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Local Girl Scouts Donate Memorial Benches to CFD
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By Web Team
September 1, 2018

On Thursday, August 30th members of CFD and the community came together as two Local Girl scouts presented their Silver Award Project and Donated Memorial Benches they created to CFD.

By Lisa Finn; North Fork Patch — In an emotional ceremony that reflected all the love in the North Fork community for two Cutchogue firefighters lost too soon, Cassandra Stevens and Maya Hamilton, members of Girl Scout Troop 1474, donated benches in memory of Jason Cooper and Drew McCaffery.

The girls created benches in honor of the two firefighters as part of their Silver Award project. The pair presented the benches to the Cutchogue Fire Department Thursday night as members of the Cooper and McCaffery families gathered for the heartfelt dedication.

The Silver Award is the 2nd highest honor a Girl Scout Cadet can achieve; a minimum of 50 hours of work is needed to complete the project.

Tears flowed freely as Cassandra remembered McCaffery, her uncle, and as family members and the community came together to honor two heroes, two longtime families whose friendships span generations, and the ties and traditions deeply ingrained in the hearts of those dedicated to Scouting.

The benches will be located in the Cutchogue Fire Department's horseshoe pit, which is slated to be named in memory of Cooper and McCaffery.

Cooper, 47, died suddenly after an accident in June, 2017. Cooper, a lieutenant in the Cutchogue Fire Department, was remembered as a loving, kind man devoted to his family and to the community he served, including his Cutchogue Fire Department family and the Mattituck Presbyterian Church.

Not long after, in August, 2017, the Cutchogue Fire Department was dealt another heartbreaking blow when 24-year member, commissioner, and ex-Chief Andrew McCaffery passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 41 years old.

During the presentation, the girls spoke about why they chose to create the benches.

"We put a lot of thought into what we wanted to do for our community. We wanted to honor those who have been role models," Cassandra said, including McCaffery, her own beloved uncle, and Cooper.

"When we found out the horseshoe pit will be named for them, we wanted to help improve the area and give something that would be of comfort to our firematic community," Maya said. The girls researched how to construct benches and embarked upon securing donations, materials, and addressing the necessary paperwork involved in a Silver Award project. "The benches are a nice way for firefighters to visit, enjoy each other's company, to think about old times and start making new memories," she said.

Cassandra said the benches were also created to honor all who have served and continue to serve in the community; a total of four benches and four side tables were constructed.

The girls thanked Ed Nicholson and Chris Talbot of the Cutchogue Fire Department, as well as Fire Commissioners Sanford Friemann and James Fogarty; all members of the Cutchogue Fire Department and the Ladies Auxiliary; and all who gave donations. They thanked Robert Latoraco of All American Trade for teaching them how to use tools and construct and design the benches; fellow Girl Scout Faith Shipman for helping with the project; and Lynn Stevens, for supervising the project.

Nicole Brewer, leader of Troop 1474 — Tammi Hildesheim is the co-leader — said it was a meaningful day. "I am so proud of the girls' hard work to honor Drew, Jason, and the fire department. It's a big part of our family."

The girls also thanked moms Beth Shipman and Alicia Hamilton, for "being there to supervise, encourage, and sometimes, give us Slurpees on a hot day."

They also thanked Virginia McCaffery for giving them the space to pursue the project.

The girls were awarded proclamations from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

After the ceremony, the girls reflected on why the project symbolized so much. "This project means a lot to me because Drew McCaffery was my uncle. Jason Cooper was a really good family friend," Cassandra said.

Maya added that her father has deep ties with the fire department. "I love the fire department and I wanted to give something to them," she said.

Cassandra said working on the project with Maya meant a lot; when her uncle passed away last year, her friend was there to offer support.

Cassandra devoted 80 hours to her Silver Award project and Maya, about 60. "I'm very proud of us," Cassandra said.

Cutchogue Fire Department Chief Lawrence Behr said he was very proud of both girls.

For Lynn Stevens, who is also Cassandra's mom, the project had meaning on several different levels.

"It honored my brother, Drew McCaffery, and our close family friend Jason. It also honors every firefighter, including Frank McBride — McBride died in a tragic accident in 2016 — and the other firemen, young and old, who have passed from this firehouse. They were role models to me, and it means a lot to give back to the firemen, so they can come back and have a place to enjoy."

Also, Stevens said she feels deep satisfaction in being able to help shepherd the girls to their Silver Award, supervising the project. "It's a very big achievement," she said. "It just means a lot that they're moving in the same path I moved in, in Girl Scouts, and I hope to see them achieve their Gold Award."

Latoraco, a former Boy Scout, agreed that watching their girls' "young minds develop," as they completed the project entirely on their own, was deeply fulfilling. "To see them work as a team and develop the skills they needed to do the project was a reward in itself."

Jason Cooper's widow, Jeanette, said the project meant everything, especially to see it completed by young girls. Both her husband and Drew, good friends, loved the horseshoe pit, so the project was something that warmed hearts in both men's families and lifted the spirits of the entire North Fork community who loved them. "It's very special," she said.

The Chiefs Officers and members of the Cutchogue Fire Department join together to congratulate Cassandra and Maya on achieving their silver Award and thank them for the time and effort to create the benches that will stand as lasting memorials to Drew and Jason for years to come.

Units: CFD - Tradition - Pride - Dedication
Hyperlinks: North Fork Patch
Suffolk Times

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