Ten Island women were honored by Assemblymember Rebecca A. Seawright last week, as part of the Third Annual Women of Distinction Awards, to commemorate Women’s History Month.
Seawright presented awards to 21 women in all in a ceremony held at Marymount Manhattan College.
The honorees, which include members of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, local volunteers, and community activists are: Eva Bosbach, Judy Buck, Mary Coleman, Linda Heimer, Sherie Helstien, Wendy Hersh, Barbara Parker, Joyce Short, Louella Streitz, and Lynne Strong-Shinozaki (for more information about Island award recipients, see page 10).
“This year, the celebration is particularly important because 2017 marks 100 years since the Women’s Suffrage movement,” said Seawright’s chief of staff, Katarina Matic.
“We have to stop thinking of history as a closed book, a story with an end, because, as women, our story is not nearly over,” Seawright said. “There are exciting new chapters still to be written.”
Seawright herself is doing some of that writing.
Last week, on International Women’s Day, Seawright introduced the Equal Rights Amendment Resolution in the Assembly, calling on Congress to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution. Seawright is also chair of The Feminist Press, the longest surviving women’s publishing house in the world.
The evening ceremony commenced with performances by two Hunter College students. Nailya Khalizova, a music student, played a piece from Chopin’s Preludes on piano. Her performance was followed by student Sara Tabio, who read an original poem, “Spanglish in America,” inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Pulitzer prize winning non-fiction book, Between the World and Me.
“Celebrating Women’s History Month is not just about honoring women who came before us; it is about reminding ourselves of the heroines who inspired us by using their courage, their spirit, and their accomplishments as motivation to keep fighting for our rights,” Seawright said.
“Congratulations, Women of Distinction, you are an inspiration for our community, our city, and our great State of New York!”
Dr. Eva Bosbach was born in Prague, Czech Republic, and has lived on the Island with her husband and children since 2007. In 2012, she founded the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network (RIPN) and, as its coordinator, grew this social network to a community organization of over 600 members. Engaging a large team of volunteers, Bosbach and the RIPN have offered a variety of free activities and events, including educational workshops, panel discussions, events for children and parents, community advocacy efforts, and an online information exchange platform.
From 2012-2016, Bosbach was a Common Council member for Southtown, serving as a member of the Island Services Committee. As a member of the Public Purpose Fund Committee, she made recommendations for the annual distribution of $100,000 to local not-for-profit organizations.
Bosbach is a higher education manager, and an expert on United States-German higher education systems. She holds a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Cologne in Germany.
Judy Buck moved into an Island House apartment fifteen years ago and has never looked back. She helped create the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition (RICC), a watchdog group focused on monitoring Cornell Tech’s construction plans, and advocating for Island interests. RICC pushed for more barging and fewer trucks to transport construction materials, urged Cornell Tech’s adoption of PS 217, and continues to raise issues such as increasing needs for transportation, policing, and security.
In addition to serving as RICC co-chair, Buck sits on Community Board 8’s Roosevelt Island Committee and was appointed by State Senator Jose Serrano to the Cornell Tech Community Construction Task Force Committee. She also volunteers with Roosevelt Island’s Wildlife Freedom Foundation for the rescue of hurt and abandoned animals.
Professionally, Buck was an advertising manager for Random House Trade Division. She also worked as a writer and copy chief for a number of local advertising agencies and spent a decade at New York University as the assistant director of development for the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education. While there, she solicited funding for faculty initiatives that included early reading intervention, research on HIV/AIDS prevention, and recovery for female victims of human trafficking and environmental education. She was a volunteer for Louise Wise Services and has served on boards of the Hell’s Kitchen AIDS Project and the St. Cecilia Chorus of New York.
Mary Coleman has been a resident of Roosevelt Island for over 40 years. Since retiring from AT&T in 2006, she has devoted herself to volunteering. You might find her helping with the Cherry Blossom festival, accompanying someone to the doctor, or stuffing eggs for the RIRA Egg Hunt. Coleman was also involved in starting the Roosevelt Island Women’s Health Organization, in which she holds the position of treasurer. Once a month, the group gets together to discuss women’s medical issues.
Coleman works with the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and fellow honoree Wendy Hersh to provide fresh vegetables and fruit to seniors.The program runs in the summer for about 24 weeks and distributes an average of 40-50 bags.
Coleman is a member of the Pay It Forward committee through RIRA and, this past holiday season, she helped distribute 80 bags and boxes of food to Island residents. She and other residents have now adopted a dementia ward at Coler Hospital. This past Valentine’s Day, she and the committee delivered 60 Valentine’s bags for the patients.
