Six women who have set themselves apart through their service to the community were honored last week as Women of Distinction by local officials in a special ceremony attended by their families and friends.
“It was quite a moving experience when we listed the accomplishments of each of these women and got a full grasp of how much they have contributed to their communities,” said assemblyman Joe DeStefano, who organized the annual event at the SSG Keith Bishop VFW Post in Medford. “They deserve every accolade we can give them and much, much more.”
The accomplishments of the Women of Distinction were also recognized by Sen. Dean Murray, Legis. Dominick Thorne, and Brookhaven supervisor Ed Romaine, who gave them official certificates of recognition.
“Our town is fortunate to have such dedicated and hardworking individuals who live each and every day with the single mission of helping others,” Romaine said.
“Our heartfelt thanks to the Women of Distinction for all that they do,” DeStefano said in honoring Samantha Morales, Beth Wahl, Cathy Ann LoSchiavo, Talia Maria Mochi-Cliffe, Debbie Loesch, and Sheila Skidmore.
Morales started the nonprofit Branches Long Island in 2019 to help local residents in need and, within six months, opened an outreach center in Middle Island. Her community center focuses on education and advocacy programs, including after-school care, helping moms with budgeting, nutrition assistance, and help with applying for social services. They have a food pantry and distribute weekly blessing boxes with necessities for families in crisis. Morales is passionate about helping families, especially children, break the cycle of poverty and violence that keeps getting passed down through generations. She also works as a veterinary technician, volunteering with Jacob’s Hope Rescue and fostering animals. She received the Empire State Award from Sen. Anthony Palumbo, has been featured in Faces of Long Island, and has been a keynote speaker at Stony Brook University, Brentwood Middle School, and Longwood Junior High School.
Wahl began volunteering when her children were in school, becoming active in the PTO and serving as president of the PTSO for William Floyd High School. She was on the first Shared Decision Making Team and helped create the training manual for future members. Wahl has been president of the William Floyd Community Summit since 1998 and served as president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mastics and Shirley from 2014 to 2023, as well as secretary of the Atlantic Community Activity Center. Her record of achievement includes commissioner for the Mastic Ambulance District for several years and member of Brookhaven’s Airport Advisory Committee and the Tri-Hamlet Community Day Committee. Wahl was part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program Task Force, the Rita Rech Memorial William Floyd History Museum, the Military Enlistee Recognition Committee, and the Career and Technical Advisory Board of William Floyd High School. After Superstorm Sandy swept through the area, Wahl served on the Relief Committee. She was also the Shirley representative for the Town of Brookhaven’s Caithness Committee, which allowed the town to obtain funds for the purchase of a van for Colonial Youth, pagers for the Shirley Ambulance Company, items for after school programs, and the creation of the William Floyd Armed Forces Memorial. Wahl was chosen as the 2013 grand marshal of the Christmas parade and was honored as the 2016 Woman of the Year by the Rotary Club of Shirley and the Mastics.
Cathy Ann LoSchiavo
A Patchogue-Medford High School grad who is a lifelong resident of Medford, LoSchiavo became the district’s youngest certified teacher at 20 years old when she was hired at Eagle Elementary School. She received her Bachelor of Science in education and a master’s degree from Dowling College and retired from full-time teaching in 2012 to help care for her ill mother, returning later as a substitute teacher. She hosts an online and in-person children’s art class at the Patchogue-Medford Library called “Miss Cathy’s Crafty Creations” and has a passion for singing and currently takes vocal lessons. LoSchiavo truly embodies the spirit of volunteerism and has been given the nickname “Miss Community.” Some of her volunteer efforts include organizing the 2021 and 2022 Medford Holiday Parade, which led to her being named Miss Christmas in 2021; organizing the Medford Chamber of Commerce Spring Festival and Fashion Show; and organizing fundraisers to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, St. Sylvester’s Knights of Columbus, St. Sylvester’s Columbiettes, Medford Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion Medford Post, and the Medford Chamber of Commerce. She’s also a Medford Chamber of Commerce board member, Medford Chamber Sunshine Committee chairperson, Medford Chamber Fundraising Committee chairperson, Medford Columbiettes vice president, Patchogue-Medford Friends of Art and Music Education (FAME) member, Patchogue-Medford Special Education Parent Teacher Association Information (SEPTA) Committee member, and a Patchogue-Medford Community Chorus member.
Talia Maria Mochi-Cliffe
Having moved to Medford from the Bronx at age 5, Mochi-Cliffe graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School and attended SUNY Geneseo and New Paltz, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in art education. She further received her Master of Science from the New York Institute of Technology. She began as a teaching substitute in Sachem/Patchogue-Medford, spent time as an MV-Sport graphic artist, taught advertising art and design at NHB Ward Technical Center, Milliken Technical Center, and Brookhaven Technical Center, as well as adult education and a watercolor class at Center Moriches High School.
Mochi-Cliffe is a valued volunteer with organizations such as SkillsUSA, where she is a lifetime member; the Center Moriches Flotilla, creating the annual tides charts; the Make-a-Wish Foundation, making graphics for parades; St. Baldrick’s Foundation, as a Crusader of the Cure; the New York Blood Center, serving as a school event coordinator; Community Cleanups in Bellport; St. Sylvester’s Church, as a Catechist and Minister of Communion; the Carol Baldwin Cancer Center, making wig stands for outpatients; Head Start Patchogue’s mural artist and a Wounded Warrior fundraiser. She has received a number of distinguished awards and achievements, including the Military Order of the Purple Heart Special Recognition Award in 2019, the Chapel of Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Award in 2019, the Outstanding Achievement Award in 2011, 2016 and 2017, the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Teacher of the Year Award in 2010 and the SkillsUSA New York State Advisor of the Year for 2017. Mochi-Cliffe also supports the East End Arts Council and the Longhouse Reserve
Loesch founded the thrift store Angels of Long Island in 2015, which began as a small Facebook group to help one family and has evolved from a small social media campaign into two thrift stores, a corporate office, a donation center, and community outreach center, as well as a recycling center serving thousands of community members and families in crisis. In honor of Loesch’s hard work and selfless dedication to helping her community, she has been recognized with a number of awards and achievements, including the Angel Award by the Equity 1st Foundation and the Business of the Month by town supervisor Ed Romaine in 2018. The town gave her the 2020 Woman of Recognition Award, and she received a Special Commendation for Outstanding Service to the Community by the Office of Women’s Services in Brookhaven. She’s earned the Women in Business Award from the POWER Group, a Certificate of Merit for community contributions from Legis. Dominick Thorne, and a citation for the Women in Business Award from Assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo. She’s been recognized by Proclamation from the mayor of Patchogue for her devotion to the community and community service. Loesch was also recognized with the Who’s Who in America Award given by the Marquis Publication.
Skidmore attended Sachem High School and graduated from Farmingdale College, where she studied dentistry and has been a dental hygienist for 26 years. She acquired her EMT certification and has been a volunteer member of the Yaphank Fire Department since 1991. She also volunteers for the Shirley Ambulance and Town of Dolgeville Fire Department in upstate New York, where she has a second home. She served with the Yaphank Juniors Fire Department, and she has been on the Yaphank Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners since 2014. Skidmore was honored after saving the life of a motorist involved in a horrific vehicle accident. The driver had hit a brick wall, and Skidmore was able to get him out of the vehicle safely before it exploded, saving his life. She’s also received an EMS Award from Herkimer County. In addition to her volunteer activities, Skidmore has a number of interesting hobbies and passions, including equestrian shows and spending time training her dogs in agility activities. She is also a beekeeper with hives in both Yaphank and her upstate property.