25 Queens Immigrants Who Made a Difference Honored in TimesLedgers’ First-Ever Ambassador Awards
Antigua2Queens: Winnie Benjamin came to the U.S. at age 16, created a string of successful beauty salons and now teaches other small-business entrepreneurs how to do the same.
Ambassadors all: The honorees for TimesLedger’s first Ambassador Awards — presented to 25 immigrants who made a new life in Queens, then made life better for us all — with Jennifer Goodtstein (l), president of CNG, parent company of TimesLedger newspapers.
HongKong2Queens: Irene Cheung, mother of three, saw seniors in her Bayside-Little Neck neighborhood hurting for social contact with others, so she started a community club.
As a child, Lydia Bastianich, the hugely popular TV chef and restaurant owner, escaped communism in Yugoslavia with her family. Her food empire started with a 30-seat eatery in Forest Hills.
Greece2Queens: Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas became one of the youngest people ever elected to the legislature in 2009 when she was sworn-in at age 31 to represent Astoria.
Bangalore2Queens: It is noteworthy that Dr. Uma Mysorekar, a doctor, is a woman of god as well as science. She is the founder of the largest Hindu temple in Queens, the sprawling Ganeesh Temple on Bowne Street in Flushing.
Ecuador2Queens: Monica Loja came to the U.S. at age 15 with limited English but the organizational skills of an Army general. A degree from City College later, she is now the face of River Fund, the anti-poverty center in Richmond Hill.
HongKong2Queens: A former merchant banker in his native land, K.Y. Chow did not have the entrée to Wall Street when he came to America. So he started one of the most sophisticated printing plants in the city in Long Island City.
Trinidad2Qiueens: Shaun D. Francois is the leader of the 23,000-member Local 372, the union for support staff in the city school system. He started out as a substitute lunchroom helper and now runs the largest union in DC 37.
India2Queens: Malini Shah (r), with State Sen. Jose Peralta, the keynote speaker of the event, runs her own diamond company on Bayside and founded an organization to make sure young Indians here can learn the art and culture of their country of origin.
Liberia2Queens: Saywalah Kesselly came to the U.S. with two shirts and $20. After earning a degree in economics and going to work for an electrical company, he founded a youth center in Southeast Queens that aids 400 kids a year.
Ireland2Queens: When Ciaran Staunton’s 12-year0old son died suddenly of a little-know infection, sepsis, that started as a playground scrape, it devastated his family. But he and his wife, Orlaith, have started a foundation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Ecuador2Queens: Josefa Castro couldn’t get used to the fact, in America, people look out for themselves with little help from neighbors. She started the first block association in Bushwick before joining Catholic Charities here.
Punjab2Queens: Jagir Singh Bains was a military man in India, where Sikhs are a minority but a familiar one., When he came here, Bands found is necessary to create an organization to explain Sikh culture to Americans.
Romania2Queens: Grigore Culian started as a singer and musician at home but started a Romanian-language newspaper that has spread from New York to national distribution.
Bangladesh2Queens: Richard Mumith likes to eat and found a ready audience of people from Manhattan and Brooklyn who shared his passion for the staggering variety of food in Queens when he started Queens Food Tours.
Ireland2Queens: What better training for Community Board work than working for a taxi company. Joe Hennessy lives and raised a family in Forest Hills before becoming a community figure.
India2Queens: Dr. Dheeraj Kamalan, an anesthesiologist and head of pain medicine at Elmhurst Hospital, sets aside a large portion of his practice for people in pain who cannot afford the more sophisticated types of surgery that can ease their suffering.
Ecuador2Queens: A former Marine, Juan Serrano — with Miriam Nieto, CNG account executive — is Northwell Health’s military specialist, assisting veterans and their families navigate the heath care system.
Haiti2Queens: Ricardi Calixte is an official with the Queens Economic Development Corp., organizing local business to get their fair share of city services, training and counseling new start-ups and going to bat for the borough’s business community.
Taiwan2Queens: John Liu is a familiar face to anyone with even the slightest political awareness in Queens. A former City Council member and city comptroller, Liu is among the most respected community figures in northern Queens.
Brtitain2Queens: Richard Mazda (l), with TimesLedger publisher Brian Rice, is the man behind the popular Secret Theater in Long Island City, home of groundbreaking productions from Shakespeare to “Cabaret.”
Maylaysia2Quuens: A former policeman in his country of birth. Harbachan Singh is a lawyer who has specialized in dangerous, diplomatic missions on behalf of the UN, including recovering looted art treasures from Saddam Hussein./
Taiwan2Queens: As a marketing man, Wesley Sin has explained the lure of boom-times Flushing to travelers from all over the globe; peddled the promise of business in northern Queens; and promoted cultural life in the borough with wit and, above all, style.
BukinaFaso2Queens: Rodrique Ouattara dreamed of being an actor in America some day but, after getting political asylum here, found his new love: rooftop farming at Brooklyn Grange in Long Island City.
The TimesLedger Newspapers selected 25 immigrants living in the borough to honor at the Queens Ambassadors Awards gala last week at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel.
They were chosen after an extensive search for their contributions to their communites, enriching all of Queens and making its diversity such a positive force.
Updated 5:35 pm, January 31, 2017
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