Musician Uses Social Platforms to Raise Awareness… Leading up to a July 25 Fundraiser

Joe DeJesu, a Huntington-based musician, recently arranged an original song for United Way of Long Island to inspire hope and bring positivity during these difficult times. His song, titled United Together (We Will Survive), accompanies a poignant video demonstrating United Way’s continued efforts to help those impacted by COVID-19 – including healthcare responders, families, mothers with newborns, seniors, and individuals who are unemployed. Joe’s dedication to helping others, as well as his commitment to the not-for-profit’s mission, is a testament to the goodwill of the Long Island community.

The video, featuring DeJesu’s original song, has been integrated into the organization’s marketing and fundraising campaigns, including United Way’s workplace strategy in which companies participate in a payroll deduction program in support of the organization. Current top workplace campaigns include: GEICO, UPS, National Grid, Suffolk Transportation Service, Inc., PSEG Long Island, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Macy’s Costco, Enterprise, Petro, Target Corporation and TD Charitable Foundation.

In early April when DeJesu was approached with the idea to write a song for United Way of Long Island, he was eager to have a platform to showcase his talents in support of his community, “Long Island is my home. If there is anything I can do to help, I’ll jump at the opportunity.”

“Joe’s original song is a true gemstone of a fundraising asset for our organization. We are pleased to collaborate with local musician Joe DeJesu, who exemplifies our motto to Live United and help uplift our neighbors,” said Theresa A. Regnante, President & CEO of United Way of Long Island.

United Together (We Will Survive) was originally a gift for DeJesu’s wife, Eri. With strengthened appreciation for his family, Joe wrote the lyrics wanting to bring love and positivity to the coronavirus crisis. As a result, he realized his song held the perfect message to lift the spirits of his fellow Long Islanders: “We will survive this crazy time; with each day, a little better. And when the sun begins to shine, we know we’ll always be united together.”

Given unusual recording conditions, DeJesu recorded the song from the safety of his home. “It’s difficult to be apart [from my bandmates] creatively, but eventually the pieces all fell into place.” To assist in the recording and production of the song, Joe reached out to his friends, Huntington-based instrumentalist Kenny Friedman (Kenny Friedman Music) who recorded piano for the song and longtime producer and multi-instrumentalist Bob Stander (Parcheesi Studios) who produced the song. DeJesu was pleasantly surprised at the success of the end result, given that the recording was done entirely remotely and without collaborating in person. As they worked through adjusting to using new technology, along with the laborious process of sending song edits back and forth, the final version of the song came together.

Musical mentor and longtime friend of DeJesu, Mike DelGuidice, Singer/Songwriter and Billy Joel band member comments, “A song like this can only produce beautiful results. Especially when it comes from the heart of a songwriter that is channeling his deepest emotions into the lyric. When songs are written in that manner, the people who listen get equally as affected and can feel the exact sentiment of the writer.” He added, “[Joe’s] generosity and his selflessness knows no bounds. There have been numerous things that he has done for me on his own without asking. He has a beautiful demeanor, great sense of humor, and a heart that feels everything around him. A true empath.”

As COVID-19 has changed DeJesu’s ability to perform, he is now using social media as his main platform to reach his audience. To celebrate his 40th birthday on July 25, leading up to that date DeJesu is hosting a Facebook fundraiser to benefit United Way of Long Island. In addition, Joe streams live shows and jam sessions on his Facebook page, and includes a link through which people can contribute to United Way, supporting the recovery of the region and its most vulnerable populations.

Joe DeJesu’s thoughtfulness towards his community stems from the understanding that this health crisis has had varying levels of impact on every Long Islander. “When we’re all stuck in the house, it’s hard to think about what others are going through. It’s easy to forget that we need to rely on each other. What better time is there to help out than now?”

The song United Together (We Will Survive) has helped raise funds for United Way to address the most urgent needs of families across Nassau and Suffolk Counties, including helping unemployed and furloughed workers; frontline responders; as well as new moms giving birth during the crisis. Funds raised will continue to support crucial programs and services, especially for seniors, as the Long Island region begins to recover from the pandemic.

