33 THE QUEENS COURIER • MARCH 25, 2022 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Queens Centers for Progress raises over $120K
for individuals with developmental disabilities
BY CARLOTTA MOHAMED
More than 500 people attended the Queens
Centers for Progress (QCP) 26th annual Evening
of Fine Food event on March 14 celebrating
community, resilience and the value of giving.
Queens Borough President Donovan
Richards, Council members James Gennaro,
Linda Lee, Shekar Krishnan, Sandra Ung and
Vickie Paladino, along with Assemblyman
David Weprin and John Hammer of the NYC
Department of Education, were among those
who spoke during the program.
Th e in-person event — which raised more
than $120,000 — also saw the presentation of
the fi rst-ever Claire Shulman Spirit of Community
Award and welcomed a dynamic, new
partner, Grubhub, which treated Queens families
unable to attend the event to an evening of
Funds raised from the event went toward
supporting the longtime organization’s programs
and services, assisting more than 1,200
individuals with developmental disabilities to
lead more independent lives.
Th e festivities included an exceptional and
engaging dining experience featuring culinary
delicacies from the fi nest restaurants and beverage
purveyors in the area.
As hundreds of guests mingled, sampled
gourmet foods and enjoyed an open bar, they
also enjoyed comedian Suzanne Windland,
magician Apollo Riego, Jim Altamore performing
the songs of Frank Sinatra and the sounds
of DJ Mike Kouros of Bravo Sound. Guests also
participated in the silent auction and took selfies
in a Le Selfi e photo booth. Skye Ostreicher
of City & State joined the evening as a special
guest and emcee.
Th e celebratory gathering recognized two
Chefs of the Year who have made a diff erence
in Queens and honored the legacy of the late
Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, a
past Chef of the Year honoree and supporter of
the event and QCP.
“Claire Shulman was always delighted to attend
our Evening of Fine Food and welcome
guests; her joy was infectious because she
recognized that while this event was only for
one night, its impact would last well beyond
that,” said Terri Ross, executive director of
QCP. “Th ere is no one who embodies the spirit
of the Queens community more than Claire
Schulman did. We could not imagine this
event without her, and selfi shly, this is our way
of making sure she is here with us every year
Drew Kerr, creative director and founder of
the Queens Chef Project, was the fi rst recipient
of the Claire Schulman Spirit of Community
Th e Queens Chef Project spotlighted the culinary
community amid the pandemic, showcasing
the stories of chefs and restaurant owners
to highlight their experiences and to encourage
New Yorkers to visit their establishments.
“In her 16 years as borough president, Claire
put Queens residents and businesses fi rst, especially
cultural institutions,” Kerr said. “In
the same spirit of Claire, I am honored to put a
spotlight on the people who are like our second
families, the chefs and food workers of Queens.”
Wendy Gennaro, director of development at
QCP, said they were delighted to have Kerr as
the fi rst recipient of the award.
(From l. to r.) QCP Executive Director Terri Ross, honoree Tom Rudzewick, QCP Director of Development Wendy
Gennaro and QCP board member Michael Macaluso.
“Mr. Kerr’s dedication to spotlighting members
of the restaurant community in a unique
and intimate way has signifi cantly supported
the hospitality sector during the pandemic. He
gave both his heart and his hand to keep the
needs of our restaurants in the public’s mind,
and we were extremely grateful to him for this
wonderful project,” Gennaro said.
Shulman’s daughter, Ellen Baker, thanked
QCP for the recognition.
“My mother was, and remains, the spirit
of community in Queens,” Baker said. “I am
certain she would be very honored by this
tribute and award because she dedicated her
life to encouraging others to show their community
spirit. Th ank you for this recognition.
We congratulate Drew Kerr on this honor and
wish QCP a successful event.”
Th e benefi t also honored two Chefs of the
Year — people who have made an impact and
a diff erence in the community: Rhonda Binda,
vice president of government aff airs and social
impact at Madison Square Garden Entertainment
Corporation, and Th omas Rudzewick,
president and CEO of Maspeth Federal Savings.
In addition to being honored, Binda and
Rudzewick served their community by cooking
a family specialty.
Binda encouraged everyone to continue
supporting QCP, as “they have truly made a
diff erence in so many lives here in Queens.”
“What an honor it is to be QCP’s Chef of the
Year and support this exceptional organization.
Your contribution to QCP is a recipe for delivering
unparalleled services, with great dedication,
to the developmentally disabled community,”
According to Rudzewick, QCP is a vital organization
that people should support because it
assists so many with developmental challenges.
“I am honored to serve as Chef of the Year to
help the Queens Center for Progress. Generosity
is an inspiring aspect of human nature that
enables our neighborhoods, communities and
the world at large to survive and thrive! I am
glad to participate in an event that supports
the life-changing work of the QCP,” Rudzewick
Th is year, QCP also sought to create an opportunity
to treat others who could not attend
the Evening of Fine Food in person. Th anks to
a substantial grant from the Grubhub Community
Relief Fund, QCP provided 50 hungerinsecure
families within its network and
affi liated with the Variety Boys & Girls Club
in Astoria with $100 gift cards to enjoy meals.
“Since our inception, community has been
core to our mission, and collaborating with
Grubhub illustrates this commitment,” Gennaro
said. “We applaud their commitment to
supporting causes that address food insecurity
in Queens and for supporting the Restaurant
Revitalization Fund, which kept many of our
neighborhood establishments alive during the
pandemic. We thank Grubhub for ensuring
that families, particularly those struggling to
put food on the table, are able to enjoy this event
even if they could not be with us in person.”
Brett Swanson, head of community aff airs
and social impact at Grubhub, commended
QCP on the work they’re doing to provide
opportunities for people with disabilities to
make meaningful choices in their own lives, a
mission that Grubhub fi rmly stands by.
“By supporting QCP and other organizations,
we look forward to continuing to advance progress
in the community,” Swanson said.
Photos by Lorraine Heaney
Sponsor and board member Gerry Caliendo with QCP Executive Director Terri Ross, QCP Director of Development
Wendy Gennaro and QCP board members Nancy Vargas and Pat Coula.
(From l. to r.) Claire Shulman Spirit of Community Awardee Drew Kerr with QCP Executive Director Terri Ross,
Jonathan Forgash, Queens Together, daughter Mollie Kerr, Wendy Gennaro and Joe DiStefano.