long Island veterans, children of veterans and active duty military in war zones truly illustrates why Patricia is deserving of the recognition accorded to her.”

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County Executive Mangano with Pat and Donald O’Brien

Group Photo

L to R: 2016 Ms. New York Delores Hofman; Victoria Meyerhoefer, Director, Nassau County Office for the Aging;  2016 Senior Man of the Year Joseph Borelli; County Executive Edward Mangano; 2016 Senior Woman of the Year Patricia O’Brien; Lisa A. Murphy, Commissioner, Nassau County Department of Human Services; John Cochran, Assistant Director of the Executive Division, New York State Office for the Aging 

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Members of American Legion Post 304 Celebrated with Pat and Donald

Pat and Ladies

Linda Clarke, Pat O’Brien, Ann Marie Moschitta, Anja D’Angelo, Liz Miller

 

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Unit 304 Recognizes Three Outstanding Youth

Unit 304 recognized three members of our youth community for the good works they perform related to the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary.  Each received a Certificate of Appreciation and a gift card to Amazon.  Their family members also attended our Unit meeting on April 20th where we had a special cake and other refreshments for all.

Each of the students individually approached us and told us what they were able to do to assist us, if we wanted their help.  All of them succeeded in their efforts for us. 

Our senior awardee was one of our Empire Girls State citizens last year and also our Poppy Queen in the Memorial Day Parade.  Julia Henry spoke with the advisor of her Social Studies Honor Society and asked for approval to have the members help obtain items for our troops in Afghanistan.  She planned an afternoon at Raindew with the members.  They made flyers, set up tables to collect items and stayed at Raindew soliciting the support of customers for our military.  Some people shopped at Raindew and donated items.  Others made monetary donations.  The Honor Society used the donations to shop at Raindew for items on the list.  They then wheeled shopping carts full of supplies to the American Legion hall and helped to pack them for mailing.  They filled at least 20 boxes.

Our junior awardee helped at several of our collection drives and packing marathons for our troops in Afghanistan.  When Lauren Moschitta heard about the November standdown, she came up with a plan to have a clothing drive.  She prepared a “Letter to the Editor” for the Manhasset Press announcing the drive, produced a flyer, and set up donation sites.  She also spoke with the manager of Raindew who donated many new warm items.  She collected 276 articles of warm clothing with a value of approximately $2,825.  She then packed up the items with the assistance of her family and two unit members and donated the clothing to us for distribution at the standdown in November.  She also followed up with a thank you letter that appeared in the Manhasset Press.

Our sophomore awardee has taken our Unit into this century because of his technological expertise.  Daniel Miller asked if we would like to have our own website.  So we began to work on it together at his home.  We spent many nights around the dining room table so there is a piece of each member of his family in the final product.  He was a great architect for the website.  He gave us a living website that allows us to add to it with each new event or project that we undertake.  It actually serves as a history of our year.  We thank Dan for bringing us into the present technologically and for giving us a platform to help the community understand our commitment to veterans, God and country.

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Vice President Elizabeth Parrella (L) and President Pat O'Brien (R) with Julia Henry

Lauren Moschitta

Daniel Miller

 

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