|The Shining Lights Of Queens:
Changing The World
By STEPHEN McGUIRE, LIZ GOFF, RICHARD
FEDERICA K. CLEMENTI and TAMARA HARTMAN
For 25 years, Sister Catherine Reilly has lived in
the convent at St. Lukes Roman Catholic Church in Whitestone and watched over the
lives of her neighbors in Queens. She calls it a "Supermarket Ministry" because
people approach her in the local Key Food and Genovese to put a few dollars in her pocket
or ask her what is needed in the neighborhood.
Sister Catherine says there are
"a lot of good people willing to do things for other people, if they just know what
they need. Some people go to work every day and make a difference in the world [at their
jobs]." Sister Catherine who said that her ministry is just her chosen job explained
that there are so many people who want to make a difference and do so every day.
This story is for them. It is just a small
sketch to represent hundreds of Queens people who make their world a better place every
day. People like Sister Catherine, who is the very heart of the network in Queens, and
always finds a way to get the new family, the elderly person in need, or the lost teen
exactly what can save their day and their lives.
"Its not about me, and its
not me alone," said George Alexiou. "Many people are involved."
About nine years ago, Alexiou began a
special Thanksgiving event centered around the distribution of free turkeys among the
"This year we fed 700 people, and
catered food to 300 more who could not physically join us," Alexiou said. "I had
the idea, but everybody embraced it with about 60 people contributing food."
Alexiou explained that the original idea
was to help the poor and homeless, but that he soon realized the party could be shared by
"There are people who have the money
but they are terribly lonely," Alexiou said, citing recent immigrants he has met from
countries like Bangladesh and China who have nowhere to go for the holidays. Alexiou knows
first-hand how they feel, as he went through a similar experience being a Greek immigrant
"When I came to America 25 years ago,
all I wanted was to make money and go back to Greece within a year to buy myself a home
there," recalled Alexiou. Instead he has found a new home in Astoria, where people
know, love and respect him greatly for the selfless job he does for the community.
When it comes to CPR, no one administers it
better than James Curran.
That is, the NYPD "brand" of CPR
"Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect."
Curran, a 10-year NYPD veteran is currently
assigned as Assistant Borough Coordinator at Patrol Borough Queens South, where he is
responsible for "assisting in the everyday operation of seven commands within the
What that breaks down to in
"people" terms is that Curran is sought-out on a regular, daily basis by
everyone and anyone who needs help gathering, distributing and processing
information on precinct operations. For the record, Curran is also "the man"
most sought out by reporter-types who need help in securing "oddball" facts
regarding the NYPD and its operation in Queens.
Curran takes his responsibilities to heart,
not only as an NYPD professional, but as a concerned, compassionate individual who is
never too busy to lend a hand even if it takes his own time.
He simply does not know how to say
For many people throughout Queens, with the
holiday season also comes the holiday feast. Danny Daloya, 45, knows a little bit about
both. This Forest Hills butcher works hard to help those customers, the large majority of
which are recent emigrants from the former Soviet Union, who may have difficulty paying
for the food right away, if at all.
Reminiscent of shopkeepers during the
Depression era, Daloya keeps a large green ledger handy to record the names of clientele
and the amount owed. When the patrons earn enough to pay him back, the book comes out
again and the debt is erased.
The son of Tunisian Jews who often lived on
just enough to get by, Daloya knows full well how difficult it can be when money is
scarce. At Finest Kosher Meats and Poultry, where Daloya has practiced his accommodating
style since he bought the shop over eight months ago, customers can even obtain hard to
find items that are especially popular during the holiday season.
When Daloya recalls being denied food while
growing up in Israel with 10 brothers and sisters, he cant help but think that he
was meant to be a butcher.
Sister Theresa started a unique out-reach
program, Hour Children, and now runs four houses in Queens whose workers and
volunteers care for and raise the children of incarcerated women.
"She is just an overpowering
lady," said of her Ann Musto, one of the many volunteers. "She takes care of
those children, feeds them, houses them. She is such a remarkable human being."
It is no mistake to say that these are also
her children, because as Ann Musto said, "Those kids treat her like a mother;
they hug her, kiss her, love her."
Sister Theresas activities also
include a program to help the childrens mothers find a job and a safe place to live
after they have served their time in jail. The house Hour Children 2, for instance, hosts
eight families at the moment; the mothers are out on parole and trying to overcome the
transition from imprisonment to a normal active life, while already rejoined with their
Sister Theresa and her unique program have
helped over 500 children in the last ten years.
As for their Queens neighbors, "People
call us to ask what we need," sister Celia said, "They know what sister Theresa
does and people go to her, offering their help. She doesnt need to beg
They just call him Nestor in Bayside, and
that is the only name he needs among the children that he gives toys to.
