By Bill Parry
State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) hosted their annual luncheon last Friday to celebrate women’s history and honor three exceptional women from the neighborhood for their commitment to community service.
The honorees were: Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, founder and executive director of the non-profit organization Hour Children, which is based in Long Island City; Sadete Mujovic, a public relations coordinator for the Astoria-based Queens chapter of the Muslim American Society; and Marie Torniali, executive director of the Central Astoria LDC and chairwoman of Community Board 2.
“Congresswoman Maloney and today’s honorees inspire me to continue serving the needs of my community and putting my heart and soul into that work, as each of them has done in their own unique way,” Simotas said. “Throughout our nation’s history, women have fought for justice, equality and the well-being of their communities and these special women continue in that tradition, making better each of the different worlds that are touched by their wholehearted commitment to serving others.”
Sister Fitzgerald runs Hour Children, which helps women in prison and provides supportive housing and other services to formerly incarcerated women and their children. She founded the non-profit in 1992, after transforming her convent into a home for children whose mothers were in prison.
“Women are the heart and the strength of our world,” Sister Fitzgerald said. “They bring to birth the best in humanity with creativity, compassion and love — reasons to celebrate today and everyday.”
Mujovic has been an educator for 15 years, teaching high school English to students with learning disabilities. She gives back to the community through her work at the Queens chapter of the Muslim American Society, where she ran the after-school programs at its Astoria center for six years and now handles public relations and outreach.
“I am grateful to be recognized as one of today’s honorees and to be able to celebrate the vital accomplishments of women throughout history and in our community,” Mujovic said. “Congresswoman Maloney and Assemblywoman Simotas are great role models and an inspiration to the women in our community. I also thank the countless other wonderful women who every day do the hard work of growing and keeping our community prosperous and healthy.”
Torniali devoted herself to the betterment of Astoria for the past 39 years and said she “would not think of living anywhere else.” Her devotion to community service began at the Central Astoria LDCworking on its creation of the Steinway Street Business Improvement District. Torniali has served on Community Board 1 since 2010 and is now the elected chairwoman.
“Astoria is the great neighborhood that it is in large part because of the strong women who dedicated their time and energy to make it so,” Torniali said. “I am proud and privileged to be honored alongside two exceptional women, Sister Tesa Fitgerald and Sadete Mujovic, who both exemplify dedication to community and the power of women to get the job done.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr