An extraordinary weekend


| vschneps@queenscourier.com |

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Ellen Weisenfeld; Madeline Bodner; Marion Henken; Victoria Schneps-Yunis; Geraldo Rivera; Fran Susser; Phyllis Iannello; Sharon White; and Debby Goldsmith were recognized for their efforts in founding Life's Worc in 1971.

It was a busy weekend, but oh so memorable, beginning and ending with parties at the Garden City Hotel, and on Saturday night, at the beautiful Columbus Citizens Club on the Upper East Side.

It kicked off with a gala dinner dance honoring Geraldo Rivera for his historic role of revealing the atrocities of the infamous Willowbrook State School on Staten Island.  His passionate coverage 40 years ago did not end with his brilliant reporting of the conditions at the facility for over 5,400 people, but continues to this day when we hold the annual Geraldo Rivera Golf Outing.  Over the years the event has raised over a million dollars.

Geraldo is an amazing man who broke ground by being a journalist who cared about the people he reported about.  He relentlessly returned to Willowbrook week in and week out to bring the atrocities to light. During that time my wonderful friends who had volunteered and founded the Women’s Organization for Retarded Children morphed into marchers and picketers at the school.

From the ashes of Willowbrook was born the federal class action lawsuit which successfully transformed forever how people with disabilities receive care.  It’s why today school programs exist in the community and group homes and provide humane care to thousands of people nationwide.

The gala at the Garden City Hotel celebrated Geraldo and I invited the women who helped me found WORC to be together for the 40th anniversary commemoration.  I’m eternally grateful to Karen Levine, Ellen Weisenfeld, Madeline Bodner, Marylou Ries, Marion Henken, Phyllis Iannello, Fran Susser, Sharon White, Ellen Economous and Debby Goldsmith. With their support we were able to create what is today a $50 million agency providing care to people with disabilities in group homes and day programs.

It was a night to cherish precious memories and plan for the future. The battle to provide quality care never ends . . .

Saturday night I had the joy of celebrating the beginning of the holiday season with dear friends Joe and Mary Ann Mattone at their festive gathering at the stunning and elegant Columbus Club.

The rooms were decorated by a talented woman who turns the beautiful space into a winter wonderland.   I was so happy to see dear friends Peter Meyer and Denise Arbesu, Joe Ficalora, Linda DeSabato, Anita and Frank Ciolli, Judge Joe and Rosalie Golia and their children and of course, the Mattone children and Mary Anne’s son and daughter- in-law, along with many other friends.

Sunday night was back to the Garden City Hotel on the invitation of H. and Ruby Singh for the Indian community’s Rotary club gathering.

It was an absolutely joyous weekend to save in my memory bank forever.