By Marissa Maier
From heading the Sag Harbor Elementary School Parent Teacher Association to spearheading popular programs like bingo night and family movie night, Cathy Carlozzi has spent the last nine years as a valued member of the school community. As she recently stepped down from these duties, the Y.A.R.D., Youth Advocacy and Resource Development, program will honor Carlozzi at their annual benefit this Friday, October 15. Carlozzi reveals to The Express the success behind her numerous events and campaigns, and what led her to volunteer for her community.
Cathy you have been a long time member of the school community. Did you grow up in Sag Harbor or was this partnership fostered when your children started attending the school?
I didn’t grow up here. We moved here 18 years ago and once I started having kids, I got more involved with the community. My husband and I lived in Florida beforehand and the house [here] was his uncle’s who used to teach at Pierson.
When you first started becoming involved was Sag Harbor a tight knit community or did you see areas where it could improve?
Yes, compared to all the other schools, absolutely. I just wanted to get everyone together. I wanted to do things but I didn’t want to charge people. Everything costs money but for bingo and movie night, we didn’t charge. It brought everyone together, those who couldn’t and those who could afford it.
As a former president of the Parent Teacher Association, you were integral in launching a number of projects and events at the elementary school, like the walkway, bingo night, family movie night and the holiday gingerbread night. Where did these ideas come from?
A lot of the ideas were from Ms. Remkus who now teaches kindergarten. I went with it to try and get everything together. I looked online for equipment. I held fundraisers for the movie night for the projectors. And the brick walkway was a good fundraiser.
And did you have ideas for other events that didn’t quite pan out as you expected?
The kids liked to play wall ball and I wanted to put up a wall. But I kept hitting a brick wall. It was little things that came up every time I tried to get it. There wasn’t enough property or space for the kids. But the idea is not to quit. If one thing doesn’t work out something else will.
Why do you think the events like the bingo and family movie night are successful?
Because I think everyone realizes that they do have extra time to spend together. Those events are always free, the bingo, the movies. It’s nice to see friends and family and not have to worry, “How am I going to be able to afford this?” The events aren’t mandatory. You went because you enjoyed it. Last year I had tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders coming. The older kids were babysitting the younger kids. It wasn’t just the moms and the dads. Grandma and grandpa were coming too.
You helped fund raise for the Sag Harbor Elementary School walkway, a donation drive which also helped pay for benches and picnic tables, and in 2006 you helped raise over $5,000 for cancer research with “Sag Harbor Happy Feet,” a group of Sag Harbor moms. What makes your fundraising work successful?
I don’t think personally that it is because it is me. I think it is how you go about it. [Instead of going outside the box], I think it should be all the way around the box. The more you help the more you get. And it is important not just to depend on yourself. It is okay to ask for help. Some people are shy, but everybody can’t do everything. So it is okay to ask for help.
Earlier in the year you stepped down from your role as a leader of elementary school events after working with the school in this capacity for nine years. Why did you feel it was time to refocus your energies?
Other people want to get involved and it is okay for them to be heard. They might want to change some things. I hope it continues to stay the way it is [in terms of] staying free for everyone. That was my whole highlight. Everything costs a lot of money, but this is something everyone can do together.
You are being honored this weekend by the Y.A.R.D. program. What is your relationship with Y.A.R.D.?
I was on the Y.A.R.D. committee for a year or two. If [program director] Debbie Skinner needed help, I would help. Which is why I say it is okay to ask [for help]. Some people might say, “Yes,” some people might say, “No.” But if you don’t ask you never know. The outcome is those eight beautiful benches out there [at the walkway].
The walkway must be a nice tangible way of seeing your accomplishments in the community.
To me that is why I do the bingo night and the movie night. The benches are just materials. To actually go and see the family and friends gathered, hanging out and showing up in their pajamas that is the nice thing, that togetherness.
Where you raised with this sense of community service or is this something that was cultivated when you first moved to the area?
I was a foster kid. I went from one house to another house. In my mind and head and in my heart, I said, “There has to be something more to this.” And that is what kept me going.
Cathy Carlozzi will be honored by the Y.A.R.D. (Youth Advocacy and Resource Development) program at their annual fundraiser on Friday, October 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. at B. Smiths, located on the Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. The evening includes food from a selection of local restaurants, music, a grand prize raffle featuring an iPad, plus other prizes and a 50/50 raffle. Admission is $25. For more information or to purchase tickets call Y.A.R.D. director Debbie Skinner at 725-5302 ext. 750. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.