April 19, 2019


Table of Contents

Now that nominations for Welcome Home 2019 are closed, the community can now vote! Thank you to the Long Island community for your nominations.

Votes close on May 17. The top 5 nominees with the most votes will then go to a panel of judges who will select the final winner based on: their story, their current landscape situation, and Above All Masonry’s ability to help make a difference. We’ll then work with the winning family to create the design and then plan to complete the installation.

Every nominee has a heart-felt story to be told and their own reasons of how a new outdoor living space will transform their life. We are thrilled to be able to make one family’s outdoor living dreams come true again this year! Stay tuned for notifications from us (follow us on Facebook and sign up to our email list).

Submit your vote at the bottom of this page (must be logged into Facebook, one vote, max., per person).

Please note that the nominees are not listed in any specific order.

Nominee 1: Dorothy Borgese

Penney Wilson and Sharon Mottola, nominated their good friend Dorothy Borgese.

In Penney’s words: “Dorothy Borgese is a caring, single mother, who provides love, support, and guidance to her family and friends. She has 3 beautiful children and 2 adorable grandchildren. Her 4 year old granddaughter was born with special needs and resides at St. Mary’s Hospital, where Dorothy frequently spends time with her granddaughter. Dorothy also cared for her elderly dad, until he had to be placed in hospice care.

Dorothy’s spouse walked out on her, leaving her with mounting bills and a home in desperate need of repairs. You see, her house and backyard suffered quite a bit of damage from 2 storms, Irene and Sandy, on top of pipes bursting in her home, 2 years in a row. She lost furniture, family mementoes, and irreplaceable photographs. Unfortunately, insurance only covers so much.

Yet, despite all the personal and financial hardships Dorothy has suffered, she has devoted her life to helping others. She spent 20 years protecting and serving the people of NYC, as an NYPD Officer. Upon retirement, she immediately immersed herself into volunteering. Dorothy is a volunteer EMT, at Wantagh FD. She is a Facilitator for a Mental Health Support Group, a Counselor and Trainer at the Crisis Center, and President of the Society of St. Vincent DePauls, in Wantagh; to name some of her endeavors.

Dorothy also rescues and cares for strays and foster dogs. She added 5 rescue dogs to her family. Sadly, 3 of them died within the last 2 years. A new backyard would provide Dorothy with a lovely retreat to unwind after volunteering, a wonderful place for her family and friends to gather, as well as a place for the dogs to play.

Dorothy is such a caring person and truly deserves to be recognized for rising above her own hardships and giving so much of herself to others. I strongly urge you to consider rewarding Dorothy Borgese with a backyard makeover..”

In Sharon’s words: “I knew Dorothy when we were police officers with NYPD…she loved the job and was excellent a it…After 20 years of service in the department, she retired. most people would sit down with a pina colada…not her..no she continued to find ways to help people ..she volunteered!”

“A new backyard would provide Dorothy with a lovely retreat to unwind after volunteering, a wonderful place for her family and friends to gather, as well as a place for the dogs to play. Dorothy is such a caring person and truly deserves to be recognized for rising above her own hardships and giving so much of herself to others. I strongly urge you to consider rewarding Dorothy Borgese with a backyard makeover. You will have other applicants…. but she is THE ONE!!” You can view Sharon’s Facebook nomination by clicking here.

Nominee 2: Andrew Rosa

Maria A Rosa, nominated her brother, Andrew Rosa.

In Maria’s words: “My name is Maria Rosa and I am writing this letter in great hopes of you being able to help my family. On May 17, 2010 my 15 year old nephew, Andrew Rosa was struck by a car and life has been forever changed since. Andrew suffered countless injuries including a traumatic brain injury, a heart contusion, collapsed lungs and many fractured bones. Prior to Andrew’s accident he was an active volunteer in the community as a junior firefighter and Boy Scout for several years. Andrew was known for his kind heart and his love to serve others. He was a passionate soccer player and honors student despite struggling with learning disabilities. Having the pleasure of knowing Andrew was a gift that kept giving.

