Grateful Thanks, Trudy

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” Shakespeare

I have an announcement! Many, actually, but this comes first: After 10 years as Vice President of Laible & Fitzsimmons Inc, Trudy is retiring.  I feel a bit like Dumbo without his feather. Even more, I am grateful for Trudy’s friendship, support and more as we’ve worked together in one capacity and another for over 20 years “to serve and celebrate folks who care for Art, Science and the Common Good on LI and Beyond.”

As Founder Emeritus of the Synchronicity Network Newsletter, Trudy will be the first member of an honorary advisory board that we look forward to inviting others into soon. For now, though, let us focus on Trudy.

She will tell you that since coming into this world in 1952 she “has done every crazy job that was legal and moral.” In the last 20 years I’ve known her to serve as a field manager, a seamstress, an architectural assistant, interior designer, bus driver, snowplow operator, cleaning lady, and a receptionist. She has worked with microchips and in product testing. She often serves as a poll worker during election season. In 2009, she informed me that she “wanted to volunteer somewhere she was really appreciated.” She then proceeded to become a nanny that gave Mary Poppins a run for her money, magic carpet bag and all. It was around then that she also became my business partner.

That story actually begins in 1997, three years before I met her when Charles Agius of Cablevision went through Long Island’s only community leadership program, Leadership Huntington. As he was her employer, Trudy ended up learning a lot as she assisted his participation. The nine-month intensive program was designed to Develop, Connect and Engage diverse community leaders using the Town of Huntington as a living laboratory, fostering stewardship across diverse perspectives. Once graduated, Charlie came back to Trudy – who was already an entrenched volunteer in her church, for local theater and in organizations surrounding her children — and said he would nominate her to go through the young program.

She did it, while at the same time fighting cancer.

Trudy became an ardent volunteer for Leadership. She attended in her own way to every class, save a few when she was caring for her mother and after completing her service in 2014. She was a board member for years. In 2010, when Leadership was suffering the Great Recession, she found herself almost single-handedly coordinating the program. She and Dianne Parker pulled me in. Trudy and I quickly ended up becoming Program and Acting Director together. She got to know many graduates of classes she’d missed and for a long time also volunteered in diverse capacities for the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce whose Chamber Foundation founded the organization. In 2015 the Chamber bestowed upon Trudy its prestigious “Klaber Award” to honor her deep and enduring service to the Town.

Through Leadership, Trudy became involved in Vision Long Island, a regional force for Smart Growth with a particular focus on down towns and local endeavors, and a champion of education and relationship development across interests. One of her Class of 1999 fellows, Ron Stein, was planting the seeds of this organization that first germinated as Vision Huntington. As a founding Vision Board Member, Trudy tended to every Board and Huntington Smart Growth Steering Committee meeting and did a lot of the organization’s early videography. I myself became involved when they hired me in 2000. Trudy played a meaningful role in early community planning processes and provided thoughtful, practical support to the development of the Smart Growth Awards and Summit. Since Vision’s maturation as a regional force for smart growth planning and policy, Trudy has served Vice President, Treasurer, and now Co-Chair. The role she really plays, tho, and probably always will, is deeper…

Trudy also served as Chair of the Ladies Auxiliary of both the Huntington and Suffolk County VFWs. In addition to much basic support to both bodies, she played a key but quiet role in securing State funding for much needed roof, electrical and other repairs to her local VFW Hall. She then served on the board of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, as well as the Huntington Housing Authority. She was also an early board member of The Moonjumpers Charitable Foundation, which was founded by Larry Kushnick, Robert Benson and Peter Mazzeo.

In the worst of circumstances, Trudy has been there for her community with soup, a blanket and informed guidance. FEMA certified, she served Suffolk Country Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), acting as both a trainer and a support provider in times of local crisis, as well as assisting in the creation of the organization’s Standard Operating Procedures. While Superstorm Sandy came the same day as her latest grandchild, she still did not hesitate to also lend a hand to that monumental cleanup effort.

Trudy Fitzsimmons is a loving mother, grandmother and an extraordinary friend. She has been a dearly appreciated sounding board and guide to countless folks who have endeavored to make a positive difference on Long Island. I am grateful for this opportunity to celebrate her, and look forward to great things going forward. I love you, Trudy.

A Few Good Places to Give

Long Island needs more people to give to local organizations addressing our local challenges. Here are just a few to consider:

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Please Replicate and Support This! Blessing Box

Image of Blessing Box provided by Gabe Lissy

Sometimes it’s the simplest initiatives that bend our hearts the furthest. From it’s host, Gabe Lissy, “If you are in need we have a blessing box set up. Please take what you need, leave what you can

It has been helping so many families in this extremely difficult time. Don’t be shy at all come and take what you need. We have some formula and diapers. Message me if you need.

