East Rockaway spotlights community members


For the first time ever, two East Rockaway community members were honored with the Hometown Hero award.

Gail Hyland was the first to receive this award on Dec. 13 and Alycia Fahrenkrug was the second to receive it on Jan. 17. Board of Education President Pete McNally said that he hopes to make this a monthly tradition at every board meeting. East Rockaway residents picked the community members that were recognized at the BOE meeting.

“We worked on a Google document where people can fill out forms stating who they want to be recognized,” BOE Trustee Dom Vulpis, who was instrumental in making these awards happen, said. “And now we have an excel spreadsheet showing how many people voted for a particular candidate.” With Hyland being the top voted candidate, she won the first Hometown Hero award.

“Gail does great things,” McNally said. “She fosters lots of children and some of them went to the East Rockaway schools. Along with fostering children, McNally said that Hyland is “very involved in the community.”

Similar sentiments were said about Fahrenkrug. The BOE reads out statements prior to giving the Hometown Hero award out and these statements are directly from the Google surveys. On the Google forms that were submitted, someone wrote, “She raised hundreds of dollars in gift certificates that were donated to families in our community.” Fahrenkrug was also able to impact the community by making an honor wall for Veterans, planning a Ducks game for families, and navigating the Rock Rivalry during the pandemic.

According to Vulpis, these surveys and the Hometown Hero award in general is bringing the community together. “These votes were all bipartisan with no influence from the board and all the votes came from the community,” he said. The idea for this award came from BOE Trustee Joe Kilgus during the pandemic.

“We’re always dealing with a lot of adversity and issues of diversity coming out of the pandemic and it was a tough time,” Vulpis said. “So Joe said, ‘you know what we should do? We should highlight the good that has come out of the school system over the years and the good that is in the community’ and this turned out to be a homerun.”

Due to the success of these awards so far, McNally plans on continuing them. “We are hoping that this becomes a monthly tradition,” he said. “We’re going to keep doing it this year at every board meeting and see how it goes because there are so many people so deserving of this award.”