Kiwanis honors local ‘stars’ at annual breakfast

The Kiwanis Club of Greater Riverhead honored five local residents during its 18th annual Breakfast of the Stars at Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue Saturday.

More than 90 people from the Riverhead area have been honored as “Stars” since the inception of the program, which recognizes people “who are quietly supporting the mission of our organization, changing the world one child, one community at a time,” according to the group.

The recipients are role models who give back and set standards for community service, the group said.

This year’s awards had an extra recipient in Harry Wilkinson, a charter member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Riverhead, who was named Kiwanian of the Year.

A decorated Marine who was wounded in action three times in Vietnam, Mr. Wilkinson also served as master of ceremonies Saturday, where he kept the mood light.

At one point, Dhonna Goodale of Flanders and the RBS Singers had the room dancing in a conga line to the O’Jays’ hit “Love Train.”

The following “Stars” were announced Saturday.

Recipient Lisa Dabrowski with Riverhead councilwomen Catherine Kent (left) and Jodi Giglio. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Lisa Dabrowski

Ms. Dabrowski is a member of the Friends of the Big Duck, the Mattituck American Legion Ladies Auxiliary and the Polish Hall Ladies Auxiliary. She’s also done acting and singing, as well as remote broadcasts for WLNG radio, sometimes dressed as Annie Oakley riding a Segway, according to Brian “the Cannon” Bannon of WLNG. He said Ms. Dabrowski also has been involved in animal rescue efforts.

John Ribiero, commander of the Mattituck American Legion, said she helped build the post’s membership when she took over as public information officer.

“She knows everybody in Suffolk County,” he said.

Recipient Mary Cooper with Ms. Giglio, Harry Wilkinson, and Ms. Kent. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Reverend Mary Cooper

The Rev. Cooper is the senior pastor at House of Praise Christian Revival Center in Riverhead and a bishop of three congregations, according to her daughter Marylin Banks Winter.

An Aquebogue native and a graduate of Riverhead High School, she’s worked at Brookhaven National Lab, served on the Riverhead Board of Educations and been a chaplain at the American Military Retiree Association, her daughter said.

She also has a weekly Sunday radio show on WRIV called “Moments of Praise,” which she’s had for 30 years, Ms. Winter said.

She and her late husband, Martin Cooper, have five children, 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“She is the definition of what a servant is, first to the Lord, then to mankind,” said Sarah Bullock, a member of the church.

Recipient Laurie Downs (second from right) and friend Angela DeVito join the presenters. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Laurie Downs

Over the years, Laurie Downs has been a parent and member of the Riverhead Parent Teacher Organization, becoming president of its Executive Council in Riverhead schools.

She served on the Riverhead school district’s bond committee when the district was considering expansion in 2010-11 and attended almost every meeting, shooting video so people who couldn’t attend could watch the proceedings on Channel 22, the public access channel, according to friend Angela DeVito.

Ms. Downs also reported on board matters on WRIV radio before being elected to the school board herself in 2016.

Ms. DeVito said the only time Ms. Downs didn’t attend the meetings was after she suffered a broken neck in a fall.

“She’s been a champion of the open meetings law and transparency,” Ms. DeVito said. “And she’s never skirted the difficult issues, like gang activities, which she organized a forum on in 2003.”

Recipient Allen Smith accepts his award. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Allen M. Smith

Currently a Riverhead Town Justice, Allen Smith has also served as Riverhead Town supervisor and town attorney. In addition, he’s been an assistant district attorney, a longtime member of the Riverhead Fire Department, a Riverhead Board of Education member and was co-founder of the East End Regional Intervention Court.

Dhonna Goodale of Flanders revealed Saturday that, when she was little, Judge Smith actually saved her from drowning in the ocean at Westhampton Beach.

Attorney Peter Danowski, who served as Riverhead town attorney during his administration, said the judge helped to “professionalize the whole Town Hall process” as supervisor.

“He was a guy that spoke his mind. He cared, and he did what was right for the town,” Mr. Danowski said.

Recipient George ‘Gio’ Woodson. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

George ‘Gio’ Woodson

Mr. Woodson, known as “Gio,” has been Riverhead’s highway superintendent since 2009, but was involved in public service long before that.

After graduating from Riverhead High School in 1979, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served for four years as a police traffic accident investigator. He then returned home and took a job with the town highway department, where he worked his way up to become crew leader after 20 years.

He made his first run for superintendent in 2006, but lost. He ran again in 2008 and was elected.

Mr. Woodson also has been a member of the Riverhead Fire Department for more than 25 years, working his way up to the position of department chief.

“He knows every single pothole and its history,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent, whose mother was good friends with Mr. Woodson’s mother for many years.

Top caption: The honorees with Congressman Lee Zeldin. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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