‘It takes a village’ in Freeport

Locals are honored for service on MLK weekend

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Four community-minded people — Robert Wilson, of the Freeport INN, far left; Sharon Payne and Hazel Gibbons, of the Stearns Park Civic Association; and Capt. Giovanny Guerrero, of the Freeport Salvation Army — were recognized for their contributions at the village’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Freeport Recreation Center on Jan. 19.
Four community-minded people — Robert Wilson, of the Freeport INN, far left; Sharon Payne and Hazel Gibbons, of the Stearns Park Civic Association; and Capt. Giovanny Guerrero, of the Freeport Salvation Army — were recognized for their contributions at the village’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Freeport Recreation Center on Jan. 19.
Nadya Nataly/Herald

The Village of Freeport held its annual celebration to remember the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 19 at the Freeport Recreation Center. This year’s event recognized four community members who work with area nonprofit organizations that aid Freeporters.

As he announced the honorees, Conor Kirwan, chairman of the Freeport Commission on Human Relations, quoted the African proverb “It takes a village” in describing the efforts of the honorees.

They were Robert Wilson, of the Freeport Interfaith Nutrition Network; Sharon Payne and Hazel Gibbons, of the Stearns Park Civic Association; and Capt. Giovanny Guerrero, of the Freeport Salvation Army.

The honorees were presented with plaques in recognition of their work. Guerrero, a pastor for the past 30 years, was described as a visionary who encouraged Freeporters to work together in love and unity.

“I knew that I would be involved with a community that was going to work together,” Guerrero said. “Our hope and goal is to be there for each and every one of you.”

Wilson, a Vietnam veteran and a former chief of the Island Park Fire Department, was recognized for his many hours supporting the Freeport INN, which offers daily meals to anyone in need. Wilson scrubs pots, serves food and works with a number of volunteers.

“It’s a very gratifying and rewarding experience,” he said of his work with the INN. “The most gratifying thing I can do is help another person. When I help someone else, I help myself, because it gives me a perspective of things in my life and what I should be grateful for. It just feels good.”

Payne, the Stearns Park Civic Association president, and Gibbons, its vice president, were recognized for their efforts to make their neighborhood safer and develop relations with village officials.

“I have to say that of all the communities I’ve ever lived in,” Gibbons said, “Stearns Park has been the best for me. There is a sense of community.”

“It has been a wonderful journey,” Payne added. “It’s been a pleasure serving the community.”

During the ceremony, the Rev. Eric Mallette, of the Greater Second Baptist Church on East Merrick Road, reflected on King’s teachings. Mallette urged attendees to remember King’s vision for the nation during these confusing days. He also said people should “revive within their hearts ideals that have made America the hub and center [around] which the world revolves” and renew the “national zeal to walk with God.”

“Let us never forget,” Mallette said, “that as a young man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a dreamer and visionary whose life’s work was love, peace, brotherhood and nonviolence that made such an impact that changed the world.”

Attendees also enjoyed musical selections from the Greater Second Baptist Church and a performance by Freeporter Steven Patrick, who sang “My Sweet Lord” and “Oh Happy Day.”

The ceremony closed with remarks by Mayor Robert Kennedy, who thanked the honorees for their hard work and dedication to Freeport.