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HFEE Celebrates Huntington Duo at Reach for the Stars Gala

Robert Gilmor III and Helping Hands Rescue Mission’s Rev. Kimberly Gambino Honored

With the Water’s Edge in Centerport providing a gorgeous spring backdrop, the Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education (HFEE) hosted an event, raising tens of thousands of dollars at its annual Reach for the Stars gala on March 30, which celebrated public education along with the organization’s 30th anniversary.

The evening had all the celebratory elements for a crowd numbering over 200 guests. There was fine food, music, dancing, good friends and supporters of the school district and Huntington community. This year, the Huntington High School Marching Band drumline kicked off the evening by marching through the ballroom, providing a musical sampling and modeling the band’s new uniforms, which HFEE, among other groups, helped fund.

HFEE has donated more than $1.2 million in goods and services to the district since its founding in 1993, when a group parent volunteers created an educational foundation to provide additional resources to the district. Over the years, through teacher-generated grants, HFEE has helped provide innovative STEM programs, robotics programs, cutting-edge equipment, and so much more. Proceeds from the gala will go toward replenishing funds for the group’s grant program.

The organization’s Spirit Award was presented to Huntington High School Dean of Student Support, Robert Gilmor III, and Helping Hands Rescue Mission President, Rev. Kimberly Gaines-Gambino. The duo joins a long list of recipients who have left their mark on the district and community.

“HFEE’s objective is to help teachers inspire students. Inspire them with new ways of thinking. Excite them with innovative equipment. And encourage them with programs that center on kindness and compassion. Huntington has long been recognized as a school district that embraces people from every walk of life. The message is clear: you are welcomed, you are seen, and you will do great things,” said Jennifer Stevens, HFEE president, during her welcome speech. “I don’t think we could have selected two better honorees who embody this message and the mission of public education.

Both honorees gave rousing speeches, moving many in the room to tears, while detailing their love of the Huntington community and the people they serve.

“Being a HFEE Spirit Award winner is a great honor. I’d like to accept it as a tribute to the many students I have the privilege to work with every day,” reflected Mr. Gilmor. “I am here to help raise them up, so we can celebrate all they can become.”

In addition to his day job, Mr. Gilmor is the faculty advisor for Huntington’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, having founded the high school’s chapter in 2003. Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide organization dedicated to eliminating poverty and homelessness by building housing side-by-side with those in need. Under Gilmor’s guidance, the Huntington High School chapter has thrived as one of Long Island’s most active Habitat for Humanity units. Club members have built houses as far away as Houston, TX and as close as Suffolk County.

Located in the heart of Huntington Station, the Helping Hand Rescue Mission seeks to improve the lives of families in need in the greater Huntington community. According to Rev. Gaines-Gambino, “The vision is simple – be a comforting resource for those in need of supplies and nourishment, both physical and spiritual.”

Rev. Gaines-Gambino also shared, “I grew up in Huntington and always felt like I had the best childhood. There’s no place like Huntington Village, there’s no community park like Hecksher, and there are no people like Huntingtonians!”

The lively crowd bought raffle tickets, vying for dozens of coveted gift baskets donated by local businesses such as The Paramount Theater, The Bar Method, Joanina, and more. Sponsors of the gala included newcomers ShopRite, Looks Great Services, Riverhead Building & Supply, as well as longstanding sponsors like Palacios Law Group, Southdown Market, and Gellerman Orthodontics.

“It was a beautiful event and a great night to, once again, celebrate all things Huntington,” Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Sincere thanks to the Huntington Foundation for everything they do in support of our children and schools. We are as excited to implement this year’s grant-funded initiatives as we have been every year.”
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