Nestors gifts over the past 25 years
have ranged from full-scale parties at local halls just to give toys to children to
standing outside the Carvels on Bell Blvd. on Halloween day giving out donated toys
and free ice creams that he buys.
But there have been thousands of small
occasions with Nestors mark on them. Sometimes cases of apples show up at St.
Marys Hospital for Children. Sometimes a neighbor finds a turkey at their door. He
says "its all for the children" and explains that it is important for
children to have "something good and unexpected" happen to them because they
carry it the rest of their lives.
Lending a helping hand is nothing new for
Von Murray, owner of Vons Store in Corona, hes been doing it for the past 30
"Hes been giving fatherly
advice" to generations of kids who stop in at his Northern Boulevard store, according
to Vons son Gerard, creator of the School of Hard Knocks clothing line.
Whether serving as a one time Kiwanis Club
member and a former board member of Elmcorps or by donating time and money to
childrens sports programs and other community events Von is constantly giving back
to the community.
When Von turned his Corona shoe store over
to his son Gerard, he turned it into a nationally known business called the "School
Of Hard Knocks." But despite the family business international, you can still
find Von Murray sitting outside of his store watching over Northern Boulevard or take the
empty seat next to him inside and find that he has the time to offer just the right honest
and heart-felt advice to make it all make sense.
Lucy Schileros work in her
neighborhood began in 1985 with a simple idea: keep her neighborhood a safe place to live.
Nearly 15 years later, Schilero is
president of the Coalition of United Residents for a Safer Community, a group which helps
join people together in an effort to improve the quality of neighborhoods across Queens.
The Coalition covers the Elmhurst, Corona, Jackson Heights area; and all of this based out
of her own home.
"The neediest in the community are
elderly people and youngsters," Schilero said. "We continuously check up on our
seniors. We help them stay in touch with their families, if they are not nearby."
Schilero said that she and the coalition
volunteers become a "family" for those who are lonely. "We go door to door,
to check that seniors who participate in the program are well," she said.
As for the youngsters, Schilero explained
that the Coalition has an outreach program to let teenagers know there is someone they can
turn to when when their parents are not available.
Linda Vigilio and her father Carl Dilallo
light up Queens every Chistmas . . . and Halloween, and Easter, and sometimes even on St.
For five years, Vigilio has created
imaginative displays like the one shown this week on the Tribunes front page
(157-66 19th Avenue, Whitestone) and her father has helped with the mechanical and
electrical work. And over those five years, her neighbors have stopped, applauded, and
turned over between $12-$14,000 to the collection box outside to help St. Marys
Hospital for Children. Sometimes there are checks. Sometimes there are many coins to wrap,
but Vigilio said that what always makes the days of work she puts into each display worth
finding the time between caring for her mother and her three young children, and her
mail-order work at home is what it means to the neighborhood.
"The older people, they look for it,
they wait for it," she said, and the faces on the neighborhood residents as they
enjoy 47,000 lights and 40 animated dolls are Vigilios reward.
Christine Zeoli (right), her young
neice (left) and her devoted helper Poppy (at Santas right) make Christmas a joy for
children of the Queens Psychiatric Center simply because they believe someone should.
Eight years ago, an accident
Christine Zeoli, co-owner of Studio Z in
Bayside, wanted to donate gifts to a local charity for Christmas, but the charity only
wanted cash, not toys.
In her upset, she told a customer at her
salon about her problem, and Susan Gibson took Zeolis tragedy to heart and to work
at Iris Hill House for troubled children, then later added the Queens Psychiatric Center
Every year now, Zeoli has a giving tree in
her salon with ornaments made by the children of the center and signed with their names
and ages. She then gives the ornaments out to customers who bring back extraordinary
persents in return . . . from Game Boys to Pokemon.
This year, Queens residents and Studio Z
employees Poppy and Stephanie took to heart their work as elves and spent hours on the
salon floor wrapping, labeling, and checking presents for delivery by Santa on Christmas
And as the wrapping paper flew at the centers party,
it was Zeoli and Poppy who stood guard, checking the batteries, assembling the toys, and
finding the one extra something to bring a smile to every child.
Who Do You Know?
This is just the beginning. The
Queens Tribune found that there were more quiet people making tremendous differences
in Queens than could fit on a page or in one paper.
If you know a Queens resident who is giving
of themselves to change the face of life in Queens, please send their name and a
description of their actions along with your name and phone number to the Queens
Tribune at 174-15 Horace Harding Expressway, Fresh Meadows, New York 11365. Just mark
it "Angels," and well know what to do.