Senators Fete Civic Member, Arts Dir.
A Middle Village civic activist and the director of a Long Island City performing arts center were honored by their local state senators as “Women of Distinction” during a eremony at the State Capitol in Albany last Tuesday, May 15.
State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo announced that his selection for this year’s “Woman of Distinction” from his district was Lorraine Sciulli, first vice president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.
Sheila Lewandowski, executive director of The Chocolate Factory in Long Island City, was named the “Woman of Distinction” for the 12th District represented by State Sen. Michael Gianaris.
“There are remarkable women in our midst whose lives, work or special accomplishments contribute to making our communities better, mak- ing our families stronger and serve as special examples to others,” said Addabbo. “The Senate’s ‘Women of Distinction’ Program provides a special opportunity to honor these women for their achievements and to thank them for the pride they bring to our communities.”
“I commend Sheila Lewandowski for her distinguished service to our community and am honored to induct her into this year’s group of Women of Distinction,” Gianaris said. “Not only is Sheila an asset to our neighborhood but she is also a friend, and it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to recognize her tremendous contributions to western Queens and her achievements with The Chocolate Factory.”
Each of the 62 senators’ honorees from throughout the state is now part of a special exhibit comprising their photos and biographies and proclaiming the contributions of such exemplary New York women. Each year, the Senate invites local residents to nominate friends, coworkers and neighborhood leaders whose outstanding work on behalf of their communities makes them deserving of the honor.
Previous winners in the annual event have included leading women from the world of business, academics and civic life, as well as those who have performed heroic or selfless acts, made significant discoveries or provided examples of personal excellence against difficult odds.
The Women of Distinction Program was created as part of the Senate’s celebration of Women’s History Month.
In addition to recognizing present day women, each March, the Senate hosts a display in the Legislative Office Building that honors other distinguished women from New York’s past, from leaders of the 19th Century suffragist movement to pioneers in education, science and the arts.
A resident of Middle Village since 1939, Sciulli grew up adjacent to Juniper Valley Park where she enjoyed playing league sports. She attended Resurrection Ascension School and Grover Cleveland High School. Upon graduating, Sciulli went to work in an investment counsel firm for approximately 15 years, was an associate and registered representative in the National Association of Security Dealers (NASD), and at one point held a real estate license.
Around 1980, Sciulli began her affiliation with the JPCA and, by 1990, had become active full-time. At JPCA, in addition to serving as first vice president, she also serves as editor and advertising manager for The Juniper Berry magazine and is chair of the membership committee.
As a member of Community Board 5 for almost 20 years, Sciulli serves on the Parks Committee. In addition, she is involved with the 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol, which serves as a liaison between neighborhood residents and the officers of the local police precinct on quality-of-life and crime issues.
Sciulli is married and has a daughter and four grandsons. She has been honored in the past for her many contributions to the community by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Assemblywoman Marge Markey, and she also received the JPCA Lifetime Achievement Award.
A resident of Long Island City, Lewandowski is co-founder and executive director of The Chocolate Factory Theater. Through her leadership, the theater has supported over 800 artists and as many as 35,000 visitors since opening its doors in 2004.
In addition, Lewandowski instituted the annual Taste of Long Island City as an economic and community development project, the proceeds of which further the work of The Chocolate Factory’s artists each year.
From 2004 to 2006, Lewandowski served as the first managing director of Queens Council on the Arts (QCA). During this time, she was instrumental in helping to secure new funding for QCA, increasing the budget by over 20 percent.
Prior to joining QCA, Lewandowski served from 1987 to 2004 as associate director of the Girls’ Vacation Fund (since renamed Girls’ Quest) a youth services agency focused on empowering under-served girls from New York City. Her devotion to Girls’ Quest started as a child when she was recruited out of the Stapleton Housing Project in Staten Island. During her tenure, Girls’ Quest assisted over 7,000 girls.
Lewandowski received a fellowship from the United Way of New York City’s Non-Profit Leadership Institute in 2004. She also lends her time and talent as a volunteer member of her local Community Board 2, the Board of the Non-Profit Coordinating Committee of New York City, One Percent for Culture Campaign, Queens Tourism Council and is a founding member of LIC Business Women.
She devotes much of her time to many causes from helping a local community garden build a compost bin to helping organize the local Halloween parade, to advocating for the arts and artists in New York City, and beyond.
For all of her efforts she has been recognized by City Council Member Leroy Comrie, Assemblywoman Catherine T. Nolan, the Long Island City Business Improvement District, and the Queens County Democratic Club, among others.