To watch United Together (We Will Survive) and to make a contribution to United Way of Long Island, visit

To follow Joe DeJesu on Facebook, visit

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 – Huntington musician Joe DeJesu performs. Photo Credit: Marianne P. Stone Photo
Photo 2 – Joe and his family: wife Eri and daughters Melody and Lyric
Photo 3 – Producer & multi-instrumentalist Bob Stander of Parcheesi Studios
Photo 4 – Instrumentalist Kenny Friedman of Kenny Friedman Music

Born, raised and still living in Huntington, DeJesu was regularly surrounded by music growing up. Inspired by the array of genres played in his home, he formed his musical career in his early twenties, performing at venues in Manhattan and across the country. After nearly a decade of performing, DeJesu decided to follow a more traditional career path. During his ten-year musical hiatus, he studied law and became an attorney in the real estate business. However, with the support of his family, and due to the extra time recently provided by working from home, Joe has been able to reconnect with his music and pursue songwriting intensively.

DeJesu credits his transition back to his music career to Mike DelGuidice, Singer/Songwriter and Billy Joel band member. DelGuidice offered DeJesu to open for Big Shot at The Paramount and since that concert, Joe DeJesu has continued to perform live at Long Island and New York City venues.

Before the pandemic, DeJesu hosted his own radio show, J.A.M. Joe’s Acoustic Mondays on Govs Comedy Club Radio, during which he both interviewed and played music with local artists. Under the new circumstances, he continues to host the show from his home accompanied by the musical talent of his family, including his wife, Eri, and daughters Lyric and Melody. With three singles produced in the last six months, he is continuing to work on original music with the goal of putting together a full-length album.

How to be Compassionate During COVID-19

Stephanie Hwang
Marketing and Communications Intern at United Way of Long Island
Undergraduate student at Stony Brook University
English & Business Management double-major with Korean Studies minor

The term “collapse of compassion” refers to the phenomenon that states that as the number of people in need of help increases, the compassion we feel towards the people decreases. This trend can be attributed to three reasons. For one, we feel emotionally distanced from those in suffering, especially as their numbers become overwhelming. Additionally, we feel that if we do try to help, our contributions will not make much of a difference. Lastly, we feel that someone else inevitably will help regardless of our own actions. Amidst these influences, it becomes difficult to accurately measure our own value to its fullest extent. However, with United Way of Long Island, every single person can make a difference in bettering our community. Focusing on health, education, and financial stability, contributions of any size have a significant impact towards changing lives.

While our community is adjusting to a broader set of difficulties, right now is the time when every small gift plays a huge role in improving another person’s situation. Not only does this help bring resources to people in need, but it also provides solace.

In a thank you message upon receiving aid, Jessica writes, “Today was difficult for me fighting the hardships of this time. I received my gift card and knowing that there is support is comforting. I just want to give thanks to all who work with United Way. Thank you!”

Another recipient, Thomas, says, “Still eight weeks in, waiting on unemployment. To date, your organization is the only relief I’ve received. With that, I just wanted to say thank you so much. It really means a lot.” The UNITED TOGETHER initiatives, along with these heartfelt messages, would not have been possible without the generosity of our community members, including corporations, foundations, labor unions and individuals.

The organization will soon be shifting its focus from immediate response to long-term recovery. This includes protecting the health and safety of seniors and other vulnerable Long Islanders. Funded by RXR Realty, Safe at Home is committed to connecting seniors with all the critical resources from which they have suddenly become withdrawn, including access to medical appointments, meals, prescriptions, and social relationships. “Unlike past crises, with COVID-19, we can’t physically rush to help those in need. Instead, we have to find new ways to help,” said Scott Rechler, Chairman & CEO of RXR Realty. With its loyalty to the goal of building socially, economically, and environmentally responsible communities, RXR Realty adapted to the circumstances through contributing to United Way.

Leading funders of UNITED TOGETHER: A Response Fund For COVID-19 include Bank of America, New York Jets, Rauch Foundation, National Grid, M&T Bank, The Countess Moira Charitable Foundation, Brookhaven National Lab/Brookhaven Science Associates, PSEG Long Island, The AmerisourceBergen Foundation, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, MSC Industrial Supply Co., Northville Industries, RXR, People’s United Community Foundation, Esquire Bank, National Grid Foundation, The Randi & Clifford Lane Foundation, City National Bank, GEICO, Island Outreach Foundation, Wells Fargo, United Way Worldwide, TriState Capital Bank, CVS Health, Deloitte, Iroquois Gas Transmission System, King Kullen Grocery Co., Sunshine Foundation, UPS, BlackRock, CNA, Philadelphia Insurance, Ridgewood Savings Bank, TA Mechanical Group Inc., Utica National Insurance Group, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, ACIT, CHUBB, EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants, Long Island Federation of Labor, LECSA, New Empire Group, Ltd., Transervice Logistics Inc., Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock and Branch 6000, National Association of Letter Carriers.

