by Patricia Dorfman
(reprinted with permission from the Woodside Herald)
With such a varied group of residents in Western Queens, and so many who do not believe or do not practice a religion, or some large local faiths such as Islam with no major holidays till Lailat al Miraj, it is still always an interesting time of year as there are so many who have major holy days.
There is no shortage of houses of worship, which surprises some from out of town.
An area of Sunnyside even has an “eruv” overhead, or a line or rope, which was put up during Eric Gioia’s time on City Council, which enlarges the area that Orthodox Jews can perambulate during times of restricted movement.
Jews celebrate Passover, a joyous major holiday from the with usually two Seder meals at which the story of Exodus is retold from the Hebrew scriptures, when the slaves escaped Egypt. No leavened bread may be eaten, in solidarity with those fleeing having no way to prepare yeast bread, so matzoh has become synonymous with the event, and removing all leavened bread from the home.
Passover Seders may be a time to feed the needy, to show gratitude for the escape from bondage. The main Passover meal is now considered the one Jesus and his disciples attended at the Last Supper.
Thus it is also Holy Week for Christians, with many Christian churches joining to hold the 12 stages of the cross procession on Good Friday, in Sunnyside with Bengali, Tagalog and Spanish hymns and prayers, a candle-lit night service on Saturday for baptisms, and a music-filled triumphant Easter Sunday, when Christ was risen from the dead.
Preceding that is Maundy (“mandate”) Thursday, where humility is shown by the priests washing the feet of 12 volunteering parishioners, opened up to women in 2016.
The ritual was Jesus’ commandment and demonstration that his 12 disciples to love each other as he love them.
Many of those who did not also attend worship services or pay attention to the historical dramas of plagues, escape, betrayal, crucifixion and revival, were still quite occupied with egg dyeing and baskets, chocolate bunnies, egg hunts, Easter finery, parties with large costumed rabbits for children, and some of the very religious also do both!
There seemed few complaints. Some locals dine at local restaurants and pubs, for a meal usually including lamb, or just relaxed, respectful of the devotion of others, and enjoying the local general good will.
As is tradition, private luncheon for full members who dine gratis. Choose among Fish & Chips, Kettle Burger deluxe, Broiled Fresh Fish, or Avocado Salad Plate, with beverage and refills. Individual members also invited for $22 prix fixe.
• Attend meeting
• Sign petition
At the 8th Annual Luke Adams Sunnysider of the Year “Blue Moon Ball,” at Tangra Ballroom, Tuesday, January 23, 6pm, the festivities will be awards to some very interesting people, described below. Click here for ticket link. Call Kris Czerniachowicz, Event Coordinator, for more information at 646-552-8165.
Tony Tang’s modesty, generosity to the community, wonderful personality, unfailing courtesy to all, and work ethic have been a 30-year example of small town success, industry and quiet perseverance. His wife, Leena Tang, has worked by his side for their often 7-day, 12-hour schedules.
Tony is an accomplished man and is a “pillar of the community,” providing excellent service, jobs, honest dealing, good cheer, loyalty, consistency and constancy. When he gives his word, he means it. He races around like a young man. He does not brag, nor seek attention. He does not expect more from any worker than he does from himself, and his staffers look after his business as though their own.
Tony is our local living example of the American dream, where hard work and determination mean more than “connections.” He looks 50, tops, but is 64. He has had five different stores in NYC, the first a deli, then Video Connection at 84th St, then Flagship Video, and now two UPS Stores. His outlets were recognized in November as the fastest growing UPS Stores in the region. Like many successful business owners, he tends to ignore physical ailments and skip vacations. He has sailed through serious financial rough waters, which instead of discouragement, served as it does with a special people, to reinforce his will to succeed.
Tony was born near Bangkok, Thailand, as was his wife, Leena. He is oldest of three brothers and one sister. Tony and Leena have one son, Michael, who runs the LIC store. By a previous marriage, Tony has two children, a son at Carnegie Mellon, and a daughter, who is an emergency room physician in San Francisco. Tony has financed not only his children’s educations, but also those of others, and assisted family members. For fun, he likes running and hiking.
Tony and Leena’s family attend church at Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Varanam in Elmhurst. They speak Siamese as well as English, and grieved with all of Thailand when in 2016 when the populist-leaning king, Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away after a 70-year reign. About the only thing most of us know about Thailand we learned from “The King and I,” set in Siam (Thailand) in 1862. But unlike the king, Tony likes to dance, has plenty of hair and a wonderful sense of humor.
Tony has been a board member of the Chamber for eight years, and he has helped the NYPD, fledgling businesses, and neighborhood non-profits. He is the definition of “stand up guy,” and it is privilege for all of us to recognize him for lifetime of hard work. Tony Tang is smart, good, and stouthearted.
QUEENS IMPACT AWARD:
Manny Gomez has worked in state licensed insurance sales for a decade (if you need Medicare Supplemental Insurance, talk to him). He moved to Queens at age 15 from Colombia and graduated from Frances Lewis High School and received his BS in Business Administration from Baruch College. His first job was at Sunnyside’s Ben’s Meat-O-Mat near the arch, talking his way in with a skeptical owner who rejected him three times, to becoming a stock boy, then manager and butcher.
A formative experience was almost losing his leg in 2011 on a trampoline, and with a will of iron, made sure that did not happen despite medical opinion, and with some help from Phyzique Gym. Gomez enjoys renovating/flipping apartments, cooking, and a long-term goal is to open an arts & performance café here.
