Written by Donna Duffy Thursday, 15 August 2013 00:00
Supervisor Kate Murray and members of the Hempstead Town Board honored ten women who live or work in the Town of Hempstead for their outstanding contributions to the community at the town’s Annual Pathfinder Awards ceremony, as well as presenting a posthumous award in recognition of the dedication of a past Town of Hempstead employee.
An inspiring keynote speech was delivered by East Meadow resident Randi Shubin-Dresner, President and CEO of Island Harvest. She has taken a respected relief charity and grown it into a powerhouse philanthropic organization.
Since Hurricane Sandy hit, Island Harvest has been serving a whole new population on Long Island. People who have donated to food banks and related charities in the past were added to the numbers of those being served by the organization. Randi managed this change with grace and sensitivity.
Last summer, Natalie Thomas of Elmont went on a quest to Nicaragua. The mission was to spread her passion for knowledge. At Floral Park Memorial High School, Thomas is a top student, stars as captain of the track and field team and leads in various organizations.
“As I read our honorees biographies, I marveled at stories that demonstrated strength, intelligence, compassion and so many impressive qualities and characteristics,” said Murray.
”Several of the ladies whom we are honoring have battled adversity, risen to their individual challenges and emerged victorious.”
She jumped at the opportunity to spread her passion for learning to children in need. When Thomas joined the local “Build-On” chapter, she committed to help build a school for poverty-stricken children in a tiny Nicaraguan village with no electricity or running water.
To make her pilgrimage possible, Natalie had to apply for grants, seek donations from fellow church members and organize fundraising events. Despite fighting illness, fatigue and difficult living conditions, Thomas spent her summer break digging foundations and mixing cement to build a center of learning for young children.
When Thomas returned home from her trip, her quest did not end. She continues to lead her fellow students in many clubs and programs.
Her role as a student representative in the school’s Shared Decision Making Committee with parents, administrators and faculty members spearheads important changes within the school community.
“All of our honorees are strong women,” concluded Murray. “While they may have ‘hearts of gold’ or be gentle in manner, our ladies have fought, persevered and prevailed.”