As the difficulties posed by COVID-19 persist, the need for supporters continues to grow. To avoid falling into the collapse of compassion, we must remember that our individual actions hold great significance. Contributions of any size represent your concern for the common good. By giving to UNITED TOGETHER to help those in need, you can simultaneously express your personal encouragement of the community’s well-being.

To contribute to UNITED TOGETHER: A Response Fund For COVID-19, visit or text “HelpNow” to 313131.

Celebrating Life With Born United: A Community Baby Shower


Stephanie Hwang
Marketing and Communications Intern at United Way of Long Island
Undergraduate student at Stony Brook University
English & Business Management double-major with Korean Studies minor



United Way of Long Island’s Born United initiative provides gifts cards to local hospitals to distribute to growing families in need of financial support

Although the extensive presence of COVID-19 has led to the invasion of many aspects of our lives, there are certain occasions that continue to call for celebration. The emergence of new life into the world is an event that should not be dismissed just because of our current situation. As a result, United Way of Long Island has established Born United: A Community Baby Shower. 

Born United is concentrating its efforts towards helping new and growing families obtain necessities, including baby food, diapers and bottles, through the allocation of gift cards. In partnership with local hospitals, United Way of Long Island is working hard to facilitate the distribution process: “The Born United initiative is an opportunity for United Way to support hospitals by allowing our healthcare responders to provide a gift to the family as they start their journey with their new member,” says Theresa A. Regnante, President and CEO of United Way of Long Island. Through collaboration with healthcare facilities, the best effort is being made to provide succor for the families in need. 

With the added support of United Way, families will be able to redirect some of the stress brought on by the current circumstances towards focusing on fully appreciating the joys of parenthood. News 12 Long Island recently followed the story of Maria, a new mother whose financial situation has put a strain on motherhood, especially amidst the limitations caused by COVID-19. Upon being a recipient of Born United’s relief program, she states “It definitely gives me peace of mind knowing that United Way is there for me. Every penny counts… sending me that gift card really did make a difference.” Born United is taking measures to share this source of comfort and encouragement to the thousands of families in Long Island also struggling to provide for their children. 

Along with the assistance from local hospitals, EGC Group also provided a significant contribution to United Way of Long Island with its development of the #BornUnited campaign. In a review of this collaboration, Advertising Week writes, “This specific campaign posed unique COVID-19-related challenges since the team had to brainstorm, work, and collaborate virtually. The inspiration behind this campaign was: ‘Coming together for the greater good.’” In response to the effect of COVID-19, all contributors to the Born United initiative share the goal of a united approach.

Giving to Born United is one way to help the community defy COVID-19 and appropriately celebrate the special moments in our lives. 

To view a short video created by EGC Group, visit

To contribute to Born United: A Community Baby Shower, visit or text “BornUnited” to 313131. 


A Response Fund for COVID-19

Stephanie Hwang
Marketing and Communications Intern at United Way of Long Island
Undergraduate student at Stony Brook University
English & Business Management double-major with Korean Studies minor



United Way of Long Island launched UNITED TOGETHER: A Response Fund For COVID-19 to provide low-income families that have been hurt by COVID-19 with the means to acquire basic needs.

At a time when a worldwide pandemic requires us to maintain at least six feet of distance from one another, it is now more important than ever to unite as a community. As we make our best efforts to stay healthy and stay inside, we are working towards creating a safe world for all of us to be able to re-enter together.

The devastation caused by COVID-19 is particularly affecting many low-income families, leaving them with a sudden inability to maintain basic needs. To help combat the difficulties of adjusting to the abrupt loss of financial stability, United Way of Long Island has facilitated a Response Fund to directly support families in need.

