A Lynbrook High School senior and an East Rockaway resident were among 11 women recognized by the Town of Hempstead for their impact on the community through volunteer work, education and health services. They were presented with the 2018 Pathfinder Awards, in honor of Women’s History Month.
On March 29, Town Supervisor Laura Gillen spoke about each honoree’s contributions.
Lynbrook High School Senior Ashley Cegelski earned the High School Senior Pathfinder Award in honor of her volunteer work at Camp ANCHOR, a Hempstead program for handicapped citizens that she has worked at since she was in the ninth grade.
“It was really nice to accept it,” said Cegelski, the lone student honoree. “It was nice to see all the older people who were Pathfinders and seeing what they did.”
Renee Klein, of East Rockaway, was presented the Humanitarian Pathfinder Award for her volunteer work every Thursday for the visually impaired and for her charitable contributions to more than 40 organizations, including Camp ANCHOR. She is also in the process of organizing the Bernard Klein Charitable Fund fundraiser on Sept. 23 at the Oceanside Jewish Centre to raise money for Shriners Hospitals for Children and for Camp ANCHOR.
“I’m surprised by all this,” Klein said of the award. “It’s so wonderful that this was for me.”
Gillen personally presented the 2018 Pathfinder of the Year Award to Patricia Ann Norris-McDonald, the mayor of Malverne. Norris-McDonald spent most of her life caring for her husband, Steven McDonald, who was shot and paralyzed while on duty with the New York City Police Department. She helped him tell his story of forgiveness even after his death in January 2017.
“I accept this for all women out there — for all women who have to take care of their husbands and their families,” McDonald said to an emotional audience.
New Nassau County Sherriff Vera Fludd, of East Meadow, was one of the three Pathfinder Award winners for community service. The other two were Joan Hugues, a Baldwin paralegal who fought for choking prevention education in the state, and Millie Jones, a past East Meadow Chamber of Commerce president, who runs a teddy bear giving program that benefits children and seniors.
Eileen Mahler, of Oceanside, won the Health Services Pathfinder Award. Mahler, the director of nursing at South Nassau Communities Hospital, was recognized for taking over and improving the hospital’s graduate nursing training program.
Wantagh resident Heidi Felix won the Volunteer Pathfinder Award for her leadership roles in the hamlet’s Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club, as well as taking on other Wantagh community projects.
Kristi Detor, of Port Washington, and Allison Ruffrano, of Garden City, were both honored with Education Pathfinder Awards. Detor overhauled the East Meadow School District’s athletic curriculum, while Ruffrano teaches at Nassau Community College and has a summer workshop in Italy for aspiring photographers.
Town of Hempstead Public Safety Officer Joan Cusumano, of Floral Park, rounded out the honorees, earning the Town of Hempstead Employee Pathfinder Award for her positive demeanor and for consistently helping her coworkers.
Melissa Koenig contributed to this story.