Unemployment down in Long Island, but hunger evident in Suffolk County

Although Long Island’s unemployment rate in September fell to 6.9 percent from 7.2 percent over a year ago, according to the New York State Department of Labor, families are still struggling to buy meals and pay monthly bills.

There were 11,300 fewer jobs in October on Long Island than the year before, the sixth straight month of year-over-year declines, according to state labor data in Newsday.

With the holiday season quickly approaching the impact of the unemployment crisis and the state of the economic recession can still be felt for those struggling families in Suffolk County, NY.

“The government can’t do it all on their own,” said Jane Bonner, 2nd District Councilwoman in the Town of Brookhaven. “These times of year people are appreciative of what they have.”

The 2nd Council District spans the North Shore of Long Island in Suffolk County from the towns of Mount Sinai, Sound Beach, Miller Place, and Wading River to parts of Ridge, Middle Island and Coram.

The St.Louis de Montfort Church located in Sound Beach, NY in Suffolk County continues to lend a helping hand in aiding families who are struggling to make it day-by-day for food and clothing.

St.Louis de Montfort Roman Catholic Church in Sound Beach, NY. Photo by Steve Cuce

“There are close to 200 families struggling for food, gas, electricity and health bills,” said Jane Guido, coordinator of the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program.

“I hope to see a decrease, but from what is going on I think I am going to see an increase.  I already see [as of late October] people are looking for help with their fuel and looking for help with their rents,” Guido said.

In October of 2011 the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program served 75 families with a total of 239 people said Guido. These figures were based on her statistics sent to Long Island Cares, which is Long Island’s first food bank and comprehensive hunger assistance organization.

St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach Office in Sound Beach, NY. Photo by Steve Cuce

“Every month we have to send Long Island Cares a statistic of how many people we serve. Now in September of 2011 we served 189 people and 192 people for August 2011,” Guido said. “We tally up how many families and we break it down to children and adults and seniors.”

Despite the decline in unemployment rate the number of families served continues to show alarming figures in 2011 for the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program.

“Certain months in the summer it was 173 people for July of 2011. Now June was 206 people. It was up a little bit,” Guido said. “It was 149 people for May. It was 175 people for April.”

In April the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program also gave an additional 94 families Easter baskets and a food bag. There were 238 people served last March.

“As you can see it varies,” Guido said. “We did 176 people, but we were closed three days in the month of January due to snowstorms.”

For the last 14 years the Sound Beach Civic Association in Miller Place, NY located in Suffolk County has been participating in a joint initiative called the “Sponsor-A-Family Drive” during the holiday season with the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program. This initiative aids families in need said Ann Moran, treasurer of the Sound Beach Civic.

“It’s wonderful they step up and do this,” said Bonner. “The best part is that it directly impacts and improves quality of life during the holiday season.”

The St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program has four main events that include Operation Bunny (Easter), Operation Backpack (Back to School), Operation Big Bird (Thanksgiving) and Operation Christmas Giving Tree.

“At Thanksgiving when people come to pick up their Thanksgiving baskets, which we give them a complete Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing, the whole dinner – at that time they fill out what we call a ‘Christmas Wish List,’ ” Guido said.

On this “Christmas Wish List” families that are suffering from unemployment write down on a small note three gifts that their children might want for every child that is 17 years and under in age. Furthermore, the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach and the Sound Beach Civic take those lists and put them onto the “Giving Tree” in the form of tags.

The town members of the Sound Beach Civic and parishioners of the St.Louis de Montfort Church pick a tag then go out and buy the items and attach the tags to the gifts. The St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach will then take the gifts and wrap them to be ready for distribution to the families.

“Last year we did two families because the Sound Beach Community didn’t have one,” Moran said. “This drive means a lot to me. We all know people hurting right now. It is our responsibility to give back.”

“The St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program has been feeding 150 families during Christmas time.”

The St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program also provides supplemental food and groceries from their food pantry. They must lean on volunteers to help provide these services.

