When two East Meadow residents took on leadership roles in the Kiwanis Club as 2020 began, they never could have expected the year that would unfold or the challenges they would face.
Lisa Hallett’s first event as Kiwanis president was its annual pancake breakfast on March 8. She greeted club members and neighbors in a packed East Meadow High School cafeteria, not knowing that it would be the last time they would see one another in person for six months.
Jennifer Reinhardt became her right-hand woman, first as secretary and now as vice president. When schools closed, Covid-19 cases rose and businesses shuttered, following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York on Pause order, Reinhardt never stopped thinking of ways to support her neighbors.
Through their creativity and passion for service, Hallett and Reinhardt continued all of the club’s service projects and spearheaded new efforts to support those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. For their commitment to their community, the Herald is proud to name them its 2020 People of the Year.
Hallett, 52, attended Carle Place High School and studied secretarial work and technology at Nassau Community College. She moved to East Meadow with her husband, Rich, an electrician with his own businesses, where they raised their three daughters, Nicole, 22, Julianne, 20, and Danielle, 18. Hallett joined Kiwanis because her daughters were involved in the club’s K-Kids, the elementary school service club it runs.
“She’s really shown people her abilities and leadership skills,” said David Rothman, a Kiwanis member for 36 years and a past governor of the Kiwanis International New York District. “She really stepped up to the plate. And she brings a lot of heart to the table.”
Reinhardt, 36, was born in Mineola, and her family moved to East Meadow in time for her to start kindergarten. She graduated from East Meadow High School in 2002 and went to Towson University, in Baltimore, where she studied marketing and advertising.
Reinhardt worked at ABC for 10 years before leaving her job to sell real estate with her family’s company, the Krug Team at Century 21 American Homes. Her husband, Jeff, also works with the Krug Team, and is a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department. They have three sons, Graham, 6, Cormac, 4, and Colton, 1.
Reinhardt joined Kiwanis roughly three years ago, at the suggestion of her parents, Diane and Rich Krug, who are both members. “She was kind of thrown into it, but now she brings fresh new ideas to the club,” Rothman said. “She brings in the next generation.”
Reinhardt brings her son Graham to events like Kiwanis food drives outside grocery stores, where he can often be seen chanting and cheering to get local residents to donate to the club’s efforts. “It has been really amazing to see firsthand how much this club helps the community,” his mother said. “I joined to make a difference and, under [Lisa’s] leadership, we’ve definitely done that this year.”
When schools closed in mid-March, Hallett and Reinhardt rallied club members and began raising funds for meals to supplement those being provided by the school district. They went shopping once a week, and delivered meals to McVey and Parkway elementary schools and W.T. Clarke High School. The district was able to provide thousands of meals to the community despite being closed, with the help of Kiwanis and Island Harvest.
When schools reopened, Reinhardt spearheaded a program called Pack a Backpack, through which Kiwanis filled roughly 200 backpacks with school supplies and protective equipment for students in need.
Hallett is also a volunteer for the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center, which supports Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center, in Manhasset, with education and emergency response efforts. To raise funds for the trauma center, she introduced the club to the Kiwanis International New York District’s “Everyday Hero” award program. Kiwanis has presented 10 hero plaques to community members, teachers, businesses and nonprofits that contributed to its causes throughout the pandemic. With each plaque purchased by the Kiwanis club, the Kiwanis New York District makes a donation to the trauma center.
“There are so many people who have stepped up,” Hallett said, “and we wanted to find a way to thank them.”
As the holidays approached, Kiwanis officials had to make decisions about their annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Each November, the East Meadow club hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for seniors and military families that draws about 300 people. Then, on Christmas, the club hosts a family dinner at Borrelli’s Italian Restaurant, which draws roughly 100 families in need.
“We really needed to think outside of the box and get creative,” Hallett said.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving, Kiwanians delivered complete turkey dinners to 70 East Meadow and Salisbury homes. The next day, club members set up drive-through service at East Meadow High School and handed out 230 more meals to residents.
In lieu of the Christmas dinner, the club hosted its annual Secret Snowflake Toy Drive throughout December, and Borrelli’s cooked Italian meals for each participating family. On Dec. 20, Kiwanians set up drive-through service in the restaurant’s parking lot and handed out Italian dinners or Borrelli’s gift cards to 80 families and toys to 191 children.
“We were able to serve a lot more members of the community this way,” Reinhardt said.
Kiwanis had three large boxes of toys remaining, and left them at Borrelli’s for Frank Borrelli, its owner, to give to local pantries like the Marry Brennan Interfaith Nutrition Network.
“Everything we do has really been a team effort,” Reinhardt said. “We couldn’t have done it without the rest of the club and the people in the community who helped us.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article read that East Meadow Kiwanis dropped off thousands of meals to the East Meadow School District to make up for meals not being provided by the district. It should read that the district was still providing meals when it was closed and Island Harvest and Kiwanis supplemented that program. We apologize for the error.