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.

Community Leadership, Chapter 4: Leadership and the Dianne Parker Direction

Dianne Parker, the original Executive Director of Leadership and the Huntington Township Chamber Foundation with an early dedicated sponsor, Robert Scheiner of H2M Architects & Engineers. Photo by Katheryn Laible

Diversity.

This concept of developing leaders from all groups in a community certainly influenced Dianne Parker’s thinking. Dianne Parker was Executive Director of Leadership Huntington. We must say Dianne is a serious, intelligent business entrepreneur with a love of nature and art. She also has an earnest interest in people and all their cultural diversity.

Over the last 20 years, we have developed a great appreciation of how she crafted the Leadership Program and what she brought to it. One of her most important tenets being diversity of class member’s may lead you to ask, “Why?”

The answer is because it is important to bring people together so they may learn from each other and cross economic, cultural, gender, and educational lines. Many class members have expressed revelations and new understanding of other people and their circumstances while they were in the diversity rich environment of Leadership Huntington. Libby Hubbard, past Chamber Foundation President, commented that the class mix leads to a broader view of the community.

People have at times had an opinion that only those in positions of authority or higher status should go through the program. Those opinions ring hollow in my experience. That limiting concept would hamper the effect of experiential leadership. Many Leadership Huntington graduates have gone on to help build organizations and create non- profits that benefit many folks.

 

Why is diversity important? The answer is because it is important to bring people together so they may learn from each other and cross economic, cultural, gender, and educational lines. Many class members have expressed revelations and new understanding of other people and their circumstances while they were in the diversity rich environment of Leadership Huntington. Libby Hubbard, past Chamber Foundation President, commented that the class mix leads to a broader view of the community.

Larry Kushnick, Esq. Class of ’97, God rest his soul, said Leadership Huntington gave him the confidence to start his own law practice. He also helped get many local organizations started. Another young woman found her own voice and advanced in her family’s business because she now had the confidence to articulate her own worth. She, too, became instrumental to many positive community endeavors. Sometimes, the impact is very personal, which is good because community leadership starts at home. One gentleman in my class remarked, after going through temperament exercises, that he now understood why his wife was so different. Awe, clarification and understanding.

The notion that leaders can be developed, who as a direct result transform communities to be stronger and more effective, is a concept derived from the exploration, experiences and observations of community organizations like the Chamber Foundation and that group of committed individuals. To quote Ken Christensen, past Chamber Foundation member, “everywhere he goes there is a Leadership Huntington grad involved.”

This is very good. Community leadership is critical to building effective, inclusive communities which work for all citizens. It is hard to imagine an effective community which isn’t full of committed, engaged, involved and evolving volunteer leaders, servant leaders, and community trustees.

Change is everywhere. Communities change, issues change, circumstances change, demographics change. Leadership programs must change, too. The program that seems to work today won’t tomorrow. Community education isn’t enough. We must endeavor in an ongoing fashion to equip leaders with skills and processes that will serve them when and wherever they encounter a leadership challenge.

One class a year isn’t enough to create leaderful communities. One format does not fit all. We encourage all with experience and insight to think of yourselves as leadership development arms of your community, and of all the implications for change that concept implies.

Diversity is very important concept, and not an easy one to accomplish, but it makes such a rich learning environment. We have separated ourselves so much over the years we have missed the richness of diversity. One can only hope we may work toward that concept for a rich future.

We hope you can take away some bits of wisdom from the idea of diversity and the concepts that are suggested. Stay tuned, Chapter 5 is next!

Thanks for reading.
Trudy & Craig

This is very good. Community leadership is critical to building effective, inclusive communities which work for all citizens. It is hard to imagine an effective community which isn’t full of committed, engaged, involved and evolving volunteer leaders, servant leaders, and community trustees.

Shop Down Town — It’s Worth It!

Main St, Northport

Shopping on Main Street, Northport the other day was a terrific experience. This downtown has been a favorite of mine for many years. It has waterfront, history, a beautiful park, and lots of shops and restaurants. At the top of the road is The Engeman Theater, which imports Broadway talent to Long Island. I used to go to the 99 cent movies there. Raise your hand if you did, too.

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