Despite the unexpected nature of our situation, United Way of Long Island was able to efficiently and effectively transition to working remotely, to allow for the production of disaster relief and aid initiatives to continue without cessation. By taking proactive measures since mid March, they were able to assemble a gift card distribution system, through the UNITED TOGETHER Response Fund, to give money directly to as many devastated families in Nassau and Suffolk Counties as possible. Along with anxieties undoubtedly incurred from the pressure to maintain good health or be able to readily access medical assistance, at this time, many low-income families struggle simply to meet their daily necessities. The Response Fund provides these families with the encouragement to remain hopeful.

Christine, mother of four, writes, “I received the gift card today and want to say thank you so very much for your help and assistance. I cannot tell you what a big help this is for me. While waiting in limbo for any type of unemployment to kick in, I am finding it very difficult to provide for my 4 young teens. The gift card will go a long way to help feed them.”

Every individual contribution goes a very long way towards granting comfort to these families. Just as we are doing our best to protect one another by wearing masks and staying six feet apart, giving to UNITED TOGETHER: A Response Fund For COVID-19 is another opportunity to boost the well-being of our community from a safe distance.

To contribute to UNITED TOGETHER: A Response Fund For COVID-19, visit or text “HelpNow” to 313131.


Chronicles from My First Professional Development Workshop

Catherine Pergolis
Marketing and Communications Intern at United Way of Long Island
Attending Suffolk University in Boston, MA
Public Relations major with Marketing minor



On Wednesday, July 31st I had the privilege of attending the Bank of America Professional Development and Community Service Day in Melville, New York.  Also attending the event were 37 interns who participated in the Bank of America Charitable Foundation Summer Youth Employment Program, administered by United Way of Long Island.  Workshops such as career planning, resume writing, and financial literacy filled up the day’s agenda, which began at 9:00 in the morning and ended at 3:30 in the afternoon.  I had no idea that I would have a full day of interesting presentations and experiences that would teach me so much about my professional life now and in the future.

Mary Ellen King, Sr. Vice President of Global Human Resources at Bank of America, led the first workshop of the day which focused on career planning, resume writing and interview skills. Interns, including myself, were eager to hear about the key tips to getting a good job and becoming successful.  King emphasized to us that we should choose a career path they are passionate about and will outline their definition of success.

King advised interns to write a thank you note to their interviewer no later than 24 hours after they have the interview.  As a hiring manager in previous years, she explained to us that many thank you notes all look the same and if you want to stand out you need to personalize the thank you notes to make the interviewer feel a special connection.

As the workshop concluded, we were left with an interview tip: if you do not have any questions at the end of an interview, ask a question like, “What skills have made you successful in your role here?”

Our next workshop was called “The Power and Pitfalls of Social Media,” which was conducted by Karen Taylor-Bass of TaylorMade Media LLC.  We heard real life stories about social media posts that have been detrimental to people’s careers and were advised to think before posting.  Although many interns have heard this saying in the past, it was new for some of us to hear that college admissions officers look at an applicant’s social media platforms and if they find something offensive or distasteful they can easily rescind the admission offer.  Taylor-Bass explained what it means to buy your domain name and why this is so important; if you do not own your name on social media, someone else can purchase it, which can cause major problems. I was surprised that I could buy my domain name for less than $11.  I’m going to look into this!

After lunch we heard from Noelia Tissera, Vice President and Market Leader for Consumer Banking at Bank of America and Preetham Dhivakarababu, Vice President and Market Leader for Merrill Edge.  Both Tissera and Dhivakarababu spoke about how emotion and investing should not go hand in hand.  We were advised to commit to goals and time frames in order to invest properly.

The third workshop of the day was Financial Literacy and was directed by Cathy Duque, Vice President of Global Human Resources at Bank of America, and Yamiley Jabouin, Assistant Vice President of Global Banking and Markets at Bank of America.  I felt like this workshop was the most informational and encouraged us to start saving and budgeting.  Duque stated, “It’s not about how much you make, it’s about how you manage it.”  I agree with Duque and after hearing the presentation I am more interested in ways that I can cut down on spending.

Jabouin advised students to not have a credit card until they turn 21 because it is a life time relationship with the credit card company once you start.  I was grateful for this presentation because my misconceptions about money management were debunked.  Jabouin and Duque explained to us that when you receive your credit card bill you have the option to pay off the minimum balance or the entire amount.  I used to think that when you received a bill you would have to pay off the entire amount, now I understand how it actually works and why getting a credit card at a young age can have adverse effects.

