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Group's Facebook raffles raise $85K for Lynbrook businesses

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In recent months, Bryan and Lisa Lanzello and Mike and Kerrie Habert have had Lynbrook residents buzzing on social media with their Facebook raffles, which have grown in popularity and raised more than $80,000 for local businesses.

After the coronavirus pandemic brought with it many obstacles for local business owners, the Lanzellos and Haberts decided to join forces to help. They came up with the idea of creating a raffle drawing on Facebook Live, which cost each participant $10 to reserve one of 100 available spots. The Lanzellos and Haberts bought $1,000 worth of gift cards from four local restaurants, and the winner of each drawing received a $250 gift card to one of the eateries.

The Lanzellos live in East Rockaway with their children, Damon, 13, Ariana, 11, Mason, 7, and Gavin, 6, who attend Lynbrook Public Schools. Bryan was named the Herald’s 2020 Person of the Year because of all he has done to help the community in the past. He said that as the owner of a small business, Lanzello Roofing and Remodeling in Hewlett, and as the president of the Lynbrook Titans football and cheerleading programs, he knows the importance of giving back.

“Lynbrook has always been there for everyone,” he said. “I run the Titans program, and every time I called somebody or a local business for a sponsor, they have always been there, so this was a no-brainer.”

After the first raffle, the group received several calls from residents who wanted to donate items to raffle off, including gift certificates, video game consoles and money to purchase gift cards. They also hosted raffles live from businesses to help promote them, including Prime 39 in Lynbrook, which owner Bryant Postell was finally able to open in December after two years of delays because of a gas moratorium and the coronavirus.

After Christmas, the Lanzellos and Haberts were set to take a break from the raffles when they learned of another Lynbrook institution that was struggling financially. The Knights of Columbus on Hempstead Avenue couldn’t pay its bills after being forced to halt parties and events in its hall because of coronavirus restrictions. The post needed $100,000 to pay its bills for 2021, and Lanzello came up with an idea. With his business having access to many suppliers, he contacted several of them to gather materials to build a new kitchen, which he raffled off in support of the Knights of Columbus.

The kitchen raffle brought in $22,000 for the Knights, and then they hosted another series of raffles to further help the cause. Prizes included free lawn maintenance and landscaping for a year, installation of an underground sprinkler system, an outdoor pizza oven and fire pit that was donated by Lynbrook Village Trustee Robert Boccio, a free vacation, and a Valentine’s Day package. In all, they brought in $46,000 for the Knights and raised $86,500 between all the raffles for local businesses.

Bill Vincent, the grand knight of the Knights of Columbus, said he was grateful to the community for its efforts. In the past, the Knights have donated to various charities and supported Our Lady of Peace Church in Lynbrook, but with no rental money coming in and a monthly electric bill of at least $800, this time the Knights needed the help.

“Bryan is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and he sees our need,” Vincent said. “He and his team have done a wonderful job. I cannot thank them enough for what they have done. It helps us out. That’s six months worth of relief where we’re not worried so much now, and hopefully with the vaccine out, the restrictions will be lifted and we can get to 50 percent capacity here and people will start holding events.”

Lanzello said he couldn’t do it alone, and he had plenty of help from Lisa and the Haberts, who ran around town often to purchase gift cards and drop off prizes — sometimes as many as 60 at a time.

Kerrie Habert said that though it was “a little bit chaotic” organizing the fundraisers while still working full-time in the village’s Building Department, she and Mike, a retired NYPD detective who works in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, didn’t hesitate to help. She added that she was happy to be a part of it because the village has been great to them and their children, James, 18, and Mia, 16, over the years.

“I think it was awesome that the community wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “It’s really what makes Lynbrook such a special place. It was amazing. There’s really no other way to describe it. It was such a great thing to be a part of, giving back to businesses in the community.”

Amid the fundraising and giving back, there was also room for fun. During one of the raffles, Mike ate salami and joked that eating a lot of it can slow the coronavirus. Sure enough, that bought him the nickname of “Mike Salami” from many of the virtual raffle attendees, and at the last event, Bryan purchased a large, uncut salami as a gift for him.

“It’s now in my refrigerator,” Kerrie said with a laugh.

Lanzello said the friendship between his family and the Haberts grew stronger during the events, and it felt good to help others. Kerrie said the community united during a chaotic and uncertain time amid the pandemic and the presidential election.

“Everyone came together to want to do good for people who needed help,” she said. “It was amazing. It was one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in, being able to give back to the places that I frequent that will thankfully still be here when this is over. It was a gift.”

The Knights of Columbus has also created a GoFundMe to help with its expenses. To read its story or donate, visit bit.ly/2ZgUOwM.