McDowell, Parra are chamber Businesspersons of the Year


What does it take to be a Businessperson of the Year? It’s putting aside their personal time to serve, according to Frank Camarano Jr., president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce.

And it’s always finding a way to make each and every community in Nassau County a better place to work and live — and all 38 people and organizations who earned that honor this year have done exactly that.

Like Dana Joy McDowell — owner, greeter, server and chief executive of D’Joys Event Hall in Elmont.

Businessperson of the Year by the Elmont Chamber of Commerce, McDowell retired from the Social Security Administration at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic after 31 years, and took on a part-time position as a manager and promoter where D’Joys is now located.

Back then, it was a bar and restaurant, and was in a state of disrepair. When the building went up for sale, McDowell got help from her family and friends to buy it, and turn it into Elmont’s newest success story.

McDowell was no stranger to hosting events. She used to spend weekends at a Jewish catering hall at Temple Torah.

Since starting D’Joys, McDowell has made it through the pandemic, and is a thriving minority business providing services to the community and beyond, according to the Nassau Council of Chambers. She even hosted the Elmont chamber at networking meetings, and joined the chamber to co-sponsor an event encouraging minority-owned businesses to become a Nassau County vendor, and further the explanation of a certified minority women-owned business as well as the procurement process.

Another honoree — this time from the Franklin Square Chamber of Commerce — is Jaime Parra, owner of LI Valle Grill & Restaurant on Hempstead Turnpike.

Parra began his restaurant industry journey in 2012 in the Bronx, but relocated to Franklin Square in 2020.

Of course, that was the same time as the coronavirus pandemic, and Parra would lead efforts through LI Valle Grill to provide meals to the staff of the Long Island Jewish Hospital on a weekly basis.

Parra works tirelessly to inspire and give back to his community by sponsoring Sewanhaka and Carey high school sports, according to the Nassau Council of Chambers. He also recruits new members and works on chamber committees with the purpose of establishing stronger communities.

Also among the honorees is Alvin Hartley, from the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce, who brings more than 25 years of strategic planning to the table, helping a number of organizations develop customer service and leadership and sales training, as well as marketing plans, budgets, strategy, concepts and training.

Hartley runs the chamber’s Business Solutions Center, all while handling counseling reporting as part of the federal Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot Program. He’s the chief executive and president of TMI & Partners.

Karla Sorensen of Goldcoast Title, was honored by the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for her ties to Hispanic women’s professional organizations, as well as the Hispanic chamber of commerce itself.

Sorenson is also quite active in her community, giving and participating in various local causes, organizations and charities.

Other winners include Victor Sookdeo from the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, Gus Tsiorvas from the Bethpage Chamber of Commerce, Stitch This Print That from the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores, Greg and Robin Massimi from the Chamber of Commerce of the Massapequas, and Barbara Baur-Rizzo from the Chamber of Commerce of the Willistons.

Also, Anthony Bott from the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce, Suzanne Lobiondo from the Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce, Bill Barry from the Floral Park Chamber of Commerce, and Atlantic Hardware from the Freeport Chamber of Commerce.

Jerry Farrell from the Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce, Lawrence Lin from the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce, Smitha Lukose-Khan from the Greater New Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, Sally Barrera from the Hempstead Chamber of Commerce, and Scott Schneider from the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce.

William Powell from the Levittown Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Joshua Siegel from the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, Stephen Wangel from the Lynbrook Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Maria Casvikes from the Malverne Chamber of Commerce, Robbie Donno from the Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, Lori Berger from the Merrick Chamber of Commerce, and Barnwell House of Tires from the Mineola Chamber of Commerce.

Lia Diangelo-Allan from the North Shore Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Bahnik family from the Oyster Bay/East Norwich Chamber of Commerce, Brian Lew from the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce, Daniel Zaveckas from the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce, Ed Asip from the Rockville Centre Chamber of Commerce, and Anthony Gonzalez from the Roslyn Chamber of Commerce.

Nick Parson from the Seaford Chamber of Commerce, Tami Racaniello from the Syosset-Woodbury Chamber of Commerce, Felicia Kasow from the Uniondale Chamber of Commerce, Joosoo Kim from the Valley Stream Chamber of Commerce, Frank Ubriaco from the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce, Malcolm Simms from the Westbury-Carle Place Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Linda Anderson from the West Hempstead Chamber of Commerce.