St. Pius Excelsior Awards presented to women leaders

Kathy Zamechansky, St. Pius V Excelsior committee member, executive vice president of Yonkers-based Friedland Realty, Inc. and founder and chairperson of the St. Pius V High School Advisory Board (second from left), at the high school with students and Sister Mary Jo Lynch (far right), as they prepare for the 16th Annual Excelsior Awards gala.

Five remarkable women will be honored for their service to the Bronx community in the 16th annual Excelsior Awards gala benefiting St. Pius V High School in Mott Haven.

An awards banquet scheduled for Wednesday, May 21 will honor Maria Matos, Leah Fretwell, Maria Rios, Linda Baldwin, and Rita DeMartino.

The proceeds from the reception benefit the parochial high school, which faces budget issues every operating year.

With St. Pius elementary school recently scheduled for closure, the high school is seeking to avoid a similar fate by reaching out to members of the Bronx community who can help it stay afloat.

 “St. Pius V deeply appreciates the work of its volunteers in helping the school to survive and thrive,” the school said in a statement. “The annual Excelsior Awards event gives St. Pius the opportunity to recognize the volunteers who not only dedicate time toward keeping the doors open, but also serve as role models and mentors for the students.”

 Maria Matos, Esq., will receive this year’s Excelsior Government Award. Matos is president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association, a practicing civil litigation attorney in New York, and a Bronx civil court candidate.

Leah Fretwell, regional vice president at Elizabeth Arden, is a 16-year member of the Excelsior Awards committee. Elizabeth Arden donates merchandise to the gala each year.

“I worked my way up in this company for over 15-years, and I want the young ladies to see hard work paying off,” Fretwell stated.   

Entrepreneur Maria Rios, president and owner of Classico Building Maintenance, Inc., is this year’s recipient of the Excelsior Corporate Award.  Since founding her company, Rios has doubled its size to more than 50 employees and $2 million in sales.

“I am honored to be part of a community of local businesses supporting St. Pius and the work it does to help Bronx youth,” Rios said.

 Linda Baldwin, Esq. is receiving the Excelsior Lifetime Achievement Award. Baldwin is a project manager and attorney at the New York State Office of Court Administration, where she plans and implements problem-solving court initiatives all over the state.

 Rita DeMartino, chairwoman of the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, will receive the Excelsior community service award. Over the course of her career, DeMartino has served on numerous boards including the UNICEF executive board and the World Board of Governors of the United Service Organization.

St. Pius V High School, where 95% of students go onto college, is located at 500 Courtlandt Avenue, in the poorest congressional district in the nation. 

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