06/26/13 8:00am
06/26/2013 8:00 AM

Most children count down the days until school gets out for summer, but for those who receive their only meal of the day during school hours, the thought of three months off does not hold the same feeling of excitement.

Over 90,000 children on Long Island receive free or reduced-cost school lunches, but when summer arrives their main source of nourishment is taken away. Luckily, Island Harvest, the biggest hunger relief organization on Long Island, has a summer food service program for children in this exact position. And, for the second year in a row, Riverhead Free Library is a feeding site for local youth in need.

“Island Harvest approached us last year about becoming an open feeding site,” said Laurie Harrison, head of children’s services at the library. “They wanted us to provide, along with the location, an educational and literary aspect, so that’s why I agreed.”

In addition to the food, the library also encourages the children to take part in the summer reading program and collects book donations so children can leave with at least one book each.

“I feel that it’s not just a meal project, because it was very evident last year that this was most of the children and their caretakers’ first time at the library,” acting Library Director Pamm Trojanowski said. “It’s a chance to feed not only the body, but the mind as well.

“When they come they find out that they can get a library card, which opens a whole other world of opportunity for them. It’s just amazing for us on staff to watch.”

Island Harvest chooses communities for the summer food service program by looking at the number of children who qualify for discounted or free school lunches in the area. Just over 50 percent of students in the Riverhead school district qualify. Ms. Harrison also said the Riverhead demographics fit the census requirements to take part of the program.

This summer, the program starts on July 8 and will run for five weeks. Children under the age of 18 can go to the library Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to enjoy a free, nutritious lunch.

The visitors don’t have to meet any criteria to receive the meal, but children under the age of 10 must be accompanied by an adult. The Riverhead Library is different from most of the other summer feeding sites in Suffolk County because it is an open site, meaning that community members do not need to enroll to receive a meal. Anyone can walk in during the open time slot.

“One thing about being an open site is that we’re never sure who will be coming through the door,” Ms. Harrison said. “We don’t know their age, or how many there will be that day — it’s challenging.”

Typically, children receive a sandwich, milk, fruit cup and an apple. On one special day of the week they are treated to a slice of pizza, milk, juice, fruit cup and a granola bar.

Last year, the library gave out 1,068 meals during the 39 days of the program, and that was with very little publicity.

“I think we barely scratched the iceberg,” she said of the numbers. “It’s such a big community and the library is difficult to get to and across town from a lot of people. We’re just doing the little bit that we can to help.”

Though being a feeding site is a lot of work for the library, Ms. Harrison said that being involved is very rewarding for all of the employees.

“It’s definitely hectic having to count the food when it comes in, making sure everything is fresh … it’s time consuming,” she said. “But it really is so satisfying to see the children being able to eat and relax and read for a little while.

“You just don’t realize how many hungry people there are until you literally see them sitting there waiting for a little something to eat that day.”


04/21/13 6:00pm
04/21/2013 6:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | (L-R) Melanie Leathers and her sister Vanessa Wigington moments after the charter school lottery ended.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Melanie Leathers (left) and her sister Vanessa Wigington moments after the charter school lottery ended.

Vanessa Wigington leaned forward in her chair as the man at the front of the room continued to pull slips of paper from the bowl in front of him. There were just twelve charter school kindergarten spaces available now. Her 4-year-old son James would have to get in. He had to.

“Number 36,” the man said, “James -”

Ms. Wigington’s eyes widened.

“-Marlules,” he finished.

She sank back into her chair. The wrong James. Not her son, who suffers from hearing loss and could benefit from the charter school’s smaller class sizes.

Ms. Wigington turned to her sister in the chair next to her and mouthed, “I’m going to throw up.”

The Riverhead Charter School held a lottery at the Riverhead Free Library Wednesday evening to fill open positions in the school’s kindergarten, grade 1, 2, and 6 programs.

Charter school executive director Raymond Ankrum said the lottery was the first of its kind at the school, which saw more applications before the deadline this year than ever before.

Normally, the school will put students on a waiting list if they apply after the April 1 deadline, but this year the school received more applicants before the deadline than they had spots to fill, he said.

“For us to have that many applicants, it’s pretty good,” Mr. Ankrum said.

Students who had siblings in the school or were from Riverhead were given preference, then out of town students were called. The dozen or so students who didn’t get in will be placed on a waiting list based on the date of their application, school officials said.

