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Long Island officials trying to spread bit of joy amid pandemic gloom

A "We're in this together . . .

A "We're in this together . . .  but 6 feet apart" sign outside Town Hall in Islip on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

As people struggle to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, municipalities across Long Island are making attempts to lift residents’ spirits.

These actions, from hanging encouraging banners outside town hall to providing Zoom activities online, provide residents with a peek of positivity amid a landscape that often seems full of gloom, officials said.

“I sometimes feel like the resident cheerleader and I’m happy to have that role right now,” said Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter.

Many towns are highlighting the bravery and generosity of their residents through profiles on social media. In Islip, such posts have ranged from two dry cleaners making masks to the daughter of a town worker playing the bagpipes in front of Town Hall on St. Patrick’s Day.

Similarly, Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino has started an online “Silver Linings” initiative to celebrate residents going above and beyond that he hopes will inspire further generosity.

“By focusing on acts of kindness all the way up to heroic efforts, it provides us with a good feeling of hope and shows that humanity is not lost, in fact it’s strengthened,” he said.

Officials say their goal is to combat loneliness and feelings of despair among residents.

The Town of Shelter Island is trying to address both body and mind. Susan Binder, a group fitness instructor for the town says she hopes to “create a sense of normalcy and routine” through online Zoom Zumba and fitness classes.

Lucille Buergers, a social worker for the town, formed a health and wellness alliance with staff and volunteers to make sure mental health issues are addressed during the crisis. She has created online programing for residents such as poetry readings and a talent show.

“We’re trying to help people be aware that they’re not alone,” she said.

In Babylon Town, Supervisor Rich Schaffer, who calls himself the “therapist in chief,” said looking out for the mental well-being of residents was a lesson learned after superstorm Sandy. To combat the negativity around COVID-19, Schaffer said, the town has created a twice-daily “Babylon Heroes” feature online, and also worked to get staff “in a good place” so they could relay the town’s message of hope.

“The best way to retrain the brain to not just go to the negative is to put positive out in front,” he said.

Town historian Mary Cascone said she wanted to help create an informative distraction for people so she started a town history blog.

“At some point I think we’ve all felt like ‘What can I do?” she said. “This is something that I can do. I’m not a nurse. The essential thing that I provide to people is information.”

In Westbury Village, residents walking downtown are getting a musical distraction.

The Westbury Business Improvement District has an outdoor speaker system run from Adam Moramarco‘s Advantage Tennis store. Moramarco typically plays only holiday music over the system but several weeks ago he decided that while doing inventory, he would start playing uplifting music, ranging from patriotic songs to Journey and Chicago.

“I just wanted to raise some spirits,” he said. “Music always brightens your day. It’s like a little escape.”

Residents can submit or private message towns for social media hero spotlights through the following links:

Town of Babylon

https://www.townofbabylon.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=861

Town of Huntington

https://www.facebook.com/HuntingtonNewYork/

Town of Islip

https://www.facebook.com/townofislip/

Town of North Hempstead

LocalHeroes@NorthHempsteadNY.gov

Town of Oyster Bay

stories@oysterbay-ny.gov

Town of Smithtown

SPIO@smithtownny.gov

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