Tag Archives: star of queens

Star of Queens: Mohamood Ishmael, president, Queens Village Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Mohamood Ishmael has been a member of the Queens Village Civic Association for over 20 years. He had served as treasurer before becoming president in 2011.

In April, he became a member of Community Board 13, where he is committed to providing community service.

“As a civic leader I see myself as an advocate to preserve and improve the quality of life for all of our residents,” said Ishmael. “It gives me great satisfaction in seeing positive results on many of the projects and issues that we have worked on. Sometime, a great accomplishment might simply be getting a stop signed installed that could prevent a serious accident.”

BACKGROUND: Ishmael has been living with his family in Queens Village for over 27 years. Along with his community and civic services, he is a Certified Public Accountant who is currently the vice president of finance for a healthcare organization.

Ishmael is also an adjunct professor of accounting at York College of the City University of New York.

“As an immigrant from Guyana I consider myself successful and feel obligated to give back to the University and community that made it possible for me to succeed.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: I recalled a few years ago, as a result of our civic leaders’ effort, we prevented a developer from getting a variance to proceed with his project. The project was out of character with the area and it would have created congestion.”

He continued, “on a personal note, my favorite memory was having my five-year-old granddaughter lead us in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the last civic association installation dinner.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: It is a challenge to motivate people to get them to participate and to accept positions. I think most residents feel that it is much easier to call someone to complain and have them take care of their issues.”

INSPIRATION: “I realized many years ago that if a community does not have advocates, it will be shortly changed in the allocation of resources and services. In other words, if the residents of a community do not participate, quality of life in that community will decline.”



Star of Queens: Maria Odysseos, Greek American Housing Association, Greek Childrens’ Fund, Ronald McDonald House

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Maria Odysseos lends her efforts and enthusiasm to a number of organizations and causes in the community. She is a dedicated member of the PTA at her son’s school as well as the Pancyprian Youth Soccer League. Whether bank sponsored or by her own individual effort, she allocates time and resources to the Greek American Housing Association, the Greek Childrens’ Fund and the Ronald McDonald House. On November 13 she will be participating in the Long Island City Partnership tradeshow.

“I love to be involved in the community in any way I can. I’m especially drawn to organizations that benefit children.” said Odysseos.

Odysseos is praised by her co-workers and members of the community for her professional excellence and dedication to the community.

BACKGROUND: Odysseos, an AVP/Branch manager at Investors Bank and organizer of the inaugural Investors Bank Queens County Conference for Nonprofits, has been involved in banking for the past 25 years. She previously held posts as VP/Branch Manager at Community National and Sovereign Banks. She has been involved in the Astoria market and a community volunteer for the last decade and is an active member of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

INSPIRATION: Odysseos indicates her strong love of helping people as her prime inspiration.

“If I can do something to help someone else better his or her career, to help him or her in any way, I’m happy,” she said. “I enjoy encouraging and mentoring; watching people grow.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: Despite not having a particular memory in mind, Odysseos cites a particularly fulfilling consequence of community service as her “favorite memory.”

“If I see beneficial results come out of an event or organization I committed my time to or help spur, I feel so good,” she said. “It’s deeply satisfying.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Balancing a career and family life,” she said. “You have to work at it. You want to be there for everything.”




Star of Queens: Bobby Sher, board president, Bell Park Manor Terrace

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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COMMUNITY SERVICE: As board president of Bell Park Manor Terrace, Bobby Sher has made countless positive improvements to the living situations of the shareholders residing there.

“Everything from high-tech security cameras to working with the Department of Buildings to allowing shareholders to have the option of building new patios, basements, private entrances, electric awnings, etc.”

Sher intends to keep evolving the community toward the 21st century with more storage availability and various technological upgrades. “Residents appreciate anything that makes their lives a bit easier.” Sher also branches out in assisting the surrounding community and developing a better quality of life for the citizens.

BACKGROUND: Sher’s father moved to Bell Park Manor Terrace after returning from World War II. Though Sher moved out at 17 years old, he returned to live there some years later.