Some parents smiled as their child’s name was called, others whispered a quiet “yes” in celebration. Some high-fived their kids fidgeting in the chairs next to them.

The basement meeting room where the lottery was held was mostly empty; parents who did not attend the lottery will be notified if the child made it into the school or not.

Steve and Shirley Burgess of Middle Island were at the lottery with their three grandchildren, whom they care for. The oldest, 6-year-old Vitali, was placed on a waiting list for first grade, while his younger sister, Amya, was accepted into the kindergarten program.

Ms. Burgess said the family isn’t happy with the quality of Vitali’s education, and were hopeful he would get into the charter school off the wait list.

“That’s all we can ask for right now,” she said.

About 6:45 p.m., the man pulling the names from the bowl, auditor Elliatt Di Lieto, made the announcement for the kindergarten applicants.

“There’s three more seats left,” he said.

In her seat, Ms. Wigington was perfectly still. Her sister, Melanie Leathers, held her hands over her mouth. Another name called, not her son. Two spots left, and three student’s names left in the bowl. The last student called wouldn’t get in and would have to be placed on the waiting list.

Mr. Dilieto pulled a yellow slip from the bowl and read the name.

“Number 46,” he said. “James Wigington.”

Ms. Wigington threw her hands into the air, her face frozen in shock, and her sister clapped and started laughing. The two hugged, and Ms. Wigington sighed. After the lottery, she couldn’t stop smiling.

“I was freaking out,” she said. “I was just nervous it wasn’t going [to happen]. I was thinking of how much I would have to pay for a private school.”

James is now a student at Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset. He’ll join his cousin, Ms. Leathers’ daughter, at the Charter School this year. Because he’s enrolled, his 2-year-old sister will get preference when it’s her turn to join the school two years from now.

“Just complete relief and excitement,” Ms. Wigington said. “I’m very excited.”


04/02/13 7:50pm
04/02/2013 7:50 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Free Library's budget vote is TK.

FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library’s budget passed Tuesday night.

Voters approved proposed budgets from the Riverhead Free Library, Baiting Hollow Free Library and North Shore Public Library on Tuesday.

Riverhead Free Library officials announced shortly after 8:20 p.m. that its budget passed by a 202 to 55 vote. The Baiting Hollow Free Library’s budget also passed by a 180 to 76 vote, officials said.

About an hour later, North Shore Public Library officials announced its budget passed by a 200 to 24 vote.

Prior coverage:

Voters  in the area’s three public library systems head to the polls today, Tuesday, to vote on operating budgets for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The Riverhead Free Library is proposing a $3.8 million preliminary spending plan, which officials say carries a roughly 4.7 percent increase to the tax levy due to rising employee benefit costs coupled with a loss in revenue.

Library director Lisa Jacobs said the proposed hike to the tax levy —  the total amount of taxes collected in the entire district — pierces the state’s mandated 2 percent cap since the library doesn’t qualify for any exemptions to the tax levy cap, such as certain employee benefits and capital improvements.

Although school districts require 60 percent voter approval in order to pierce the tax cap, Ms. Jacobs said a library’s Board of Trustees only needs to approve the plan by a “50 percent plus one” vote and win a simple majority from the public vote.

“We came in under the cap last year by using some fund balance,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to [come under the cap again] without cutting services this year.”

Ms. Jacobs said anticipated increases in the New York State Retirement System and a loss in revenue from “contract” users makes up the majority of the tax hike.

Residents of the East Quogue, Eastport-South Manor, Remsenburg-Speonk and East Moriches school districts make-up Riverhead Free Library’s contract users. Ms. Jacobs said many of them have decided to go with other libraries that have recently been renovated on the South Fork instead.

“If they work in Riverhead, then they’ll usually sign-up here,” she said. “But, typically, they’ll go with other libraries that have newer buildings.”

Ms. Jacobs said next year’s spending plan contains the final debt service payment of the bonds issued in 1998 for the library’s expansion. She described Riverhead Free Library’s spending as “conservative” while continuing to offer new services, such as its E-book program. Materials are downloaded to electronic devices and are loaned through a digital license that only lasts a certain time, she said.

“I certainly hope our community recognizes the services we offer and the tremendous value they get,” Ms. Jacobs said.

