The Bensonhurst West End Community Council celebrated my 31 years as its president — which encompasses more than half of the council’s history — at its Golden Anniversary Gala.
When I was first elected President in 1980, the Annual Dinner Dances were relatively small. I distinctly remember that at the first dance that I presided over at the Colonial Mansion, Borough President Howard Golden spoke about the small amount of guests. I vowed not to be so embarrassed again: I made changes that attracted four hundred guests a year.
But thanks to the popularity of the gala’s distinguished honorees — whose friends and family overwhelmed dining capacities — the dinners grew, and I moved the venue from hall to hall, filling places like the exquisite Riviera in Coney Island and, thanks to Frank V. Carone, the Council’s Businessman of the Year, the El Caribe in Mill Basin.
As someone in the field of press and publicity, I knew the Bensonhurst West End Community Council had to have its name shortened to be recognized in the press; hence I dubbed it “BWECC” for easier recognition.
Prior to my presidency, the council bestowed its honorees with a “Martin Luther Man of the Year” and a “Woman of the Year Award” to honor the late pastor of the New Utrecht Dutch Reformed Church, himself a great community activist. But under my leadership, the Reverend Martin Luther Awards became the BWECC Man of the Year and the BWECC Woman of the Year Awards.
The council realized that often there were many husband-and-wife teams active and working for the betterment of the community, which necessitated awarding a BWECC Couple of the Year Award. As a member of the community school board, I knew how important it was to honor the teachers and educators, and the “BWECC Educator of the Year” came into being.
The seat on the community school board also had me working closely with parents and realizing how vital it was that they worked for their schools through their PTAs, or Parent Associations. One such parent was Cessaria Soccoa, who was a tireless PTA president. When we lost her, we named the Parent of the Year Award in her honor: “The Cessaria Soccoa Parent of the Year Award.”
Here’s some of the other categories we recognize:
• BWECC’s Businessman of the Year
• BWECC Humanitarian of the Year
• BWECC Special Citizen’s Award
I always knew that honoring those that deserved recognition would have a two-fold purpose; it not only publicized the good work of the individual, but might also entice others to work for the betterment of the community.
In next week’s column I’ll give a rundown on the gala with the biggest attendance we ever had.
Screech at you next week!