Honoring the borough’s successful women and raising funds for a great cause, the Star Network hosted its annual and successful “Staten Island Power Women in Business” event on Tuesday, September 19.
To mark the occasion, hundreds gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1100 South Avenue, as some of the island’s most influential women were honored for their work. Exhibitors were also on hand for a networking event and a raffle was held that benefited an organization dedicated to helping combat breast cancer.
Each of the event’s recipients was thrilled to receive awards.
“I feel very humbled and grateful to be recognized for the work I do in the community,” said Diane Campione, Office Associate II for the New York Public Library. “I was surprised by the nomination and I’m honored to be here at this moment. The event is lovely, and the women are lovely and so deserving of the recognition. I think they’re all different individuals from different facets of the community and it’s wonderful to be honored among them.”
Joan Risko, Senior Vice President of New York – Corporate Lending for Santander Bank, agreed. “It’s great to feel part of the community that you’re doing business with. It’s nice to have a women’s event and recognize us because women are movers and shakers, out there growing businesses and volunteering their time.”
Victoria Schneps-Yunis, co-owner of Schneps Communications/Star Network and co-publisher for The Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator, discussed how the tradition of celebrating women started. “It came to be when I was at a business awards dinner and not one woman was sitting on that dais getting an award. I said then and there that I was going to create a power women event. And it’s justly deserved. Each one of you deserves to be in these seats.”
“This event is a very special event,” said Vice President of Events for Star Network Lori Pedone, “because we are honoring such amazing and unique women and we’re also doing it for a great cause.”
All money raised through the raffles went to the Florina Rusi Marke Cancer Foundation. Rusi Marke died of breast cancer at the age of 34 in 2003.
“[Rusi Marke] was an amazing woman whose legacy has been alive and well through the work that her loved ones are doing in her name,” said the event emcee Anthony Pascale from NY 1 News. “A brand new comprehensive breast center was built at Staten Island University Hospital and named in her honor. She has served as an inspiration to everyone whose lives she touched.”
The Florina Rusi Marke Community Leadership Award Recipient went to Robin Lefkowitz, Executive Vice President and Director of Business Development for Northfield Bank.
“I’m so truly honored to be given this award and I think she would be truly proud of her boys,” she said. “Get involved with your community because to give back is the most important thing you can do.”
The next award was the Empire State Bank Change Maker Award which went to Holly Bonner, Owner and Founder of blindmotherhood.com and Director of Education & Outreach for IlluminArt Productions.
“It’s a big honor to be recognized for your community service as a woman and as a Staten Islander,” Bonner told this paper. “I only lost my eyesight five years ago. I had breast cancer. To go through that, you had two options — you could wallow in what was going to happen or you could make the best of the situation. I became a mom and my website helps people all over the world, so to receive the award and have my work with the blind recognized means a lot to me because I live it everyday.”
Assemblymember and New York City mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis, a past Power Woman honoree, was also in attendance, praising the event. “I want to thank Vicki for putting an event together honoring some amazing women from Staten Island,” she said. “I’m really proud of the work we do here in Staten Island and am glad someone is recognizing the wonderful achievements of those who dedicate each day and their livelihood to make it a better place.”
The honorees included Robin Lefkowitz, Executive Vice President and Director of Business Development, Northfield Bank; Holly Bonner, Owner and Founder of blindmotherhood.com and Director of Education & Outreach for IlluminArt Productions; Diane Campione, Office Associate II, New York Public Library; Valarie Contrino, Owner, Contrino Travel, Inc.; Suzanne Demetrio, Mortgage Loan Originator, Residential Home Funding Corp.; Jacqueline Filis, Executive Director, YMCA Counseling Services; Elaine Gil, Licensed NYS Real Estate Salesperson, Safari Realty; Dari Guttman-Panzer, Sales Consultant, Sansone Auto Mall; Dr. Susan L. Holak, Founding Dean of the School of Business and Professor, College of Staten Island; Leslie Kasegrande, Managing Partner, Estate Planning & Administration Department, Scamardella, Gervasi, Thomson & Kasegrande, P.C.; Christina Korkowski , Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Ounce Water & Go Get It Life; Margaret LoCicero, Creator and Owner, Michael’s Martinis & Meatballs Restaurant; Josephine Marino, Community Relations Representative, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield HealthPlus; Cathy Muraca, Owner, French Secrets Lingerie; Antonella Pesce, Sales Manager, Bella Mia Foods, Importers of Fine Italian Products; Kimberly Pintus, General Manager, The Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island; Caryn Pollock, Senior Director, Pampered Chef; Theresa Pommerenk, AVP, Branch Manager, Empire State Bank; Josephine Portuesi, Second Vice President, Branch Manager, Richmond Country Savings Bank; Tricia Rega, Owner, Limitless Fitness Studio; Joan A. Risko, Senior Vice President, New York-Corporate Lending, Santander Bank; Suzann Rizzo, Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager, Investors Bank; Angelic Sealy, CEO, ACALAN Corp; Dr. Rita Shats, Pavlides, Benson, Shats Ob/Gyn Associates, Richmond University Medical Center, Department of Ob/Gyn; Debra Surmanek, Partner/Creative Director/ Graphic Designer, Ivy Brand & Marketing Group; Michele Tosic, President, Nexxus Consulting Services & Verrazano Kiwanis; Helene Purpura-Wieling, Owner, Groom Go Round; and Luz Maria Utrera; President/Founder, Luz Maria Foundation.
Roseanne Venturino, an author, fitness trainer and inspirational leader who died of cancer just eight weeks prior to the event, received a posthumous award.
The presenting sponsor for the event was Staten Island University Hospital/Northwell Health; the other sponsors were Empire State Bank, Northfield Bank, Sansone Auto Mall, Investors Bank, Richmond County Savings Bank, National Grid, Broadway Stages, JetBlue, Medcast Plus, Schneps Communications, Star Network, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC).