Ceremony celebrates distinguished women in the community


The many accomplishment of amazing local women are making the annual selections of Women of Distinction honorees tougher and tougher.

Last Saturday, Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages presented the Women of Distinction awards to 15 accomplished women in the 22nd district community. She noted that the selection of the women to every year as the number of nominations increases. The women are discovered through nominations from community members or are identified when Solages and her team hear about them, sometimes through the Herald.

“We spot people who are doing great things and we add them to the list,” Solages said. “We just uplift those in the community we feel need uplifting as well. Every year it’s so difficult. This year we honor 15 women, because we had so many great candidates we couldn’t choose from, so we picked everybody.”

Solages presented the awards to: Yvette Allen-Campbell, of Valley Stream, Myrlande Alouidor, of Laurelton, Gabriella Burke, of Valley Stream, Lisa Burke, of Valley Stream, Erika Cave, of Elmont, Dr. Jelisa M. Dopwell-Best, of Elmont, Patricia D. Eren, of Floral Park, Selene M. Ferdinand, of Elmont, Dr. Patricia Galaskas, of Franklin Square, Rahmat Khuteja, of Valley Stream, Trustee Porscha Lyons, of South Floral Park, Cynthia Nunez, of Valley Stream, Darlene Phillips, of Elmont, Magaly Polo, of Elmont, and Susan Saint-Joy, of Floral Park.

Dopwell-Best is known in her community for her nursing skills and expertise. She specialized in geriatric care for the last six years and nursing in general for the last 12. She is also the Assistant Director of Nursing and Clinical Operations for a New York health system.

“It’s a very prestigious award and it’s important that we recognize what we’re doing in our communities, so it’s an honor,” said Dopwell-Best. “You always kind of underplay your role in the community, so it was nice to be honored and recognized.”

Dopwell-Best wants to increase health literacy in the community. She thinks it has to start with moms, dads, sisters and uncles of the patients.

The ceremony recognized Eren for her work as director of the Floral Park Library. She wants to create a safe space where people of all ages are welcome. She works with schools to meet the needs of students. She has two daughters: Colleen, a tenured professor with a Ph.D. in sociology; and Meaghan, a veterinarian specializing in pathology.

“She’s brought us from one century to another,” said Linda Sartini, who was there to celebrate Eren. “She’s an amazing woman. I expected her to do great things. As soon as she became director she did.”

“It’s very, very flattering, when you work hard to have someone acknowledge your efforts,” said Eren. “So I’m very grateful to Assemblywoman Solages for this moment. I want to make the library more and more part of the community.”

Polo serves as a licensed social worker with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, working with clients 16 and older. She graduated from Hunter College with a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

Polo co-founded the New York Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services Cultural Competence Committee, now known as Alliance for Rights and Recovery. She advocates for and educates the Haitian community to celebrate the country where she was born.

“To be honored for something that you do out of the goodness of your heart without expecting anyone to recognize it, it feels really good,” Polo said. “I was like, ‘Wow, me, yes, thank you!”

“She’s a wonderful human being,“ said Marie Moore, who was there to celebrate Polo. “She goes above and beyond to help others. She’s truly a kind-hearted person. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my sister. She always put herself out there for others, so I knew she would achieve greatness.”

This is the 11th year of the ceremony. Solages said it gets bigger and better every year, growing from just five nominations the first year. “It doesn’t have to be someone who does great, stupendous things. It could be your neighbor, or your friend that you feel needs the recognition,” Solages said. “We believe that each and every woman in the community should be honored and uplifted.”

The ceremony opened with the Sewanhaka High School Jazz Band playing uplifting tunes. Stacey Womble presented the welcome and closing remarks. This year, the Pretty Toni Café, a woman-owned business, catered the event.