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Clinton Honors Staffer's Efforts At Annual S.I. Gala

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Former President Bill Clinton visited Staten Island Thursday night to honor his own chief-of-staff, a borough resident, at the annual Seamen's Gala. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

Ask former President Bill Clinton about Staten Island and he'll call it "Arkansas on the Hudson" -- a place that reminds him of his home state for its small town feel.

But it wasn't his love of the ferry that brought him to Bloomfield Thursday night: It was his chief-of-staff, Laura Graham.

The 38-year-old Staten Island resident was honored for her work as a foster parent at the Seamen's Society for Children and Families Annual Black and White Gala, with an introduction by her boss.

"I saw how much good she did as a foster parent and how wrapped up she got in the lives of all the young people who came into her home. And now she's adopting these two children from Haiti and continuing as a foster parent, and I wanted to come here and honor her and the seaman society," Clinton said.

The Seaman's Society is Staten Island's oldest charity, offering an array of services for children in need of foster care or adoption and their families.

Graham has been a foster parent eight times. And that's no small feat, considering she's also the chief operating officer of the Clinton Foundation, which performs charitable works around the world, most recently in Haiti.

"To watch those children come through a lot of that and to watch the victims of that has just inspired me to concentrate whatever time i have on children," Graham said.

The event raised $100,000 -- half of the money the Seamen's Society has lost in federal aid due to budget cuts.

"All we need is another hundred thousand and we won't have to cut any of the services," said Clinton. "I'll match everything you raise up to $50,000. I'll do 50 and you 600 people if you can raise 50 among you then you won't have to cut any services."

While those who attended the gala say President Clinton was part of the draw, they say what they're really happy about is that he put the work of the Seaman's Society on the map.

"I really commend President Clinton for coming out here and supporting a group and lending his assistance and his name," said gala attendee Jane Ryan.

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