“You figure you can help out,” said Peggy Pantozzi, volunteer at the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach. “Instead of sitting at home and doing nothing you could be here and helping out people that need your help.”

The work of the volunteers helps feed the unemployed community that is in need of help in Sound Beach, Miller Place and Mount Sinai.

“There are always people who need assistance,” said Ethal Petta, volunteer at the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach. “Many of them are not happy to have to come for it.”

“I’m 84 years old now and one of the reasons I came back was because I felt it was important to be able to do something to help out.”

The Sound Beach Civic feels their initiative to help the unemployed of Suffolk County, NY is an important cause.

“Last year we did one family that had eight adopted children,” said Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic. “We had close to $1,000 to help them.”

Player Profile: Joe Lopez

The crowd volume had been reduced to a whisper in the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex on a dark, gloomy, Oct.30 2010 afternoon as the first half was nearing a close. Cortland quarterback, Dan Pitcher, had been intercepted by Montclair State cornerback, Kevin Cloghessy, returning it 23 yards to the Cortland 25 with 39 seconds remaining. The Red Dragons trailed 9-0 as the Red Hawks looked to ice the contest on a momentum shifting defensive turnover.

“Going into the half you want to go in with some type of lead,” said senior cornerback, Joe Lopez. “As unfortunate as it was for Pitcher to throw that pick, with our defense this is what we’ve been doing all year regardless if we’re put easy or hard situations. We make plays.”

(2009 Season at West Conn via Dan Padavona)

Coming up with a big play in times of desperation is what makes up the caliber of a championship defense. Two plays into the drive coming off the Cloughessy interception, Montclair State quarterback Tom Fischer, looked to his left and decided to take a gamble by lofting a desperation heave throw to the end zone where Lopez was awaiting his pass.

“I kind of want to say it was a gift because when you look it over, the quarterback for Montclair (Tom Fischer) wasn’t even looking to my side,” said Lopez.  “They were just looking at the front side, which I consider the backside of the play to me. There was no where to throw it to, so he just wanted one last heave-ho to the end zone and I was able to make a good break on the play. It was good. I really didn’t think about it until after the game because we held them to no points and it was a momentum shift there when they could have easily settled for a field goal.”

On that Saturday, Lopez intercepted William Paterson’s Ryan Gresik returning the pass back for a 26-yard touchdown. The interception broke a school record with an interception in five straight games while adding to his total of seven on the season. It has been a magical senior season for the cornerback from Port Jeff Station, New York. Lopez as well as senior captain, Evan Wyler, were selected to the Division III Senior Bowl Classic played on December 3rd, 2010 at 7 p.m.

The Collegiate Development Football League (CDFL) presents the opportunity to showcase and recognize the best senior laden D-III football talent on a center stage during the first week of December over the last two years in Salem, Virginia. The “D-III Football Senior Classic” will bring players who represent D-III football programs, to a North vs. South format all-star format according to their official website.

Lopez described the feeling of being selected to the second annual Division III Classic, as “It’s a nice accomplishment. My parents were ecstatic. I think I got my Dad to cry over the phone when I told him. It was kind of funny and cool.”

A challenge that presents itself with being selected to the D.III Senior Bowl Classic is that the contest is player run meaning the participants of the game have to foot the costs of traveling, lodging and playing themselves. The game is also played during the D.III postseason meaning some of the players may not even play in the contest after accepting the events.

“It’s player run, so we do have to cover the fees ourselves,” said Lopez. “I’m not too worried about it; I’m trying to get some exposure and start some funding, so I can pay for some of it. It’s a great opportunity to play some of the best Division III senior football players in the country and see where I stand amongst them,” said Lopez.

The man wearing number one on the Red Dragons defense attributes the successes of his 4-year career in part due to the culture brought on by the coaching staff.

“One thing about our coaches and all our players, we do a great job of staying on task and staying focused. The biggest thing is about keeping it fun,” said Lopez. “I realized through this season being my senior year that it’s not worth playing the game unless you’re having the time of your life. All of our coaches do an amazing job keeping us out there and having fun. We’re just having the time of our lives. I’m going out there with a smile on my face. Not everyday you see football players going out there with smiles on their face.”

