There’s no shortage of neighbors in Lynbrook who give back to their community. But sometimes, there is an exceptional person who merits a little extra recognition. Patricia Alonge and Carlos Ospina have been named the 2023 Lynbrook Woman and Man of the year, respectively.
Mayor Alan Beach and the village board honored Alonge and Ospina at last month’s village meeting for going above and beyond for their neighbors.
SUB: Patricia Alonge
She was a nurse for more than 25 years, but now she serves people in a different way. Alonge (née O’Keefe), affectionately dubbed “the scone lady” by Lynbrook neighbors, has made countless batches of the delicious pastry — and Irish soda bread — to fundraise for families in need.
“I’ve never had the financial means to be able to donate to a lot of causes that I’d like to,” Alonge said. “I started baking the scones to be able to donate money to families in need. And I was shocked at how it took off.”
She said her drive to give back to others started by witnessing it first hand when she was young. longe’s father died when she was 10 years old. Her mother, 39 at the time, was left to raise 6 kids on her own. A friend, a captain in the FDNY, came over every week for years to offer help around the house.
“It was modeled for me, that you just help when help is needed,” Alonge said. “So as an adult, when I had my own kids, I said ‘I want to model what was modeled for me.’”
And that’s exactly what she does. On top of her scone fundraisers, every holiday season she and her loved ones sponsored a family in need of a little extra cheer. They would buy and wrap presents that her stepfather and Sister Barbara from Our Lady of Peace would then deliver to the family. The whole process was kept anonymous. Alonge has continued this tradition for years.
“I think all these kids deserve to have a new outfit or a new pair of sneakers, and something that makes them feel good about themselves,” Alonge said. “Every kid deserves to feel that magic.”
Last year, through the generosity of the Lynbrook community, Alonge was able to help about 50 families during the holiday season. She described it as “the best holiday gift you could give yourself.”
Although Alonge is careful to let families know she can’t make any promises, there hasn’t been a single time the Lynbrook community hasn’t stepped up to the plate to make a wishlist happen. When she reaches out to others to help fundraise, she said, “the response is overwhelming.”
“I’m in awe of this community that continually show up every time I ask,” Alonge said. “I always say, without them I’m nothing. It doesn’t work if people don’t join in this effort.”
The generosity she shows others is a reflection of the generosity others showed to her in her time of need. Alonge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and subsequently dealt with multiple other health issues. Her son was only 6 weeks old, and her daughter in kindergarten, when she was first hospitalized.
“So many people lent helping hands to me and took care of my kids, or cooked for me or just — when I couldn't do it for myself, they stepped in,” Alonge said. “So it's my way of giving back.”
“You say you’re a survivor, and what does that mean?” Alonge asked. “You keep living, and you keep looking to give back, and you look to help. And that’s really what the journey’s been about.”
Neighbors from Lynbrook who are looking to join Alonge in sponsoring a family for the holidays can do so through the Community Chest at (516) 599-8300.
SUB: Carlos Ospina
Ospina first began coaching at the Lynbrook / East Rockaway Soccer Club when each of his daughters joined at 5 years old. Now, 20 years later, he’s still there organizing outreach programs while helping kids grow as people and soccer players.
“You build those friendships, and you build a connection with the community and the town, and you want to continue helping,” Ospina said.
Ospina moved from Columbia to Brooklyn when he was 11 years old. He and his wife, Tulia, have now been living in Lynbrook for more than 30 years.
Every Saturday, Ospina and Tulia go to Gries Park. There, as a part of The Outreach Program for Soccer or TOPSoccer, they coach kids between five and 15 years old of varying abilities in both athletic skill and personal confidence.
Many have fears and insecurities to overcome on the first day, Ospina explained — they’re shy, or they don’t want to be called out, or they’re not comfortable being on the field. But little by little, they open up. By the end of the season, they’re full of excitement to start practice, and when practice is over they run — often breathless, exhausted, but satisfied — to give Ospina and his wife hugs.
“It’s one of the most wonderful things ever to do that, to be part of that,” Ospina said. “I look forward to helping, I look forward to the people that are there that need that help, or the ones that want to help as well. It’s really gratifying.”
But Ospina’s community service doesn’t stop there. He works for Estée Lauder and has been very involved in their breast cancer outreach. Five years ago, Ospina helped organize a one-day soccer tournament to raise money for breast cancer awareness. That one-sport event has since grown much larger than that. Now all Lynbrook youth sports — soccer, hockey, football, baseball, lacrosse — are involved in the community tournament, and local vendors have become sponsors.
Last year, hundreds of people gathered in Gries Park for the cause. They ultimately raised more than $45,000.
“It was such a proud moment, it just exploded,” Ospina said. “The next thing you knew, you started seeing that number going up and up and up.”
He said that the success belongs to the community as a whole — that this is the kind of thing that can happen when everyone, from the mayor to the park staff, is invested in giving back.
“You can’t do it alone, that’s the thing,” Ospina said. “If you’re in a town where nobody wants to do that, nothing gets done.”
The soccer club, which he was president of for 8 years, is focused on community. The club helps to provide scholarships to high school students. They work with parents to make sure that students aren’t barred membership because of tough financial situations. Ospina said it’s things like that which make the club the community staple that it is.
“It’s not me, it’s the people when they get together,” Ospina said. “And everybody wanted to help.”
“If it’s not us, who’s going to help?” Ospina asked. “And why not us?
“There’s always something that we can do.”