Coleman’s definition of volunteering is giving one’s time and services to a cause where no monetary payment is involved. She says volunteering is a way of life for her which goes back to her mother. She remembers when she was a child, her mother started a block association in the Bronx, where they lived, and started a tenant patrol in 1958. She also remembers her mother working for the Democratic Party.
Linda Heimer has been an activist for over 55 years. As a young adult, she was involved in fundraisers for world hunger, homelessness, and AIDS research. She volunteered at homes for the aged and at hospitals, helped refurbish a Harlem playground, and held clothing drives for women’s shelters, among other initiatives. But it wasn’t until she was mugged at the subway station on Lexington Avenue that she became involved in the politics of community activism.
A resident of the Island since 1980, Heimer formed the Roosevelt Island Safety Coalition (RISC), in 1992, to improve safety at the Lexington Avenue and Roosevelt Island subway stations. With the support of then-Representative Carolyn Maloney, transit officials, and police brass, a four-year, million-dollar project involving installation of annunciators, CCTV cameras, and other safety measures, resulted in a significant drop in the crime rate at those stations.
In the 25 years since, some of Heimer’s involvements have included: Chair of the Government Relations committee of RIRA; founding member of the Maple Tree Group, a group advocating for greater resident control in governance of the Island; founding member and member of the board of the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition (RICC); member of the Community Emergency Response Team, the Main Street Retail Advisory Committee, the Cabrini Church Council, and the Church Plaza Design Committee; 20 years on the editorial staff of The Main Street WIRE; and founding member of Indivisible Roosevelt Island (IRI), a public advocacy group promoting equality and justice in response to the Trump agenda.
Heimer’s professional background includes: fourth grade teacher and Grade Chairman in Yonkers, for which she earned the title of “Master Teacher”; art teacher and professional development lecturer in Italy and England; award-winning regional sales manager for an educational publishing company; and 20 years as owner/principal of her own executive search consulting practice. She was honored with an award from the Financial Women’s Association of New York.
Sherie Helstien has been a resident of Roosevelt Island since 1989. She served on the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) for a total of 19 years, ten as secretary and one term as vice president. Currently, she is the secretary of the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association (RISA).
As chair of RIRA’s Housing Committee, she organized a Renters Insurance Fair after a bad fire in an Island building left residents surprised that management was not responsible for replacement of their personal property. She oversaw RIRA’s Nominations and Election Committees, and was actively involved in the Government Relations and Social, Cultural & Education Committees, supporting what has become an annual Cherry Blossom Festival, and a myriad of other RIRA programs. She organized, served on, and guided the Roosevelt Island Day RIRA Blood Drive while training new RIRA members for this job.
As secretary of RISA, Helstien hopes to be able to fundraise while also creating interesting and innovative programs, to attract a broader age range of older residents in the community.
Wendy L. Hersh CRC, LMHC is a 40-year resident of Roosevelt Island. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology/psychology from the University of Hartford in 1973 and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from New York University in 2001.
As a certified rehabilitation counselor and licensed mental health counselor, Hersh has been working for the New York State Education Department, ACCES-VR, as a senior vocational rehabilitation counselor assisting individuals with disabilities since 2004 and specializing in the fields of mental health, substance abuse, and criminal justice. She is also spearheading a re-entry pilot program helping released prisoners return to the work force and prevent recidivism. She has previously been awarded the Adrian Levy Scholarship and Marilyn Miller-Morell Advocacy Award.
Although working full time, Hersh has always found time to help others and give back to her community. She is currently a board member of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association and, in the past, served as vice president and acting president of the Roosevelt Island Senior Association facilitating fundraising and social events for Roosevelt Island Seniors. Throughout the years, she has collaborated with many organizations, including RIRA, the Senior Center, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office to bring events and programming to the Island’s senior and disabled population.
Barbara Parker is an active 30-year resident of Roosevelt Island. In June of 2016, she was elected president of the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association (RISA). Her main goal has been to continue providing essential services while broadening the organization’s outreach to a wider range of active, older adults and special populations.
Parker has been active in her community as a RISA board member, acting as the secretary and community-outreach liaison. While serving in this capacity, she worked on community outreach with our elected representatives, overseeing a variety of presentations, including IDNYC, MYLAG/Mobile Legal Van, and NY State Senior Action. She restructured the RISA Membership Drive to include significant Island merchant discounts.
Parker is also very involved on the board and in the classroom of the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance, where she has taught Pilates, Zumba, and Aeropump for adults, Hip-Hop classes for teens, as well as performing in the theatre’s musical productions.
