Fall Fundraiser

Our Fall Fundraiser was a huge success! We raised both money and awareness of Literacy Suffolk’s mission.  It was great seeing our old friends again and connecting with new ones! It was exciting and quite emotional when the first annual Supporting Partnership, Outstanding Volunteer, and Steve Moll Memorial awards were respectively presented to The Suffolk Regional OTB, Rosemarie Jabour, and Robert Margolin.

Literacy Suffolk would like to thank our sponsors, Sons of Norway Norden Lodge 3-407 and the Lighthouse Energy Partners in addition to all of the attendees and donors for their generosity and support.  A huge thank you to the following Suffolk County establishments that donated the delicious food!

  • Bobbique – Patchogue
  • Del Fuego – Patchogue
  • Dolci Momenti Bakery- Patchogue
  • El Matador -North Patchogue
  • Empanadaville, Mastic Beach
  • Gallo- Patchogue
  • James Joyce – Patchogue
  • Karvers – Holbrook
  • Sonoma Grill – Holtsville
  • Starbucks – Patchogue
  • The Meetball Place, Patchogue
  • Zans Kosher Deli, Lake Grove

We enjoyed and danced to music provided by the East End Trio. Lots of raffle winners went home happy. A special thank you to the staff at 89 North Music Venue for all their help and support. We’re already planning for next year!

Marvin Avendano on how Literacy Suffolk helped him become a U.S. citizen

student and tutor

“Being able to work with Lucille [his Literacy Suffolk tutor] has given me the chance to not only learn English but to study for my citizenship test for the last two years….I am lucky because I found the program in the library because I didn’t have any idea when I came to the U.S about how I was going to learn English. I used to go to the library to get answers to my questions about how to make my life better here for my son and myself….

“Literacy Suffolk introduced to me a good teacher who now feels like a friend, who has not only taught me English but helps me to learn what I have to do concerning other things in this culture. 

“I really enjoyed the Oath Ceremony. The judge told stories about his life and his family coming to this country from Italy….Also, the judge invited a 92-year-old veteran to the ceremony. This veteran also came from another country and wanted to welcome new citizens….

“I felt so great when we said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. When the ceremony was done, I saw my boss, his son, and Lucille. It felt so great that 

student and tutor

they came to support me. I felt so proud to have my picture taken in front of the flag now that I am a new citizen of this country. Thank you again for everything.”

Literacy Suffolk celebrates its tutors and other volunteers

tutor recognition breakfast

The personal rewards of being a Literacy Suffolk tutor are nearly as varied as the volunteers themselves. 

For Mary Ellen Smith of Holbrook, a retired pediatric ICU nurse, tutoring was a way to become a teacher like her mother without having to stand up in front of a class. 

For Margaret Moore of Smithtown, a retired teacher, tutoring provides an opportunity to create her own curriculum “to meet student’s goals about what they want to learn.” 

And for Wendy Dann of Patchogue, developing a friendship with one of her students and a deeper understanding of the country and culture she came from was an unexpected benefit.

The motivation to work one-on-one with adults determined to improve their English skills, however, is remarkably similar. Tutors want meaningful work that directly improves people’s lives. 

On Tuesday, April 26, Literacy Suffolk recognized the generous spirit of its tutors during a Volunteer Recognition Breakfast at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport. 

“Tutors are the heart and soul of Literacy Suffolk,” said Board Member Amber Gagliardi of Center Moriches, who organized the breakfast with Executive Director Susan Shiloni of Medford and other staff members. 

Literacy Suffolk and the New Normal

More than 60 people–from librarians and representatives from partner organizations like SEPA Mujer and CARECEN, organizations that empower immigrants, to donors like Suffolk OTB and tutors themselves–attended the breakfast. 

Ms. Shiloni praised the more than 100 tutors who worked through the pandemic by adapting their lessons to Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, and other virtual technologies. These tutors not only helped their students improve their English language skills, they helped students cope with the often devastating consequences of the pandemic, including lost jobs and food insecurity

With the growing opportunity for tutoring in person again, the number of Literacy Suffolk tutors is growing but still considerably less than before the pandemic. The result is 300 adults are waiting to be tutored. Ms. Gagliardi urged librarians to promote Literacy Suffolk and for everyone to talk to friends and neighbors about becoming a Literacy Suffolk volunteer.

Literacy Suffolk will soon offer a live remote workshop for new tutors that will make training more convenient and engaging.

Literacy Suffolk Works 

During the past three years, Ms. Shiloni noted 10 Literacy Suffolk “graduates” became U.S. citizens. In conversations over breakfast, tutors discussed other student milestones that inspired them as tutors. 

“It’s exciting when we reach the level of having a conversation,” said Judy Schwing of Kings Park, who began tutoring during the pandemic. 

Grace Werner of Dix Hills, who has tutored about a dozen students since she started in 2006, showed pictures of a student’s four daughters, two of whom are now in college. Learning English was imperative for this mother, Ms. Werner said, because “she wanted to be an effective advocate for her children.”

Board President Loretta Piscatella of Oakdale noted that two current board members, Don Chiappetta of Dix Hills and Martha Maffei of East Moriches, were once Literacy Suffolk students. Now retired, Mr. Chiappetta was a successful businessman. As executive director of SEPA Mujer, Ms. Maffei has played a major role in the organization’s remarkable growth.

tutor recognition breakfast

A Special Citation

During the breakfast, Assistant Deputy County Executive for Suffolk County Olga El Sehamy, presented a special certificate to Marylou Krzeski of Lindenhurst, Literacy Suffolk’s administrative volunteer for over two decades of “exceptional contributions” to the county’s residents.

In recognizing Ms. Krzeski’s service, Ms. El Sehamy, an immigrant herself, noted the ripple effect of all Literacy Suffolk’s volunteers: “You may think that you are only helping students, but when you help a person, you’re also helping a family, and you’re helping a community.”

Garage sale nets funds and friends for Literacy Suffolk

Maybe it was just beginner’s luck: but Literacy Suffolk’s first Garage Sale, held on May 22 at the Sons of Norway lodge in St. James, was a big success. Not only did our organization raise over $2,600 to support tutors and students, the event increased Literacy Suffolk’s visibility throughout the county through Facebook posts, newspaper stories, and calendar listings.

As a result during the sale, we recruited five new tutors and another person to help at future events. Other shoppers, when they learned of Literacy Suffolk’s important mission, expressed support and paid more than we were asking for items. 

Literacy Suffolk Treasurer Karen Olsen-Helmold, who organized the event, also noted that we helped a soon-to-be-mother with limited resources by giving her baby items that did not sell, and we did the environment a small favor by finding new owners for electronic devices, housewares, books (which were free), and decorative items that might have ended up in a landfill.

The organization’s overall “profit” from the sale was boosted by a 50/50 raffle that our president, Loratta Piscatella, won. Generously, she donated her winnings back to Literacy Suffolk.  Equally generous, the Sons of Norway donated the use of their space for the entire weekend, and several of their members donated items for the sale, as well as their time to help us prepare and promote the sale.