The Bronx Times Reporter held its 2018 25 Bronx Influential Women dinner honoring those who are making an impact in the borough.
This year’s awards gala took place on Tuesday, May 22 at Maestro’s Caterers with each of the honorees receiving an award and addressing a crowd of well-wishers at the Bronx Times’ ninth annual awards event.
Laura Guerriero, Bronx Times publisher, said that choosing 25 women from a borough of 1.4 million people was as daunting a process as ever.
“This year’s honorees have energized so many aspects of Bronx life,” stated Guerriero, adding “The 2018 awardees encompass women with far reaching impact in their lifetime passions. Each has made the Bronx a better place.”
The event sponsors were Union Community Health Center and Riverbay Corporation, which manages Co-op City.
The Bronx Times also thanked Maestro’s Caterers, Jerome Florist, BronxNet and Bronx Pulse.
All award winners received citations from Queens Senator Leroy Comrie and Councilman Mark Gjonaj, in addition to the award they received from the Bronx Times.
The honorees for this year were Patricia Broderick, Varahan Chamblee, Crystal Collins, Gerri Colon, Luz Elenia Correa, Viviana DeCohen, Michelle Daniels, Samantha Diliberti, Saraceia Fennell, Jane Fox, Rose Garcia, Esther Henry, Maria Herrera, Maria Khury, Ebony Kirkland, Yvette Martinez, Vera Mjeku, Lisa Ortega, Ilaine Perez-Palau, Amanda Parsons, Jascelyn Parson, Jeanette Puryear, Beverly Roberts, Michelle Sajous and Sandy Elphand Wolstein.
The evening included many heartfelt remarks from the honorees, some of who spoke about their organizations – from churches to worldwide philanthropic efforts – with many more relating their own efforts to overcome adversity and succeed through optimism.
Diliberti, who started an online civic engagement platform, said in her remarks that being the daughter of a teen mother, she was supposed to be a statistic.
She recalled that her relationship with her grandfather sparked her interest in civic engagement, which became the basis of the platform that challenges others to volunteer, known as Orang
Collins, a community activist/organizer and campaign manager for Senator Jamaal Bailey’s successful election bid, said that she never let her surroundings define her, and according to her biography, she overcame the passing of her mother when she was 17-years-old to go onto great things.
“In growing up in the Edenwald projects, I never thought I would be standing here before you to be honored by the Bronx Times with people who have achieved great success,” she said, adding “Being the optimist that I am, I have always looked at my life as a glass half full.”
Fennell recalled the trial and tribulations of her forming the Bronx Book Festival, and having to endure rejection before finally making the event a success this year.
Another theme that was ubiquitous in the women’s remarks concerned giving back to their communities.
Colon spoke about how she and her husband have raised $200,000 for the community, the vast majority of which stayed in their Throggs Neck community.
Perez-Palau spoke about working with non-profit Nos Quedamos to find housing for people in need in the borough, a task that has grown more difficult as the borough’s popularity surges.
The theme of women who are powerful and capable of affecting change was also ever-present in the remarks.
“This is women power, and this city and this country will be changed by women,” said Roberts, of the Parkchester Branch of the NAACP. “We must take this opportunity to uplift young women and bring them to the level where they can take their place in society.”
The publisher said that she is already reviewing candidates to honor next year and that she invites the family of Bronx Times readers to suggest individuals they feel are worthy of recognition.
This year’s selection committee included Guerriero, Rosemary De Luca, Geri Sciortino, Lisa Sorin and Ana Vincenty.