EAST ISLIP—The last time the Islip Bulletin spoke with Gary Teich, president of the East Islip Community Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of Lee’s Auto Body & Glass on Main Street, he was named the 2016 Inspiration Award winner for his charity work with the East Islip School District. Now, Teich and the Career Development Program at East Islip High School are working together to pioneer VETVAN.
VETVAN is a van that will be donated to the American Legion Hall in East Islip. Every effort will be made to make it available to any veteran who needs it for trips to the doctor, shopping, parades, and any other appointments they may have.
Teich explained how after he worked with East Islip High School to provide their security personnel with a refurbished vehicle, Frank Frumento, from the American Legion Hall, asked if he would be interested in what is now his latest project.
“Not only does [Teich] support the vets,” Frumento said, “but he helps out the community any chance he gets. About 20 years ago, he even sponsored my daughter’s pageant when nobody else would.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 31, two students from East Islip High School’s mentorship program, which Teich has been participating in for the last few years, stopped by his shop to work on the vehicle that will ultimately serve as the VETVAN.
Tim Carberry, one of Teich’s students, said they’re going to sand and scruff the van, which is expected to be finished by this coming Memorial Day. “It’s going to look like you’re driving behind an Army jeep when we’re done,” Carberry added.
Adonees Akl, another East Islip High School senior, said that unlike other jobs he has had, Teich listens to him. “He teaches us hands-on work and he always gives us good advice that we can use in life,” he added.
Israel Malinowitzer, director of Careers and Student Services at East Islip High School, would agree with Akl’s comment. “This is an excellent program,” Malinowitzer said. “It allows the students to work in a field they are interested in. And it gives them real-world experience.” Malinowitzer added that Teich has the “patience of a saint” and the students love their time with him. “They like it more than school,” he laughed.
It’s obvious that Teich enjoys giving back to the community. “I’ve lived here my whole life,” he said. “Over the years, things change. People get so busy that it’s easy to lose track of who they are and where they’re living. But it only takes a little bit to refocus on your town and to make a difference. And that’s what we’re trying to do with the VETVAN.”
Due to the broad usage of the VETVAN, paying for the insurance will be costly. This is where Teich and East Islip High School could use the public’s help. Their fundraiser for the program is called “Buy A Star For A Star.” The VETVAN will be painted red, white and blue, and you can purchase a star with whatever “thank you” message you would like. These “thank you” stars will decorate the van to show how much the community supports their veterans.
Teich has been moved by the amount of donations the project has already received. “The more stars that are on the van, the more it shows our veterans how many people are behind them,” he said. “We already have plans for next year’s project. That’s going to be another van for American Veterans (Amvets) on Carleton Avenue, which we’re going to paint to make it look like an Army tank.”
For anyone interested, please make checks payable to: Four S. Post 1635 VETVAN. Mail to: P.O. Box 142 East Islip, New York, 11739. Be sure to include your special message for your star. For any questions, email: Leesautobodyglass@yahoo.com.
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