Most importantly if you are able to donate items to help keep our box full, it is greatly appreciated. You can contact me with any questions or donations. You can come to the box whatever times work for you. Just come and get what you need. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Thank you in advance.

Donations are always needed to help keep it going. Thank you…we as a community will survive and get through these hard times.”

To give, get (no questions asked!), or to find out more, please email glissy1005@hotmail.com or call 631-617-8110

The Need Is Great. Thank You to All Endeavoring to Serve.

We’ve got to be honest: We really wish we didn’t live in a society where a few folks have more than is, quite frankly, conceivable while most other people work ridiculous hours, can’t afford to save for rainy days and regularly feel like they have to decide between gambling with their health and paying their bills.

It would be nice if we could spend more time with our families, lay low for a while and focus on the essentials without being terrified of losing entire livelihoods, including so many small businesses that are keys to what make a community special.

We are grateful, at least, that while the system doesn’t seem prepared for a pandemic — and we’ve heard that many small food pantries have been shut down — a multitude of dedicated locals remain committed to making sure everyone gets fed.

Cooperation LI is a remarkable resource of local organizations that recently sprang up. It “brings together community-based organizations, base-building groups, service non-profits, jail advocates, immigrant rights groups, reproductive healthcare providers, faith organizations, and other community leaders to identify and support the diverse needs of the Long Island community, while centering the needs of traditionally marginalized communities..”

Then there are the major entities working to help keep people fed:

The INN (Interfaith Nutrition Network): “addresses the issues of hunger and homelessness on Long Island by providing food, shelter, long-term housing, and supportive services in a dignified and respectful manner for those who seek our help.” Here’s their COVID-19 Plan and how to help.

Island Harvest: “Providing food and services for people who are hungry, and a voice for people who are in need. Island Harvest is the largest hunger relief organization on Long Island.” Here’s a local pantry list they offer.

LI Cares: “Founded by the late Harry Chapin, Long Island Cares brings together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry and food insecure on Long Island and, to the best of our ability, provides for the humanitarian needs of our community. Our goals are to improve food security for families, sponsor programs that help families achieve self-sufficiency, and educate the general public about the causes and consequences of hunger on Long Island.” Here’s their food pantry list.

Then there are so many smaller groups that have a profound impact on their community. Here are just a few other endeavors we’ve seen. We encourage you to see what’s going on in your community!

Neighbors Supporting Neighbors in Babylon Which was founded in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and continues to help tremendously recently offered this on their Facebook Page: “Time spent this morning reflecting on the past 12 weeks, realizing tomorrow is June 1st!! In 12 weeks we have gone from feeding 250 people a day to feeding 1700 people a day!

With the support and dedication of Island Harvest, our amazing team and an even more amazing community, we have been able to adapt, grow and change to meet the growing need of the families in our community. Each week the need grows as more families and senior citizens from all over the Town of Babylon and beyond look for a little extra support. The team spends countless hours figuring out how make it all work. Fridays we all exhale, knowing we made it one more week, amazed that we were able to distribute groceries to 550 families in 2 hours!! Then the anxiousness builds as we all look around at our depleted supplies and try to figure out how can we make it through one more week.

Somehow we know we will be able to do it! We know we will be able to do it because of all of you!! Thank you to everyone that continues to support us. We can use non-perishable and perishable donations – sauce, canned meats, beans, rice, canned vegetables, fruit cups, snacks!! We can use gently used children’s and young adult books. Donations can be dropped off at the high school Monday- Friday 10-12. If you would like to make a cash donation, checks can be written to Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon and mailed to 24 Gamecock Lane Babylon 11702 or Venmo @NeighborsSupporting-Neighbors

The Mastic Beach Ambulance Company has been an amazing page to follow. They’ve answered over 900 calls this year, figured out how to also help with food drives, and also manage to help folks prepare for other emergencies that won’t stop just because a pandemic has come to town.

It’s Giving Tuesday. Please Give Today, Tomorrow, Whenever You Can.

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, #GivingTuesdayNow has been launched as a global day of unity TODAY, May 5th 2020.

Before this all happened, Long Island was already suffering increasing holes in the fabric of philanthropy that makes our local nonprofit organizations possible.