“After a successful career in show business, running a music/entertainment business, owning a production company and finally as a board member at the North Shore Towers co-op, I think that I have learned and know how to work with people. I know how to get things done.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: When the property owner of the local Key Foods did not want to renew the lease, Sher created a “Save Our Supermarket” campaign.

“For many of our senior residents who no longer drove cars, this was the only place to purchase basic needs only a few short steps from their apartments.”

By working with civic leaders, politicians and the media to create a protest march through the local streets, the property owner ended up renewing the lease for 15 years. “It was a gratifying experience to say the least,” said Sher.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Sher wants to implement a Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) Program within the Van Buren district with hopes of reversing the large percentage of local students not attending district schools. With P-TECH, Sher said, “students would receive a free associates degree and an internship with companies such as IBM…free college education and a job with a future. I believe that many parents would want to send their kids to attend such a program and it will restore the reputation of Van Buren, bringing it once again to be a school of excellence.”

INSPIRATION: “When you upgrade the face of a community, I believe that exponential growth of real estate values follow right behind. It is not an easy task, but I am a fighter and the love of my community will always be the impetus of my drive and my resolve.”



Star of Queens: Gabrielle Fonrouge, president, Society of Professional Journalists, St. John’s University; Homes for the Homeless at the Saratoga Family Inn

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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COMMUNITY SERVICE: Gabrielle Fonrouge is more than just a journalism student at St. John’s University and president of the Society of Professional Journalists. She is also a major community service leader at Homes for the Homeless at the Saratoga Family Inn in Jamaica. She works with the adult program there which assists homeless adults in finding jobs so that they are one step closer to being off of the streets or out of shelters.

She also travels abroad to places such as Ecuador and Vietnam in the hopes of creating a sustainable service that can change lives. Her mantra is “Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”

“I believe in justice and sustainable service,” said Fonrouge. “It is changing the systems and studying the systems and finding ways so that [people] no longer will be in these positions.”

BACKGROUND: Fonrouge is originally from a low income neighborhood in southern Florida. Growing up there, she made it her mission to assist people in reaching their potential through motivating them.

“I think some people just got off the right track because they do not have someone there motivating them, telling them that they can do it, telling them that they are worth it, all of these things. Those people will never go anywhere and I have watched it first hand, so that made me want to let people know that they do have a purpose, they do have a meaning and you will succeed if you try.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: On the final night of a three-week program in the Miguel Chiriap community of Ecuador, the group Fonrouge was with prepared an American feast and dressed in native garb and danced tribal dances.

“It was such a magical moment,” said Fonrouge. “We were underneath the stars, outside, the music was playing and nothing else was happening in the world at that moment. It was just us, the people we were serving and the music and dance.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “To truly commit yourself to community service and fully devote yourself, it means saying goodbye to yourself and the other people in your life, saying goodbye to your responsibilities, saying goodbye to your income, saying goodbye to all of that. You must put yourself and the ones you love second to those you serve.”

INSPIRATION: She finds inspiration through her passion for media and journalism by creating documentaries that focus on the underserved population and impoverished communities. She hopes to bring awareness to her subjects so that she can make a difference in their lives. “If the world doesn’t know a problem exists, it is never going to change and will always exist.”





Star of Queens: John Ferreira, president, Junction Boulevard Merchants Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

John Ferreira

COMMUNITY SERVICE: “I’m the president of the Merchants Association on Junction Boulevard, so I take care of basically anything that has to deal with merchants. If we need to get in contact with the police precinct, I’m in charge of that. If there’s a problem with local sanitation, I’m in charge of that also. I’m the person who’s more or less in charge of representing the merchants in all matters that might benefit us and the community around us.”

