While anyone can lend a hand to a friend or even give food to a stranger, some people go above and beyond in their service to others. Angelo and Kathryn Grande of Glen Head are two such people, having spent decades volunteering for a variety of organizations and, most recently, donating hundreds of clothes to veterans in need.
Married 54 years, the couple have always been active members of the community. Both taught for decades in the North Shore School District, and Kathryn served in the Parent Teacher Association and on the Board of Education.
Kathryn, 82, explained that she and her husband have always tried to give their time and effort to helping friends, neighbors and members of their communities. Both are active members of the Long Island Zone of Retired Educators of New York, a nonprofit organization made up of former teachers across the state.
RENY currently boasts 12,000 active members, and Angelo serves as chairperson for community service while Kathryn is co-chair of the Glen Head branch. In the past Kathryn has also served as the president of the Long Island Zone, and Angelo has served as RENY’s president.
One of the main focuses of the Grande’s efforts has always been helping fellow veterans, as Angelo served in the Army during the Vietnam War.
Angelo, 83, had always been active in veterans groups, having served as post commander for American Legion Post 336 in Glenwood Landing and even as commander for Nassau County. One of the many ways the couple helped support veterans in the county has been providing them with fresh clothes every year at the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency’s annual Stand Downs.
“It’s been a nice experience for us just to be involved,” Kathryn said. “We try to do our little part.”
The Stand Downs are held twice a year by the Veterans Service Agency at the Freeport Armory, where volunteers donate thousands of items of clothing, toiletries, food and other essentials. This year alone, the Grande’s donated between 400 and 500 articles of clothing for the summer Stand Down.
Ralph Esposito, the agency’s director, explained that the organization has been holding the Stand Downs for over 35 years. He added that the event is the culmination of hundreds of hours of effort by numerous groups, including in the past the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Long Island Cares and representatives from every Nassau County American Legion post.
“We help homeless vets who really need food, clothing, assistance, anything,” Esposito said. “We support them with whatever we have.”
Before 2020 the VSA and other veteran and charity organizations would set up tables where veterans in need could browse and choose items. Since the coronavirus pandemic, Stand Downs have been organized as drive through events where whatever items veterans need are brought out to them.
While the Grande’s have donated thousands of articles of clothing and similar items over the years, they don’t do it alone. The couple raises money among RENY members, many of whom also donate their time and resources to the Stand Downs.
Their most recent donation featured clothing, socks, underwear and toiletries, all brand new. Both the Grande’s and Esposito said that it was essential that the items be new, as it helps the veterans in need maintain their personal pride, and “it’s the least we can do after all the sacrifices veterans have made for their country.”
The Grande’s and their fellow RENY members also helped the agency in other ways. Kathryn reminisced on how one Christmas members of the group wrote Christmas letters to Nassau veterans “to let them know there were people thinking about them.”
Esposito said that while the efforts made by hundreds of people ensure the Stand Downs continue to provide essential goods to the county’s veterans, the kindness and dedication of the Grande’s has always stood out.
“They have hearts of gold,” Esposito said. “They’re always there for people, helping them out, especially veterans. I can’t say enough about them really.”