The Wantagh Elementary School auditorium was filled with smiling faces on March 25 as seven local women, joined by family members, friends and local officials, were recognized as outstanding women in Wantagh.
The fifth annual Women of Wantagh celebration, organized by the Miss Wantagh team, honors Women’s History Month, according to Miss Wantagh pageant coordinator Ella Stevens.
The current Miss Wantagh court is made up of six women, each of whom picked a special Wantagh woman to honor from among 12 nominees. The 2019 Wantagh Women of Distinction were Anna Amato, Laura Reich, Margaret Kowalski, Maureen L’Eplattenier, Karen Lofgren, and Kaley Young.
“We decided that instead of honoring one person, we were going to honor as many people as there were in our court,” Stevens said.
In addition, Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney was recognized as a “mystery” honoree. “She is truly a trail-blazer, Stevens said, “and we are proud to have her in our community.”
Miss Wantagh 2014, Kayla Knight, came up with the idea for the event during the year of her reign. The Miss Wantagh team accepts and evaluates nominations from the public, and each member of the court chooses an honoree. “We say [on the call], ‘Not only are you being honored, [but] we want you to bring nine members of your family with you to share this celebration with you,’” Stevens said.
Miss Wantagh 2018, Ashley Bailey, chose Maureen L’Eplattenier, who has served on National Honor Society committees and the Wantagh Elementary PTA, and volunteers as chair of the Historically Underrepresented Groups Scholarships, or HUGS, committee. She also works in Wantagh Schools’ central office, and is raising a family. “Maureen is the type of woman, wife and mother I hope to become one day,” Bailey said.
First Runner-up Juliet Watstein chose to honor Kaley Young, who lost her mother to breast cancer seven years ago and her father to a Sept. 11-related illness last year, according to an event pamphlet. Young now manages Hot Pilates Secret in Wantagh, which her mother founded. “You are someone I aspire to be one day,” Watstein said, addressing Young during her speech. “Someone who perseveres in the hardest of times and channels your energy into positive outlets.”
“I just want to thank Juliet and the whole Wantagh community,” Young said. “I wouldn’t be able to be standing here today without all of you guys and your support. My brother and sister and I are just really grateful to be a part of this town.”
Second Runner-up Lauren Daniels honored Margaret Kowalski. Kowalski, who was born in Dublin, volunteered as a lector at St. Francis de Chantal Catholic Church in Wantagh and has served as president of the Wantagh Public Library board of directors for nine years, according to the pamphlet. “All the volunteers here in this town are what really make this a beautiful, special place,” she said.
Third Runner-up Isabella Ciaccio chose to honor Anna Amato because of all the work she has done for the Wantagh community, according to Bailey, who spoke on Ciaccio’s behalf at the event. Amato is an active member of the Wantagh Elementary PTA and the 6-12 Association, and helps out behind the scenes at various events, according to the pamphlet.
Miss Wantagh Ambassador Marisa Devito chose to honor Laura Reich, who is active in the Wantagh Elementary PTA and the 6-12 Association. She has run the plant sale for both Wantagh Elementary and for grades six to 12 for 10 years.
Ambassador Marcella Hurley honored Karen Lofgren, a Wantagh Chamber of Commerce board member, for her community efforts, highlighting her work on the hamlet’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“Karen’s love for the entire Wantagh community shows through all of her contributions,” Hurley said, “and will be recognized for generations to come.”
Each honoree received certificates from Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads, the Town of Hempstead and the Miss Wantagh team, as well as a T-shirt from Gateway Apparel — a business started by two Wantagh High School sophomores, according to an online article from the school’s newspaper, The Warrior — floral wristlet and a bouquet of flowers from Numa’s Florist in Wantagh, and centerpiece plants from Abby’s Parkside Nursery and Florist in Wantagh.