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‘The heart of a volunteer’

Franklin Square Civic Association’s annual ceremony honors local heroes

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Gathered between Rath Park’s monument honoring veterans from Franklin Square and Sept. 11 memorial stones, front-line workers and first responders who answered the call of duty during the coronavirus pandemic were honored at a ceremony hosted by the Franklin Square Civic Association on May 22.

Representatives of Northwell Health, the Franklin Square and Munson Fire Department and the Nassau County Police Department were recognized and presented with commemorative pins designed by FSCA Vice President Jonathan Israel. Association President Katherine Tarascio said that the pins were meant to convey a message to each recipient: “You are a hero of this pandemic.”

Tarascio noted that May 16-22 marked the 46th annual Emergency Medical Services Week. “We hoped that this [event] would honor and thank all of those who have brought us to the other side, or what we hope is the other side [of] the pandemic,” she said.

Fire Chief Dominick Labianca and First Assistant Chief Joe Geratto, as well as five Nassau County police officers, were honored on behalf of the Fire Department and the NCPD. David Seligman, executive director of Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital, and Michelle Rosetti, the hospital’s director of patient experience, were recognized by Northwell Health.

“Without you, we would have been lost,” Tarascio told the health care workers and first responders.

FSCA members agreed that honoring those who serve the community is key to the group’s mission. Treasurer Frank Culmone said that since the organization was formed in April 2016, it has launched numerous projects to beautify the community and to recognize those people. Much like the awards ceremony, the group’s Hometown Heroes Banner Program was inspired by this goal. The banners showcase photos of servicemen and women who are current or former Franklin Square residents. The banners, which can be seen at Rath Park and VFW Post 2718, include their name, branch of service and the era in which they served.

“This program serves as tribute to those who have served or are currently serving in a branch of the military as a first responder, or, as of last year, a health care worker,” Tarascio said.

Given the extraordinary nature of the pandemic, Tarascio said that it was important for the group to acknowledge all front-line workers. “Without the dedication, perseverance, adaptability and compassion of these front-line workers, we would have lost far more,” she said. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all you have done for our community.”

Tarascio credited Phil Malloy, a board member of the FSCA, for organizing the ceremony. An emergency responder himself, Malloy stressed that Franklin Square’s health care workers and police officers went “above and beyond” during the pandemic.

Malloy, a lifelong resident of the hamlet and a former chief of the Fire Department, is among the many first responders who suffered long-term injuries from the debris at ground zero after the 9/11 attacks. As a result, he has been unable to work for over a year, because he has a greater risk of developing Covid-19 complications.

“I think it’s nice to recognize the emergency responders that are just expected to do their job,” he said.

“It’s very nice to see the community appreciates the time and effort we put in,” Labianca said. “I grew up in this community and I went to school in this community; now my kids are in the school system in this community. I take a lot of pride — along with all of my volunteers — in protecting this community.”

Labianca emphasized that those who serve the community volunteer because they care deeply about Franklin Square. “There’s no greater feeling than helping your neighbor,” he said. “The heart of a volunteer is as strong as you can get.”