Manny has served five years on the Queen of Angels Parish Council, was Director of Young Adults, “Magnificat,” is a steering committee member of Access Queens, is president of Sunnyside Artists and president of Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and like Luke Adams, had to be persuaded to accept this award. He does not take “no” for an answer, and helps everyone he can.
QUEENS IMPACT AWARD:
Meridith Maskara is busy. If there is something around needing to be run, she runs it. The last three years, she has been with the Girl Scouts of Greater NY and a year ago was named CEO, with 8200 volunteers and 29,000 scouts over five boroughs. In 2017, Maskara, with Councilman Van Bramer, DHO, and Giselle Aida Burgess, founded the groundbreaking first Girl Scout troop for homeless girls. Before that she was COO and VP during her 17 years at Max Merchandizing, the industry leader. She secured the contract for the 2008 Papal visit, among many branding coups.
In the community, she has served on Queen of Angels Parish Council and president of St. Sebastian’s School’s Parent’s Association, and brings her scouts to the St. Pat’s for All parade. She is married to Dan Maskara, known for winning the “Spookiest House” in the Sunnysidepost 2013 popular vote. They have five daughters, Natalie, Dorothy, Vivien, Veronica and Marlene. As a 3rd generation scout herself, she won the Girl Scout’s top honor, the Gold Award for starting a troop for five-year olds.
Meridith grew up in Maine, and got her degree at NYC’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
One of the family interests is camping, and Meridith been known to be at the campfire with the gang within three days after giving birth. When asked how that is possible, Meridith said, “I find it relaxing.”
QUEENS IMPACT AWARD: Ramiro Mendez of DeMole Mexican Restaurant creates local firsts. DeMole was the first here to be honored by Michelin Guide, the most prestigious restaurant recognition in the world. He was the first with no-egg, no-meat, no dairy, no-gluten dishes, tamarind, hibiscus juices, and grilled cactus, He was the first here to suggest a Taste event before the Chamber and BID. He said, “Why don’t we all get together and whatever we make, donate it to the food pantries?”
Ramiro was born in Santa Inés, Ahuatempan, Puebla, the more rural area the middle of Mexico. He grew up with a grandfather who raised cattle, and his branding iron, an “M” for Mendez, is now exhibited in a recess in the wall of DeMole, which while modest and reasonable, is destination restaurant in Woodside. He says, “My wife, Mireya, taught me to cook.”
Mendez spent a decade at the trendy El Teddy’s, also at China Grill, and then opened up El Jarro Café, which became DeMole a year later. He ceded his Astoria branch to his brother, Antonio. Ramiro is about to add a branch in Brooklyn. But at present, his first grandchild, Maya, under a year old, daughter of of Luis and Laura Mendez, has captivated his heart.
QUEENS IMPACT AWARD: Melissa Orlando is founder & Executive Director of Access Queens, a transit and infrastructure advocacy organization working at both the grassroots level, in media, and with government agencies to improve immediate and future mass transit in Queens. Access Queens sprang from Orlando’s “7 Train Blues,” an almost-3000-strong social media group, the only real-time information exchange for and by commuters in Queens. Among recent milestones, AQ’s recent proposed L-Train shutdown mitigation plan is the only Queens-focused treatise currently under consideration by the MTA and DOT. Orlando’s first love is dance, and she is an American Ballet Theatre certified teacher for levels Pre-ballet to Level III of the National Training Curriculum. She has taught children, adults and students with special needs at Sunnyside Ballet Studio over the past 6 years, and most loves SBS’ annual production of the Nutcracker.
For nearly two decades, Orlando has worked in the non-profit sector, focusing on social justice and health care, most recently at a community health system in the Hudson Valley. She is an officer of Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and sits on the board of Sunnyside Artists. She has a degree in Political Science from Purchase College, State University of New York. Melissa lives in Sunnyside with her 12-year-old son, Diego, a guitar student and rock aficionado like his mother.
QUEENS IMPACT AWARD
Sherilyn Jo Sabba has been editor of the Woodside Herald for nine years, a local mom & pop since 1934, and amazingly kept it relevant when newspapers worldwide were going out of business. She took over at age 32 in 2009, after the sudden death of her father, Buster, at 61. Buster’s father, Joseph, founded the paper, and was a key figure in local traditions including Kiwanis Flag Day Parade and Sunnyside Drum Corps. Joseph Sabba and Buster Sabba were integral to the small town feeling that attracts so many to stay here and to move here. “Sabba Park” with the Vet’s Triangle is named for her family.
She says, “I did not want the connection to my family paper to die with my dad and grandfather, who considered the Herald and the community as their lives. I was in awe of it when I used to visit my grandfather’s office on Skillman Avenue.” She continues the vital tradition of helping new non-profits survive with coverage, and publishes diverse points of view where even major media fear to tread. Sherilyn has a degree in Criminal Justice, is married to Robert, 15 years on Valentine’s Day, and they have two sons, Brody, 5, and Brayden, 2.
• Melissa Orlando by Mitch Waxman
• Tony Tang, Tony & Leena, Manny Gomez, Meridith Maskara, Ramiro Mendez by Patricia Dorfman
• Link to Luke Adams Way video by board member Matt Carlson, whose own filmmaker website is here.