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Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Tracey Edwards
Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Tracey Edwards
Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, Mr. and Mrs. Foglia, Mike and Lynne Koufakis (rear), with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern and members of the ELIJA “family."

With the sun shining down on us, I was privileged to be present as the ribbon was cut, officially opening the unique 10-acre ELIJA Farm in my old neighborhood, South Huntington in Suffolk County. It is the culmination of a dream project of the organization of the same name that serves people in the autism spectrum and whose motto is, “To make a difference championing hope, one child a time.”

My dear friends Lynn and Michael Koufakis sent one of their sons to the ELIJA School for years and heard about the opportunity to obtain a farm that could become part of the school’s services and help find meaningful work for children like their son.

The farm is a nonprofit that uses environmentally sustainable methods to raise high quality produce. It utilizes organic materials, certified fertilizers and pesticides, and exclusively certified organic plants. The farm offers the community an opportunity to buy shares of its produce through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) during the 16-week farming season from June to mid October.

Produce is available in bulk at ELIJA Farm’s farm stand, where each member who has bought a share can select from a variety of vegetables. For the lucky shareholders, there are approximately 10-15 different vegetables available every week based on what is ripe for picking.

What I love about the project is that the ELIJA Farm partners with an agency that provides vocational and program opportunities to young adults with autism who are working on the farm and learning a skill to support themselves.

The land had been owned and farmed by the Foglia family for more than 50 fruitful years. As farmers and educators, they were in search of new stewards for their fields. Through a collaboration with the ELIJA group, the newly reorganized farm became a reality.

Their success is so great that there is a waiting list for buying a share, but you could “buy” (donate) a barn, farmhouse or tractor to be part of this innovative group.

To continued great harvests — of the land and the special people they serve!

Mentoring to Build a Child’s Future

Matilda Cuomo and my friend Janet Elias, technology director at Wagner Middle School, with her leadership team meeting to discuss Mentoring NY.

Matilda Cuomo and my friend Janet Elias, technology director at Wagner Middle School, with her leadership team meeting to discuss Mentoring NY.

It’s been my treat to help New York’s former First Lady Matilda Cuomo — whose goal for decades has been to change the lives of children — expand into new schools her beloved program, Mentoring New York.

Last week, we visited my friend, master teacher Janet Elias, at her new school in Manhattan, the Wagner Middle School, to meet with the principal and the school’s leadership.

The program will identify a group of eighth-graders who will mentor the same number of sixth-graders. Mrs. Cuomo sends a trainer into the school to work with the teachers and students with extraordinary results literally around the world.

I heard the story of a child who Mrs. Cuomo mentored while her husband was governor. She had a tough time breaking through to the unhappy child. But, through her perseverance and caring, the young lady who had been a step away from a life of crime and drugs turned her life around. She is now a proud mother. A life saved!

If anyone reading this is interested in getting involved as a mentor or has a school that would like to participate in the fall, contact Mrs. Cuomo at 844-337-6304

Toni: To health and happiness

toni pic

Having come to me as a college student intern from Queens College, Toni Cimino is now about to become the mother of a baby Victoria, and our Queens office sent her off with a shower of love and caring at one of our favorite fun restaurants, Tequilla Sunrise in Bayside. May her journey be gentle and her life be one of joy, happiness and health.

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