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10 People Who Mattered in 2011

Vote for the person you think had a major impact on the community.

As 2011 comes to a close, Huntington Patch is recapping the top stories of the past year. Today we're honoring the people behind the stories who made a difference in the community.

Domenica Zaharious: A  paraprofessional who saved the life of a seventh-grader who was choking. When Joet Cooper was finishing up her lunch and laughing with her friends, a chip suddenly became lodged in her throat before  saving the student's life. 

Jon Stepanian: Executive director of Long Island Food Not Bombs. Works tirelessly providing food and more to the needy. Stepanian runs a program that shares groceries with hundreds of people in Huntington Station every Tuesday and organizes similar programs across Long Island as a volunteer.

Jane Cardel: A volunteer at FSL’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program located at  in Huntington. Cardel began her service in the fall of 2007. Program Director, Mary Abgarian said Cardel is a "committed volunteer” to both the school and the children and because her love of children must which is in her heart.

Ed Nitkewicz: An attorney and South Huntington School Board trustee, Nitkewitz is a staunch . A dedicated volunteer, Nitkewicz coaches TOPSoccer and Challenger baseball teams. He is the chairperson for the Special Needs Faith Formation class at St. Elizabeth's and a corporate fundraiser for Autism Speaks. and a Trustee of the South Huntington School District. Nitkowicz tirelessly devotes much of his time to help local children with disabilities.

Caitlyn Leff: A 16-year-old who places a high value on helping those in need. She frequently participates in community service projects through school groups and the Girl Scouts. One of her favorite events was a clothing drive held several years ago to benefit the families of the Manor Field Family Center. In August, Caitlyn expressed her desire for the event to run again. Since no one wanted to put the time in to spearhead the event, she decided to find a way to run the donation drive herself. The 16-year-old put together a coordinated effort with the Elwood Middle School PTA and student volunteers to collect and sort clothing donations to benefit families in need from two agencies in Huntington: The Manor Field Family Center and the TRI Community Youth Agency, as well as needy families throughout the whole Huntington Township.

Bill Ayres: Founder and executive director of WhyHunger. Ayers co-founded the organization in 1975 with the late singer Harry Chapin. Since then, he has worked to raise money for grassroots organizations nationally and internationally, creating programs such as the National Hunger Hotline, the National Hunger Clearinghouse, the Grassroots Action Network, Artists Against Hunger and Poverty, Hungerthon and the Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Awards. In 2011, Ayers enlisted the help of Yoko Ono to create the "Imagine There's No Hunger" campaign.

Dr. Joseph D'Amore: When a 9-year-old newly-diagnosed diabetic became very ill, D'Amore, working as a camp doctor, rushed the boy to the hospital after an ambulance was slow getting to the scene, according to a Patch viewer who nominated him. On the way, the child fell asleep so D'Amore pulled over and administered and IV then sped the boy to the hospital. The next day D'Amore was told that he saved the boys life with the IV and if he had sent the boy back to his bed bunk, he might have gone into a coma and died in his sleep.

Martine Pirolo: A behavior specialist at Development Disabilities Institute in Huntington where she works full time with children with autism and other disabilities. She also provides home care to a child with Autism in Kings Park every day after school, taking her out into the community and helping her with everyday tasks.

Jalin Sair: A 16-year-old who noticed a younger boy lying motionless at the bottom of a Huntington Station pool June 27 before . Dominique Sair, 23, and his father Patrick Sair, performed immediate CPR on the victim trying to get him to breath before emergency responders arrived. The trio was .

Ray Spatafora: The night shift security boss at Whitman, a , who . No one escapes his attention. And no one, apparently, wants to. He jokingly scolds parents for cheering their children-athletes too loudly at sports events and suggests he might have to escort them out of the stands. He tells administrators what he thinks they need to know about the schools. He watches over students waiting after school for rides home. Spatafora takes questions and gives grumbling students advice on everything, from how to deal withe parents they think are meddling in their lives to ways to keep out of trouble. A 1973 Whitman graduate, before joining the school district, he worked 32 years in the HART bus system.

Lauren January 04, 2012 at 12:55 AM
I vote for Martine Pirolo! She is an amazing and loving woman, teacher, daughter, wife, and especially friend! She devotes her life every day to trying to educate and give a better future to so many children.
Rich Jacques January 04, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Wow, great response on this. The voting will end at midnight, Jan. 6. Thanks.
Brian January 04, 2012 at 10:58 PM
This vote looks like he who has largest social network wins.
jason January 07, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Is the voting over or has it been extended?
Pam Robinson January 07, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Hi, It's closed now but watch for a story next week that looks at the top two finishers. Both interesting people doing great things for the community, as are all the people here. And many others who aren't.

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