Carolyn Willson has called Glen Cove her home for over 50 years.
In that time, she has worked for three mayors, serving twice as Deputy Mayor, and was instrumental in starting Glen Cove’s Ambulance Corp., now known as Glen Cove EMS, a vital part of our community.
“I was working in city government, when the idea of having our own ambulance was proposed, and the mayor at the time told me to look into it,” recalls Carolyn. “Before long, we had raised enough money to purchase an ambulance, and today what is known as the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) is affiliated with the Glen Cove Fire Department and plays a very important role in our community.
There are many things Carolyn Willson loves about Glen Cove, but if you ask her to name one, she’d probably tell you it’s the diversity of the people.
Glen Cove’s blend of cultures and lifestyles was the primary reason that she and her husband, Tom, decided to moved here from Manhasset in 1967 and raise their four children in an environment where they could experience the uniqueness of our great city.
For Carolyn, Glen Cove has always been a welcoming community, and a place to call home; something she was seeking for her own family after spending five years as an Air Force wife, and moving from state to state.
“Glen Cove has always had that small town charm for me, from the store owners who knew my name, to the crossing guard, who didn’t know me, but was always there to exchange a smile,” recalls Carolyn.
It was during a moment of tragedy that Carolyn fully appreciated the generosity and warmth of the community, when her adopted daughter passed away and the city responded with great kindness and understanding.
“When I delivered her eulogy, I remarked how ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ an old African proverb that certainly fit the occasion,” recalled Carolyn. “It was during that difficult time, and the outpouring of love and concern, that I could really see everything that was good about the people in this city.”
Now, over 50 years after settling in Glen Cove, Carolyn can look back on a life of great purpose, whether it was as a member of city government, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and CPR instructor, the president of the Glen Cove League of Women Voters, the Glen Cove City Clerk, a member of the city’s Charter Commission, and so much more.
Commenting on how much things have changed, she recalled her time in city government, sitting in on a meeting where she was the only woman; while her late husband Tom, served as President of the Middle School PTA, where he was usually the only man.
Tom, who served as an Air Force pilot, and later flew for Eastern Airlines, would pilot the morning shuttle on two round trips from New York to Boston, so he could be back in time to pick up his kids from school. He and Carolyn became co-presidents of the Booster Club, while he also coached Little League.
Today, with two children still living in Glen Cove, Carolyn remains involved as a member of the Inter Agency Council, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021.
The IAC’s 35-40 members range from groups that include: veterans, scouts, religious organizations, schools, nursing homes, and others that serve the interests of the public, and meet to address the needs of one another.
Many of Carolyn’s contributions to Glen Cove have come as a volunteer, and with a keen interest in the town’s history, Carolyn played an important role in the 350th anniversary (coinciding with the 100th
anniversary as a recognized city) a few years back, when she served on the Advisory Committee. She also serves as secretary on the North Shore Historical Museum Board.
For Carolyn, who has watched Glen Cove’s downtown areas transition from wooden buildings to the new Downtown Village Square, and has seen the waterfront transformed from rubble to the impressive new Garvies Point Waterfront Community, with both attracting new life and energy to our city, Glen Cove is still that special place she settled in many years ago, and we are all better off that she chose our city to call home.
Don’t let Shirley Pinckney’s size fool you. She is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her role as Advocate for Glen Cove’s Senior Center.
Shirley, a lifetime resident of Glen Cove, who turned 80 years young in 2020, has dedicated herself to helping others; from the very young, to those in the autumn of their life.
A loving mother, who worked multiple jobs to send three children to college, Shirley began working as a cook for the very young, when she accepted a position at Glen Cove’s Day Care Center.
“There were about 50 to 60 children there at the time,” she recalls, but some 38 years later, when a medical condition forced her to retire, Shirley had become the Food Services Manager at the facility, a position she held for many years.
“When I left, there were about 240 children in what was now called the Glen Cove Child Day Care Center, with programs for infants and toddlers, as well as an after-school program.
Shirley recalls growing up in Glen Cove, which she refers to as a friendly town where I always felt very safe. "When I was a child, I could walk freely in the neighborhood, and always felt that I was treated like anyone else,” she said. “I enjoyed shopping downtown and the beaches,” she added.
Upon being told about her medical condition, Shirley doctor’s advised her to get involved in something else, and not sit home, but Shirley was never the sitting at home type.
“I went to visit the Glen Cove Senior Center in 2016, and observed what was going on before I decided to join,” recalls Shirley. One of the seniors showed her around, and Shirley watched how people interacted, so she could feel comfortable about getting involved.
For Shirley, the center wasn’t just a place to attend when she could, and soon, when the Center’s Advocate became ill, Shirley’s spirit and tenacity caught the attention of Director Carol Waldman, who asked Shirley if she would consider becoming the new Advocate.
Shirley was up for the challenge, but admittedly knew nothing about the position or the responsibilities. So, she did her homework, and learned everything she could about how to go about making sure the Center fully served the needs of the seniors.
Shirley had worked hard and sacrificed her whole life, and after taking care of children for 38 years, she was determined to do everything she could to improve the lives of seniors. “I know their struggles,” admitted Shirley. “Seniors go through a lot, and the more I can do to make their life easier, the better I will feel."
Shirley admits that despite her own struggles, she “always brings her happy self to work,” and encourages other to look at the bright side.
After learning everything she could about being an Advocate, Shirley put her knowledge to action by trying to provide seniors with more of the services that were right here in Glen Cove.
Recognizing that some seniors feel unsafe, or are sometimes taken advantage of by scammers, Shirley contacted the mayor at the time, Reggie Spinello, and worked with him to get Glen Cove’s police more involved with the seniors.
Working with the mayor, Shirley soon had the police speaking and appearing regularly at the center, while providing seniors with an opportunity to voice their concerns and have the police respond to their needs. Shirley also helped make sense out of Medicare and Medicaid, so Glen Cove’s seniors could be better informed. When transportation was an issue, Shirley was able to get new buses to make it easier for seniors to come and go from the center.
Shirley worked tirelessly, looking out for her fellow seniors, making sure they were prepared for storms, helping them connect with the social worker in a confidential manner, or connecting them with financial services when they were needed.
“When you tell me, I can’t do something, I find out how I can,” added Shirley, who is surprisingly shy when it comes to taking credit for her many accomplishments.
And, what has Shirley been advocating for lately?
“Glen Cove needs more dedicated senior housing,” she maintains, and just before the virus hit she was working with a New York State organization that deals with seniors and senior issues, hoping to start a Glen Cove chapter.
For Shirley, who has worked from home during the pandemic, getting things done just comes naturally.
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