Photo: Emil C. Breitenbach Jr.

Happy December! Today kicks off the last month of this decade.
It’s hard to believe that RiverheadLOCAL has been in publication for a decade, but it’s true. We started building this site in December 2009 and launched in January 2010.

At the beginning of this adventure, many people were puzzled by our endeavor. “You’re doing what?” was a frequent question. In January 2010, online-only local news was very much a novelty. Social media was still in its infancy. AOL had not yet launched its national “hyperlocal” news experiment, Patch. Having spent several years in print news media, I knew the future was digital and I knew the future was here.

We believed local residents would welcome an online local daily news source and we thought local businesses would welcome the opportunity for targeted local online advertising.

Turns out we were right. Honestly, I wasn’t sure this would work. It was a huge gamble, since we had to live off our meager savings until (we hoped) it would generate an income we could live on. Luckily, by the time our savings ran dry, business income grew to a level that could support our household.

In the beginning, we had no overhead — we worked from home and had no staff. We did everything that needed to be done, from web design, reporting and writing to ad sales and creation, billing and bookkeeping. We scratched out a living and survived the first year.

Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs along the way. We tried expanding into Southold in 2014 and while that worked in some ways, it was a tremendous burden on our already over-burdened small staff. With regret, we made the tough decision to say goodbye to SoutholdLOCAL at the end of 2017.

So it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns. But it’s been worthwhile. RiverheadLOCAL has made a difference in our community, the way any good local news organization makes a difference. We’ve been a government watchdog, looking out for residents and taxpayers. We’ve been a go-to source for breaking news, a place for sharing information and a place for celebrating our community members’ achievements. We’ve done good work and we’ve been recognized for our efforts by readers, community groups and professional journalism organizations.

We’ve watched our audience, our advertiser roster and our staff grow. Our two daughters, who were still in Riverhead High School when we launched RiverheadLOCAL, are now adults working side by side with us here — the next generation at the ready.

I believe, as I did when we first conceived this, that success in local news comes from being authentically local. The almost daily news of local newspaper layoffs and closings is the story of what happens when local news organizations are owned and run by corporations whose concern is their shareholders rather than the communities their papers or websites cover.

Peter is a lifelong resident whose family roots here go back many generations. I’m a relative newcomer. Though I attended St. Isidore School, and started working here in 1985, I didn’t move to Riverhead until 1986. Riverhead is our home. It’s our past, our present and our future. This place matters to us personally.

We’re grateful for your support and I couldn’t let this Thanksgiving holiday pass without saying thank you.

In this space over the rest of this month, we’ll be looking at the major news stories of the decade. I hope you enjoy the retrospective.

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Coming up this week

Jamesport Fire Department hosts its annual Christmas tree lighting at the George Young Community Center Monday, Dec. 2 beginning at 6 p.m. Hot cocoa and caroling. Santa arrives by fire truck, followed by pictures with Santa inside the community center.

The Riverhead Community Blood Drive takes place Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Riverhead Fire Department headquarters, 540 Roanoke Avenue, Riverhead, from 1 to 7 p.m. There is a dire need for blood every holiday season. Donate a pint on Tuesday and get a coupon for a free pint at Moustache Brewing Co. in Riverhead.

The Big Duck will be lit up for the holidays on Wednesday, Dec. 4 during a ceremony at Big Duck Ranch from 7 to 9 p.m. Santa arrives by fire truck.

Riverhead Building Supply has a novel ladies-only holiday event set for Thursday evening, Dec. 5 from 6 tp 8 p.m.: A do-it-yourself custom holiday project. The event is free, but participants are asked to bring an unwrapped new toy to donate. Toys for children in grades K-8 such as books, sports balls, toys, and craft kits are appreciated.

The Wading River Historical Society holds its annual Holiday Tea and Antiques Appraisal on Friday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Wading River Congregational Church reception hall. The program will include musical entertainment by SWR High School students, antiques appraisals by Lloyd Gerard, raffles, door prizes, finger sandwiches, tea and mulled cider.

WLNG’s Rockabilly Christmas takes the stage at the Suffolk Theater Friday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m, featuring Jason D. Williams, Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, and Prentiss McNeil.

Riverhead’s indoor farmers market will be open on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 54 East Main Street.

There’s a blizzard of holiday events planned around town and across the North Fork on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Old Steeple Church hosts its annual Chinese auction, holiday greenery sale and luncheon on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Suffolk County Historical Society holds its annual Wooden Wonderland: Holiday craft show and sale on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Baiting Hollow Congregational Church holds its annual holiday greens sale on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The sale includes handmade Christmas wreaths and table decorations and a white elephant table. Light refreshments are free.

Talmage Farm Agway will host its annual Pet Santa event on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring your pet for a free photo with Santa. All pets welcome and all pets get a free gift.

Truth Community Church in Flanders will host a Christmas tree lighting, bonfire and visit from Santa on Saturday beginning at 6 p.m.

The Shoppes at East Wind will host its annual holiday tree lighting on Saturday, Dec. 7, 3-7 p.m., with DJ, dancing and a visit with Santa Claus, who arrives by fire truck.

The Riverhead Holiday Light Show at L.I. Sports Park is open every night this week. Gates open at 5 p.m. $23 per car. Photo with Santa $22. Tickets available online here.

For information about more holiday events and entertainment coming up this week visit the RiverheadLOCAL community events calendar.

Public meetings this week:

Monday, Dec. 2
Riverhead IDA, 5 p.m. See agenda

Tuesday, Dec. 3
Town Board, 2 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 4
Peconic Estuary Technical Advisory Committee, 10 a.m., County Center

Thursday, Dec. 5
Town Board work session, 10 a.m.
Parking District Advisory Committee, 4 p.m.
Planning Board, 7 p.m.

Stay on top of what’s coming up in government meetings, hearings and the like. Bookmark our searchable Public Notices page to make sure you don’t miss anything.

In case you missed it

RiverheadLOCAL had 76,291 page views this week (Nov. 24 – 30) from 27,139 unique visitors. (Source: Google Analytics) Thanks for reading!

As always, we appreciate your feedback. Let us know what you like or what we could do better. Send us a news tip. Submit a letter to the editor. Contact links are located here.

Here are RiverheadLOCAL’s top stories of the week just ended:

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.