Special events had become hugely important stopgaps for organizations. They’ve all been cancelled. These groups now REQUIRE our direct support. You can check our newsletter archives to find 100s of great local organizations that could REALLY use our help right now!!!

Some Guidance on Giving Wisely

A few months ago, we sat down with Marian Conway of the New York Community Bank Foundation. She offered her highly educated, deeply experienced view on better ways to evaluate non-profit effectiveness and the problems inherent in simplistic, hard line methods focused on budget percentages, especially for human service organizations and local organizations that are run by neighbors who know and care about the unique needs of our communities.

“Foundations for the Common Good — A Call to Action” written with Executive Director David Okorn touches on similar themes, while explaining how the LI Community Foundation that he serves helps givers make the best use of their philanthropic dollars.

A Few Good Places to Give

Recently, The Long Island Community Foundation launched a COVID-19 Philanthropic response fund to aid nonprofit service providers meeting emergent and critical needs affecting our local region. Thanks to their generous donors, as of yesterday they had granted out $777,000 to struggling nonprofits.

The United Way of LI is collaborating with Long Island Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (LIVOAD) and their network of nonprofit organizations in the region on a Response Fund For COVID-19. This fund helps financially-strained LI families during the current health and economic crisis.

Housing Help is providing a wealth of information for folks in financial crisis and with other human service needs — as well as some inspiring stories of folks stepping up to help!

Regarding major local food banks, Long Island Cares has information about mobile food services. Here’s news from The INN, which does a lot for hunger and homelessness. Here’s Island Harvest.

The Safe Center website and Facebook Page offers free, confidential resources for those suffering abuse.

The Family & Children’s Association serves those in need of human services in Nassau County. The Family Service League similarly serves Suffolk. Many smaller organizations, like the Tri-CYA do incredible work on a very local level, while the Health & Welfare Council of LI is busting it’s butt to get LI Counted AND deal with the massive human services crisis!

Of course, human service organizations get a lot of attention right now — rightfully so! Still, if you are passionate about the environment, the arts, science, animal rescue, preservation, good governance, anything else — including your favorite mom & pop shop! — PLEASE FOCUS YOUR GIVING THERE, especially on LOCAL organizations that are focused right here on Long Island.

Like Veterans: We are grateful to all the VSOs who are giving it their best to stay connected and keep serving both fellow veterans and the broader community. We continue to follow Patchogue VFW Commander Dave Rogers, who is providing all sorts of information. Here’s a great interview with him on USA Warrior Stories, talking about local community work, their COVID-free, fun, online “Coffee with a Veteran” program and more. Thank you for all you do, Dave. We appreciate it..

This interview includes a note that organizations like these are often terrible at asking for money at times like now because they are worried about taking from other groups. DON’T WAIT FOR A GROUP YOU VALUE TO ASK, ESPECIALLY IF YOU VALUE THEIR HUMILITY.

Case in point that will hate us for saying this: Vision Long Island (which, in full-disclosure, Trudy is proud to serve as a Co-Chair of). These guys have been working day and night. We doubt they’ve spent much, if any, time soliciting sponsors to do so, and they usually have a highly-educational 1000-person event in June.

In fact, if you reach out to them, they’ll probably be the first to tell you who else to give to!

Kindness Matters – Visit the Lonely, Feed the Hungry, Magnify Your Blessings!

Now, Cindy is not going to discourage remarkable giving, but she shares our belief that the small things also matter tremendously. A cup of coffee, a friendly smile, a held door…these all count!!! Please also consider checking in on folks who may be alone for Thanksgiving, and helping make sure our neighbors don’t go cold and hungry for the holidays.

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Marian Conway: “Stop the Nonprofit Budget Fantasy — It’s Not Right.”

Photo of Marian Conway by Christopher Appoldt

All she’s asking for is reasonable compensation for nonprofit employees to do the work that has to be done. The way it is now, a non-profit often doesn’t even get reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred while providing services! She won’t say it’s not fair – because life isn’t fair — but it’s not right!!!

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Profile in Kindness: Mackenzie Johnston

Sometimes, social media is terrible. There are certain people, though, who make it wonderful. We have been fans of Kim Skillen since we met her back in 2012 as part of an intrepid tribe, the “Friends of Long Island,” who rose up in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to help their neighbors across the South Shore. Soon after we “friended” her, we started seeing posts about her artistically talented, delightfully, uniquely-herself daughter, Mackenzie.

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Foundations for the Common Good: A Call to Action

A conversation with David Okorn of the Long Island Community Foundation on making philanthropy easy, fun and effective, and why it’s so important.

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