BACKGROUND: “I was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Manhattan in 1957. I went to local schools, and then received my masters degree in business at St. John’s University. Eventually my father bought a house in Queens, and I’ve been living here now for over 55 years. I’ve been living in the Jackson Heights area for a long time, so I’m very attuned to the area and its makeup. One of the reasons I’m able to do this job is because I’m not married, because this job requires a lot of time and work, especially around particularly busy times such as these. But I do it because I’m a member of the community, I like the community, and I want it to do well.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “It’s more of an achievement than a memory, but basically, the fact that Junction Boulevard is still a very vibrant area for merchant business is my favorite memory. Stores here generally do pretty well, but they have the same problems that all other commercial areas have. For example, we have no garage area for our customers, so 80% of them have to walk to our stores, and the fact that our community has managed to remain lively, vibrant, safe, is not an accomplishment on my part so much as one for the merchants. That makes me happy.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “I would imagine that getting more participation from the merchants is my biggest challenge. Today we have a lot of big stores that come in. These stores aren’t as invested in the community as the small merchant is.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is definitely other people who have worked in the community. It’s inspiring how these people are so invested in the well-being and safety of the community. I’ve been going to community meetings for years now, and I always see the same people every time I go. I’m very impressed by that. The people who I see involved in the community and very, very committed to it.”




Star of Queens: Gina Baldwin, Americorps, Hunters Point Library, NYC Civic Corps

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Gina Baldwin

COMMUNITY SERVICE: “I do community outreach for a living, and it’s always been a part of my life. Even my introduction to New York was through community service when I moved here four years ago to work with the Parks Department, so I really only known New York City in general through community service.

Most of my volunteering involves environmental outreach, and eventually I became involved with the Hunters Point Library. I wanted to find a way to become involved in my local community, because most of what I do is helping other people to do the same. One of the things that makes me feel good is seeing people involved in their communities. When I see people giving their time to do things they don’t necessarily have to do, I think that’s really special and it makes me very happy.”

BACKGROUND: “I was born and raised in Idaho, and when people are involved in their communities in a smaller place like that, it’s a lot more noticeable. In college I studied French and political science, and I also worked with libraries during and after my college career. That part of my life was pretty important when it comes to connecting with people. After that, I worked at an organic farm in my college town in northern Idaho, and that made me aware of local food systems and the importance of knowing where food comes from.”

“My mother is also a community organizer, so being part of communities is in my blood. I just can’t help it, I love living in a city meeting people from all over the world, and this is the kind of place where everyone comes together and finds a common ground. In New York, people can connect, find something they care about, and work to share that with other people.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “I taught an outreach educational program at the Botanical Gardens for two years. One of many favorite memories is when I got that chance to work with New Yorkers who were really committed to changing their communities. I still keep in touch with most of them today, and today many of them are people who have dedicated themselves to making a positive change in their communities. They’ve built community networks all over Queens and are thriving, and I feel very honored to have that impact on their lives. The people I taught went on to really change the ways their communities interact with each other.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “One of the biggest challenges I’ve had, especially doing environmental outreach in the city, is getting people into the frame of mind that we’re part of a bigger global environment, and that our everyday actions do actually have an impact on the ecological world around us. It’s hard to get people to forget about their everyday needs when we live in New York, and we really do get wrapped up in this world. What we forget that there is a huge world outside of us, and we create so much trash and pollution. There are people who are really interested in taking care of this world, but it takes a lot of time to change the thinking of the larger group of people.”

INSPIRATION: “The best feeling for me is connecting with people who never thought about changing the world before. There’s a moment when you’re talking to them, and you can see something switch off in their heads. I love when people realize how important it is to take care of their communities, and that moment never gets old for me. I like connecting with people and sharing information with them, and when they realize how easy it is to make a change and make a huge difference, that is extremely inspirational and exciting.”




Star of Queens: Alberta Crowley, volunteer, Bricktown Community Garden

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: The Community Garden on 106th Avenue and 173rd Street in southeast Queens has become a second home to Alberta Crowley for the past five years. Crowley, 70, volunteers at the garden, planting any and every kind of vegetable. She additionally works with a group of developmentally disabled individuals, helping them harvest their own creations.

Crowley said many of her participants cannot use their hands properly, so she handles plants for them.

“They really enjoy it,” she said.

She additionally works with seniors and is working on making the garden wheelchair-friendly to minimize any difficulty for those with decreased mobility.

Crowley is the only consistent volunteer the garden has seen, she said.

“Basically, I’m doing this by myself. Every now and then I get someone else to come out and work, but it’s a big harvest,” she said.

