These women have gone above and beyond for their communities. Now, after decades of giving, it’s their turn to receive some much-deserved thanks. Assemblyman Brian Curran honored these outstanding citizens at Crossroads Farm on Sunday. Each woman has made the world a better place through their decades of service to others.
“The one thing that all eight of these women have in common is their love and devotion to their community and their neighbors,” Curran said. “Whether it is their contributions to public safety, in local government, drug prevention, boy scouting, or children with disabilities or allergies, these eight honorees have made the conscious decision to bring their expertise and efforts to better their community.”
SUB: Mary Fahey
Her husband, Brian, was an FDNY firefighter who died in the Father’s Day Fire in 2001. Fahey said she was left with a question: how do you give back? For her, the answer was to ease others’ pain.
“If you can help somebody else in their moment of despair or despondency, that's your reward,” Fahey, from East Rockaway, said. “Just to give back because of what I went through.”
Fahey has been a part of St. Raymond’s ministry of consolation for the past decade, helping people plan their loved ones’ funerals. Soon after that, she helped found the church’s bereavement ministry, a weekly organization that helps people cope with the death of a loved one.
“Consolation is the biggest part of it,” Fahey said. “ Even for just a few minutes. You said one sentence that made somebody feel better about themselves, even if it’s for five minutes, is a gift in itself.”
But Fahey didn’t stop there. She became a certified EMT and joined the East Rockaway Fire Department, where she also now serves as chaplain and has helped form the department’s Crisis Intervention and Member Assistance program, which is now spreading across the battalion.
“You help a patient in need, and then I’m helping their family — it’s just so beautiful,” Fahey said. “You think that you’re giving back to people, but you get so much more out of it.”
SUB: Cathay Bien
During one call, Bien helped bring a toddler back to life after the child drowned in a pool. In another, she helped save a woman in cardiac arrest as her husband and kids cried with relief. In another, she helped deliver a baby. As an EMT with the Lynbrook Fire Department, Cathy Bien has done it all.
“We do everything, pretty much,” Bien, from Lynbrook, said. “You get to hold that person’s hand in the worst part of their life.”
Bien joined the fire department right after 9/11. Her family is extensively involved with the Lynbrook Truck Company and the FDNY, and she decided she wanted to give back as well.
“They were like, ‘become an EMT,’” Bien recalled. “I was like, ‘at 40?’ I didn’t think I’d be there 23 years later, but here I am.”
Not every call is about saving a life, Bien said. Sometimes it’s just about listening. There was one call from a Lynbrook couple who just found out their child died — they just needed someone to talk to, Bien recalled. She remembers things from decades ago with striking clarity. She’s driven to help her neighbors, in any situation they may be in. It gives a feeling that she encourages people to experience for themselves.
“There is nothing more rewarding,” Bien said. “Maybe they don’t know your first name, but they’ll never forget you. You walk away, and it’s the best feeling in the world.”
SUB: Susan Kelly
There are few things scarier than witnessing your child go into anaphylactic shock. Kelly is working to make sure as few parents have to experience it as possible.
Kelly’s daughter was diagnosed with severe nut allergies in 2007. Kelly said it changed everything — grocery shopping, family gatherings, traveling and so much more. A piece of candy could take her daughter’s life.
“This isn’t a diet,” Kelly said. “It’s a disease.”
Kelly had to use her nursing background to educate her daughter’s teachers so she could attend school safely with her peers. But in 2013 when teenager Giovanni Cipriano died from an allergic reaction to peanuts, Kelly increased her awareness efforts.
She began blogging, writing local editorials, and speaking at schools, churches and libraries. She’s helped inform restaurant training across the county, and has campaigned for more epinephrine in public and on police. Her work with police has already saved 2 lives.
In her personal life as apparent and her professional life as a nurse, Kelly works to connect parents with evidence-based resources about food allergies. She wants parents to know that they aren’t alone, and their anxieties don’t make them crazy.
“It makes a more kind world,” Kelly said. “We show love through food, so how do we show that to someone who has to read every label?”
“We all have to eat to live, and food shouldn’t be feared,” she said. “So the more people understand this, the more people feel a sense of belonging in their community and know they’re not outcasts.”