She is a certified health and fitness instructor, and has organized several Island-wide health and fitness events put on by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. She is a certified healthy lifestyle consultant with more than 20 years of experience and has many private clients in the community. Parker is also proficient in sign language, a useful plus.
Joyce Short has been a resident of Roosevelt Island for 41 years. In that time, she’s served on the boards of several community organizations including the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) and the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition (RICC), which represents the community’s views related to Cornell Tech’s development. Short served on the Maple Tree Group, which fought to establish resident seats on the board of RIOC and she currently chairs the Government Relations Committee of RIRA. She was also an associate editor for The WIRE.
For the past 28 years, she encouraged character development in Island and City youth by directing the New York Junior Tennis and Learning (NYJTL) program on Roosevelt Island. She is also an NYJTL district developer, bringing tennis instruction to New York City’s public schools. Many of her students have won college scholarships. Some have become instructors both through NYJTL and beyond.
Professionally, Short was the first female bond trader for Salomon Brothers and the global director of faculty for the NY Institute of Finance, once owned and operated by the NY Stock Exchange. She is currently an associate real estate broker with Charles Rutenberg Realty, specializing in the purchase, sale, and rental of residential properties. She has authored two books on romance scams, Combating Romance Scams: Why Lying to Get Laid Is a Crime, and Carnal Abuse by Deceit. She is fighting to raise awareness and pass laws to prevent this crime.
Louella Streitz is a longtime resident of Roosevelt Island and has always been committed to community development. She started a parent support group when her two children were toddlers, organizing group playdates to ensure that stay-at-home parents had an opportunity to have a day off. She created food chains to cover emergency situations for parents of toddlers, and she has always been involved in community support.
After a 14-year career as a graphic designer with UNICEF, she found her life’s passion in volunteering. In 2009, she founded DASH (Disabled Association Support for the Homebound), a volunteer organization which provides support to the neediest on the Island.
As a certified AARP tax preparer since 2012, she does free tax preparation for low- to middle- income seniors, homebound, and disabled persons. Streitz works closely with all organizations on the Island and is very active at the Senior Center. She visits homebound and disabled seniors and takes them for walks, accompanies them to doctor’s appointments, helps with grocery shopping, picks up prescriptions, assists with computer issues, and aids with paying bills. She encourages high school students to volunteer with the seniors by doing chores for them and she also coordinates with the girl scouts to do birthday visits.
Streitz’s dream is for the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse to represent a beacon of light and hope to other communities.
Lynne Strong-Shinozaki was born in Twin Falls, Idaho. She was a toy executive for a well-known company, and is also an activist, organizer, philanthropist, wife, and mother of two adult children and one teenager. She has been a volunteer for over 45 years. Strong-Shinozaki has planned successful community events for more than 10,000 people and has advocated for health, housing, and seniors’ issues on the state, city and community levels.
Locally, Strong-Shinozaki has served on RIRA since 1991, and currently serves as its Vice President. Before that, Strong-Shinozaki was the chair of the Social, Cultural, and Education Committee. In that capacity, she initiated the Cherry Blossom Festival, Skate R.I., RIRA Showcase, Egg Hunt, Hands Only CPR, Ben Hugs, the Youth Initiative, and the Pay It Forward Committee (a community-based program to aid economically challenged individuals and families). She serves as a board member on the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, Community Emergency Response Team, Roosevelt Island Community Coalition, and is an American Heart Association Advocate.
She was appointed to Manhattan Community Board 8 and elected to the New York State Democratic County Committee in 2013; was the program director for eviction services from 2005-2009, in which she created a Mitchell Lama Empowerment Program to help tenants avoid eviction. She also worked as a paralegal/office manager for the Legal Society Juvenile Rights Division from 1997-2000, representing juveniles in Family Court.
Early in her career, she was a quality systems analyst for General Mills, associate director textile engineer for Hasbro/Kenner Toys, and director of equity marketing.She has been honored by a number of agencies starting with United Way Volunteer awards in 1989 and 1990 for her dedication to volunteerism. More recently, in 2013, she received a proclamation of the NY State Assembly for community advocacy and improving the quality of life of Island citizenry. And, in 2015, she received both a Life Saver award from the American Heart Association and a Proclamation of New York City Council for Extraordinary Contributions to the Community.
In her spare time, Strong-Shinozaki works as a family genealogist. In 2010, she contributed to Ä Genealogy and Historical Sketch of the Dependents of Peter Kleberg by John M. Selle.