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Assemblyman Tom Alfano Hosts Women of Distinction Ceremony

A standing room only crowd at the Elmont Memorial Library Theatre was the scene for Assemblyman Tom Alfano’s sixth annual “Women of Distinction Awards.”

The ceremony, expanded to include all communities in the 21st Assembly district, honored women for their professional, community and leadership roles. Alfano started the program six years ago to thank women for what he called “their selfless contributions in making our communities and state a better place.”


The awards also highlighted women from Floral Park and Bellerose Terrace this year and featured special recognition for the women that make up Liz’s Day in Floral Park.

Honorees from Floral Park were Nancy Daly, Megan Allen, Virginia Couglin, Melissa Naidoo, Joanne Fitzgerald and Susan Wong. Assemblyman Alfano also recognized and honored all the women that make up the Liz’s Day committee for their selfless work in raising awareness in the battle against breast cancer.

“These women from Floral Park, Bellerose Village, Stewart Manor and Bellerose Terrace are real foundations of our villages and greater community. I can’t thank them enough for their service and making a difference in the lives of countless people. They are leaders in every sense of the word,” Assemblyman Alfano said.

The program began with Girl Scout Troop 1527 of Alden Terrace School and Franklin Square resident and NYPD Police Officer Randi LoCicero and Rachel Havrylkoff of Covert Avenue School leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Thereafter, LIU college student and Elmont Memorial High School student Jason Reese wowed the crowd with a patriotic rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. A special video presentation, entitled “Women of Distinction,” was shown to the sounds of Stevie Wonder.

Sewanhaka High School Booster Club President and Nassau Regional PTA Legislative Chair Judy Van Haaren said, “Today’s ceremony highlights the unique and lasting contributions our honorees have made in our community. These awards recognize the continued service, professional development and commitment to the greater community of our honorees. For far too long, the contributions of women in society were often overlooked and underappreciated. This awards ceremony is just a small step in recognizing and celebrating the role women play in today’s global economy and developing neighborhood.”

Floral Park Memorial High School Principal Kathy Sottile, a former “Woman of Distinction” honoree, introduced Assemblyman Alfano, noting his impact on young people, women and the issue of pay equity and his work on social justice and empowerment.

Alfano centered his remarks on the constantly changing roles women play in day-to-day life. “The women we honor here today are role models for our children and young adults. They work hard, they volunteer, contribute and improve our quality of life.” Alfano also talked about how his mother’s influence has helped shape his public service career. “When you look at these honorees, you know how much they have made a lasting mark on our communities. We’re so lucky to have them and to be honored to work with them.”

The evening’s entertainment started with Floral Park Memorial High School’s choir singing two a cappella pieces.

The awards section of the program started with seven specialty honors named after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Educator Emma Willard, Prime Minister Golda Meir, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Suffragist Susan B. Anthony, Ambassador Eleanor Roosevelt and Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

Assemblyman Alfano presented each of the honors. The Sandra Day O’Connor award was presented to Sandra Smith for her work in revitalizing Hempstead Turnpike. The Emma Willard Award was presented to television and original Broadway musical Dream Girls cast member Deborah Cleveland. The Eleanor Roosevelt Award was presented to Miss Teen New York and soon-to-be attorney Dominique Ringold. The Susan B. Anthony Award was presented to NY Presbyterian Hospital Doctor Devon Naraidu. The Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick Award was awarded to Carey High School “dynamo” Terry Rolla. The Golda Meir award was presented to Jewish community activist Bonnie Kupchik. And, the Baroness Margaret Thatcher award was presented to the owner of Carmela’s restaurant and local philanthropist Carmela Calia.

In between the awards, a performance by Italian opera singer Simona Rodano excited the crowd. Rodano has performed throughout Europe and Broadway. Rodano’s performance was a medley mixture of Italian opera and musical pieces from Broadway. Rodano has been an audience favorite and made a special appearance in between her concert tours. After her performance, Girl Scouts from Alden Terrace Troop 1527 handed out over 100 copies of Rodano’s CD to audience members.

Before the awards were presented, special guest Senate Leader Dean Skelos offered some remarks. “This is a great evening where we honor you. All of you are the ones who make a difference in our neighborhoods. The nurses, doctors, teachers, PTA, civic activists are the ones who make our community strong. Assemblyman Alfano and I are so honored to be able to just say thank you for all you do.”

The lead-off honor awards were presented to three women who have made a profound impact on breast cancer awareness, fundraising and education. Ginny Coughlin, Meg Allen and Nancy Daly were presented a special honor for their outstanding work for Liz’s Day in Floral Park.

As part of their honor, they shared the stage in spirit with their fellow committee members of Liz’s Day from Floral Park, Bellerose Village, Garden City South, Stewart Manor and New Hyde Park.

Thereafter, the “Women of Distinction Honor” awards were presented to Floral Park Friends of Music parent coordinator Susan Wong, nurse Shelly Uter, educator Mitzi Young, nurse Monique Macean, Daycare CFO Naomi Goldenberg, occupational therapist Florence Reese, PTA activist Jill Criscitelli, professor and PTA activist Phoebe Massimino, Jewish community activist Natasha Srulowitz, Franklin Square Warriors cheerleading coaches and community activists Mary Aquilina and Carla Rizzo, union leader and PTA president Susan Nicholas, educator and NYSUT coordinator Barbara Hafner, PTA president Kathy Levandoski, community organizer, dance instructor and college student Shari Byer, jewelry designer and synagogue outreach coordinator Rachel Flam, after-school program director and health care provider Connie Edouard, social worker Margaret Jegede, nurse Lorraine Dawkins, PTA president and autism aide CherryAnn Kempadoo, Foreign Language Academy instructor Maddalena Aquino, music teacher and musical director Eileen Kramer, Nassau County Court System Law Department coordinator Jane Shrenkel, Our Lady of Victory Assistant Principal Joanne Fitzgerald and Jewish community activist Racheli Hackel.

Three student awards were presented to honor student and yearbook editor Kimberly Ruiz, Harvard-bound Melissa Naidoo and Franklin Square Munson Fire Department Explorer and peer mediator Gabriella Golden.

Presenting the awards to the honorees were Assemblyman Alfano and Senator Skelos. During the presentations, biographies were read on each of the honorees highlighting their work in the professions, community and making our community and state a better place to live.

The program ended with a performance, which has become a tradition in the Women of Distinction Awards, by the Elmont Memorial High School Jazz Choir. The young men and women from the group dazzled those assembled with a number complete with solos and movement to the song Cloud Burst.