JCC honors leaders at Heroes luncheon

Tom Carrozza for Long Island Herald

Originally published in Long Island Herald

Members of the Barry and Florence Friedberg JCC gathered for the inaugural Community Heroes Luncheon and Friedberg Friends Awards at the Sunny Atlantic Beach Club July 28. The JCC honored several dedicated community members for their support of the center and community throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the JCC, award winners and their guests congregated in the Sunny Atlantic Beach Club’s open-air atrium overlooking the water on a sunny July day.

Former News 12 anchor Carol Silva was the keynote speaker for the inaugural event, celebrating the “doers and givers” of the pandemic. Silva lauded efforts like food delivery, online health seminars and youth clubs within the community. “You told the community, ‘You are never alone. We’ve got your back,’” Silva said, speaking of the JCC. “When life was its worst, you were your best.”

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, of Long Beach, was also on hand to celebrate the community and honorees. Kaminsky, who grew up in Long Beach, was an active member of the JCC community in his youth and helped to acquire a grant as a state assemblyman for a new kitchen at the Long Beach JCC. The kitchen, which is to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the unhoused, was devastated during Superstorm Sandy and will soon finally be renovated.

“The amount of people who were fed, received assistance they otherwise wouldn’t have, got PPE, to help people get back on their feet, that’s what this community is about,” Kaminsky said. “I would not want to live on the South Shore without having a strong and effective Friedberg JCC.”

oe Ponte, a fixture of the Oceanside and Island Park communities, has been involved at the JCC for 15 years, starting out by organizing weekly breakfast meetings for local veterans. Recently, Ponte contributed to what he calls the “crown jewel” of the JCC, its heated pool. Ponte donated pool noodles to be used at the center’s senior and youth swimming sessions and camps.

John Wozniak, the JCC’s assistant executive director, thanked Ponte for his continued efforts as a “Friedberg friend.” “He is an example to us all with his boundless energy and endless enthusiasm for serving our community,” Wozniak said.

“It’s a wonderland for all ages,” Ponte said. “I would like people to come, support it and be a part of it because it is a great value to the community.”

Liz Schwind, the community relations manager at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre, was also honored with an award. Schwind helped to establish a connection between the hospital and the JCC through outpatient services near the beginning of the pandemic. Once the pandemic hit, Schwind and the JCC worked together to create Zoom health seminars.

“It gave the community knowledge when we were all trapped inside,” Schwind said. She said she expects the partnership to continue past the pandemic, as the mental health and meditation seminars proved especially popular with the JCC’s population.

Also honored were Jessie and Howard Broxmeyer, Julie Wexler of Bristal Assisted Living, Adam Novak and Robert Wolk of Jerusalem Memorial Chapels, Wendy Goidel of the Goidel Law Group, Jack Grabin and Debby Tappan of Arrow Exterminating Company.

The JCC continues to host in-person and virtual events to connect the community.