Since that tragic day Andrew has undergone over 10 brain surgeries, spent over 2 years in hospitals and long term care facilities and has had to fight off many aggressive infections. Andrew has does not have the ability to walk or talk therefore his parents, Jimmy and JoAnn and their other children, Marissa and Alex have taken on the roles of being Andrew’s caregivers and advocates. Andrew is confined to a wheelchair and spends most days within the walls of his room as the Rosa family does not have the ability to bring Andrew on outings like most families can. Some medical equipment and handicap accessible vans are not covering by insurance therefore the Rosa family has many expenses to pay in order for Andrew to have what he needs to stay well.

The past 9 years have been an ongoing battle for Andrew and his family but they have not given up. The Rosa family continues to serve as positive role models for others and extend their hope as well as their support to other families that have suffered from similar tragic events. The love the Rosa family has for one another is so strong and heartfelt that it is admirable by all that know them.

Recently the Rosa family received very exciting news that would change Andrew’s life! After 6 years of advocating and devoting their efforts to acquiring a handicap van for Andrew they were successful. Andrew will now have the ability to go out with his family and go to events that would not feel the same without him watching like his little brother playing soccer and his little sister graduating from nursing school. Although this news is truly life changing it also poses another struggle for the Rosa family. Their home is on an extremely steep incline and their drive way is not level. Without a proper driveway the Rosa family will have great difficulty transferring Andrew into his handicap van. Andrew’s safety is a main priority of their family and a new driveway would make all the difference. The ability to transfer Andrew in and out of his handicap van with a lift can only be done on a safe and level platform.

Andrew is so deserving of this opportunity in order to have a more enjoyable quality of life. His strength and courage to continue to tackle whatever comes his way is truly remarkable. As for the Rosa family they are incredibly dedicated to Andrew’s well being that they so humbly and selflessly devote all their efforts to him. I cannot think of a family that would be more grateful for this gift. Please consider them as candidates for a new driveway that has the power to change their lives but this time for the better!

Thank you!”

Nominee 3: The Donovan Family

Danielle Hannifin nominated her niece, Emily Donovan, and her family.

In Danielle’s words: “This is a short version of a very long story. It is a story of courage and perseverance and a little girls fight for her life and a family that would do anything to stay by her side.

When my brother found out he was having a little he was overwhelmed with joy as his dream to have a little girl was finally going to come true. All was perfect until little Emily Noelle made her way into this world and it was at that moment when the fight for her life began. Emily struggled with breathing and feeding issues right from the start surprisingly doctor’s let her go home. Emily continued to struggle with feeding and breathing then at just one week old, she turned blue from lack of oxygen due to her breathing and feeding issues and was rushed to the Stony Brook Emergency where she spent the next few months with doctors not knowing what was wrong with her. She spent the next year and a half in and out of hospitals in hopes of an accurate diagnosis as to why she wasn’t thriving. Finally when Emily was just about 2 years old the doctors at NYU properly diagnosed Emily with Coffin Siris Syndrome which is a very serious genetic disorder. Life became a wait and see game until the full extent of the diagnosis would manifest itself. Doctors just continued to treat all Emily’s ailments one by one.

Life was finally starting to stabilize for Emily and then one day while I was babysitting her she started limping. I was so upset because I was afraid she got hurt on my watch. My brother took her to the doctor the next day and they couldn’t find anything wrong with her leg but they did diagnose her with strep. The limp didn’t go away so my brother kept bringing her from appointment to appointment and the only thing that the doctors could think of was that the strep infection spread to her hip joint. The orthopedist couldn’t find anything wrong either. Two weeks later pm pediatrics diagnosed her again with another strep infection. Fast forward 6 weeks later and still no improvement in her limp now with a low grade fever JJ decided to bring Emily to Stony Brook ER. After many ups and downs my brother was delivered the devastating news that his beautiful little girl had leukemia, the news that no parent ever wants to hear.

The bad news kept coming… on top of leukemia she also had a MRSA infection in her hip joint so she would need picc line until healthy enough for a port. The bad news keeps rolling in but Emily is hanging tight and fighting for her life a second time.

2018 was a pretty unforgiving year for my brother and his family. Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, two weeks after Emily was diagnosed with cancer our father was died unexpectedly in his sleep. Our family knowns nothing but struggle and strife and still my brother never complains.

