Twenty fourth Pioneers of Third Avenue reception honored 16 of Bay Ridge’s best

Bay Ridge pride was on full display as 16 individuals were honored for their contributions to Third Avenue and the community at large during the 24th Annual Pioneers of Third Avenue Champagne Reception, hosted by the Merchants of Third Avenue.

The annual evening of celebration, held on Monday, October 16 at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476 76th Street, showcased both business and civic leaders: Pioneers Renee Dorsa, Joe Elhilow, Dennis Taveras and Francisco Chevalier of Blue Agave, Tom D’Elia, Mike Kaves of Brooklyn Firefly, and Jeanine Condon, Lisa DeLuca and Melissa Franz of Charmed, and Civic Award winners Theresa Monforte-Caravallo, Meaghan McGoldrick, Joann Monaco, Walter Ochoa, Sara Steinweiss and Kathryn Wylde. In addition, Danielle Rutuelo received the second Larry Morrish Community Service Award.

President of the Merchants Bob Howe was thrilled with this year’s event. “We honor merchants who have an entrepreneurial spirit to go out and do business on their own, employ people and just get satisfaction out of running their own business,” he said. “We also thank the people of the community who are responsible for making our merchant strip so successful. A good community understands it needs a strong commercial strip to keep everything together.”

Local activists clearly agreed, with almost 200 people on hand to share in the celebration. “We never expected to have such an overflow crowd as we do tonight,” Howe noted, adding, “It’s a testament to the people we chose.”

Honorees were humbled by the recognition.

“It shows how much we are recognized in our community for the work that we do and I’m hoping that it’s going to bring that much more awareness and more help to our organization because children are our number one priority and they are our future,” said Monforte-Caraballo, the founder of Grandma’s Love, which distributes food, books and other items to children in area schools who are in need.

“We combat childhood hunger and promote literacy,” she explained. “We get referrals from school principals, guidance counselors or social workers about children that are not performing well on Monday morning which means that they haven’t really eaten over the weekend, and we provide a food bag every Friday to these children that are referred to us so we not only feed the child, we feed the family.”

“It’s very special as I’ve lived in Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge for the past 30 years,” D’Elia, who runs a financial services business, said. “My whole family has gone to school here, my sons to Xaverian, my daughter to Fontbonne. I’m a Bay Ridgeite forever.”

“I love this community and all the people in Bay Ridge,” Rutuelo said. “Thank you to family and friends who support me. Paul Cassone and the Guild taught me so much, like to help and love Bay Ridge.”

McGoldrick, managing editor of the Home Reporter, received a civic award for her annual — and growing — fundraiser Cancer Can’t Kill Love, founded in memory of her parents, both of whom — by the time she was 22 — had succumbed to cancer.

“When she’s not reporting or doing something for the newspaper, she’s raising funds for cancer research in loving memory of her parents,” said member of the Pioneer Committee Lori Pedone, noting that, “Since 2013, Cancer Can’t Kill Love has raised close to $50,000″ for cancer research.

The most recent iteration brought in over $14,000 for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center and $1,020 for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. It is in the process of being made a 501c (3) organization and, starting next year, the event will be held in several countries.

McGoldrick was grateful for the honor. “I’ve been covering the Pioneers event since I was an intern and I’ve never been on this side of things. It’s really overwhelming,” she said. “Especially since this last event, I’ve had a really hard time finding the words for Cancer Can’t Kill Love, for doing all of this without my parents. It’s been incredible and I couldn’t do it without the people in Bay Ridge. I often wonder if I did it anywhere other than Bay Ridge if it would be as successful as it is. I don’t think it would be.”

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