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Emily and Dana Hallman named Shelter Island Lions Club Citizens of the Year

The Shelter Island Lions have chosen as their 2024 Citizens of the Year Emily and Dana Hallman, a mother-and-daughter team who are as rapid to respond to their fellow Islanders in time of need as they are reluctant to accept any recognition for their efforts.

In announcing the Lions’ choice, Dr. Frank Adipietro said their “contributions to the community are many, varied and ongoing. It doesn’t matter what the need is, they just step in.”

The Hallmans were also recognized for their contributions to the community as the Reporter’s Persons of the Year in 2015. Then, too, it was much easier to find people eager to talk about these volunteers than the women themselves. “We like to fly low,” Dana Hallman acknowledged in a recent interview.

Some of the valued institutions and traditions that have become well known on the Island took root at their hands. The annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Presbyterian Church is a perfect example.

The church has been central to their efforts to serve their neighbors in other ways, including operating the Food Pantry that serves individuals and families on the Island who are food insecure.

The Hallmans have also been active in the East End Quilting Guild, making baby blankets for infants in hospitals, lap robes for veterans, and pillow cases for children in foster care — who have often had to carry their belongings in garbage bags when being moved between homes.

But being involved in these organized activities doesn’t slow them down when a need arises, whether a senior needing a ride to a doctor’s office, a family confronting a crisis, or someone who just needs a good neighbor to carry out an errand.

The Hallmans have also hosted Bucks baseball players in their home for the past three years, and Dana said she has helped with game meals and concessions at Fisk Field as well.

Shouldering a large responsibility like the Thanksgiving dinner for more than a dozen years meant delegating jobs — like chopping celery and onions for stuffing, peeling potatoes or delivering meals to the homebound — to other volunteers, while cooking five turkeys, two or three hams, and plenty of pies themselves. It also meant knowing when to step back and turn the event over to the Lions Club when it became too big to handle, Dana said.

Emily and Dana Hallman can trace their roots on the Island well back through the last century . It was their ancestors, the Myers family, who created the Emily French Memorial Cemetery on the Island and Francis Myers who built the Pridwin Hotel. The hotel, constructed between 1924 and 1926, was originally undertaken by Queens Company Ltd. of England.

But when the firm ran out of money and defaulted on payments, it was Francis Myers, then one of the building contractors, who acquired the property and finished construction. He ran the business until his death in 1947.

Later, Dana worked at the Pridwin, one of several jobs she has held, sometimes five at once, while still making time for volunteer work.

She now describes herself as “semi-retired,” which means working part time at the library. She continues to maintain that what she and her mother have contributed to their neighbors as volunteers should not be considered extraordinary. “It’s just something we do.”

The Shelter Island Lions Club was chartered in 1950 and has remained a strong, vital club for 73 years, contributing in many ways to the quality of life for all Islanders. 

The club’s motto is “We Serve,” and the Citizen of the Year award, which will be given to Emily and Dana Hallman at a dinner in May, helps them shine a spotlight on outstanding individuals who provide service to others.

Speaking of the Hallmans, “They completely embody what it means to be a volunteer,” said Dr. Adipietro. In their own quiet way, by accepting the award, they may continue to serve by encouraging others to follow their example.