My brother’s wife, Christina, can no longer work as she needs to stay home to care for Emily, including bringing her to a multitude of appointments including chemotherapy, bone marrow biopsies, and to the emergency room when she crashes and has to be admitted from the effects of the cancer and chemo.

Due to the major loss of income and overwhelming bills, home repairs are not an option although they are desperately trying to catch up. One thing they really can’t seem to catch up on is the need to repair their damaged roof. They are struggling simply to meet monthly living costs never mind the cost to repair a roof. There is a hole in the roof and it leaking into Emily’s bedroom and mold is beginning to grow. Mold is toxic to healthy individuals never mind a 5 year old child with a compromised immune system. My brother and his family are out of options. Thank you for considering my neice’s family as a candidate for Above All Masonry Design’s Welcome Home project. Also thank you for having such a worthwhile program for deserving people needing your help.”

Nominee 4: Sissy

The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition on Long Island nominated Sissy. This is what they wrote:

“2012 – Hurricane Sandy destroyed her home and her family lost everything.
2014 – She became a widow and her four boys, Salvatore and triplets Gianni, Vincent Jr and James became fatherless.
2015 – She was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer.

So much heartache could have destroyed a family, but one mother’s love persevered. Sissy carried on, hoping to return to her home to build memories with her sons. She did not complain, instead she would be the first person to extend her hand to help another. Sissy has been a pillar of strength for her four sons. Their happiness is more important than her own. Throughout everything she would say, “Don’t worry, I will make it work.” Resilient, strong, independent and determined are just a few words that come to mind. Sissy returned to a beautiful house at Christmas in 2017. However, her hopes of completing her home have been delayed because of multiple recurrences with her disease. She would be the ideal candidate to receive a landscaping make-over courtesy of Above All Masonry Design, Inc. With each passing rain storm her yard still floods. Her hope is to see the beauty in her home once again, with a garden, flowers, and shady trees to surround her and her sons with nature’s love. “

Nominee 5: Tony Citizen

A cartoon character Carole Ida Crackenberry is nominating her across the street fellow cartoon neighbor, Tony Citizen.

In Carole’s words: “Dear Above All Masonry Design, Inc. , I would like to nominate my across the street fellow cartoon neighbor, Tony Citizen for the #welcomehome2019 backyard makeover. He and I are just cartoons, but his nasty backyard and tremendous bad luck are very real. His property is finally under re-construction 6.5 years after Hurricane Sandy…”

“Tony’s Sandy repair includes removing a gateway to hell that opened up in his foundation after the flood, and rebuilding floors walls and plumbing, which he has not had in the home since 2012. Those who know Tony know most of all, he can’t wait for his foundation to get repaired, as Satan passive aggressively torments him through the gateway by eating all his Entenmann’s donuts and stealing the coupons out of his Pennysavers. Tony has a big heart. He adopted a lobster that got lost and washed up in his house after the storm. He calls his pet lobster “Lobster.”

Tony has a health condition called PSSSSPSD, aka Post Superstorm Sandy Stupid People Stress Disorder. This disorder can sometimes be crippling, and is aggravated by stress. It originated from all the traumatizing government fraud and red tape he had to endure for years because FEMA told him his entire house is a basement, and basements are not covered by flood insurance. We’d like to call this cartoon a satire, but the core of it is based on true events that seem like exaggerations, but are sadly, very real for Tony and lots of non-cartoon people.

Tony’s creative flood humor has helped a lot of storm victims all over the country cope through the misery of recovery from several storms, including storms in Florida, Texas, Louisana. Online, his humor has caught the attention of prestigious lawyers, reporters, politicians and community members. He started a group connecting storm victims all over the country, offering free tips and advice for remediating for mold, and navigating the confusing federal process, and also, for avoiding con artists after a disaster. Many people have written to him privately to thank him for the cartoons or to ask him to give them strength and encouragement. Over the years he has advocated for and watched and welcomed many of his Facebook friends and neighbors return home while continuing to struggle with red tape, and also while keeping his true identity anonymous. After 6.5 years, I think its time someone gave Tony a big #welcomehome2019. Also, his nasty backyard makes me and his other fictitious cartoon neighbor, Joe, want to puke. There are probably some real neighbors too, who would appreciate a good clean up back there.

