Fifteen women were honored Saturday as Women of Distinction for their contributions to causes in their communities.
State Sen. Jim Gaughran sponsored the awards ceremony at the Cold Spring Harbor Library. “We applaud them for being these incredible role models and leaders,” Gaughran said. “Thy have empowered other women to make a difference, and this is why they are a cut above the rest.”
Carol Rocco is coordinator of Veterans Affairs for the Town of Huntington. She has advocated for the veteran community for more than 30 years, assisting individuals and their families, and organizing events to honor veterans.
Debora Thivierge has volunteered with numerous autism groups. She is the executive director and founder of the ELIJA School, founder of the ELIJA Foundation, the ELIJA Farm and the ELIJA transition program and services.
Annie Phillips is co-founder of Indivisible Glen Cove, and an original member of the Women’s Diversity Network. She also is a living organ donor, having donated a kidney in January to someone in the community.
Emily Eisen is a fine artist who works with senior citizen groups and others to reconstruct their muscular responses. Her courses are included in the Northport-East Northport adult education services, and she has hosted many events to bring together artists to evolve new ways of combining media.
Hayley Eno is involved in spreading awareness for a rare autoimmune liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis and childhood cancer. She has raised funds for groups fighting diseases and helped the Make a Wish Foundation by designing and selling holiday ornaments.
Janet Wallerstein has advocated for early childhood education rights in Suffolk County and across the state. She is the founder of the non-profit Child Care Council of Suffolk where she worked for more than 30 years until retirement.
Jennifer Stearns Lau is an artist, graphic designer and photographer. She has been a co-owner and managing partner of Firefly Artists, a cooperative gallery that serves Long Island artists. She has donated her time and talents to promote arts, theater and culture throughout the community.
Jo-Ann Raia has served as town clerk in Huntington since first elected in 1981, the longest-serving clerk in the Town of Huntington. Since 1995, she has been conducting her Valentine’s Day marriage ceremony “marathon,” performing marriages and hosting a reception for couples and guests, supported by local Huntington businesses. One of her notable achievements was developing a records management program in1986, which has been recognized by the State of New York and various professional organizations.
Kathleen Kuthy is an active gardener, volunteer and founder of the Gateway Community Garden, Inc., an organic community food garden in Huntington Station, which donates a half ton of vegetables to food pantries and soup kitchens. She also serves as board member and treasurer of the Tri-Community and Youth Agency, and plays a role in the revitalization of Huntington Station.
Laura Schultz is a math teacher and activist in the revitalization of Syosset. She has served as president of Residents for a More Beautiful Syosset, and has received numerous awards for her work.
Laurie Carey works with children to develop 21st Century skills and employability in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) careers. Her work has led to the creation of a STEAM education and research center.
Linda Beigel Schulman is the mother of Scott J. Beigel, a teacher who died protecting others during the Parkland school massacre last year. Since his death, she has become a tireless advocate for better gun control laws, including New York’s “red flag law,” which allows law enforcement officials, family members or school officials to seek a petition to seize the guns of people that courts find are dangerous to themselves or others. She will be participating April 4 in the “Parkland to Pittsburgh, Stronger Together,” at the Tree of Life synagogue where 11 people were shot to death in October.
Maria Venuto is a co-founder of Indivisible Glen Cove and led a campaign “Vote Yes” to advocate for better funding for their high-needs, high-wealth school district. She serves as executive director of The Standby Program, a nonprofit media arts service organization.
Pilar Moya is executive director of Housing Help Inc., working with residents on budgeting, debt management skills and housing options. She has a more than 90 percent success rate in permanent loan modifications for her clients. Before Housing Help, she supervised the debt-counseling program at Family Service League.
Rachel Klein is an active educator, teaching special education in Queens and a Saturday enrichment program. She founded the grassroots group Long Islanders for Gun Safety after the Parkland massacre.