Today’s news:

Little Neck volunteer raises $$$ for parade

Mary Breden has lived in Little Neck since 1959 but did not know just where she would fit in when she first joined the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Committee four or five years ago.

“I was selected to receive the community service award for being a volunteer,” said Breden, 82, who was honored in the parade in the late 1990s for her work to maintain the Glenwood Landing triangle park near the Little Neck railroad station.

“I rode on the back of a red convertible, a Mercedes Benz,” she said. “All of this was a big surprise – never in my wildest dreams did I think something like this could happen to me.”

After receiving her honors Breden said she decided to join the committee that helped organize the parade her own children had marched in as Boy Scouts but was not sure what she wanted to do.

“At first I just sat there,” she said. “Then last year I really got going with this fund-raising.

“Maybe this is my forte,” said the mother of five with a wide smile and friendly laugh as she flashed her parade committee identification badge.

That newly discovered talent has made Breden one of the best fund-raisers on the Little Neck-Douglaston Parade Committee for what is believed to be the second- largest Memorial Day parade in the country. In 2000 alone, Breden estimates she was able to collect some $2,000 from businesses and residents throughout Great Neck, Little Neck and Douglaston.

The secret, she said, is persistence.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” she said. “Sometimes you have to go back three or four times. But I always say if 10 people give $10 each, that’s $100.”

Organizers say the fund-raising skills of people like Mary Breden are crucial to the success of the Little Neck-Douglaston march, which depends on local contributions to operate. Beginning at Jayson Avenue and Northern Boulevard in Great Neck, the parade proceeds into Little Neck and Douglaston in front of thousands of spectators each year before it ends up in the St. Anastasia’s playground in Douglaston. This year’s parade is slated for Memorial Day, May 28, at 2 p.m.

The Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day parade has been held for roughly the past 76 years and gradually become one of the largest in the country, second only to Chicago. The size of such parades are measured by the number of bands that march, but each band costs money for the group running the parade.

That’s where dedicated residents like Breden enter the picture.

When she started fund-raising, Breden said: “I didn’t know anything about it, but I since learned. I think it’s very worthwhile. It’s a very important American holiday to honor the veterans.”

Breden said she focuses her fund-raising efforts on Little Neck and then Douglaston, but often spreads into Great Neck and sometimes into Bayside as well.

“There’s a response there,” she said of her ventures into Great Neck.

While Breden does not tout her own efforts, her fellow parade organizers are quick to shower her with praise.

Charles McBride, a longtime parade committee member, smiled when he spoke of Breden’s work.

“She’s one of the hardest working ones out there,” he said.

Jonathan Ridgeway, a parade committee member and civic leader in Little Neck, said “she’s a wonderful lady, so active in the parade committee.”

Breden was also quick to recognize the collective effort behind the organization of the Little Neck- Douglaston Memorial Day tradition.

“So much goes into the planning of this parade,” she said. “There’s so much to be done. I never thought this was my forte, but it seems I’m learning about this and it’s good.”

So how much has she raised so far in 2001?

“I raised this year so far more than $3,000,” she said, “but I have much more to go.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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