04/29/17 6:01am
04/29/2017 6:01 AM

Through hosting citizenship classes at the Riverhead Free Library, Millie Rios often fields questions from her students regarding immigration policies and consequences — especially since Donald Trump has taken office.

Ms. Rios said she’s always made an effort to answer the questions herself or bring speakers to class, but decided the community at large would benefit from a larger public forum.

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05/07/16 9:00am
05/07/2016 9:00 AM

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When she died at age 59 in 2010, Carol Pufahl left a legacy that included a love not only of reading and writing, but of teaching essential skills.

On last Friday, that legacy was put into action at Riverhead Free Library, where El Dia de los Niños (The Day of the Children), which takes place annually at libraries nationwide, received an added boost thanks in large part to the Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation. READ

06/13/14 8:00am
06/13/2014 8:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library director Joy Rankin.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library director Joy Rankin.

Come August, downtown Riverhead will hear night creatures call and see the dead start to walk.

More specifically, hundreds of people will dress like zombies and start dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

At least, that’s the plan for Riverhead Free Library director Joy Rankin, who is calling the event “The Thrill of It All.”

Ms. Rankin is working with East End Arts and local dance studios to put the dance together as part of EEA’s kickoff of its “JumpsArt” program on Aug. 8.

“When I first came to Riverhead, I thought, ‘What is something I’d like to see every year? Something that pulls the entire community together?’ ” said Ms. Rankin, who became library director last August.

It was during a meeting with Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts, when she came up with the idea of having people get together to emulate the 1983 “Thriller” video, where ghosts and zombies famously danced with mega-pop star Michael Jackson.

“Any time you can bring the community together through the arts, I’m totally for it,” said Ms. Snyder, adding that the event is still a work in progress. “That’s what we’re all about.”

For Ms. Rankin, a community-wide dance event is right up her alley.

“I have a dance [and choreography] background,” she said. “I graduated from a performing arts high school in Syosset. Everybody knows the ‘Thriller’ video. Whether it’s people who saw it when they were young or people today who are fans of zombie-type movies and television shows such as ‘The Walking Dead,’ everybody has some story about how they were first exposed to ‘Thriller.’”

“Somebody might say they can’t dance, but everybody can walk like a zombie,” she said.

A quick Google search turns up multiple links of groups dancing to “Thriller” and the Guinness Book of World Records even has a world record for largest “Thriller” dance — 13,597 people participated in a Mexico City event Aug. 30, 2009.

There’s also an event called “Thrill the World,” where people from all over the world re-enact the dance at the same time.

Can Riverhead top that?

“About 200 people would be great,” Ms. Rankin said.

In addition to the library and East End Arts, three local dance schools — Redancers, Peconic Ballet Theatre and Studio East in Westhampton — will also assist with choreography and dance instruction, she said.

While the “Thriller” dance is only being planned as a one-time event, Ms. Rankin hopes to work on a different community project each year. In 2015, she hopes to roll out a local version of “The Amazing Race,” based on the award-winning reality show where contestants rush around the world to participate in games and complete tasks.

Anyone who wants to get involved with “The Thrill of It All” should contact the library at 727-3228, ext. 131, Ms. Rankin said.

06/26/13 8:00am
06/26/2013 8:00 AM

Most children count down the days until school gets out for summer, but for those who receive their only meal of the day during school hours, the thought of three months off does not hold the same feeling of excitement.

Over 90,000 children on Long Island receive free or reduced-cost school lunches, but when summer arrives their main source of nourishment is taken away. Luckily, Island Harvest, the biggest hunger relief organization on Long Island, has a summer food service program for children in this exact position. And, for the second year in a row, Riverhead Free Library is a feeding site for North Fork youth in need.

“Island Harvest approached us last year about becoming an open feeding site,” said Laurie Harrison, head of children’s services at the library. “They wanted us to provide, along with the location, an educational and literary aspect, so that’s why I agreed.”

In addition to the food, the library also encourages the children to take part in the summer reading program and collects book donations so children can leave with at least one book each.

“I feel that it’s not just a meal project, because it was very evident last year that this was most of the children and their caretakers’ first time at the library,” acting Library Director Pamm Trojanowski said. “It’s a chance to feed not only the body, but the mind as well.

“When they come they find out that they can get a library card, which opens a whole other world of opportunity for them. It’s just amazing for us on staff to watch.”

Island Harvest chooses communities for the summer food service program by looking at the number of children who qualify for discounted or free school lunches in the area. Just over 50 percent of students in the Riverhead school district qualify. Ms. Harrison also said the Riverhead demographics fit the census requirements to take part of the program.

This summer, the program starts on July 8 and will run for five weeks. Children under the age of 18 can go to the library Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to enjoy a free, nutritious lunch.

The visitors don’t have to meet any criteria to receive the meal, but children under the age of 10 must be accompanied by an adult. The Riverhead Library is different from most of the other summer feeding sites in Suffolk County because it is an open site, meaning that community members do not need to enroll to receive a meal. Anyone can walk in during the open time slot.

“One thing about being an open site is that we’re never sure who will be coming through the door,” Ms. Harrison said. “We don’t know their age, or how many there will be that day — it’s challenging.”

Typically, children receive a sandwich, milk, fruit cup and an apple. On one special day of the week they are treated to a slice of pizza, milk, juice, fruit cup and a granola bar.

Last year, the library gave out 1,068 meals during the 39 days of the program, and that was with very little publicity.

“I think we barely scratched the iceberg,” she said of the numbers. “It’s such a big community and the library is difficult to get to and across town from a lot of people. We’re just doing the little bit that we can to help.”

Though being a feeding site is a lot of work for the library, Ms. Harrison said that being involved is very rewarding for all of the employees.

“It’s definitely hectic having to count the food when it comes in, making sure everything is fresh … it’s time consuming,” she said. “But it really is so satisfying to see the children being able to eat and relax and read for a little while.

“You just don’t realize how many hungry people there are until you literally see them sitting there waiting for a little something to eat that day.”

intern@timesreview.com