At Mill Neck, we strive everyday to empower Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals. After months of advocating for the Deaf community to the Nassau County Legislators, we at Mill Neck are proud to state that yesterday, April 25, 2018 marks a significant change, which ensures that those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing will receive equal access during an emergency situation in Nassau County.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed a bill stating that American Sign Language Interpreters shall be provided at all emergency press conferences held in Nassau County. This bill was announced and submitted by Legislator Josh Lafazan–who serves for the 18th District of the Nassau County Legislature–at Mill Neck’s Day Habilitation Program in Hicksville, N.Y.
“As a County, it is our responsibility to ensure that the Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals have access to the same kind of information that is provided to others in emergency situations,” said Legislator Lafazan.
We thank you Legislator Josh Lafazan and County Executive Laura Curran for helping us continue our dedication to create a world in which Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are included and embraced as equals.
The DEC has started a GoFundMe Campaign to raise money for rubber mulch in the student playground, which is vital to the safety of our Deaf children. Most of our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, which are very expensive and can fall off and break easily. The addition of rubber mulch would reduce this risk as well as other general safety issues. Read more about our GoFundMe Campaign here.
By Debbie Desroches
I have traveled to many places, all over the world, but the experience of visiting the Hosanna School For the Deaf is one that has both humbled me and changed the way I think about so many things that I have taken for granted in my life.
At first glance the school resembles a rustic type of summer camp. As we turn off the dusty dirt road, past the wandering goats and cattle, through the gates of the property, I think to myself, “What kind of school is this? How can children learn here? What knowledge can I possibly bring that would be of any value to this place, so very different from everything I know?”
As the van pulls up to the building where I would be lecturing, I watch the children as they amble out the doors after finishing their morning prayer service. I see their mismatched clothes and their dusty shoes. Their curious stares as they watch the strangers from America walk past them. If I’m to be honest, I am staring too. Just as curious. I notice a few quick waves and smiles. I smile back and walk into the building.
The room is full. Filled with people who are so very welcoming, eager to learn, and who genuinely care about the children, as well as each other. For as I was soon to learn, this is a culture of caring. A culture of giving and helping and community. A culture that has so very little, but is willing to share whatever they do have. A culture with many burdens and responsibilities that are always borne with a smile.
Although ASL is different from their Ethiopian Sign Language, they all approach me with a shy ASL, “Good Morning”. I respond back with a greeting from their language, and they smile. Respect is shown on both sides. It’s a good start. I meet Tadessa, the Principal of the school. He is a quiet man and very much respected. The children love him. He is like a father figure to them. Pastor Baharook and his family are there as well. He starts us with a morning prayer.
I am joined by a Teacher of the Deaf from the university, Esau. He will help me with interpreting. Later, as the comfort level increases, we will have other volunteers to practice their interpreting.
We discuss Ethics, professional behavior, work practices, and respect for deaf and their needs. We break up into small groups for some ice breakers. I tell the deaf teachers to take the lead, and I see how both the deaf and hearing think that’s odd. Although these people are colleagues, there is a definite hierarchy. By the end of the week the deaf teachers are standing up to give their opinions, voicing their concerns, and talking about what they need from interpreters. I ask for a volunteer to be a deaf interpreter for me. It’s the first time they have seen how a deaf interpreter works. The deaf cheer. The focus shifts to a “Deaf Can” mentality. Hopefully I have planted some seeds in that area.
I am fortunate enough to be given a tour of the school. Some of the children follow. They want me to take their pictures so that they can see themselves on my phone. Of course I do.
As I walk around the area I feel a sense of family. The children and adults share a type of comfort and familiarity that is nice to see. I am able to visit the dorm areas. See how the children wash their own clothes outside, by fountains. The older children help the younger ones with hair and dressing. I walk past the prayer areas. The girls decided to build one near their dorm area. The boys then decided to build one. There is healthy competition in a lot of what they do. I am able to witness their Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Coffee is amazing.
There is a wood working area, clothes making area ( they make clothes for themselves), technology area, cosmetology area ( to learn as a trade), as well as regular class rooms. The children graduate with knowledge of English, Amharic, ASL, and Ethiopian sign language. They will also graduate with trade and life skill knowledge, as well as academics. It is hard for deaf people to find work here.
They cook over fires and in wood burning ovens. It makes me think of how Native Americans would cook. Peppers are a main part of the sauces they use. Injira, is the spongy flatbread they use as an eating utensil, to sop up food on a common plate. It’s made from Teff. There is another bread called Hambasha. It looks like huge pita, but tastes like crusty Italian bread. I was given some at the school. Delicious.
Despite the electricity and running water challenges, the not being able to eat fresh fruit or vegetables for fear of sickness, malaria nets, thieving monkeys, interesting restroom accommodations, crows visiting my room, unusual food choices (think sheep), and salamanders running across the floor, I feel so very lucky to have been able to make this trip.
