An enthusiastic crowd turned out last Thursday night for the Huntington Foundation’s annual gala at The Mansion at Oyster Bay, a former Gold Coast estate in Woodbury.
The group danced, dined and participated in silent auctions, celebrating elementary school teacher Allison Von Vange’s long career and the longtime community service and generosity of Bon Bons Chocolatier owners Mary Alice and Susannah Meinersman. Each member of the trio was presented with the Huntington Foundation’s coveted Spirit Award.
Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky waxed poetic during his remarks at the gala.
The elegant setting glowed with warmth as old friends renewed acquaintances and chatted the night away. It was a night to celebrate public education and the Huntington Foundation’s long and continuing tradition of support for innovation in Huntington School District classrooms.
Huntington Foundation officials wore smiles throughout the evening, which raised thousands of dollars for the organization. The Huntington High School chamber choir welcomed guests with a delightful selection of songs as the crowd passed through the mansion’s rooms.
“It was another great night for the Huntington Foundation and a time to celebrate our students, staff and school district community,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Congratulations and thank you to Allison Von Vange and to Mary Alice and Susannah Meinersman for all that they do. Thank you to the Huntington Foundation for its ongoing contributions in support of our kids and schools.”
Huntington School Board members, district executives, building and department leaders and faculty and staff members dotted the crowd along with parents and friends and family members of the three Spirit Award recipients. A DJ kept dozens of gala-goers on the dance floor at any one time.
The Huntington Foundation intends to plow proceeds from last week’s gala right back into district classrooms through two grant programs that encourage innovative teaching practices and equipment and cutting edge initiatives.
Dozens of businesses and individuals contributed raffle prizes worth thousands of dollars. The Scroll of Honor sponsorships included Spirt Sponsor: “Friends of Allison;” Star Sponsors: Allison Von Vange and Bon Bons Chocolatier; Honors Sponsors: The Colleluori Family, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health, Libutti Diamond Jewelers, Main Street Nursery, Steinberganna Wealth Management; Leadership Sponsors: Gellerman Orthodontics, MA Connell Funeral Home, National Credit Card Processing Group, Orlin & Cohen Sports Medicine, Pillion Hegler Lau Family, Prime Properties Long Island, ProHealth Dental of Huntington, The Sheran Family; Friend Sponsors: Ali Law Group, Borg Insurance, The Cheshire Family, Christophers of Huntington, Hatch, Huntington Heart Center, The Knowles Family, Kimberley Steinberg Events LLC, The Lyons Family, Mansion at Oyster Bay, The Mills Family, Papillon World Class Salon, Southdown Marketplace, The Von Vange Family.
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Huntington parent Nancy Lundell came up with the original idea for an educational foundation in 1993. She pulled together a group of people, including fellow district parents Beverly Wayne and Elliot Levine, an attorney who performed the legal work necessary to formally create the organization’s corporate structure.
That small group of parents, along with several others, began meeting in the superintendent’s conference room in what was then the administrative wing at Woodhull School. It was from those meetings that the Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education emerged, becoming a non-profit organization in 1994, with formal bylaws, a logo and a board of directors.
In addition to Mrs. Lundell, Mrs. Wayne and Mr. Levine, the original directors included Diane Kirchner, Tom Webster, Susan Agolia, Paula Schneider and Susan Jouard. The first fundraiser was held on a Sunday afternoon at the old Coco’s Water Café on New York Avenue in Halesite, currently the site of Prime.
The original volunteers devoted enormous amounts of time to the organization, helping to insure its long-term success. Since 1994, the Huntington Foundation has donated over $1.2 million to the district in grant monies and equipment.