Marking 35 years, a home for the elderly in Bay Ridge celebrated its anniversary at a gala at the Vanderbilt on Staten Island, bringing everyone from elected officials to clergy members to raise funds to aid folks living at the St. Nicholas Home, 437 Ovington Avenue, on March 15.
At the forefront of the event was board Chairperson Edward Mafoud, who served as the master of ceremonies and offered to match any donations received during the event up to $20,000.
Among the organizers was realtor Aida Nicolaou, who is also a member of the board of directors for the home, which started as an effort to help the Arab-American community. Also the president of the ladies auxiliary, her efforts to raise money for the home trace to the death of former chairman Richard Zarick.
On his deathbed, Zarick asked her to make two promises. “First, he said ‘Don’t cancel the luncheon.’ Second, don’t leave the home,” Nicolaou recalled. At the time, his wife and another member of the board were in the room.
That year, the luncheon held to raise money for the home honored the life and message of Zarick, who inherited the dream of former Reverend Gregory Abboud of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral on State Street. Abboud’s dream however, only came to fruition after his death: he had signed a contract to purchase the old Bay Ridge Hospital before he died in 1978 and it was Zarick and his wife Florence who secured the property and brought Abboud’s idea to life, with the home finally opening its doors in 1982.
This year, over 200 guests turned out to salute local luminaries. The Community Service award went to cardiologist Dr. Nidal Isber, presented by civic leader George Jalinos.
St. Joseph University – Lebanon graduate Adib Kassis was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award, which was passed along by local attorney and community leader Joe Elhilow.
Lastly, Dr. Ahmad Jaber presented the Family Recognition Award to the Widdi family. Honored for their continued good work in the community, they currently own Widdi Catering Hall in Sunset Park. Calling on house patriarch Subhi Widdi, Jaber recognized the community legend who came to America poor and was a crucial part in the making of the St. Nicholas Home.
“People are still sending money,” said Nicolaou. “If I didn’t help the home, I feel something would be missing.”