PLANET Day of Service & Come Alive Outside
On April 22, 2013, We engaged in the Come Alive Outside movement, we became inspired with a real purpose and are truly having fun helping others get back outside and enjoy the benefits. The Mazelis team approached PLANET’s Day of Service this past year with a two-fold vision: we wanted to create a Come Alive Outside community event that people would remember along with creating an outdoor space that would give back long after this one special day had passed. Our team had worked with our local historical society in our town for years and knew it was a long-time goal for that group to create what they envisioned and named a Grow to Give Garden. We wanted to create a garden that was maintained by the community, and the harvest would be donated to the local food bank, which is always in great need of fresh fruit and produce.
The Mazelis team prepared the 2,500 square foot spot where the Grow to Give Garden was planted. Donating over 1,000 vegetable plants, 12 fruit trees and 12 raspberry and blueberry bushes, we were ready to engage a host of volunteers to make this special garden a reality. With over 40 young people and adults on hand from local private schools, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops and adult volunteers as well, the planting began and continued until the garden was completed in one day.
Well, that was just part of the day! The Mazelis team and our Historical Society partners made sure everyone in Smithtown who wanted to Come Alive Outside on this spring day would have ample opportunities and a variety of fun experiences to do so. Throughout the rest of the day, close to 250 children and adults showed up and did just that: they had fun! Some learned how to dig for clams from a local expert in a shallow pond created just for them. Although it was a little cold for kids to wade in and dig around, they were able to use a rake and find their treasures that way.
Some played in the sand castle area or made gigantic bubbles in a soapy pool with shaped coat hangers. There were Volleyball games, horse shoes and croquet matches, kite flying and an old-fashioned colonial stickball team there making sure plenty of home runs were batted in.
A few sheep and a group of week-old lambs showed up for the fun along with some chickens and freshly laid eggs. Participants also had the opportunity to paint slats for a picket fence that would surround the Grow to Give Garden.
9-11, New York
September 11, 2001 was a horrific day for Americans, especially for us New Yorkers.
Seeing such tragedy on TV, I could not stand by and watch. I wanted to help.
After making a few phone calls I was granted access to ground zero.
On September 12, with the help of local business I was able to fill up a dump truck with much needed supplies for the first responders.
That evening I drove the supplies directly into ground zero.
Later that week I drove an additional truck full of much needed supplies to ground zero.
I couldn’t stop there. In addition, I took out an advertisement in a local newspaper to mow the lawns of tireless first responder’s lawns free of charge while they worked tirelessly at ground zero.
I was born into a firefighting family. Wanting to follow in the footsteps of my father, a retired New York City Firefighter, I joined the Smithtown Volunteer Fire Department shortly after 9-11, to help protect my community.
For over a decade I have been a part of the brotherhood, that helps protect our community.
Army CPL Levi
Veterans Day of 2008, I was working in my office where I had the opportunity to view on the television a story about a soldier, Army Corporal Christopher Levi of Holbrook. March 17, 2008 Corporal Levi was severely injured when his armored Humvee he was traveling in was hit by an IED in Iraq. He suffered critical injuries, including the loss of both of his legs and severe damage to his right arm. On TV I viewed the brothers of the Holbrook Fire Department along with local contractors and volunteers participating in renovating the Levi home to make it handicap accessible.
I thought to myself, I have to get involved. Immediately I used the internet and Googled the name Chris Levi. Within seconds I found his contact information along with his story.
I was absolutely amazed and touched by his story. I was inspired by his strength, courageous, and positive attitude. As a grown man I can honestly say I had tears in my eyes while learning about Chris.
Without people like Chris, my family and I would not have the freedom and safety to live our day to day functions. With that I am grateful and appreciative of all the selfless men and women, such as Chris, that serve our country.
