Saluting selfless service at Mount Sinai South Nassau


Mount Sinai South Nassau, the closest hospital for Freeport residents, honored several local residents — including a handful who have served their communities in Freeport, Baldwin and Rockville Centre — for their extraordinary contributions as volunteers to the hospital at its 68th anniversary luncheon at the Coral House in Baldwin on April 25.

The celebration was a tribute to the dedication and compassion of the hospital’s volunteers, past and present.

“We think it’s important to recognize all of the time and energy our volunteers provide for our patients in our community,” Dr. Adhi Sharma, the hospital’s president, said. “I think we can never take it for granted that these people are giving their time freely and fully. Many of them have been here for years and years. They are part of the South Nassau fabric and part of the South Nassau family. You recognize family, and that’s what families do.”

The hospital has had an enduring spirit of volunteerism for nearly seven decades, enhancing its legacy of care and compassion.

At the luncheon, 68-year-old Baldwin resident Robert Granoff received the 5 Star Award, presented in memory of former volunteer Adelaide Cromwell in recognition of extraordinary dedication and service. Granoff began volunteering at the hospital in 2017, after retiring from the fish and seafood industry, and has logged more than 2,010 hours since then.

Granoff first began volunteering at Soup To Nuts Soup Kitchen, in Freeport, 12 years ago, and helped out for five years at Operation SPLASH, a nonprofit that focuses on waterfront pollution.

At Mount Sinai South Nassau, Graff is most proud of the connections he has forged with people there.

“Just meeting the people and helping them out as much as you can and goofing around with them,” Granoff said. “I always help out all the junior volunteers — they’re fun to work with — and I don’t treat them like if they were with their parents. I just have fun with them.”

Another honoree was 76-year-old Oceanside resident Alberta Biscotti, who was presented with the Shining Star Award, which recognizes volunteers who have enhanced the patient experience.

Nassau County Legislator Debra Mule, who represents Freeport, also presented a citation to Biscotti.

Biscotti worked in human resources for her husband’s accounting firm for 30 years, and then as a teacher at California Avenue School in Uniondale for 11 years. After retiring at 65, she wanted to give back to the community as a hospital volunteer, she said, and found a home in the director’s office.

“I was also honestly afraid of being home after working the way I did raising children,” Biscotti, who also lived in Rockville Centre for 45 years, said. “I went up to the hospital, and the director at the time said to me, ‘I want you to work directly for me.’”

Biscotti has logged 907 hours at the hospital. She even worked remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, helping with tasks such as pre-surgical testing and helping patients find information about vaccinations.

“When I speak to patients, a lot of them don’t have families,” she said. “They didn’t know where to go to get their vaccines during Covid-19. They have a pre-surgical test for very serious surgery, and just helping them, to give them information … really gives you a lot of pleasure. They thank you. Some of them call me ‘Doc.’ I’m not a doctor, just volunteering, and I like helping.”

Rockville Centre resident Susan Keller, 68, was recognized for devoting an astonishing 30,000 hours of volunteer service to the hospital. Keller’s commitment to the hospital’s compassionate listener program and her presence in various departments, including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, exemplify the essence of volunteerism. She has done everything from reading to newborns to providing older patients with the companionship if service dogs. Keller began volunteering at Mount Sinai in 1998, when she wanted to contribute to her community while her daughter attended school nearby.

Despite initially pursuing a career in counseling for the deaf after receiving a Masters degree in deafness rehabilitation, she never got around to pursuing a career after starting a family. But Keller found fulfillment in her volunteer work, where she connected with patients and staff alike.

“I think both involve helping — right? — but also connecting with people,” she said. “That’s a really big part of what I do. Whether it’s reading to babies in the NICU, you have to form some sort of connection with the baby. Taking the dogs around and seeing the connection the patient develops with that dog, and how it brings them out and makes them happy, being a part of that is indescribable. When I visit patients, it’s amazing.”

“I’m not being paid in dollar bills or a check,” Keller added, “but when I’m wearing my volunteer jacket, the wealth is in the patients and my memories with them. There are certain people I will never forget who have touched me so. I’m a very wealthy person. I really mean that.”