The Shelter Island Board of Education Monday night unanimously approved a resolution requested by Councilman Jim Colligan and Kim Reilly, the chairwoman of the Recreation Committee, to dedicate the FIT Center for the late Garth Griffin who died on Jan. 27, 2020, just a week after his 67th birthday.
Mr. Griffin was hired as the town’s recreation director in May 1981 and held the post until his retirement in the summer of 2017.
“He loved this community,” Mr. Colligan said in making the request. “He was so proactive with the kids,” he said.
Mr. Griffin’s dedication to Shelter Island went far beyond his work as recreation director and FIT Center manager. Countless Islanders hailed his volunteer work at a memorial service following his unexpected passing.
Beyond his official role, Mr. Griffin arranged off-Island trips for Shelter Island students and worked long hours to be certain the community was well served by his labors. He was often behind the wheel driving a bus to take Island seniors on off-Island excursions.
Ms. Reilly praised Mr. Griffin’s service and she and Mr. Colligan said once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, a date for a dedication of a plaque at the FIT Center will be determined. They said the plaque and dedication ceremony would be paid for by Friends of Garth Griffin so it wouldn’t cost the school district any money to honor the man who gave so much to the Island.
Board President Kathleen Lynch said when she first met Mr. Griffin months after she moved to the Island, he immediately asked her what she could do as a volunteer on the Island. He then proceeded for 20 minutes to tell her about his own service that also included serving as Shelter Island Fire Chief and working as a volunteer EMT. She credits him with being the inspiration for her own community service.
“Garth wove himself into the community like a bright red thread in a giant tapestry,” former highway superintendent and public works commissioner Jay Card Jr. said at the 2020 memorial service.
Shelter Island Presbyterian Church was packed with a standing-room-only crowd of Islanders who came to that memorial service to bid a final goodbye to Mr. Griffin.
Fire Commissioner Larry Lechmanski, who had served as first assistant chief of the department when Mr. Griffin was chief, recalled that day that Mr. Griffin always willingly took on the hard jobs, including taking a lead role in renovations of the old sections of the upstairs of the Heights Firehouse.
“He was a good chief,” Mr. Lechmanski said, describing Mr. Griffin as “always with the guys” and not just supervising them during his tenure.
As a volunteer EMT, Mr. Griffin served when the ambulance corps was still under the auspices of the Red Cross. Joy Bausman, who was director at the time, described him in three words — “responsive, dependable and knowledgeable.”
The Board of Education Monday night adopted a policy previously introduced establishing single-occupancy gender-neutral bathrooms. The policy states the move represents a district commitment to “creating and maintaining an inclusive educational and work environment. All single-occupancy bathrooms in the building have now been designated as gender-neutral.
In another action, the Board of Education promised a response to a proposed senior class trip in time to secure accommodations in Henryville, Penn. where the class of 2021 has identified a large house that would accommodate the group with appropriate social distancing. Activities would include an outing to Hershey Park, a visit to the Lackawanna Coal Mine and white-water rafting. Facilities at the house include a sauna, swimming pool and movie theater. The trip is slated for June 13 through 16, but a deposit on the house must be made by April 20, class adviser Michelle Corbett told the Board. Generally, once the board receives such requests, it doesn’t act on them until the following month.