Lisa Hallett’s first event as president of the East Meadow Kiwanis club was its annual pancake breakfast on March 8, after the previous president resigned without explanation.
Little did Hallett know that thanks to the spreading coronavirus pandemic, that would be the last time most club members would see each other in person for six months.
But club members have remained active, and have taken on many projects under Hallett’s leadership. She was installed for her first full year as president in front of roughly 60 members — plus those watching the event on Facebook — at the club’s 69th installation dinner on Monday night at Borrelli’s Italian Restaurant.
“Rather than not having it at all or doing it over Zoom, we’re happy we could do something in person together,” said master of ceremonies Tom Gallagher.
The dinner usually draws roughly 200 attendees, but this year a much smaller crowd gathered in Borrelli’s two main dining rooms. The event was also livestreamed on Facebook for those who couldn’t make it or preferred to stay at home.
“I’m blessed to have such a compassionate board and club members who went the extra mile,” Hallett said. “And believe me when I say that they went the extra mile this year.”
When the pandemic began to spread on Long Island in mid-March, Kiwanis members started raising funds for meals and delivering them to community members who needed them at McVey and Parkway elementary schools and W.T. Clarke High School, which had all closed. They delivered thousands of meals through September, when students returned to school and the district began providing lunch again.
Hallett’s right-hand woman for those efforts was Jennifer Reinhardt, who was installed on Monday as first vice president of the club. “Some people just embody pure good in everything they do, and Jennifer Reinhardt is one of those people,” said Greg Cajuste, lieutenant governor of the Long Island South Central Division of Kiwanis, who installed the new members of the board of directors.
Reinhardt also earned the club’s first Rookie of the Year award “for inspiring with passion and leading by example,” Hallett said.
Another member who contributed throughout the club’s pandemic response efforts was Steve LaSala, whom Hallett presented with the 2020 Kiwanian of the Year award, saying his “commitment and dedication led to the success of the club.”
For the first time, the club will also present 10 “Everyday Hero” awards to community members, teachers, businesses and Island Harvest Food Bank for its help with the food-distribution efforts. “There were so many people who stepped up to help,” Hallett said, “and we decided we would give back to them.”
The “Everyday Hero” program is run through the Kiwanis International’s New York District and, with each award, the East Meadow club makes a donation to the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center. At the dinner, Hallett surprised Frank Borrelli, the owner of Borrelli’s, with one of the awards, in recognition of the thousands of meals the restaurant prepared for Kiwanis to donate to first responders and front-line workers at the height of the pandemic.
Another dinner attendee was Peter Mancuso, a past president of the East Meadow club and the president-elect of Kiwanis International. Throughout the pandemic, Mancuso met virtually with Kiwanis clubs around the world to support their efforts to stay active and contribute to coronavirus relief efforts.
Last Sunday, Mancuso took part in a virtual meeting of a club in Colorado, and the week before that he was on a Zoom call with a club in Nepal. “Challenges always bring about opportunities to help,” he said.
Mancuso’s brother, Jim, is the governor-elect of Kiwanis International’s New York District, and has been meeting with clubs around the state. “What’s amazing is how resilient people have been through this,” he said, “and how active Kiwanis clubs have been.”