Throughout the presentation there were some facts that really stood out to me.  I was stunned that 62% of Americans have less than $1000 in their savings account.  I did not realize that the majority of the United States struggles this much.  Another astonishing statistic is 63% of Americans can’t afford a $500 to $1000 repair on their car or home, leading them into debt.  After hearing these facts, it made me realize the importance of having an emergency fund for the obstacles life will throw at you.

The last portion of the day was our community service project led by Greta Guarton, Executive Director of Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. This was my favorite part of the day and it warmed my heart to give back to the community.  During this event, we created care packages for families who are homeless living on Long Island, consisting of socks, deodorant, soap, tissues, hand sanitizer, shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, chapstick, a comb and two granola bars.

Guarton explained that there are 4,000 individuals who are homeless in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.  Along with the toiletries, each of us added notecards with hopeful messages to the bag of goods. In total, 204 bags were made by the end of the event.  I am so fortunate to have so much and I enjoyed creating care packages to help those in need.  Homelessness is something that no one should have to experience and I was grateful to be a part of the mission to end homelessness on Long Island.

Once the bags were finished, Bob Isaksen, Long Island President of Bank of America, spoke to us describing how we are the future.  Isaksen explained that first impressions mean everything on an interview and he was glad we heard tips on how to interview properly. In addition to Isaksen, we also heard remarks from Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Executive and Dana Boylan, Executive Director of Nassau County Office of Youth Services.  Bellone stated “How can we create and environment [on Long Island] where you can be successful?” Boylan stated that she is very committed to summer youth employment and emphasized, “Youth development is community development.”  Clearly Isaksen, Bellone and Boylan are three very passionate people about bettering the opportunities for youth so we can become successful and self-sufficient individuals.

All ten guest speakers really showed us that success is possible if you have the drive and the right mindset.  It was a fantastic day and I am so glad that I was able to receive so much information.

What’s a Home Energy Audit?

Since I began working at United Way of Long Island in November 2018, the terms “healthy home” and “energy audit” have been heard more than a handful of times. Then I found out about the “blower door.” That’s when I knew I needed in! As a new homeowner, I was extra intrigued by what knowledge an energy audit might equip me with…so I signed up for an energy audit through United Way of Long Island. Here’s the scoop on a home energy audit complete with pictures.

An energy audit provides homeowners with information about how energy efficient your home is and provides recommendations for how to help your home perform better. So, for example, if you have a drafty house (like mine!), want to know if you have safe carbon monoxide levels or if your boiler room is receiving proper air flow to functioning efficiently, an energy audit can help you. The process takes approximately 2 hours and is completely painless.

Meet Bob from American AWS! Bob led the energy audit. Upon arrival he completed a full house walk-through to understand the layout of the house and take an initial assessment. Afterward, he crawled through the attic spaces to inspect air flow and insulation, then performed a blower test on the front door to evaluate any air leaks in the house. Finally, Bob spent some time in the boiler/water heater room to measure flue gases in the boiler duct and complete a gas leakage test.

Bob inspects an outdoor air duct. Can you smell the fresh linens?

Bob inspects the garage and describes the attic space (you can crawl into the garage attic through the wood panel on the ceiling). I learned that our living room, which sits against the garage wall is probably drafty because of the attic air flow and insulation.

Bob uses a laser to measure the volume of the house, which will help him to determine what the air leakage rate should be in the house. This step is critical before the blower door test.


Bob installed a blower door, which depressurized the house to test air leakage. I couldn’t get the results immediately, but they will be sent to me in a written report in 1-2 weeks. My cat, on the other hand, concluded that the blower door is not her friend, but the tools sure smell nice…




In the boiler room, Bob inspected vents leading to the outdoors. He checked carbon monoxide and other gas levels in the flue (the silver tube connected to the boiler) to ensure there is enough oxygen in the boiler room for the boiler and water heater to run efficiently. Bob also tested for any gas leaks. Lucky for me, no gas leaks – phew!




A common health issue in Long Island homes is that bathroom vents are hooked up to attics as opposed to the outdoors, which doesn’t allow for optimal air flow. Be certain to check your bathroom’s venting system if you have one.

So what’s my conclusion? I recommend this process to everyone, especially new homeowners. It was easy and informative. Knowledge is power…

Thanks Bob!

