Meet the Nominees for This Year's Welcome Home Contest
Nominations are in for a deserving Long Island family to win this year’s Welcome Home contest! Now that submissions are closed, we are honored to start getting to know and sharing stories about the nominees we’ve received so far. Every nominee has an incredible story to share and their own reasons of how a new outdoor living space will transform their life. We are thrilled to be able to make one family’s outdoor living dreams come true again this year! Stay tuned for notifications from us (follow us on Facebook and sign up to our email list). We’ll share updates with you – including when the voting for the finalists kicks off (planning for September 12!).
Please note that the nominees are not listed in any specific order.
Jennifer nominated her brother in law, Robert (Bobby) in Centereach, NY. Bobby who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia about a year ago. In Jennifer’s words: “He has been through many struggles this past year going through chemotherapy treatments, countless blood transfusions and a stem cell transplant. Bobby is the main provider for his family- his wife Debbie, sons Tyler and Justin and daughter Jamie. During his treatments he was unable to work for 8 months which took a toll on the family’s finances. Bobby has always been extremely active in his community as a sports coach for numerous school and league teams in his off time and it was amazing to see the community rally around him in his time of need when battling this horrible blood cancer. The family has experienced many hardships this year during treatments since they were attempting to live off of disability payments and the cost of running a household in conjunction with medical bills made it difficult for them to get by.” This family needs: plumbing fixed in their pool and pool area, fence, and shaded area.
Diane nominated her sister, Christine, a teacher aid. Christine lives in East Rockaway, NY. In Diane’s own words: “My sister and her husband have been through a lot in the last few years. Their home that they worked so hard to build and make beautiful was destroyed in Hurricane Irene (August 2011). After a year of rebuilding, living away from their home, coming back and living through construction they finished their home a week before they get the news of another hurricane coming towards Long Island. When I tell you the plastic was not even off their kitchen appliances yet. We spent all night trying to help the best we can to prepare their house for the storm. Never did she or we think it would hit her second floor of their home. Hurricane Sandy comes in and destroyed their home. They helpless, fear and sadness that I saw in my sister’s eyes brought tears to me. I could not believe her and her husband and two daughters had to yet live through it all over again. But this time much worse. The struggled for a year to rebuild their home. Three years after re-building their home they are told they need to raise the house. They begin to work on it all and August 2015 they begin the raise. In December the contractor never comes back to finish their house and takes most of their money that they were given to finish their home. I could not believe what was happening to them. So now they were left to finish the home on their own. They are still living in a house not finished because Andrew my brother in law got hurt on his job and has been out of work for over a year and half and they are struggling just to try and keep the house bills going. I feel they deserve the landscape design for everything they have been through. I give it to them for all their strength and for each day putting a smile of their face for their two beautiful daughters. It would benefit them by helping them finish one part of their home and taking some stress off of them. It would also allow her kids to enjoy the yard. These kids have been through more than most adults have. They need to enjoy something.
Jamie & Bonnie Hennessy
In 2012, the Hennessy’s small home yard (which they spent 10 years designing with a deck and perennials and roses) was ruined by hurricane sandy. They lived two blocks from the ocean in Long Beach, NY. In their own words: “The garden was ruined from the salt water surge. After all sorts of drama and problems with NY Rising and our Insurance, we decided to move around the corner to be closer to our elderly mother and a bigger house. The house was a mess and we’ve spent all of our money doing renovations. But we can’t afford to landscape the small years the way we want. It is extremely small but so was our former house, yet Bonnie’s landscaping and garden was so beautiful people would often stop to admire it. Today all we have is grass which were are trying to fix up and two trees that are alive but badly damaged by sandy. The home is a gorgeous Spanish style home, the only one like it in the neighborhood and a new Mediterranean type landscaping would make Bonnie’s dreams come true. Her husband, (the nominator) is also a special education/history teacher and was on the city council in Long Beach. We have dedicated our lives to serving others and our community.”
William is retired NYPD and 100% disabled from serving in Vietnam. He lives in Massapequa. He was nominated by his daughter, Patricia. In her words: “William has been an extremely hard working and giving person his entire life. He has never been the type to accept recognition even though he deserves it. For example the time he delivered a baby all by himself when he was the first to get to the scene. He has spent his life serving the public and trying to make the world a safer place. William was diagnosed with kidney cancer that spread to his pancreas. The doctors were able to surgically remove the cancer but he still faces problems. The cancer that he has/had is connected with Agent Orange from serving in Vietnam. Two months ago he was in the hospital for twelve days because he had sepsis from the testing he needed as a result from Agent Orange. William has a hard time keeping up with landscaping and other household work.” William could use a fire pit and pavers.