Five days a week, Crowley travels via two buses to the garden and does weeding, digging and planting.

BACKGROUND: The Queens Village resident has lived in the borough for roughly 50 years. When she was 15 years old, she came to New York from Mississippi by herself and worked various odd jobs, including one in electronics and another at a zipper factory.

Her love for gardening began at the age of six when her mother told her, “Whatever you’re going to eat, you have to work for it.”

With that, Crowley began to grow her favorites, such as turnip greens.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Crowley’s favorite memories of the garden are from when she first started years ago. She said she started late in the season and didn’t have any vegetables to plant. So she got resourceful, and dried out beans and okra from her own cabinet.

She also enjoyed working with the disabled, and said they love coming to the garden.

“It’s a challenge, but I know they appreciate it,” she said. “They look forward to harvesting.”

Crowley collects everything her participants grow, stores it and every Thanksgiving uses it to prepare a meal for them.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The 70-year-old admitted her biggest challenge is getting people to volunteer to help out at the garden.

“People come, and they see how hard the work is, then they don’t want to come back,” she said. “So that leaves me to do it.”

INSPIRATION: “It’s very inspiring to use your hands,” she said. “It’s very pleasant in the garden. It’s pleasant to work there,” Crowley said.

Aside from her love of gardening and being outside, Crowley said her volunteer work is also great exercise.



Star of Queens: Harriet Krasnoff, head of the Outreach Program, Alley Pond Environmental Center

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Harriet Krasnoff

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Harriet Krasnoff is the head of the Outreach Program at the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC), a program in which animals are brought to hospitals, nursing homes and hospices to let residents there interact with them. Before she started doing this with APEC, Krasnoff was in charge of the same program at the Bronx Zoo for 35 years.

BACKGROUND: Krasnoff was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1927, and came to America in 1948 as a Holocaust survivor. During her childhood, she spent most of her time in the Frankfurt Zoo, where she learned how to handle animals. It was there that her love for animals originated.

“I’ve wanted to help people ever since I was a child,” she said. “Then my husband found an ad in the newspaper saying that volunteers were needed at the Bronx Zoo, and that’s how Outreach got started.

After one of Krasnoff’s friends suggested they bring animals from the zoo to hospitals and hospices, she began bringing mammals, reptiles and birds to facilities all around New York.

“It’s a wonderful feeling seeing these people who seem like they couldn’t care less about anything perk up and get involved,” Krasnoff said. “When I see the looks on people’s faces, it makes me feel like I’ve really accomplished something. And that makes my life worthwhile.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “One of my favorite memories is from Calvary Hospital,” Krasnoff said. “A man who simply did not want to be brought down to the main room to be part of things came down and decided he would take a look. He wound up getting so involved, he called his nurse later on and said, ‘You know what? For the last hour, I forgot I was sick. I forgot for the last hour that I was dying.’ Now that’s a statement that I’ll never forget.”

BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: “My biggest challenge is always having to find somebody else to work with. I can only do the Outreach Program once a week now, and there aren’t many volunteers since most people have their own jobs and can’t go out. I do the very best to make people happy every day now with my partner, John Burkitt. He’s as big a part of this program as I am.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is to make people happy for as long as I can. As long as I can hope to stay well enough, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. At my age, there’s always a limit for one reason or another, after having done this for 40 years. I just look forward to being with people and creating smiles.”




Star of Queens: Walter Mugdan, president Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, Westmorland Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Walter Mugdan

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Walter Mugdan is the president of both the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC), an environmental conservation group, and the Westmorland Association, a small homeowners’ association in the Westmorland section of Little Neck. A Westmorland resident, Mugdan enjoys working for the organizations because they are both in the area where he grew up, and he cares deeply about the environmental well-being of his community. Because he lives in the area, Mugdan says that it was “only natural” for him to become a member of the UCPC, and has been working with them since the 1970s.

JOB: Mugdan works for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

BACKGROUND: Mugdan was born in Flushing, and has spent his whole life in Queens. He recalls growing up by Udalls Cove Park, where he used to play all the time as a young boy. It was after he was diagnosed with asthma as a child that he noticed his aggravation at air pollution.

