Local women honor a vet for the holidays


On Dec. 22, Lisa DeStefano, of Bellmore, was treated to a makeover, a dinner and more when members of Ms. New York Senior America dropped by to honor her service in the Marine Corps.

It was a day of luxury and relaxation for DeStefano, 41, a corporal who served from 1996 to 2001, thanks to several Bellmore and Merrick businesses offering their services free of charge. Mer-okean Jane Rubinstein, 2014’s Ms. New York Senior America, headed the event.

“This was truly a community event,” Rubinstein, 66, said. “Merchants of this community were enthusiastic to help with this honor, and they all unequivocally stepped up to participate and donate their time and talent to Lisa.”

DeStefano was nominated for the honor by a NYSA member who gave piano lessons to her daughter, Rubinstein said.

Rubinstein was named Ms. New York Senior America in 2014, and she decided to give back by helping a Vietnam veteran out with food, clothes and a cell phone. Rubinstein wanted to keep up her effort afterward, and that, she said, was the genesis for the organization’s Honor a Veteran Every Day program.

She wanted to hold the festivities in DeStefano’s community. Em-ployees of Bangz Hair and Color Lounge, and Let’s Get Pretty Beautiful’s Amelia Molie applied the glam for the day, free of charge. DeStefano was treated to a haircut and makeover.

R.S. Jones, a Merrick eatery, hosted a dinner for DeStefano and the Senior America group, and DeStefano was given a shopping spree at the Sunrise Mall.

More than a dozen senior women came together at DeStefano’s home at the end of the day to make her feel special.

Surrounded by her Christmas tree and decorations, the event became a holiday celebration, too. Ms. New York Senior America 2018 Queen Maureen Griffin-Damone sang “Ave Maria.” Others sang carols and holiday songs, with the group finally singing what they call their “theme song,” the 1950s-era classic “Gotta Have Heart,” all together.

“I’m truly honored,” DeStefano said. “The whole day was great, and I won’t forget it.”

The women also offered her a holiday “wish.” “I didn’t want to waste it on something that will be gone the next day,” DeStefano said, so she chose something that would also benefit her 10-year-old daughter, Giavanna: passports.

Rubinstein and the other seniors organized the passport photos and covered all the costs. DeStefano said she was unsure where she will travel first, but she owes her daughter a vacation.

Part of her wish was also to include Giavanna in the celebrations. She joined the group for the makeover, dinner and mall visit, where the two took pictures with Santa Claus.

HAVE Heart, entirely made up of women over 60, does more to benefit veterans. The group visits the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center to spread cheer and lift spirits, Rubinstein said, and they hold collections of basic needs and send toiletries to the military monthly. They have similar events planned for the spring and fall this year.

“It’s extremely rewarding,” Rubinstein said. “We’re able to light up the lives of so many seniors, many of whom are alone, have no families or are not physically capable of caring for themselves. It’s our way of saying thank you.”