Catherine nominated her fiancé, Mark of Centereach, NY. In Catherine’s words: “My fiancé, Mark Pirollo, has tirelessly given of himself to the community for over 25 years. While in and of itself that is a substantial contribution, what makes this even more significant is that he does this despite the pain and limitations that his condition (a form of muscular dystrophy) forced upon him. However, regardless of this, he continues to coach, feeling it is more important to have a positive effect on a child and guide them in the right direction, than it is to give in to the progressive loss of the use of his legs. Mark has coached youth football in the central Suffolk area for nearly 30 years, instilling discipline, team spirit, dignity, respect and sportsmanship into our youth. His lurching gait is easily recognizable, and everybody involved in football in the area readily knows Coach Mark. He has had a profound effect on many. One of the biggest challenges he is facing right now is the realization that he won’t be able to coach for more than a couple more years, as his legs continue to atrophy and refuse to support him consistently. I think this is actually the hardest part for him to deal with; knowing that he will not be able to continue doing what he loves. Mark would love to spend more time in the backyard with his teammates and their families. The deck in the backyard is rotting away under his feet, and he cannot afford to replace it; it is way beyond repair. In fact, he was walking on it last week and his foot went right through it, causing his leg to plunge through and him to fall to the floor. The cost of a patio with a handicapped ramp is beyond his reach and he is not physically able to do these types of projects himself.”
Julia, nominated her father, Raymond, of Island Park, NY. In Julia’s words: “Raymond has faced many challenges throughout his entire life. Since my father is a policeman and a volunteer firefighter, he had helped after the 9/11 attack in 2001. Through cleaning up the debris, losing close friends and living in fear for a while, he still managed to pull through it. My dad learned to make the best of the good moments and to not get too overwhelmed by the bad ones. A few weeks after the attack, his dad had passed away from skin cancer.” Nearly three years after being hit by Hurricane Sandy, they “were finally approved to raise our house. My dad worked too many hours overtime to help provide for his family. Everything he does, he does for his family whether he has to pay the consequences or not. Over the years he has had many back problems and he recently had surgery on his leg.” “Through all his physical therapy, pain and suffering he still manages to provide and be a family man. He cannot fix up our backyard alone because of his pain.”
Debra is a teacher and lives in East Rockaway, NY. In Debra’s words: “We just moved home from losing our house in Hurricane Sandy. Our landscaping and driveway were destroyed in Sandy and from elevating our home. The biggest challenge was watching our house fill with 6 feet of water. We were lucky we had a second floor to go to for safety. It was heartbreaking watching my then 12 year olds room lose everything. We didn’t think the water would come that high and didn’t move his things. Our yard looks like a big dirt pile with weeds all over. We call it the mud pit. Half of our driveway is all missing and dirt is in its place.” This family needs a driveway, front, and backyard done.
Beth nominated her sister in law, Jaime of Dix Hills, NY. In Beth’s words, “Both Jaime and her fiancé Kevin are Suffolk police officers, putting their lives on the line daily. Jaime works with the Cope program for the 2nd precinct, helping educate youth and creating special events for underprivileged children. Jaime and her fiancé have just purchased a home for their 1 year old daughter and Kevin’s 3 children from a previous marriage. They are now planning for a wedding and cannot afford to redo their backyard.”
Jeannette & Robert Lynagh
Jeannette and Robert bought their home in Commack, NY about a year ago. In Jeannette’s words: “We wanted to stay in our current district. We found a home and immediately put ours up for sale and it sold. We were out-bided on a house and began to look again. Struggling to find something, my husband came across our home. The home was neglected terribly-everything had to be done. It was also a short sale. With my old home sold and a school year approaching, we pleaded with the bank to let us rent. Thankfully they did-on condition we would only stay on the extension part of the home. 1 bedroom, 1 bath and a small living area. While we rented, the inground pool caved in but after eight months, it was ours. The pool was a tremendous expense that we did not budget for but had to fix with 3 young boys. My husband has come home almost everyday- and him and I have dug up weeds the size of trees, dug up bamboo, sawed down dead trees and cleared away a third acre of thick overgrown, neglected and dead growth. We have a beautiful pool but a nightmare of landscape. We still work everyday on it.” This family needs a leveled ground, removal of weeds, and coping around the pool.