The tax levy increase correlates to about $7 per year increase for the average Riverhead taxpayer based on current assessments and equalization rates, she said.

Because the library’s district covers three towns — Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven — tax rates for each town will not be known until later in the year.

The Riverhead Free Library vote runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the library on 330 Court Street.

Any registered voter in the Riverhead School District can vote in both the Riverhead library vote and the Baiting Hollow Free Library vote, which takes place at the same time and place and is on the same ballot as the Riverhead vote. In the case of both libraries, today’s vote is technically a vote on whether the Riverhead Central School District should contract for library services at the above mentioned budget amounts.

The Baiting Hollow Free Library preliminary spending plan is $11,800, up $100 from the previous year’s budget. The Baiting Hollow Free Library budget has traditionally increased by $100 each year.

North Shore Public Library officials in Shoreham are asking voters to approve a $3.68 million spending plan carrying a 1.9 percent increase to the tax levy.

The library director there, Laura Hawrey, said by prioritizing projects and applying reserves such as fund balance, the budget fit under the state mandated 2 percent cap. The tax levy — the amount of cash the library collects from taxpayers — is expected to increase to $3.46 million.

“We spent a lot of time going over the budget and we’re very proud we’ve had minimal spending increases,” she said.

Ms. Hawrey said the tax hike is the result of the library increasing programs, online resources and its E-books service. The changes are needed in order to meet the demands of residents, she said.

During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the library raised the tax levy for the first time in four years. If approved, Ms. Hawrey said the proposed budget will cost approximately $7 per year more than last year for the average household.

Registered voters in the Shoreham-Wading River and Rocky Point school districts can vote in the North Shore Public Library budget vote from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The library is located at 250 Route 25A in Shoreham.

TIMES/REVIEW FILE PHOTO | North Shore Public Library's budget vote is Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO | North Shore Public Library’s budget passed Tuesday night.

08/18/12 2:30pm
08/18/2012 2:30 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Hannah Keiffert and James Yaiullo perform “Knights of Cydonia”

Management Productions, a group of friends with a passion for theater, held their third annual “Evening of Stuff” variety show at the Riverhead Library Friday night, entertaining a full house with music and sketches. The free performance also featured dance and comedy.

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07/08/12 9:00am
07/08/2012 9:00 AM

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library will offer free lunches to kids this summer.

A first-time program at Riverhead Free Library this summer will offer kids, up to age 18, a free lunch every weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The program, sponsored by the hunger-relief organization Island Harvest, kicked off Monday and will run through Aug. 24.

The meals, which range from sandwiches to pizza, come at no expense to the library or the kids who will enjoy them. Riverhead was selected as a site for the Summer Food Service Program based on the number of children who qualify for school lunches in the community. It’s considered an “open” site, meaning the program requires no enrollment and anyone can participate.

The first week of the program has been relatively slow, said Lisa Jacobs, the library director.

“We’re doing everything we can to get the word out,” she said.

The slow start was somewhat expected considering Fourth of July was in the middle of the week and the library had a light programming schedule. Jacobs said it helped to get through some of the early logistics before bigger numbers start to show up.

Jacobs said the program serves an important need for the community. The staff at the library has been more than enthusiastic about implementing it, she said.

Island Harvest presented the library with the idea for the program, which was used at a different library last summer, Jacobs said.

In the first week mostly younger children came in with their parents for the lunches. Jacobs said she hopes the older kids will start to take part as well.

Each day is a different meal. Most are sandwiches like ham and cheese or turkey and cheese on whole-wheat bread. The kids also get a juice, fruit cup and Nutri-Grain bar. Pizza is served one day.

Jacobs said the meals are based on specific guidelines from the USDA.

The library has already gotten a few new sign-ups for library cards, an added bonus to the program.

“There are a lot of things we offer that maybe people didn’t realize,” Jacobs said.


04/04/12 8:58am
04/04/2012 8:58 AM


All three area library budgets were approved by comfortable margins Tuesday night.

Riverhead Free Library’s $3.3 million budget represented a 1.98 percent tax levy increase and it was approved by a vote of 179-64.

“We appreciate the support of our voters, and look forward to continuing to work with our community in the coming year,” Riverhead library director Lisa Jacobs said afterward.

