4 Local Ladies Recognized as ‘Women of Distinction’

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As we neared the end of Women’s History Month, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato took the time to recognize some of the local women who have gone above and beyond for the community. At a virtual ceremony on Friday, March 26, Pheffer Amato paid tribute to this year’s “Women of Distinction.”

Due to the peak of the coronavirus pandemic beginning around the same time last year, last year’s ceremony was canceled, but Pheffer Amato was not going to let it keep her from recognizing some special ladies who utilized their time during the pandemic to help others. In February, she put out a request for nominations and selected six worthy honorees. Among them are local ladies Jeanette Garramone, Elizabeth Hanna, Patricia Jones and Monika Wroblewski, plus Tiffanie Placeres of Ozone Park and Barbara McNamara and Maria Scaramuzzino of Howard Beach.

In the days leading up to the ceremony, Pheffer Amato and her staff went to each woman’s home to give them an orchid and a certificate recognizing them as a “Woman of Distinction,” and on Friday, she announced the honorees at a virtual ceremony.

The assemblywoman opened up the event saying, “Women of Distinction has become one of my favorite events because it brings attention to the unsung heroes of our community, our women who are always out there doing good work,” she said.

Many may know Jeanette Garramone as a Democratic District Leader, but she went above and beyond her position as a “Food Angel,” in which she dedicated her time to making sure Rockaway’s seniors, disabled and others who struggled due to food insecurity, received groceries and meals. Garramone said the effort started small. “It started simply with me finding out about a neighbor who needed food and looking at my countertop and seeing what food I could throw together.” This expanded into a mass grab and go and delivery effort that was made possible by some extra help. Garramone credited Jean Hammel and Maryann Neilen for making Food Angels possible. “Without them, I couldn’t keep it going. At one point we had a list of 200 people,” she said. Pheffer Amato commended her saying, “You have such compassion and empathy for the community, and I think you bring to the top what food insecurity is and what we need to do to address it,” she said.

There was no bigger cheerleader for small businesses during the pandemic than Liz Hanna. Pheffer Amato cited her efforts to start the Rockaway Businesses Need You Facebook page to help promote businesses by posting menus, specials, delivery options and other vital info while businesses were simply trying to figure out how to stay afloat. Hanna is continuing those efforts and has now added raffles into the mix to help further support businesses by buying gift cards. As the former owner of Brown’s Hardware, Hanna said as the pandemic began, she thought of the struggles businesses went through after Hurricane Sandy and how this latest challenge would be even harder. “I knew this would be worse than Sandy was because it was going to go on for a long time and I could feel their pain,” Hanna said. Hanna’s page has grown to about 4,000 local residents. She credited lessons learned from her parents and the women in her life that helped shape her ethics as inspiration.

Patricia Jones, director of Raising Hope Daycare in Far Rockaway, provided hope to parents across the community as she gave their kids a safe place to grow. Pheffer Amato was blown away by the praise from parents and children for “Ms. Pat.” Jones spoke more about her daycare saying, “During the Covid pandemic, I wanted to make sure our little ones had a safe, nurturing environment to develop and continue to flourish and a space where parents could feel safe about going back to work. We served a lot of essential workers and nonessential workers and it was my privilege to care for their little ones so they could go back to work,” she said. She also expanded the program to add remote programs for children.

Monika Wroblewski of Rockaway Park was recognized for her volunteer efforts as a 100th Precinct Auxiliary Police sergeant, Vice Principal of Rockaway’s Polish Supplemental School and making connections for the Polish community in Rockaway. “I am receiving this award for doing something I love, serving this community,” Wroblewski said. “I’m so blessed that as a citizen of this beautiful country and a woman, I can freely speak and teach the language of my homeland, Poland. I want to thank my mom, who is my first role model, and to all women who are here, we do it because we love it, but we also do it because we can. Congratulation to all honorees, I am honored and humbled.”

Wroblewski’s words left Pheffer Amato teary eyed as she explained that is what the even was all about—lifting up other women. “We have to be there for each other. We can’t cut each other up We have to support women and that’s what we have to continue to do,” Pheffer Amato said. “I’m so proud of my community that we have strong women like this that we’re able to honor and bring attention to.”

 By Katie McFadden

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