“When I reached junior high school, I became interested in what was then a brand-new area of interest, which was environmental issues,” he said. “My parents always took me hiking and I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, and I was in college around the time that the environmental movement was beginning. Environmental protection has always been an area of interest for me.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memories would have to be playing in the slivers of wilderness and undeveloped land on both sides of Douglaston, where I grew up,” Mugdan said. “I was very attached to those woods. It was a great place for a suburban kid to have a bit of area to play in growing up.”

BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: When Mugdan became president of the UCPC in 2002, he was immediately presented with a difficult issue. The city had plans to turn a section of woods into a park, but although they had committed to the idea, they hadn’t acquired all of the properties to make up that area. Because of financial constraints, the city was having a difficult time buying the property from property owners. At the time Mugdan became president, eight of the approximate 45 necessary acres still had not been purchased, and the owners of four of those acres filed an application to build several homes on that property. This posed a serious problem, because these houses would have been placed directly in the middle of the proposed park, and all of the money the city had put into buying the properties would have been lost, and the previous four years wasted.

“It was scary to me that the park would be ruined on my watch,” said Mugdan. “I had to meet with state senators, assemblymembers, and other officials to explain to them why this park was so critical. I was very gratified when Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the decision to purchase the remaining properties.”

INSPIRATION: “I really enjoy the outdoors,” Mugdan said. “I love the idea that in a huge metropolis like New York there are not only parks that you can have recreation in, but also parks where you can have a little slice of the natural world that’s still embedded here. So my inspiration is to maintain and improve that.”




Star of Queens: Janet McCreesh, president, Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Janet McCreesh serves as the president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, which serves to unite and encourage all homeowners and residents to improve and maintain the community. In addition to her duties as president, McCreesh is also an executive assistant for a construction company in New York City. McCreesh is the mother of four children, and volunteers for the alumni association at their school, St. Andrew Avellino.

BACKGROUND: McCreesh has lived in Queens her whole life. Born and raised in Sunnyside, she attended school at St. Teresa’s in Woodside and later attended St. John’s University. For the last 16 years, McCreesh and her family have lived in North Flushing.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory was when City Planning wanted to upzone Northern Boulevard to allow buildings up to a height of six stories. I had been mostly uninvolved in the community and got together with some friends and we were able to get over 600 signatures on a petition to the city requesting they not change the zoning on Northern Boulevard,” explained McCreesh. “When the executive staff of the BFHA found out what we were doing they contacted me and they explained that we were going about it all wrong.  After that meeting the plan changed and we were able to negotiate with City Planning. Even though they changed the zoning, it was such a minor change that the community remained low density with low building heights.  It was a great success for our community and I realized people do make a difference,” said McCreesh. 

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: McCreesh says that her biggest challenge has been educating homeowners about the Rickert Finlay covenant that is attached to their deeds. “One of the most important ones is no fences within 20 feet of the property line.  The original developers of our neighborhood intended it to have open streetscapes with a suburban feel,” explained McCreesh. “We send newsletters and have regular meetings but there is always a greedy developer/individual lurking in the background trying to make a profit by subdividing lots (which is not permitted) just to get two houses and double their profits.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration has been the members of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association,” said McCreesh. “I have never met a more passionate and hardworking group of people who volunteer their time, money and energy for the sole purpose of protecting and maintaining our beautiful community.”




Star of Queens: Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies, Community Board 11 member

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Janet McEneaney

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Janet McEneaney works as an attorney, arbitrator and mediator and is a professor on the adjunct faculty at New York University, where she teaches law and business subjects, in addition to her work with the community. After experiencing some neighborhood problems shortly after McEneaney arrived in Bayside, she began a civic association.

In 2008, State Senator Tony Avella appointed McEneaney to serve as a member of Community Board 11. In 2012, after noticing an increase in noise from airplanes, McEneaney organized Queens Quiet Skies.

