CAST dedicates new playground in honor of longtime volunteer

Southold’s Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation unveiled the Elinor M. May Imagination Playground at their campus in the heart of Southold on Sunday afternoon.

The nonprofit organization also honored Worldwide Autism Awareness Day by hosting a free family concert at Treiber Hall by three-time Grammy nominee and popular local folk performers Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could.

Over 150 supporters attended the dedication, according to CAST executive director Cathy Demeroto.

“We are overwhelmed by the community support,” she said. “It was such a joy to see so many children playing safely and happily on our playground at CAST.”

The Imagination Playground was named in honor of Southold resident and long-time CAST volunteer and supporter Elinor May. Ms. May served CAST for over two decades. She died in May 2022.

CAST was founded in 1965 as Community Action Southold Town. It has supported underserved and vulnerable populations in Southold Town with food, shelter, education, employment and health care and has recently expanded its services to Shelter Island. Its mission is to provide a safety net and promote self-sufficiency for local residents in need.

The Elinor M. May Imagination Playground project was part of CAST’s “Build What Matters” capital campaign. The campaigns’ goal was to help CAST relocate to its current headquarters.

The group had raised $2.2 million of their $3 million goal by September 2021 when they closed on the purchase of the former Southold Opera House at 53930 Main Road. They were fully operational out of the location by later that fall. 

Ms. May left behind 11 children, many of whom helped complete the playground project. Ten of her 11 children, along with grandchildren and other family members and friends were in attendance.

Joan May, Ms. May’s daughter, said the event was a “perfect tribute” to her mother.

“This was a great celebration of our mother because it was about family, it was about community, it was about service, it was about joy; it was all the things that she cared most about.”

The playground was built in just four days, according to a press release from CAST. The area was prepared for installation by volunteer Rudy Ticuru and his family and friends. Afterwards it was all hands on deck and May family members led the volunteer crew under the supervision of project manager and Laurel resident Fred Druck. Mr. Druck has had a 40-year career building playgrounds for schools and churches in New York City. 

Ms. Demeroto said the new playground is a community asset as it can be used by any child who visits CAST’s campus during food distributions, outdoor concerts, movies and other events.

“CAST education programs serve many underserved and at-risk children in our community and we are so excited that all these little learners will now have a safe and interactive space to climb, slide and play,” Ms. Demeroto said.

The playground will also be available to those participating in the organization’s ParentChild+ Program. The program is an early literacy and parent support initiative for at-risk preschoolers and their families. CAST will be holding a graduation and outdoor barbecue on their campus for members of this years program on June 14.

Participants in the organization’s Summer Rise Program will also be able to use the new playground. The program is a six-week, full-day, academic, arts and activity programs for elementary school children who are still impacted by the loss of learning and the isolation of COVID lockdowns.

“There’s just so many things that connect this family to Southold and this ceremony … was certainly a tremendous point in the arc of our family,” said Ms. May’s son Jeff, who was also in attendance Sunday. “To memorialize Mom here in Southold right in the middle of downtown, to have a plaque with her name on it, it’s almost a dream to me.”