By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
Traditionally one of the nation's largest Memorial Day marches, this year's parade on May 31 will honor Fort Totten's 77th Regional Readiness Command, many of whose reservists are deployed in Iraq and elsewhere.
Major Gen. Richard Colt, commander of the unit, will be the parade's grand marshal, said Victor Mimoni, the parade organization's spokesman.
“Our soldiers are at risk everywhere and the 77th are doing their job,” Mimoni said. “They're people from our neighborhood. These people deserve recognition.”
The parade's annual art and essay contest will incorporate the Statue of Liberty, whose image is on the patch of the 77th, Mimoni said.
Colt will help select the winning entries and send them to the command's deployed soldiers overseas, he said.
This year's Woman of the Year is Debra Markell Kleinert, director of the mayor's Community Assistance Unit for Queens North. State Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) is Man of the Year, Bryce Rea Associates will receive the Business Award and John Farrell Sr., president of the Queens Flag Day Committee, will receive the Douglas MacKay Community Service Award.
“We're trying to honor people who put their money where their mouth is,” said Mimoni – not referring to dollars but to the honorees' level of commitment to the community.
“Debra's been very helpful with the parade,” Mimoni said of Kleinert.
“She's been very good in making sure all our permits are in order (and) making sure the electeds get there.”
Mimoni said McLaughlin is being honored not as an assemblyman but as president of the New York City Central Labor Council.
“Everyone pays lip service to veterans' issues,” Mimoni said. “Brian's the kind of guy that will actually pick up the phone. He makes things happen.”
In addition to encouraging the participation of Labor Council military veterans in the parade, McLaughlin arranged for union painters to repaint the old American Legion hall in Douglaston last year, Mimoni said.
Bryce Rea Associates is being honored for its responsible real estate business practices in the community and for its employees' volunteer work in the parade, Mimoni said.
And Farrell, who also is a faculty member at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, is being honored for his dedication to many civic groups.
In addition to selection of honorees, the parade group has sent out fliers for its annual fund-raiser dinner-dance, to be held Thursday, Feb. 26, at Terrace on the Park.
Tickets to the event, which will feature a 16-piece band, dinner, auctions and a raffle, are $100.
Mimoni said the parade organization raised more than $30,000 at last year's dance.
“We'd like to meet or exceed that this year,” Mimoni said.
He said the speeches at this year's dance would be kept to a minimum and the usual array of raffles would be consolidated into a single “super-raffle” with a maximum of 200 chances sold.
Prizes include a flat-screen TV, a trip for two in the continental United States and a night on the town with theater tickets and dinner for two.
“We're trying to find new and creative ways of getting revenue from outside the community,” Mimoni said. “The costs keep going up.”
Contributions to the parade can be mailed to the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Organization Inc., 42-28 Douglaston Parkway, Douglaston, NY 11363.
Those wishing to volunteer can attend the parade organization's meetings every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the annex of St. Anastasia Church, 45-14 245th St.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.