“Queens Quiet Skies has worked with Congressmembers Steve Israel and Grace Meng, Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, many other elected officials and representatives of aviation community groups and municipalities in Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau County and northern New Jersey,” explained McEneaney. “Together we have pushed to established a Community Aviation Roundtable, to increase the number of noise monitors on the runways at our local airports, to convince the FAA to implement a current environmental study rather than relying on a study from 2007, as they plan to do, and to have the Port Authority conduct noise compatibility studies in our communities around the airports.”

BACKGROUND: McEneaney was born in Brooklyn, lived in Rego Park for 25 years, then moved to Bayside where she has lived since. McEneaney received her J.D. degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a Masters of Law degree from the University of Leicester School of Law in England.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My best recent moment was when we received a letter from the entire Congressional delegation headed by Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand that endorsed the establishment of a Community Aviation Roundtable; that felt like a victory for everybody.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: McEneaney says her biggest challenge has been “to not get bogged down in interpersonal relationships and to always keep your eyes on the prize.”

INSPIRATION: “I’ve been thinking a lot about [advocate] Bella Abzug, she really was somebody who was committed to the welfare of ordinary New York people. There have been a lot of people who have worked very hard for the benefit of their communities, and they have been my inspiration.”




Star of Queens: Barbara Stuchinski, president, Forest Hills Community & Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Stuchinski, Barbara photo

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Barbara Stuchinski is deeply involved with her community. Not only is she president of the Forest Hills Community & Civic Association, Stuchinski is also involved with the Remson Park Coalition, Community Board (CB) 6, which oversees Forest Hills and Rego Park, and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) of CB 6. Stuchinski’s responsibilities varey: maintaining quality of life, traffic mitigation, maintenance and landscaping of parks, providing awareness for emergency preparedness and much more.

BACKGROUND:  Stuchinski was born and raised in Forest Hills and resides there today. She considers herself a “100 percent Queens resident.” Though she is now retired, Stuchinski once worked in education as well as doing office work, but has always been involved in volunteer work.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory is when I convinced Parks Commissioner Henry Stern to name a playground in Forest Park after Joe DeVoy, who was president of the Forest Hills Civic Association before me,” recalls Stuchinski. “It was a tremendous accomplishment, and a touching way to remember someone.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “My biggest challenge was definitely securing a space for the schools on Woodhaven Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue,” said Stuchinski. “It was a huge fight that took 17 years.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration has been watching people who do things for other people, I’m just aware of it,” said Stuchinski. “My parents taught me, if you see someone who is less fortunate than you, you should reach out.” While Stuchinski realizes it isn’t always easy devoting so much time to others, she truly believes in being altruistic. “If you’re just here to take care of yourself, there’s no point in being on Earth.”




Star of Queens: Len Santoro, American Cancer Society, Juniper Park Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

star of queens

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Len Santoro started working with the American Cancer Society three years ago. It was his first time volunteering for such a group. Since then, Santoro has worked on several fundraising projects for the society. He also helped work with financial services company Standard & Poor’s to organize a volunteer day.

Around the same time, Santoro started working with the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) after seeing all the work that it does for the community. With the JPCA, he organized neighborhood cleanups, tree plantings and much more. He also helped revive and expand its youth organization. With Santoro’s help, the JPCA has worked alongside the Maspeth High School Green Club, Stop & Shop, the 104th Precinct and others.

BACKGROUND: Santoro was born in Brooklyn, where he lived until he was eight years old. After moving to Ridgewood in 1978, he stayed there for 13 years before moving to Middle Village and then Forest Hills. In addition to his community service, Santoro also works for the IT Department of Standard & Poor’s.

“That job is interesting,” he said. “But it’s the community service that’s really important to me. Society has really opened up my eyes to volunteering, and after my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I found that it was through volunteer work that I was able to feel as though I was doing something to help her and others. It empowers you to make you feel that you can make a difference.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory is probably when I was looking for my first apartment, when I was moving from Middle Village to Forest Hills. At that time, I was becoming more independent. My stepfather taught me a lot about how to negotiate in a way that let me know that I have a voice. He showed me that I’m the buyer in that situation, and if there’s something I want to go my way, I have to say something. That relates to my community service because that period was definitely a period of growth for me.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “I think my biggest challenge is getting volunteers during the summer, especially for the Relay for Life. The challenge there is always getting donations and awareness out on what we do. The biggest advantage that the American Cancer Society has over other organizations is that it offers patient services, does research and doesn’t just focus on one particular cancer.”