Emmanuel is retired U.S. Marines. He lives in Huntington, NY. In Emmanuel’s own words: “I believe that I am the most deserving recipient of a landscape makeover because I served our county for over 18.5 years with multiple combat tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. l have faced various challenges which includes being a single father to a beautiful 8 year old little girl. While balancing a military career and being a full time college student at American Military University (AMU) distant program. This project would benefit my daughter and I greatly because we would be able to spend more time in our backyard.”
Orlie’s home in Bellmore, NY was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. In Orlie’s words: “A lot of really crappy, catastrophic things have happened to me in the past few years. Chronic illness, divorce, flood, dad with cancer, defrauded by flood insurance, blackballed from all the Sandy aid programs because my house is located 200 feet outside the 100 year flood zone. If I can’t laugh at all these catastrophic events I might have a nervous breakdown. You should note, I bought my house because of the gorgeous backyard. My backyard used to have 40 privacy trees, and specimen plantings, and flowers, and rose of sharon trees; I had a bird bath and bird feeders and all kinds of birds visited, and a cardinal couple lived there as full time residents and had babies there every year! My deck was gorgeous, it’s 3 levels, but it is weather beaten and I need to remove the built in hot tub that was murdered by Sandy. Everything looks dried up, sad, and dead; I had to remove all the dead trees and there’s nothing there now.” Orlie needs a fence completed (her neighbor has a fence going half way through), deck cleaned up, the hot tub taken out, trees and grass planted, and resolving problems with existing pavers.
Patricia & Victor Calcano
Patricia and Victor were forced to demolish Victor’s childhood home after Sandy destroyed it with over 5 feet of water. They’re in Amityville, NY. In Patricia’s words: “I became partly disabled two years ago- exactly one month after we moved into our elevated home. My husband has had to take on the role of breadwinner and housekeeper while I began my slow recovery. I still experience chronic pain from the disease CRPS. Needless to say, our landscape has taken a backseat. The most dangerous part is under our home. We have an open foundation and hoped to create a patio under the house. We borrowed from the SBA to build the new home and did not get one dime from the NYR grant program. We want to fix up the area under our house which is still dangerous from the construction and not a place to let our children go- we would love to make it a patio and useful space.”
Joanne & Sean Hogan
Joanne nominated herself and her husband, Sean. They’re from Massapequa, NY for a new outdoor living area. In Joanne’s words: “After working so hard during and after hurricane sandy to rebuild our house and sacrificing health and any social life, Sean is finally depleted of energy and resources to continue. A recent house lift removed the pool, all decking and left just dirt behind. A house doesn’t make you happy but it would be so great to see Sean have help as he’s done everything solo and is just buried in it. Sean has worked tirelessly to help our family and get us back home. Much sacrifice for years and little resources left to complete the feckless backyard of dirt.” Sean and Joanne need help with decking.
Kim & Dustin Kovac
Kim nominated herself and her husband, Dustin. The family is from Lindenhurst, NY. In Kim’s own words: “Dustin is an amazing person. He served as a missile technician in the Navy for 6 years. After he left the Navy he started a lucrative career but then tragedy struck and his father fell ill. He gave up his career to care for his dying Father. After his father passed his home was destroyed by SuperStorm Sandy. We have been navigating all the red tape to build our home with enough space for our blended family. He has opened his home countless times to friends, and family members down on their luck. He has never done for himself and this would be an amazing gift of thanks from our kids and me. His recent battle is helping his Mom fight throat cancer. Her treatments are complete and he is now working. Winning this project will help us because it will lessen the financial burden on our family. Thank you for your consideration.”
Tiffany nominated her sister, Pamela (Pam) of Commack, NY. In Tiffany’s words: “Pamela and her daughters lost 2 members of this household. Our mom (age 76) in 2010 and her husband (age 43) in 2014. Both lost due to cancer. They cared for both of them day and night during their fights. Now they are both gone. Since their deaths with little time to grieve they have devoted their time and energy to organize a Relay for life team to raise money for the American Cancer Society. To date, they helped raise over $56,000.00. They raised money through fundraiser concerts they organized with their friends and families. Recently, Pam herniated her L5 and is currently home from work for now. Pam and her 2 girls are incredibly inspiring to the entire community. They continue to give back while they could use some help for themselves. They had buried an in ground pool a few years ago and haven’t been able to do anything with the yard or house. They miss the pool but had to make a decision to bury it. These girls are truly stronger than they know. People tell me all the time how they can’t believe how Pam and the girls go on with all the grief they have. Pam is an amazing mom. They really need an oasis to decompress. Everyday is a struggle for them to carry around their heavy hearts. They might consider socializing again which they shy away from because they feel incomplete and out of place. It’s hard for them to see families that are complete. They spend a lot of alone time indoors. Never outside.”