Eileen Napolitano wears many hats. Whether it’s her involvement in the East Meadow School District, her efforts in the fight against opioids or her commitment to helping local veterans, she is working to make a difference in her community, said Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen.
Gillen highlighted Napolitano’s accomplishments at a ceremony at the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion in Hempstead on Dec. 13, where she presented the 56-year-old East Meadow resident with the town’s Make a Difference award.
“She’s definitely worthy,” said Todd Weinstein, 46, of East Meadow. “She’s done so many great things in the community.” Weinstein and Tammy Lao are fellow local activists who have worked with Napolitano, and nominated her for the honor.
Another nomination came from an elderly woman for whom Napolitano has acted as a caretaker by shopping for groceries and helping transport her around the community. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, is one of many who have relied on Napolitano for such assistance.
Asked why she does it, Napolitano said, “I was asked and, of course, I said yes.”
When her daughter Krysta, 19, was a student in the East Meadow schools, Napolitano was president of the Parent Teacher Association at Barnum Woods Elementary School, a Girl Scout troop leader and a softball coach.
She is also an East Meadow School District Board of Education trustee, and a member of the Nassau County Police Department’s Community Council and the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force.
As if that weren’t enough, Napolitano is also lending a hand to East Meadow’s American Legion Hall 1082. In May, the post began raising funds for long-needed repairs to its headquarters on Bellmore Road, which was built in 1891. Logs serve as support beams in the building’s basement, holding up a rustic wooden ceiling. A door that leads to the backyard no longer closes all the way, and the basement often floods when it rains. And a leaky roof causes additional damage during severe storms.
When Napolitano, a niece of two Vietnam veterans, heard about the hall, she wanted to lend a hand. “When she wants to get something done, she does it,” said her friend Ross Schiller, of East Meadow.
In October, Napolitano held a fundraiser for the hall at Public House 106 in East Meadow, raising nearly $5,000. She also reached out to Connelly & Sons Plumbing in town, which agreed to donate its services to fix the post’s plumbing issues, and Ace Hardware in Hicksville, which donated the necessary supplies.
The repairs should be completed by spring, Napolitano said, but there will be more work needed to help the post with maintenance and monthly bills. Next year, Napolitano plans to engage younger veterans and community members in the post and its activities.
“They, in turn, have done so much to help veterans that are less fortunate than them,” she said of the Legionnaires. Last month, the post helped collect three truckloads of donations for the veterans’ food pantry at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.
Napolitano said that she is passionate about the work she does with the Heroin Prevention Task Force, which coordinates community programs focusing on the opioid epidemic. She added that she looked forward to seeing the outcome of the task force’s most recent endeavor, a contest challenging students to create a public service announcement about substance abuse.
“This gives our youth an opportunity to start dialogue among themselves on a level that they could understand,” Napolitano said. “I’m praying that our students take advantage of that.”
Run in conjunction with District Attorney Madeline Singas’s office, the contest is open to all high school students in Nassau County, and asks participants to film a 30-second PSA by Jan. 31. Submissions can be made to filmfreeway.com/LIYouthSafetyPSA.
While the number of opioid overdoses is on the decline in Nassau County, according to Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, other issues that Napolitano hopes to take on include youth vaping, mental illness, school safety and the connections among them.
To that end, she persuaded Ryder and Sheriff Vera Fludd to appear at an East Meadow Board of Education meeting last month. “I’m very proud that our district is moving to be able to take care of ourselves in dire situations,” she said. “We’re going to continue to bring educational programs to the community as a whole so we can all be prepared to face whatever is thrown at us.”