By Janee Law
Sara Bluestone began her lifelong passion for volunteer work as a brownie in Girls Scouts when she was 8 years old in Rochester, where she grew up. There, she collected food and personal care items for members of the armed forces and their families, and visited nursing homes to entertain seniors.
Now, Bluestone, 58, has been recognized for her efforts in the Huntington community by being named the recipient of the Larry Kushnick Memorial Award for 2016.
Bluestone, who is recovering in the hospital following recent kidney and liver transplants, was available in a limited capacity for an interview for this article.
However, the many people in the Huntington community on whom she has left a mark, spoke about her impact.
Bob Scheiner, chairman of Huntington Chamber of Commerce, has known Bluestone, who sits on the chamber’s board of directors, for the past 11 years. He said that she is sincere, the “type of person that makes sure no one is left behind and that all aspects of the community are focused on our youth and the diversity of the Huntington community, and the depths of the arts and the history of the community.”
Scheiner said that Bluestone has helped him to see the whole picture before making decisions.
“I didn’t look at things as broadly as she does,” he said. “She’s made me make sure that, when I look at an issue, I look at the entire community, not just one aspect of the community and how it affects the entire town.”
Scheiner continued, “She’s a selfless individual and I consider her a good friend, as well. She’s made me a better person. I have a great deal of respect and also love for Sara.”
A 35-year Huntington resident, Bluestone has held positions and worked in many local organizations, in addition to her role with the chamber. Currently she is on medical leave due to her surgery, but she has also held roles as a member of Leadership Huntington Foundation’s Presidents’ Council; and treasurer of the Huntington Community Council.
“Huntington is a great town with a lot of organizations doing great work and it’s important to be involved,” Bluestone said in an email.
Leadership Huntington was founded by the Huntington Chamber in 1995. Today, as an autonomous nonprofit organization, it focuses on improving leadership and trusteeship in Huntington. Bluestone was a member of the Leadership Huntington Class of 1998.
That’s when she met Ken Christensen, a founding chairman of LHF and current member of its board of directors. Christensen, of Greenlawn, said that once Bluestone went through the program, she continued to be involved, taking on leadership roles throughout the community.
“In the leadership program, we try to train people to be trustees of the community. She is absolutely a number one example” of that, Christensen said. “She’s a person very dedicated to community service and she’s one of the nicest, sweetest ladies you’ll ever meet.”
Along with coming up through LHF, Bluestone was the first president of the organization when it became its own entity. Since then, she has played a major part influencing future graduates of the program.
Vita Scaturro, who is the current president of LHF, graduated from the program in 2012. Bluestone was a mentor for her, reinforcing the values of trusteeship in the community, Scaturro said.
“We got a lot of guidance from her because she’s very involved in the community,” Scaturro, of Huntington, said. “What’s great about her is she does so much, but doesn’t like the spotlight. She’s very modest and is a true leader.”
Bluestone added that to this day the lessons and experiences people receive through LHF help make “Huntington a better place to live and work.”
“The program experience truly helps people to understand all sides of many issues in the area, connecting them to an entirely new world of people in the community of all sorts,” Bluestone said. She “provides them with life lessons that will last forever and that they can and will continue to use in their daily lives.”
An admirer of the arts, Bluestone was once the preservation curator of the Bettmann Archive in New York City. She has also made the arts a focus of her work in the community.
With the Huntington Arts Council, Bluestone has helped award and administer New York State Council of the Arts grants to artists and arts and performance groups across Suffolk. She was also a founding member of the Town of Huntington’s Public Arts Advisory Committee, which enhances public spaces by integrating works of art into improvement projects. She served as a committee member from 2001-2009, and its chair from 2003-2009.
John Coraor, director of cultural affairs for the town, said he met Bluestone in 2001 when he was the staff liaison for the Public Arts Advisory Committee. One of Bluestone’s primary passions is advancing the arts, Coraor said.
“With her background coming from the arts council and helping to distribute funds to various community arts organizations, she was a real champion of advancing the arts,” Coraor, of Huntington, said. “Her concern was always doing what was best not only for the community but for the artists that would be serving the community and balancing the interests of both.”
Bluestone’s passion for the arts led her to her husband, Les.
While attending Hampshire College in Massachusetts, she met him in a photography class. During college, Les said, he would run into Sara at a local ice cream shop where she worked. Their relationship took off from there.
Bluestone graduated with a bachelor’s in fine art photography in 1980, according to Les, 60. The couple married in February 1981 and had two children, Jacob, 31, and Maya, 28.
“She’s an incredible mother and did an amazing job bringing up our kids,” Les said. “I’m just always in awe of her.”
Although many setbacks have prolonged Bluestone’s recovery process following her surgeries, she is still “incredibly positive,” Les said.
“I wish I had those characteristics,” he added. “She’s very level-headed and she’s always able to see the other side, and the pluses and minuses of any issue.”
In her free time, Bluestone enjoys reading, photography, playing with family dogs Odin and Freyja, cooking and gardening. She tends to a garden at their home in Huntington and their small farm property in Colebrook, Connecticut. There, Bluestone also enjoys hiking.
What gives her “great pleasure,” though, is working with all of the different organizations she has a hand in. It’s exciting, being able to help, make meaningful connections, and share her knowledge, Bluestone said.