Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘Hopefully, one day, we could send gifts to every single nursing home resident everywhere, but we’ll do a little at a time.’

Long Beach

“I’m a Brooklyn transplant and I came to Long Island three years ago. My parents were in two different facilities here: Dad was right down the block in a nursing home in Long Beach and my mom was in an assisted living home in Far Rockaway.

“In the beginning of COVID-19, their facilities got locked down and in the end of March, we got a phone call that my dad wasn’t doing so well. We didn’t really expect that a few hours later we were going to get the call that he passed away. And then we didn’t know until we got the death certificate that it was COVID. We had to tell my mother over the phone.

“Then she started not feeling well but she always had a nervous stomach, so we figured it was that. She didn’t have a fever or a cough. But she called and had shortness of breath. My brother asked the assisted living facility to check her oxygen level and it was extremely low. She went to the hospital and passed away from COVID-19.

“From talking to the nursing home administrators, we learned there were so many seniors in these facilities that have no one and never receive a card or a gift, so last Christmas, we started taking up collections for seniors in homes. A bunch of us ladies got together and made gift bags for 130 residents. Then Valentine’s Day came around and we had students make cards for seniors.

“A friend donated party gifts, like heart necklaces and tiaras, and we dropped all of this off. A nursing home administrator told me they heard laughter coming from the residents’ rooms when they were reading the cards and looking at the silly gifts. She said, “We haven’t heard laughter here in almost a year.”

From talking to the nursing home administrators, we learned there were so many seniors in these facilities that have no one and never receive a card or a gift, so last Christmas, we started taking up collections for seniors in homes.

“We’ve now collected gifts for many other holidays: St. Patrick’s Day, Veteran’s Day, July Fourth. I was just named one of Assemblywoman Melissa Miller’s Women of Distinction. I’m almost 60 years old and starting The Micky and Dee Charitable Foundation Operation Gifts for Seniors is probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

“We’re not a foundation that’s getting all kinds of money. Hopefully, one day, we are that big that we could send gifts to every single nursing home resident everywhere, but we’ll do a little at a time. We’ll take a few smiles.”

‘I find that kids are more willing to puzzle out the difficult questions than adults seem to be.’

Long Beach

“I’m originally from a tiny town called Quaker Street in upstate New York — it had one stop light, a general store, Quaker meeting house, a tavern and my grandfather’s diner. My parents owned the store in town, and we lived in an apartment over the store. I grew up in this supportive fishbowl where everyone knew you and what you were doing. It was a really nice way to grow up.

“I started teaching at FDR High School in Hyde Park upstate and it was a very difficult contract battle. The superintendent was known for union busting and for a first-year teacher, it was overwhelming. The social studies department chair at Oceanside High School was looking for someone. I didn’t know where Oceanside was and I heard Long Island and I said, ‘I have to get back to you.’

“Since 1997, I have devoted so much of my energy to teaching social studies in Oceanside. I have hobbies, but in terms of the thing that I put my energy into, it’s this job and the kids that I’m with every day that helped me win state teacher of the year in 2021.

We went from being heroes in March 2020 to being the villains trying to indoctrinate people’s kids.

“At Oceanside, they hired great teachers without picking the same kind of teacher – there were conservative teachers, people of color, LGBT, old, young, new teachers, it was really awesome. A great administrator makes you be an effective teacher. Dr. Kevin Sheehan was director of social studies when I started, and he understood that the key was to hire people who were smarter than him and get out of the way and make sure they had the tools they needed. There’s so little of that now.

“We went from being heroes in March 2020 to being the villains trying to indoctrinate people’s kids. I don’t know any teacher who’s trying to indoctrinate anyone. I listen to and entertain all arguments and the students know that I welcome that kind of discourse, so when you watch people fight and not listen to one another, it’s terrible.

“I teach government class, but I also teach AP human geography which is having kids think about why this thing is happening, at this time, with these people, in this place – we look at population, immigration, urban development and we get into a lot of conversations about it. I find that kids are more willing to puzzle out the difficult questions than adults seem to be.”