Immediately I dropped what I was doing, left my office and jumped into my truck, and off I went in search of the Levi house in Holbrook. Upon my arrival I noticed piles of dirt, drainage issues, the lack of safe walkways and the need for an overall overhaul of the landscape. I wanted to make the outdoor living space to be as nice as the newly renovated interior. I then knew there was a way for me to help, doing what I do best, landscaping.
I mailed a letter to the Levi residence later that day explaining my interest in donating my services to perform a complete landscape makeover. A few days later I received a phone call from the Holbrook Fire Chief, Rick Gimble. We spoke briefly on the phone and with excitement I met with Chief Gimble and the parents of Chris, Eric and Debbie Levi a day later at the Levi home. We walked around the property together viewing the disarray. Chief Gimble stopped and looked at me and said, “Do you think you can handle all of this?” I replied, “I will be back in a few days.”
I made several phone calls reaching out to some of my business contacts and without any hesitation they were all on board with anything I needed to get the job done. Local business and great friends all made it possible for me to get the job done. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by such great business associates and friends who have such big hearts.
Working in frigid temperatures and occasional snow in December, my mason and landscape crews along with myself, worked vigorously to complete the project. Grading, drainage, sprinklers, plantings, a winter green sod lawn, rock walls, brick walkways, a brick wheelchair ramp, and a driveway were some of the projects we performed.
Working there every day was a reminder of where my freedom comes from. After a long cold winter the Corporal Levi project was complete and for the first time I got to meet Army Corporal Chris Levi for the first time during his homecoming on May 16, 2009.
Tony Cruz, a brother Smithtown Firefighter and director of the New York chapter of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) came to me and said, “I have to ask you a big favor.” I replied, “What is it?” Tony said, “It’s really big.” Tony then explained to me that as a member of the FCSN he is on the advisory board for the Stony Brook Cancer Center, and that they are in need of a garden. I replied to Tony, “When can I start?”
I couldn’t be happier to take on the challenge of designing and installing a garden for patients and patient’s families to sit and reflect during their difficult time. Coincidently a few hours before our conversation I was reflecting on the Corporal Levi donation we had previously completed. I had thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if we can donate one large project every year! Low and behold, Tony shows up at my door with his proposal.
The area we landscaped is called “The Reflection Garden.” It is approximately 60’ X 25’ and is located at the entrance of the cancer treatment facility, bordered by the parking lot. A walkway takes visitors through the garden and there are three benches where people can sit and gaze at a cascading waterfall. Plants were carefully selected to attract local birds and butterflies and a white scalloped picket fence was installed to block out the parking lot and to help create a cozier atmosphere.
Early in the year of 2011, the president of the Nesconset Chamber explained to me that the chamber members were going to spruce up a derelict corner triangle in our community. The president said that he needed a horticulturist to supervise the spruce up in order for the town to approve. My reply was, “I’ll do one better, and we will design and install the landscape at the corner triangle, free of charge.” The chamber president quickly accepted my offer.
Later that season we brought in top soil, moss rock, flowering trees, shrubs and perennials and completed it with a sign saying “Welcome to Nesconset.”
Not only does our Nesconset community enjoy driving past the triangle, but my family and I get to enjoy it every day, as it is located at the entrance of our neighborhood.
Take Pride in Nesconset Day
November 6, 2010; the first annual Take pride in Nesconset Day. We spent a day with other Nesconset chamber members cleaning up garbage and debris along our “Main Street,” of Nesconset, Smithtown Blvd. We donated trucks, equipment and labor to get the road sides cleaned up. Our goal was to motivate the other local businesses as well as homeowners to take pride and keep our community looking its best.
Other Civic Duties
We are active members of three local Chambers. We support various chamber fundraisers and we donate our services to them whenever possible.
For the first time in 2013 I along with my wife and seven year old son attended PLANET’s Renewal & Remembrance. What a great experience and privilege to be one of four hundred of the industries leaders to honor American Veterans and heroes.
Recently I have become a PLANET Trailblazer. Now I can pay it forward to others in the industry.