Thursday, October 27, 2022
Eight local women, including two from Valley Stream, were recently honored for making a significant effort to create positive change in their communities with Women of Distinction awards in a ceremony held at Franklin Square Public Library.
The ceremony, now in its ninth year, was held in person for the first time since 2019. The event is usually held in March but was delayed due to Covid-19.
The event recognized women who displayed outstanding leadership and highlighted the grassroots work they have accomplished in Michaelle C. Solages’ 22nd Assembly District.
This year’s honorees from Valley Stream were Lynette Battle and Karen Freire. Joining them were Elizabeth Forbes, Althea Brown, Julie K. Eason, Rose Nacincik, Karleen (Leveille) Robinson and Nancy Youngfert, each making a significant effort to create positive change in their communities.
Freire has been working at Key Food Valley Stream since 2012 and is in charge of customer service appreciation day, which she organizes to give back to her customers who support the store.
“My colleagues and I organize Customer Appreciation Day every year once a year in the summer,” said Freire. “The event is held in the store parking lot and is made up of all vendor brands demonstrating their products, providing items to raffle for free, and a variety of different free foods. We offer different activities for children to interact with.”
According to Freire, it’s important to give thanks to the community, the lifeline of the store. And given Valley Stream’s diversity, the store strives “to carry a variety of brands to cater to the community. They are essential to us and because of that we feel it’s our obligation to contact all of our suppliers and bring them together at least once a year to also show their gratitude to our customers.”
The award came shortly after another of life’s major moments for Freire: giving birth to a baby girl in September.
“Being honored as a Woman of Distinction took a whole new meaning for me.” Freire said. “It has been an emotional feeling because I am now an example to someone looking up to me, just as many other women are to their daughters and children.
“My advice to other women is to aim to continue to grow, to advance as much as they can in a positive way, to give back to the community that has helped shape and mold them. As women, we are the ones shaping the future for our children and we will be the example they follow. If we raise children willing to change the world, then we are looking forward to a brighter and much better world.”
Battle, a Valley Stream resident, is PTSA president for Elmont Memorial High School and has served on the board of Nassau regional PTA. She is also the director of economic development for Bridge Street Development Corporation, where she designs and executes marketing and sales strategies for small businesses in central Brooklyn.
“This is me doing what comes naturally,” Battle said. “I wasn’t expecting anything, so when somebody acknowledges you, it feels good.”
Battle said she is most proud of the reinstatement of principal Kevin Dougherty to his post at the Elmont Memorial High School.
“We got our principal back and after getting the community together behind the situation, now they’re moving forward,” Battle said. “They feel empowered and that’s heartwarming.”
Robinson, a national Emmy award-winning producer and television anchor, is the owner of Leveille Entertainment and Publishing. She became the first woman and first person of color to direct Fandango’s 2017 coverage of Comic Con. She is an anchor for CBS News affiliate WBNG 12 News. In July, Robinson and her husband, Ron, opened a business in Elmont, hiring youth from the community and surrounding neighborhoods to train and inspire them to pursue media careers. After being honored, Robinson highlighted the importance of community work.
“I think people don’t realize how everything starts at the grassroots of your community,” she said. “Barack Obama came from grassroots community service, Oprah Winfrey was cultivated in small-town community service. It’s here that all the things you need to happen in your life happen. I’m happy about supporting women and continuing to empower others.”
Forbes, who was born and raised in East Harlem, is the founder of the Gift of Giving Foundation. Her organization served more than 800 children in the last three years and is piloting the Student Ambassadors Program for juniors and seniors in the local school district in collaboration with local businesses.
“I think a lot of times as women we get pushed to the backburner because as mothers, we’re doing so many things and we’re not being acknowledged for everything else that we do outside of parenting,” Forbes said.
Additional reporting by Juan Lasso.
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Thursday, October 27, 2022