As for me, I had also flooded and my husband and I had to sleep on my sister’s pull out couch in her tiny apartment for years until our house was fixed, and now I have permanent pain in my back from that stupid bar in the middle of the sofa bed. Our other neighbor, Joe, also had his life turned upside down by the flood. All of us have dozens and dozens of boxes of flood paperwork and have suffered a lot of trauma. We cartoon “Floodies” represent a community of people on Long Island and elsewhere who have been through a lot, and I think that welcoming Tony home with a new backyard would be healing for all his followers who relate and have struggled as well. Who doesn’t like a happy ending?

PS–We’d all appreciate a fire pit back there, so that when this nightmare and corresponding record keeping period is over, Tony can welcome every Floodie we’ve met along the way to come over with their FEMA paperwork and safely burn it. And make S’mores. Who doesn’t like S’mores?

Thank you for considering cartoon Tony’s real life backyard for a makeover.”

Nominee 6: Leanne Simonsen

Evelyn D. Fink Lubrano nominated Leanne Simonsen, the widow of NYPD detective Simonsen.

Evelyn wrote: “I am nominating Leanne Simonsen, Widow of NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen, who had has recently passed tragically in the line of duty. I do not know Leanne. But I do know how hard it is for her to handle everything in her world right now. In my heart, it says its the right thing to do. Please consider her.”

Nominee 7: Frank and his son

Jeanne Falabella-Berte is nominating her friend and neighbor Frank and his son.

In Jeanne’s words: “I am nominating my friend and neighbor for the #welcomehome2019 project from above all masonry. Every year at this time I see him starting to work in his front and back yard to prepare for the season. He is out there for hours every week. Unfortunately this year there won’t be a lot of time or mindset for that. Frank’s 14 year old son was recently diagnosed with bone cancer and the family will be spending their spring and summer in the hospital getting their son through chemo and surgery.
Please consider picking them for your project so they all can come home to a new and beautiful yard with less stress.”

Nominee 8: Erin Heenan Ley

Margi Quinterno-Schwarting is nominating her friend Erin Heenan Ley.

In Margi’s words: “ERIN HAS BEEN MY FRIEND FOR 15 YEARS and I love her lots. She is a sweet, compassionate and awesome friend and mom. She has helped me numerous times with hardships and illnesses that I have faced, and I would like to return the favor by nominating her to win a beautiful, well deserved backyard. When her husband of 18 years left her in 2013 it was like a death to her and her kids. His absence made it impossible to keep up with the inside of the house. All the needs of repairs and the financial responsibility of a single mom. Keeping up with the outside was not a necessity. Her fence is falling apart, the lawn is a mess, the deck is the original deck from the 1960’s, the barbecue hasn’t worked for 2 years and the shed is falling apart.

Erin is a cancer survivor from the early 1990’s and has been on SSDI ever since. She has 3 miracle children who are now 21, 17, and 16. Four months after Erin’s husband walked out she was in a very bad car accident and needed 6 surgeries over the next few years.

Erin and her children have been in the same home (which is now in only Erin’s name on the Deed) for 21 years, since she was pregnant with her first miracle child, and her home is extremely important to her and her kids. Trying to bridge the gap between SSDI and child support/maintenance financially to keep up with the bills was impossible. Her security and living conditions for her kids were threatened. As bills surmounted, Erin decided to take a massive leap of faith and walked away from SSDI recently doing her best building a new career for herself.

Erin’s been a volunteer Life Coach to cancer patients, their families and many others for over 25 years. She also self-published character-building children’s books and a cancer memoir, in addition to hosting a talk radio show for free as part of her contribution to society and trying to make the world a better place for her children as a stay at home mom. Erin decided to do all of this now as a career over the last couple of years and loves it. However, as anyone who has started up a business knows it takes time. Erin’s faith is incredibly strong and will do anything possible for the security of her children. She’s grateful for all she has, including her health, even though the cancer left her with a dangerous heart condition, vertigo, a reservoir permanently implanted in her brain, and other permanent side effects from the chemotherapy and radiation from the early 90’s. But you would never know because Erin is always smiling and is an optimist. The car accident from 2014 added a bit to her struggles, however, Erin does not complain. She’s always thankful for what she has and how she can help others based on her experiences.

