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TOH Honors Make a Difference Award Winners

Local residents applauded for inspirational acts

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and the town board recognized 14 extraordinary community members for contributions to their local neighborhoods at the 15th Annual “Make a Difference” Awards ceremony. In addition, Supervisor Murray posthumously honored a man from Lido Beach who was a dynamic presence in the seaside community.

“The inspirational people being honored this evening are truly the unsung heroes of our communities,” said Murray. “Their selfless acts of volunteerism and leadership are true symbols of Hempstead Town and make our township such a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

The honorees have all dedicated themselves to enriching the lives of others. Hundreds of nominations were received for the prestigious award. Those selected, Murray noted, have quietly carried out acts of selfless generosity for many years.

The following local honorees were recognized at the Nov. 15 ceremony:

Claudia Ledwith of Valley Stream takes her artistic talent and applies it as therapy for countless sick children and their families at North Shore University Hospital. In fact, she has devoted more than 1200 hours and donated numerous art supplies and toys over the past decade.

As young patients sat listlessly with IVs attached to their arms, Claudia’s art therapy helped them forget their troubles. In addition to drawing and sculpting, she plays games with the children and listens to their stories.

During her time at North Shore, Claudia also took on a leadership position in which she coordinated the youth volunteer program and planned events. Claudia’s art therapy brightens otherwise gloomy situations for children, which in turn, brings smiles to their faces and those of the concerned family members.

An interest in history, a yearning for knowledge and a love of their hometown combined to inspire Franklin Square residents Kiera Grassi and Hannah Mutum to pen the story of Franklin Square from the 1600s through today. Last year in pursuit of their Girl Scout Gold Awards Kiera and Hannah volunteered to assist the Franklin Square Historical Society.

The duo created a photographic survey to visually record present day Franklin Square. The project was time consuming and all encompassing, but it provided the foundation for what became a 128-page book on the history of Franklin Square. Working closely with Paul van Wie, the president of the local historical society, the girls published a literary work that has become a great source of pride within the local community.

Flip through the pages of our honorees’ narrative and discover the facts of George Washington’s 1790 visit to Franklin Square, the community’s growth as a 19th century German-speaking farm community or the creation of the first-ever credit card by the Franklin Square National Bank in the early 1950s.

“Generous, helpful, kind, caring, loyal, and thoughtful, a true gentleman, these are the words used by a dozen neighbors in describing Valley Stream resident Salvatore Spinicchia. As one neighbor says, “Sal’s entire adult life has been marked by service to others.” For Sal, service began as a young adult, when he fought during World War II as a member of the U.S. Army and later, as a Marine, in the Korean War.

Decades later, Sal still finds himself on the front lines, only this time he’s helping fellow veterans, friends and neighbors in Valley Stream, New York. Sal regularly visits war veterans, particularly those who are unemployed, to educate them on the veterans programs and benefits for which they may be eligible.

Sal also exemplifies the ideals of a “good neighbor.”  Last winter, when neighbors had a serious fire in their home, Sal – a member of the Valley Stream Fire Department – went over and fought the flames with a fire extinguisher until fire trucks arrived. Then, Sal invited the family to stay in his home until the insurance company could make arrangements for them. Sal’s standard greeting to his neighbors and friends is “Let me know if I can help.” And he’s backed that phrase for decades, assisting veterans, friends, family, and neighbors with a helping hand.