Those same voters also approved a $100 increase in the Baiting Hollow Free Library, bringing it to $11,700. That vote was 165-76, and 66 absentee ballots were not counted as they did not affect the outcome.

The North Shore Public Library, which covers the Shoreham-Wading River and Rocky Point school districts, also saw its $3.39 million budget approved, by a 263 to 33 vote. It increased the tax levy by two percent, just making the state’s two-percent tax cap.


02/24/12 7:00pm
02/24/2012 7:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Yellow Barn at the Riverhead Free Library.

Since 1998, the Yellow Barn has served as a location for library programs for children, outdoor concerts, and most recently as the spot for Friends of the Library book sales. But it wasn’t until about 18 months ago that the library was told the barn lacked a certificate of occupancy, since it didn’t have handicapped access.

“We had no idea this was the case,” said library director Lisa Jacobs.

Now the library has built the required wheelchair ramp for the Yellow Barn, and is fixing some uneven cobblestones in the walkway and courtyard near the building, Ms. Jacobs said.

The barn was originally a carriage house owned by the Perkins family, one of Riverhead’s most prominent families. When the Perkins’ donated their property for the Riverhead Free Library in the 1960s, their home had to be demolished to make room for the new library building.

The carriage house, which was used as a garage at the time of the donation, was saved, restored twice and later moved to its current location in 1998 to make room for a library expansion.

Local architect Jim DeLuca helped plan the barn’s latest addition, which allows the barn doors to work properly despite the uneven property around the Barn.

Ms. Jacobs said the new ramp and repairs will cost about $13,000 and were not covered by grants or a gift.

“We have put aside some money for building repairs and capital improvements so we’re able to finance the project,” she said.

The repairs will not factor into this year’s library budget, which would increase the library tax levy by $60,840 or 1.99 percent if passed, keeping it under the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.

The full library budget can be viewed below.

A budget information meeting will be held at 7 p.m. March 13 in the Library Meeting Room.

The budget vote is set for April 3, from 10 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the library.


01/29/12 3:00pm
01/29/2012 3:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Local diver, researcher and author Adam Grohman gave a talk at Riverhead Free Library Saturday afternoon about his book 'Claimed by the Sea, Long Island Shipwrecks.'

The Costa Concordia is making headlines and Titanic is coming in 3-D to a theater near you, but some folks don’t realize Long Island has its own history of shipwrecks.

Diver, researcher and author Adam Grohman of Long Island gave a talk at Riverhead Free Library Saturday afternoon about his book “Claimed by the Sea, Long Island Shipwrecks.”

The book takes an in-depth look at 11 shipwrecks and maritime disasters in the waters of Long Island and New York. He looks into the circumstances around their their demise and exploration of them by divers and explorers.

Mr. Grohman is a boatswain mate in the United States Coast Guard Reserve and his book is published by the Underwater Historical Research Society.

He said that to him shipwrecks equal history.

“When diving you feel like you are in touch with the past,” Mr. Grohman said. “They are time capsules of equipment and design. It is an underwater looking glass into the lives of past generations.”

Some of the wrecks he talked about in depth were the Lexington 220-foot, long-side wheel steamer that caught on fire on Jan. 13, 1840 in the Long Island Sound. One hundred and fifty people died and only four survived. The ship was headed to New York from Connecticut. It sank near the Eaton’s Neck lighthouse off the coast of Huntington.

The most famous Long Island shipwreck was the Louis V. Place — a 163-foot-long schooner that went down in the Great South Bay on Feb. 8, 1895. It was within sight of the beach, but the winds were blowing so hard the Captain and seven men aboard tied themselves to the rigging of the ship. Claus Stuvens, who had survived five other shipwreck, was the only man aboard the Louis V. Place to survive that night.

Martin Anderson took photos of the shipwrecked schooner from the shore and afterwards Stuvens went door-to-door to sell them.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that more than 1,000 people journeyed across the ice on the Great South Bay from Bay Shore to Bellport to view the wreck. Two of the seaman who perished in the rigging are buried in a cemetery in Patchogue.

The worst loss of life in a local shipwreck happened on June 14, 1904 when the excursion wooden vessel General Slocum caught fire in the waters of ‘Hell’s Gate’ off of Astoria, Queens. Entire families were wiped out when 1,100 people perished.

Mr. Grohman called it “a tragedy of epic proportions.”