I have learned so very much from the caring, giving, welcoming people of Ethiopia and the Hosanna School for the Deaf. About myself, different cultures, what is truly important, faith, sharing, perceptions, and most importantly, not to take anything for granted
I set out on this trip with a goal of teaching and sharing my knowledge, and ended up with the learning experience of my life.
I will forever keep the children and staff of the Hosanna school in my heart.
Relatives of the late cosmetic heiress Lillian Sefton Thomas Dodge—the former owner of what is now known as our beloved Mill Neck Manor—visited the campus to tour and reminisce about the majestic Tudor revival mansion.
Terry Meade, Lillian’s great-great nephew, along with a few family members, walked every inch of the 34-room estate, offering in-depth family history and a personal recount of stories. They were awestruck by the beautiful condition of the mansion, and even more so when they viewed the “Lillian Room”—an entire room dedicated to Lillian, filled with artifacts from her many professional and personal achievements. One family member contributed to the room by donating a perfume bottle that can be traced back to Lillian’s cosmetic company, the aerating scent still distinctly intact.
Lillian, who paved her way in the cosmetic industry as President of Harriet Hubbard Ayer, soon became the highest paid female executive in America during the 1930s. In 1947, 68-year old Lillian sold Harriet Hubbard Ayer to the Lever Brothers for $5,500,000, a low price in the eyes of analysts. Soon after, she also sold the estate to Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, the founding member of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations, using the mansion as an educational school for Deaf children.
During the visit, Terry sifted through dozens of old photographs and one-of-a-kind valuables (that he then donated to the Mill Neck Archive Committee) and read aloud a letter that was penned by Lillian herself, completely captivating all who were in attendance. As Terry pleasantly played the 25-year-old piano in the great room toward the end of the visit, the presence of Lillian Sefton Dodge was definitely felt.
Since the visit, Terry and his partner Roy have donated countless antiques and collectibles to Mill Neck.
When 95-year-old Gloria and 98-year-old Frank Massimo—longtime donors and faithful supporters of Mill Neck—walked into the Mill Neck offices, a palpable presence of history, knowledge and love surrounded them. After 72 years of marriage, they remained perfectly in sync, practically finishing each other’s sentences. They went back in time, reminiscing about the old days growing up, without missing a beat: radio shows, street ball games, party-line phones, the prices of gas and even Frank’s role commanding minesweepers in World War II.
Frank explained how he sat back and patiently watched as his future wife would unknowingly walk in and out of his life for years.
“My friend and I would sit on the front stoop in the Bronx and Gloria would walk by with her sister; I used to watch her change buses,” he explained. “It was love at first sight.”
Gloria, who has been a dedicated Apple Fest-goer for 25 years, felt an association with Mill Neck after she spent a great deal of her life with only 33 percent of her hearing. “I started to lose my hearing after I had my first child around 60 years ago,” she said. “The doctor said ‘no more children,’ but I went ahead and had another one and lost even more of my hearing.”
Gloria then went into the nearest drug store and bought a hearing aid that was as big as a pack of cigarettes, which she hung around her neck. “My children used to come right up to it and speak into it if they wanted to talk to me.”
Now, hearing aid technology has come a long way. The Massimos were immediately introduced to Doctor of Audiology, Susan Antonellis, at the Center for Hearing Health, so that they could receive the latest and greatest in hearing health care.
In addition to being dedicated donors and Apple Fest participants, The Massimos have purchased a dozen bricks from the Mill Neck Tribute program. We would like to sincerely thank Frank and Gloria, and all of our Mill Neck supporters.
Werner Reich, a Holocaust survivor, visited the Deaf Education Center to speak to students about the history of theHolocaust, the meaning behind the Nazi destruction and the challenges he faced throughout the Holocaust.
Werner’s presentation was eye opening for the students, as he taught them about hate crimes and judgments, and gave them a better understanding of the Holocaust.
“We don’t want tolerance, we want acceptance,” Reich said. “Regardless of race, color, age or sex.”
He explained to the students the definition of the Holocaust, which is Greek for “a whole burnt offering,” and described the Nazi’s destruction of selected groups and their culture.
Reich left the students with one final thought. “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.”
Mill Neck International (MNI)—an organization whose mission is to envision a world where Deaf people are included, empowered, celebrated and embraced as equals—launched a brand new website.
The website, which features bold, vibrant colors and photos, allows for a more Deaf-friendly experience with the use of signed videos and iconography. MNI also announces their first-ever funding cycle to provide project funding every year in a variety of areas for Deaf people: education, communication, gender equality and more.
Check out their website for more information: millneckinternational.org.