News of two Islanders being honored by their peers came this week. Police Officer Sean Clark was named the 2022 Shelter Island Police Officer of the Year, and Donald D’Amato was named Shelter Island Lions Club Citizen of the Year.
Both men personify public service and commitment to their neighbors.
Officer Clark led his department in arrests, including one frightening case of a woman assaulted and locked in a room, before he and other officers quickly brought the suspect into custody. But equally important to keep the Island safe, he along with the men and women of the department take the “serve” part of the goal to “serve and protect” seriously.
The number of acts of assistance the department performs daily is a testament to the officers themselves and the leadership of Police Chief Jim Read. People remember Officer Clark for helping with a flat tire, giving directions, taking seriously someone upset over a phone call or a text and following up with those in distress.
Out of uniform, Officer Clark still serves. One of the founders of “Bring Back Bobwhite,” he and other group members have released 1,000 quail in the Island’s many preserves, where the birds feast on ticks. Once a familiar sight here, their numbers have dwindled.
Officer Clark and others remember the distinctive bobwhite call from their childhoods, now rarely heard, as destruction of their natural habitats have taken its toll. With this ecological service, it will ensure that Officer Clark and his wife Mallory’s children will hear the same sweet calls of the birds.
Mr. D’Amato has been a Lions Club member for close to 40 years. He’s one of the most active members of the philanthropic organization, creating the club’s website. When the pandemic came, he organized a way to donate funds for those in need or to find help, and had it translated into Spanish, which is still up and running today.
It’s an outreach for Islanders who live and/or work here, but who are often left out.
He was an essential part of teams that helped make the Wades Beach pavilion a reality. The beautiful open-sided, covered wood pavilion stands at the edge of the beach on the parking lot near the bathhouse.
The pavilion was constructed for the elderly and people with disabilities who have difficulty walking on sand or sitting in the sun and can now have a place to sit close to the beach, yet shaded from the sun.
Mr. D’Amato also helped bring The Great Peconic Race to the Island, a celebration of the beauty of the Island’s waterways as well as a competition, with people from around the region coming to circumnavigate the Island.
The list, for Mr. D’Amato and Officer Clark, could go on. They have taken a thought expressed by Robert F. Kennedy, and put it into action: “We must attempt … to bring people back to the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility, and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future.”