To schedule your free energy audit, visit

To learn about United Way of Long Island’s Healthy Homes work, including energy audits, visit

A Letter of Gratitude

For 10 weeks in the spring, United Way of Long Island held a green construction course funded by the New York State Department of Labor for 25 students to learn the foundation of efficient building. One of those students, Eddie, wrote the following letter to express his gratitude for this life-changing opportunity after earning a new career with IBEW Local 25: 

DSC_0424Dear United Way of Long Island,

I was in a point in my life where I wasn’t too sure of what I wanted to do, after leaving my past job where there wasn’t much room for growth or development, it wasn’t for me. I felt like I needed to work on me, be more self empowered and figure out what I really wanted to do. While being unemployed, things started to get rough… low funds, doing job applications not getting any calls back. Then I had suffered an injury which gave me a  lack of confidence and made me less eager to succeed. I felt drained.

I would frequently visit the Department Of Labor office to look for job postings or any school programs that were coming up. While looking, a woman who worked there directed me towards this class, I started to review the list of what the class offered. The DOL class stood out to me, I felt like I could learn a lot and learn the basics on many different topics, which would help me find a direction of what I wanted to do.

Later, I was told the class was full, but I couldn’t accept that. That day I went down to the United Way office, I  insisted that I wanted to be apart of the class and I also expressed all the tools the class had that would help me succeed. I was highly impressed that Rick the program director was able to find a way to get me in, that made my day.

I didn’t think a lot of people who attended the class realized how much we were going to get from this program and the fact it was paid for by the New York State Department of Labor. By the second week I was highly fascinated, I saw that we were learning something serious so I made sure I would do well if I wanted to excel. Also what I liked about the class was that it introduced me to Volunteer opportunities which I always wanted to contribute to.

Close to the end of class we all took our BPI certification test, I was able to obtain the highest score in the class!! I felt really good, like I accomplished something major. Made me believe if I put my mind to something, I can achieve it.

After class, I fixed my resume and went on interviews and I was able to volunteer for the first time which I enjoyed. I filled out applications. I got calls back from engineering jobs, based on what I had learned from class. I never thought something like that would happen, it changed my mindset completely. I was fascinated with how many different types of engineering jobs, and union jobs all that I probably would’ve never had clear knowledge about if it wasn’t for the class.

Less then a week after graduation, I was able to secure a job I would’ve never thought I’d get so quickly. The course built up my confidence, feeling like I could go for positions I didn’t think I was qualified for but got calls for interviews.

I want to say that Steve did a great job of instructing the class, and from the beginning he challenged me to keep going , to think differently, and not give up. He provided me with the direction I needed to find the information that I wanted. I guess he saw something in me that I could really succeed, and I’m so grateful for that and grateful that Rick was able to get me in the class.


Finding a Passion for Psychology

United Way of Long Island’s DREAMS for Youth Scholarship Program provides scholarships to deserving students so that they may achieve their academic dreams of continuing their education. Here is a reflection from scholarship recipient Oscar of Brentwood, who is studying at Suffolk Community College with assistance from a Camilla G. Belser Memorial Scholarship.

Hello, my name is Oscar and I had the honor of being selected as a recipient of the Camilla Belser Scholarship. This scholarship has not only helped me financially, but has also allowed me to focus on my school work. As a first generation student, I did not know what to expect when I enrolled in college, and at first I was hesitant to enroll in a community college. But, being a student at Suffolk Community College has been a great experience which has exceeded my expectations.

As an honor program student at Suffolk, I have taken part in a rigorous academic environment but I would not have it any other way because this has exposed me to life-changing ideas, and I have met exceptional individuals who I am proud to call my friends.

My professors have also been great individuals who have enabled me to find my true passion. I have also taken part in various clubs such as the Honors Club, which allows me to continue giving back to my community.

When I first entered college, I was undecided about my major, but now as I enter my second year, I have declared a major in psychology. I have been accepted into the joint admission psychology program at Stony Brook University, where I plan to continue my studies after I receive my associates degree at Suffolk.

I am very grateful for the opportunity you have given me with this scholarship, and I know the only way to show you my gratitude is to continue my studies and continue achieving academic excellence. That is why I am happy to tell you that despite the academic challenges I have faced during my first year, I have been able to achieve a 3.8 GPA and a place on the dean’s list.

