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Glen Cove scouts share the joy of song at hospital tree lighting

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The expression on the girls’ faces was one of determination. Most wore antler headbands and their Girl Scout vests, whose colors — blue, beige or green — signified their age. Gathered in the lobby of Glen Cove Hospital last Friday, they gripped sheets of paper with the words that would soon transform them into Christmas angels.

The scouts appeared nervous as the audience, a crowd of residents, patients and hospital staff, watched them in anticipation. Then Alice Woodbury played the first chord, and the girls began to sing. When they looked up, the strangers in the audience were smiling and singing, and some, like Kim Rollins, clapped along with the celebratory holiday music. “I love to see the kiddies sing,” Rollins said. “The girls warm my heart.”

She said she had stopped by to hear her neighbor, Woodbury, accompany the girls. Now retired, Woodbury was familiar to the staff, having delivered mail to hospital patients for 40 years.

Carla Bongiorno, the supervisor of the internal medicine department, who also volunteers as the hospital’s Girl Scout event coordinator, had brought the girls from Glen Head Troops 103 and 24 and Glen Cove Troops 1509 and 1420 to perform at the hospital auxiliary’s tree lighting. The members of the auxiliary, a non-profit volunteer organization, appreciate any help they receive from the community. As for the scouts, they had been practicing for two weeks.

Bongiorno’s daughter, Catherine, 13, a member of Troop 24, was one of the older participants, but she was happy to be part of the performance. “I like to make the patients feel good,” she said. “Sometimes they sing along.”

It was the fourth year that the scouts were involved, Bongiorno said, adding that everyone at the hospital looks forward to the tree lighting.

It also served as a fundraiser for the hospital. The auxiliary, which has around 160 members, invited community members to purchase lights for $5 apiece, to “memorialize, celebrate or honor their friends and family.” The names were listed on poster boards at the entrance.

There were oohs and ahhs when Julie Albin, the organization’s fundraising chair, flipped the switch to light the Christmas tree. “We held our first tree lighting in 1989,” she told the crowd. “And our tree this year is brighter than it has ever been due to your generosity.”

Glen Cove City Councilwoman Pam Panzenbeck, a member of the auxiliary for five years and the co-chair of the tree lighting, said she was im-pressed with how valuable the fundraising has be-come. The auxiliary, which holds a handful of fundraisers throughout the year, works to fulfill wish lists put together by each department in the hospital. Last year the contributions funded the purchase of a new EEG machine, which Panzenbeck said cost over $30,000. “This year we’re using the funds to renovate the hospital’s chapel,” she said. “Julie is a dynamo.”

Rosanne Sheehan, of Glen Cove, who said she was a retired organist, sat in the front row. She smiled through the scouts’ renditions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Frosty the Snowman,” and then she lingered as people began to leave.

“I love music, and the girls were marvelous,” Sheehan said. Then, looking over at the scouts, who were busy counting the number of miniature marshmallows they could fit into a cup of hot chocolate, she smiled. “This has overwhelmed me with joy.”