BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Community members joined local civic and elected officials on Thursday to celebrate Taste of Ridgewood, the annual fundraising dinner and awards ceremony held to benefit the Ridgewood YMCA.
The event featured an assortment of sweet and savory cuisine from over 20 local eateries. Ridgewood’s rich diversity was represented in a wide range of dishes, including local Italian, Mexican, Greek, Latin, New American and Nepalese fare.
In addition to the tasting portion of the event, Taste of Ridgewood also included a special awards ceremony to honor state Senator Joseph Addabbo, Linda Monte, president of the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society, and Madeline Taub-Chan, superintendent of Community School District 24.
“The Y is an integral part of our community,” Addabbo said. “With the Y, our families are healthier, our communities are stronger and our students are smarter.” The senator announced that $500,000 from this year’s state budget would be allocated for the Alliance for the YMCA, with another $200,000 allocated for the YMCA of Greater New York.
Monte was recognized for her continued work with the St. Matthias Girl Scouts, as well as her preservation efforts through the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society. Monte was instrumental in helping to restore and obtain landmark status for the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House on Flushing Avenue.
“She is a living embodiment of the Girl Scout Law,” Donna Dowd said. “She has brought fun, confidence building and education to generations of girls and their leaders in our neighborhood and state.”
Monte praised the YMCA for providing valuable childcare services to working mothers and families at a time where such services were scarce. “I think it’s important for us not only to preserve our buildings, but our character and our culture,” she said.
Taub-Chan was also honored for her work as an educator and her commitment to expanding educational programs throughout the community.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley was also on hand to present special proclamations to both Monte and Chan for their work within the community. The audience was also treated to a performance from the Grover Cleveland High School Y Step Team.
Crystal River Williams and Dee Plowman, co-owners of Norma’s Cafe on Catalpa Avenue, received the first-ever Innovator Award.
“Norma’s is a community-driven, small and intimate cafe that has a menu made up of local finds specific to the neighborhood,” said LaKeisha Harris, executive director of the Ridgewood YMCA. “The cafe is not only a coffee shop. It provides a warm ambiance for Ridgewood residents. They help support local entrepreneurs by using the space to display and sell the work of Ridgewood artists.”
Brian Taveras, a local high school junior enrolled in the music and YMCA Scholars Program, hosted the awards ceremony. Taveras shared his own personal struggles and explained how the YMCA was instrumental in improving his life.
“It’s hard being a teen,” Taveras said. “A year ago, I didn’t know where I was going. The Y gave me an outlet and multiple opportunities. I used to be a closed book, but the Y helped me to be confident and share my stories. The support given to teens through the Y is very important.”