Pauline Smith honored with the Helen Wright Prince Community Award

When she was 8 years old, Pauline Smith and her foster mother would make chicken dinners and take them to the migrant camps and sell them on the weekends.

On Thursday night, her lifetime of work was rewarded with the Helen Wright Prince Community Award. 

“I feel like it’s full circle that I’ve come to be getting this honor from someone that was helping the migrants when we used to help them also,” said Ms. Smith, the manager of Long Island Head Start’s North Fork center. The award was created by the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force in 2015.

She received the award at an event in her honor at the North Fork center in Southold.

This is the sixth year this award was given to members of the North Fork community and more than 50 people attended Thursday’s event. Guests included some previous honorees of the award like Southold Town Board member Brian Mealy and other local officials, including Town Supervisor Scott Russell, staff members of Long Island Head Start, and others.

The award was created in honor of the late Helen Wright Prince. Ms. Prince, who died in 2013 at the age of 101, spent most of her life helping children and families in need. She spent decades working at migrant labor camps, including a notorious camp that once sat on on Cox Lane in Cutchogue.

Ms. Smith has more than 30 years of service as a community leader and has advocated for early childhood education through her work at Head Start. Head Start is an organization that provides a comprehensive learning environment to children respectful of their cultures and assists families in reaching self-sufficiency.

Ana Figueroa, Sonia Spar, Pauline Smith, Annette Harris and Yvonne Green.
(Credit: Melissa Azofeifa)

She was a former volunteer as well as a parent that benefitted from Head Starts services. She rose to become manager of the North Fork Head Start Center, leading it through many challenges and building a strong service for the North Fork community.

Before reading a proclamation, Mr. Russell recognized Ms. Smith’s hard work and that of the entire staff of Southold’s Long Island Head Start.

“There’s probably people that drive by every day … and they’re not quite sure what goes on here,” he said. “Some of these hidden treasures throughout the community, the ones that do it not for the accolades, and not for the attention and not to pat themselves on the back. But they just do it. They just make a difference in someone’s life, it’s what you do, it’s the passion that makes all the difference in the world.”

He finished by saying that the proclamation will be part of the Southold Town archives “so that future generations know how important Pauline Smith has been to this community.”

Ms. Smith recognized how important her faith has been in getting her where she is today.

“I just want to say if you’re going through something in life and call on the Lord and sometimes you think maybe he’s not listening, but let me tell you when you get a day like today you know God’s listening and that he wants you to get your deserving rewards, which I thank you for this honor to do that,” Ms. Smith said.

The event, which lasted an hour, ended with Long Island Head Start’s director of program operations, Annette Harris, singing The Head Start theme song and one of Ms. Smith’s favorites, “The Greatest Love of All.”