The Lopez family also plays a huge role in what Joe believes is the reason he has done so well as he stands at the pinnacle of his Cortland career.

“For the amount of traveling my parents do each week to come and see me a play game each week that really goes a long way. I use it as motivation,” Lopez said. “I look at them in the stands I’m just so thankful for everything they’ve done for me to be where I am. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them.”

If there is one motivation to keep in the rearview mirror that helps the senior defensive back stay calm as Cortland takes the field, Lopez thinks of a quote he read in Sports Illustrated from Mark Sanchez.

“I love the quote by Mark Sanchez in the second week of the 2010-11 season in NFL,” said Lopez.” He said ‘We’re a grown group of men playing a kids game.’ I read that somewhere. I think it was Sports Illustrated and I thought about it. I’m 21 years old and I have the opportunity to play a game that is played by kids and I’m having the time of life with it. That’s the biggest thing from my standpoint on the defensive side. We just have fun doing what we do.”

Alpha Phi Omega reaches out to Cortland Community

Alpha Phi Omega reaches out to Cortland Community

The Alpha Phi Omega fraternity collaborated with the YWCA Child Advocacy Program of Cortland on Saturday November 7th, 2009 to dedicate the Child Advocacy Center’s playroom on 19 Church Street, Cortland, NY.

The presenting of a plaque by Jeremy Jacobs to Rita Wright, which commemorated Alpha Phi Omega’s work in support of the playroom, highlighted the dedication ceremony at the Child Advocacy Center.  Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity of SUNY Cortland also donated a $200 check towards advancing the Child Advocacy Center as a whole.

Alpha Phi Omega Vice President Jeremy Jacobs (Left) presents plaque dedicated to the playroom of the Cortland Child Advocacy Center to Rita Wright. (Right) Photo by Steve Cuce

“This project has inspired the fraternity to put more effort forward on upcoming projects with the Child Advocacy Center,”  said senior Jeremy Jacobs, the Vice President of Alpha Phi Omega. “I look forward to watching the growth of the Child Advocacy Center in the years to come.”

Jeremy Jacobs has been working with Rita Wright of the YWCA Child Advocacy Program for a year overseeing the development of the playroom.

“The Child Advocacy Program is my baby,” said Rita Wright. “Children of physical and sexual abuse are going to be heard. These children will be provided with the services needed to sustain a better living. The Child Advocacy Center let’s children know there are adults out there that are more caring about their well-being as well as their safety.”

Wright is a child abuse and maltreatment professor for the Health Department at SUNY Cortland as well as a founding advisor for the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. She has been working with the YWCA of Cortland since 1988.

The YWCA of Cortland Child Advocacy Program officially opened in August 2009. The program aids service to child victims of physical and sexual abuse as well as their non-offending family members in a child friendly environment through a multidisciplinary team approach. The multidisciplinary team approach promotes intervention, coordinated investigation and collaborative action plans.

Multi-Disciplinary team members include YWCA of Cortland Aid to Victims of Violence Program, Child Protective Services of Cortland County Department of Social Services, New York State Police, Cortland City Police Department, Cortland County Sheriff and Mental Health Departments, Cortland County District Attorney’s Office, and State University of New York at Cortland Police Department.

The Child Advocacy Program offers services ranging from forensic interviews by law enforcements officers and child protective workers to medical intervention by certified professionals.

Senior Sean Dolberry is a member of the Zeta pledge class of Alpha Phi Omega that was the first group to start work on this service project for the Child Advocacy Center.

Dolberry stressed that the efforts of Alpha Phi Omega are a great opportunity to help children who are less fortunate.

“We hope to aid child abuse victims in the overcoming of physical and sexual abuse,” said Dolberry. “Our mission is to help child abuse victims realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

For more information on the YWCA of Cortland Child Advocacy Center located on 19 Church Street call (607) 753-0825 for the office line as well as (607) 423-2242 for the hotline. Child Advocacy Center office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.