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Ellerbe named Businessperson of the Year

Salvation Army and Freeport Chamber of Commerce recognizes him, too

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Ron Ellerbe was recently honored by three organizations in one day for his contributions to Freeport and Nassau County. On Oct. 18, he was named Businessperson of the Year by the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce at its 35th annual awards breakfast; Citizen of the Year by the Freeport Salvation Army at its 31st annual civic dinner; and Member of the Month by the Freeport Chamber of Commerce. All three accolades recognized Ellerbe’s contributions to the business community and his good works.

“I try to live as an example for others,” he said. “If you want to be successful, you have to be involved. If you want to change things, you have to get involved — that’s what it’s about.”

Ellerbe, 80, graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, and earned an undergraduate degree in political science from Fordham University and a master’s in public administration from C.W. Post, now LIU Post.  He moved to Freeport in the 1990s from Springfield Gardens, Queens, and has made Freeport his home ever since.

Before working in real estate, he was with the New York City Transit Police for 28 years and was on the board of Rochdale Village, a housing cooperative in southeastern Queens. He started in real estate in the 1990s as a property appraiser. Eventually, he decided to pursue sales. With a laugh, he said it was a “backward” transition, since most real estate agents start in sales and eventually work in appraisals. But for him, working in sales felt natural, and he said he was good at it. He’s now a sales associate at Sparaco-Liberman Realty on Guy Lombardo Avenue in Freeport and a member of the Long Island Board of Realtors.

When his youngest son, Devin, started fourth grade in Freeport Public Schools, Ellerbe said he noticed that children whose parents were involved were thriving in school. “It taught me a lesson,” he said. “It’s about giving back to the community and getting involved.”

He joined the Freeport Parent Teacher Association and was eventually named a Lifetime PTA member. He ran for the Freeport Board of Education, and has been a trustee for 24 years. He is also a board member of the Nassau Board of Cooperative Education Services, serves on the Nassau County Planning Commission and is a past president of the Nassau-Suffolk School Board Association. And he has coached Little League baseball.

Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé, of Freeport, attended the Nassau Council of Chambers breakfast. She and Ellerbe served as Freeport school and village trustees together for a few years.

“Across Nassau County, small-business owners make an indelible mark on the character of the communities we cherish,” Mulé said. “Ron Ellerbee [is a] community leader who goes the extra mile to make the communities they serve better places to live, work and shop, and I applaud [his] dedication and leadership.”

Ellerbe starts every morning with a swim at the Freeport Recreation Center, or sometimes a vigorous dryland workout. When he isn’t running from meeting to meeting or out in one neighborhood or another selling houses, he spends time with his family.

He doesn’t need to be recognized or paid back, he said. In 2001, however, when Devin was graduating from Freeport High School and his father was president of the school board, he officiated at the graduation.

“But it wasn’t just handing Devin his diploma,” Ron said. “I was witnessing these kids that I’ve coached in Little League baseball graduate. I knew their parents. To see these kids graduate and officiate their graduation wasn’t just great, but my signature is on my son’s and his friends’ diplomas, and that’s all I need.”

At the end of a typical day, Ellerbe looks forward to getting home to his family to enjoy time with his five grandchildren. “Getting these awards is a statement to my family,” he said. “This is how they get to know what I’m doing when I’m working in the community.”