INSPIRATION: “I think a lot of my inspiration comes from my mother. I have two older siblings, and even though my parents divorced when I was eight years old, my mother took care of us all by herself. She always put our needs ahead of her own, and that’s what community service is all about, being able to give up your time, but doing it because it makes you feel good. When people appreciate the work that’s being done, that’s a feeling that you can’t describe and can’t replace. My other inspiration is my wife, who was working with the American Cancer Society and encouraged me to become a part of it, and that helped kick off some of the other volunteer work I’ve done since then.”




Star of Queens: Brent O’Leary, president, Hunters Point Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE:  Brent O’Leary has dedicated countless hours to the Queens community. He founded the Hunters Point Civic Association, which advocates for neighborhood causes, brings awareness of issues to the community and works to get community feedback. About two years ago, O’Leary became one of the founding members of the Boys and Girls Club’s Sunnyside/ Woodside unit, which provides activities including sports, artistic and educational events for children. O’Leary also works as a legal compliance council for Bloomberg L.P.

BACKGROUND: O’Leary was born in Jackson Heights and currently lives in Long Island City. He spent 10 years in Japan working for Bloomberg and was a former City Council candidate for District 26.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory is receiving a thank-you letter from all of the kids of the Boys and Girls Club,” said O’Leary.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The biggest challenge has been trying to get people involved,” he said. “Because people are very busy with work and life, it’s hard for them to devote time to other causes.”

However, O’Leary is very happy with the Hunters Point Civic Association, which hosts active monthly meetings.

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is my parents and seeing how hard they worked to make sure I had a chance,” O’Leary recalled. “That makes me want to make sure everyone else has the same chance, an opportunity to follow their dreams, whatever they may be.”




Star of Queens: David Dolan, Community Advisory Committee, New York Hospital Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

David Dolan

COMMUNITY SERVICE: David Dolan currently serves on the Community Advisory Committee of New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ). The body is dedicated to advising the hospital in terms of meeting the needs of the community and reaching out to all the different constituents.

Dolan is also a Eucharistic minister at his local parish, Holy Family Parish. In addition to his ministerial responsibilities, he has also been the chair of the pastoral care department of NYHQ for five years, providing religious services to patients.

BACKGROUND: Dolan has been helping people for as long as he can remember, and describes it as the most important element of his entire life, both personally and professionally.

“If I could summarize my whole life’s objective in one word, it’s empathy,” he said.

Dolan has also always been very concerned with fairness and justice, and volunteer work has been the main focus of his life for the past 35 years. He works extensively with children, and believes that the meaning of life is to be kind, considerate and passionate to the people around us, whoever they may be.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Last summer, Dolan met a man from Ireland in his parish. One of the man’s friends told Dolan he was interested in a gym membership while he was in town. Dolan was more than happy to get the man a membership at his gym, and the two became close friends.

After the man returned to Ireland, he contacted Dolan about a Brooklyn friend’s relationship troubles. Dolan himself contacted the friend in Brooklyn and provided advice about the relationship.

“I was just so glad I could help,” he reminisced.

BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: Although Dolan prefers to use the word “opportunities” rather than “challenges,” he admits that he sometimes has to remind himself to be patient.

“I think everybody in this world is somewhat challenged from a patience standpoint,” he said. “If we just give things a little time, things will work themselves out. It may not be how we expected them to, or even how we wanted them to, but they’ll work out.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is twofold,” Dolan said. “First, going back to the religious capacity, I’m part of the Secular Franciscan Order. It isn’t a priesthood or a sisterhood, but it’s an order that tells us that learning the Gospel isn’t enough. We need to live it. I think that the more we think along the lines of living for others, the better. We need to focus externally and be compassionate towards everyone else.

“My second inspiration is my mother,” he said. “She was always upbeat throughout her difficulties, and she was never cynical or regretful. She was also always very compassionate to people around her.”