Now Erin can use a lot of help. I believe if anyone deserves a break it’s Erin. A new backyard would bring much needed joy to her home for her and her children.”

Nominee 9: Diana & Nick Lorusso

Joan Collins Ludlam is nominating her friends Diana & Nick Lorusso.

In Joan’s words:

“I would like to nominate my good friends Diana & Nick Lorusso, parents to two beautiful children (7 year old daughter and 3 year old son). Life was good for them. Nick working in law enforcement while Diana stayed at home raising their two kids. Then suddenly the unexpected happened and their lives were changed forever. In Nov 2016 they received devastating news about their son who was 16 months old. News that no parent should ever have to here from a doctor about their child… “Your son has cancer, stage 4 Neuroblastoma”. If that wasn’t gut wrenching enough, the doctors also told them that the cancer caused a very rare condition called Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS) in which case his cerebellum was being attacked effecting his every day basic functions, such as speech, swallowing, walking, gross and fine motor skills, and causing involuntary eye movement. He no longer could stand or walk or even swallow water. It felt like their poor baby was shutting down right before their eyes. His body was shaking uncontrollably 24/7 from head to toe for several weeks. In addition, this syndrome causes rage which was nearly impossible for his parents to console. It was brutally awful to witness! OMS is so rare that only 1 in every 10 million kids get it each year world wide. Most doctors don’t even know about it or how to treat it, pretty scary. So now this child gets slammed with 2 diagnosis in one shot. Once the cancerous tumor was removed (left adrenal gland) chemotherapy began and it wasn’t until 4 cycles that scans showed no evidence of disease. Treatment for OMS includes monthly infusions at the hospital and steroid shots given every other day to control swelling in the brain and decrease his tremors. There is no cure for OMS. Just long term treatment is given in hopes to put it in remission. Extensive therapy was also given to regain the basic skills he lost and to this day therapy continues as the child still struggles. Approx 17 months later in Sept 2018 they find out that their son’s cancer came back with a vengeance, 95% disease in his bone marrow! High dose chemo immediately began. Multiple weeks spent in the hospital as the chemo protocol was too intense to be done out patient. Since there is still disease presently remaining even after 5 cycles of high dose chemo, he is now doing a clinical trial where chemo and immunotherapy are being done together in hopes to kill of any remaining cancer cells.
The reason why I am nominating this family is because doctors told them that their son cannot go to school like a normal toddler because his immune system is so suppressed between the chemo he is receiving to treat the cancer and the steroid injections and monthly infusions to treat his OMS . Sending him to school is too risky and can potentially trigger a relapse of OMS should he come into contact with another sick child. Just to put things into perspective if he comes into contact with someone that has a cold or a flu that will gain him an admission into the ER which was the case earlier this year. Due to these circumstances, I thought it would be wonderful if Above All Masonry can create a peaceful zen like backyard with a dreamy play house that my friends son and daughter can enjoy for years to come. A place where their son can escape to and run around like the average normal kid and not worry about germs in public playgrounds. A place where he can receive his physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and special ed in a fun environment as opposed to always getting the service inside their home. It would mean so much to the parents knowing they have a safe, fun and tranquil place for their severely immunocompromised kid to meditate and just be free.
Thank you all so very much for taking the time to read this. Please nominate this deserving family who has gone through so much.”

Nominee 10: The Fay Family

Patti Smith Murtagh nominated the Fay family.

In Patti’s words: “The Fay family lived in a small trailer for 530 days after Storm Sandy severely damaged their home. They faced so many challenges and obstacles during the rebuilding of their home. Still, there is much to do. We nominate this family in the hope you can provide a long awaited “Welcome Home!” #welcomehome2019

Ready to vote? Submit your vote here: after choosing a nominee below, you’ll be taken to a Facebook login screen if you’re not already logged in. One vote per person.


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