I am confident that with your financial support I will be able to excel academically as I enter my second year of college.

Thank you for believing in me and for your financial support. I am forever grateful.

Staying Strong for her Family

kelly-mason-izabella.jpgWhen a person is faced with challenges, it is often easier to collapse under the pressure than to rise above them. For Kelly of Huntington Station, despite the tragedies she’s faced, she knew she had to stay strong for the most important people in her life – her four children.

In 2012, Kelly was on a charter bus traveling upstate when the driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed the bus. Following the accident, she had to undergo years of physical therapy – half of her face was paralyzed, she temporarily lost of the use of her right arm, and she developed a stutter.

“One of the hardest things I had to accept after my accident was how it affected my kids, and me as a mother,” said Kelly. “There were a lot of times that they had to make a bowl of cereal themselves because I couldn’t cook, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – basic things.”

As the years went by, Kelly’s physical limitations improved, and she felt that life was finally returning back to normal. “During the period after the accident, there was a lot of hard times,” she remembered. “But through the hard times you get closer as a family, and then eventually the hard times get better and better. I got stronger and the kids forgot about the bad times. Then…my dad died”.

In 2016, Kelly’s father suddenly passed away, and the positive progress that Kelly and her family had made was once again thrown into chaos. Closely following that, their family dog died, and Kelly realized the toll that all of this loss was having on her children. She reached out to United Way of Long Island partner agency Family Service League for help.

“When my dad died, I was the one who handled everything, I didn’t get to really feel what was going on, I was just on autopilot. In life, you stay strong as a defense mechanism to get through the tough times, but there comes a time when it comes and floods in. This was my moment. I’m very grateful to Family Service League, because they’ve mended us back from the confusion and not understanding how to handle and talk through things.”

Following those volatile months, Kelly’s financial situation became unstable and she found relief through United Way of Long Island’s Project Warmth, which provides one-time grants to utility companies on behalf of families struggling to pay their home heating bills. “I’m so grateful for Project Warmth because I know my children are going to be warm. The fact that the stress of that is gone, it means so much. It helps me be a better mother, to be able to focus on other important things.”

“The best person in the world is my mom,” adds Kelly’s 9-year-old son Mason. “She’s caring, she’s helpful, she’s generous, she helps people in need. I want to be kind and thoughtful like her, I want to help, it makes me happy when I get to help someone else”.

“To me, United Way is amazing because in life, a lot of bad things happen to good people. It’s refreshing that there is a person, and organization, who can help you through those rough times,” Kelly concluded. “Throughout the years, I have made it a point to donate, as well as give time to others. It’s a very humbling experience to be at a point of needing that help and receiving it, but the best thing of all is that my son has learned the importance of helping others, and now he wants to give back too!”

An Exercise in Team Work

YouthBuild student Jasmine was part of a class-wide exercise focusing on responsibility and accountability. She was elected as leader of the group, and was given the responsibility to give assignments and tasks to her team to complete the given goal. They were given 13 tasks to complete in just 90 minutes at Tanger Outlets in Deer Park. The group had to send each completed task to the group leader, who had to relay the accomplishment to YouthBuild staff. At the conclusion of the scavenger hunt, all of the students had to return to class together, as a cohesive team, and give a presentation with their findings.

Following the exercise, Jasmine wrote a short reflection on her experience, what she learned, and how it will help her grow:

“I was in charge of a scavenger hunt that tested my leadership skills in a group activity. We were asked to find several items throughout the Tanger Outlets; with those items, came certain instructions pertaining to them. We had a time limit to put forth the group effort to retrieve each item as instructed. As a group, we managed to complete the task in an unified fashion.

The lessons I learned from this activity were:

  • How to execute my time.
  • Work with others to reach a goal.
  • With teamwork, you can accomplish more.
  • With the support of others, you can reach higher goals than expected.
  • How to lead a group with many different personalities.
  • Set aside any differencesto achieve the goal at hand.

The skills and experience that I’ve expressed about this exercise will help me dearly in my everyday life including my career choice. I will have to learn how to function around others and always be mindful that everyone has different ways of completing task.

I learned that everyone together on the same page can most definitely make a task easier and will bring a group together full of ideas. I learned that MY WAY isn’t just the only way and that my way may not always be the only correct way.”