There are churches and temples and mosques, all filled with
people who pray to a deity of some kind, usually the same god, in spite of
their good intentions, and their devotion there are no angels that mass
together, no angels to greet you collectively, and no angels that you can see.
But if you go by chance and pass the building that seems to
be standing on its spot forever, you will recognize it and realize it seems to
have stood there forever. It overlooks a corner on the south side of Rte.
454 A.K.A. Veteran’s Memorial Highway in Bohemia. In that building seems to be my church,
my place of worship, where I engage in devotions to God for his kindness in
putting all these angels together so a mere mortal like me can see them and
reach out and touch them.
I speak of course of the staff that is employed there, the
people who really are angels, a gift from God, a gift for the parents and
siblings of people with developmental disabilities, who must find special care,
for special needs of their child or sibling. And so he sends special people.
They may not all work directly with people with special needs: they may replace
a light bulb, or type a memo, or organize a brochure, or even keeps records.
I speak of the staff that works so hard with the tools of
love and understanding, of deep dedication and devotion, all with a sacred
mission, to help fulfill a life less fortunate than theirs. They do this so
many times a day, for so many lives!
Recently the agency that uses the building and employs these
angels: AHRC Suffolk, celebrated their staff at a luncheon held at a popular
eatery and catering hall: Mamma Lombardi’s. This restaurant, of which I am
proud of, has been a giver of hope and love, and an aid to these angels,
helping the agency to raise money for those like my daughter can have a better
life, one she deserves, one she would not have otherwise if it weren’t for the
angels, and the owners of Mamma Lombardi’s. I won't tell you about it if you haven't tried their food, I would strongly encourage you do try the best of the best in fine old-world Italian tradition.
It is my favorite event that is held by the agency. It
gathers together all the 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30-year employees and celebrates
their dedication and wonderful work with a delicious lunch and the awarding of
tokens of appreciation for their service.
|Some of my favorite angels are at this table!|
These angels look like ordinary people, you look at them at
first glance and he or she may be your neighbor, maybe your friend or family
member. They cluster together and emit an unbounded joy, a camaraderie and love
for their fellow co-workers as they gather at a table to enjoy their ‘Staff
Appreciation Day’ and each other.
But there is a leader or two that bring the angelic
gathering together, two people who have been around spreading their own wings
for 30 years. I speak of course of both the CEO and the COO who guide this
wonderful group of people.
One is a very intelligent and dedicated woman, who has this
tremendous motherly side when she isn’t the COO, who brings a steadiness and
sense of love, when she steps away from her office and ventures out to the many
group homes, or Intermediate Care Facilities, or strolls through the workshop.
She stops or gets stopped by the many people she is dedicated to serve, who
love her back, and she engages in eye-to-eye conversation and respectfully
addresses them, with a women’s touch. A beautiful thing! Her name is Lisa Bockener,
but she really is an angel, someone who watches over.
|Bill Leonardi (he's leaning down!)|
Then there is the head angel, hand-picked by God himself!
You can’t miss him: he towers over everyone in size, spirit and humility. A man
in appearance, an angel in reality, don’t look for his wings, don’t expect to
hear bells or choirs or see heavenly rays. Bill Leonardi does things in his own
special way. He is a great mind, a talented visionary who leads in many ways. A
few years ago, when the board of director’s appointed me to be on the search
committee to find a new CEO, Bill interviewed for the job. Having known Bill
for years as the controller, his occasional attendance at a meeting of the
board, would impress me with his finger-tip knowledge of the facts and figures
needed to run the show. When I saw this man was interviewing for the job, I
thought: “OK - why not?” He blew me and everyone else on the search committee
away, and with guns blazing, opened up the interview by announcing he was ready
to step out of the shadows. That told me that he was comfortable all these
years with himself, and there was much more under the surface than ANYONE
As a CEO, one would never know his title. Self-effacing, he
kids about himself and his looks. He is humble, almost papal in manner, and is
universally loved by staff, those we serve, and board members. He inter-acts
with people and always has a kind word, smile or encouraging remark. A good man,
yes, but an angel!
We as an agency are fortunate that 30 years ago, we hired our
CEO Bill Leonardi and COO Lisa Bockener, both have given so much over the
years, and will give so much in the years to come to those they serve, their
staff, people with disabilities and the parents and siblings of those people,
and the whole community.
|Just some of the angels|
To the staff of AHRC Suffolk: Thank you for being there for
me and my wife and sons, but most importantly for my daughter who benefits
everyday by your angelic devotion to her, in your kindness, professionalism and love. We parents
and siblings rests our heads in peace and security knowing, God has not let us
down, he gave us you.