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Ozone Park resident selected as finalist in national ‘Cheers to Heroes’ competition

Ozone Park resident Kay Menashe dedicates her time to strengthening children’s education in the neighborhood through her community library. (Photo courtesy of Menashe)

An Ozone Park resident who launched a community library during the COVID-19 pandemic is one of three finalists in a national contest celebrating everyday heroes from across the country. 

When the local public libraries in Howard Beach and Ozone Park were closed amid the pandemic, Kay Menashe stepped up and decided to set up an outdoor library in front of her home where she encouraged her neighbors to bring a book and grab a book to take home. 

Now, Menashe is being honored as a finalist for her support and continued dedication to her community as she is in the running to be named the winner of this year’s Sparkling Ice “Cheers to Heroes” contest with a cash prize of $10,000. 

“It’s really exciting. I’ve never won anything or been in a contest. When I opened up my library, I didn’t do it for recognition; I did it for the community,” said Menashe, who was nominated by a local resident for her contributions to the community. “Now, to be a finalist in the Sparking Ice campaign is totally awesome.” 

In April, Talking Rain Beverage Company, the maker of Sparkling Ice beverages, teamed up with one of America’s favorite hometown heroes, three-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, to kick off this year’s campaign, where together, Douglas and the brand announced the campaign’s call to action for consumers to nominate a hero in their life. 

In addition to the $10,000 grand prize, the nominees will have a chance to win first-, second- and third-place prizes valued at $7,500, $5,000 and $500, respectively. The brand will award 300 nominees with the third-place cash prize as a way to celebrate even more heroes for their community service. In total, the brand will be giving away over $170,000 in cash prizes throughout the contest period.

Between April and May, thousands of nominations were submitted from over 905 cities across the country, highlighting everyday heroes ranging from first line responders, community activists, teachers, office managers, doctors, nurses, friends, neighbors and more, for the notable and heroic work they’ve done in their communities. 

Menashe, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and went into remission, had started the community library that has since then inspired others to take action, as many began donating books and gift cards to help build the library. 

“I’m still very involved in the community, doing stuff as I get better. People drop books in front of my house — there are four bins for adult books and four bins for children’s books,” Menashe said. “At one time, we had 20 bins. They are always outside and available.” 

Menashe has continued to evolve the neighborhood collection throughout the pandemic and hosted events and educational activities for children, putting her energy back into her community that she loves. 

For Easter, Menashe organized an event distributing free candy and books for children, and held another event on Mother’s Day offering free pizza, cookies and arts and crafts for children. 

Unfortunately, since Menashe has been diagnosed with cancer again and is starting chemotherapy soon, her library is currently shut down as she takes care of her health.

Menashe is now searching for volunteers to help her with the community library while she is recovering in Long Island.  

“I just feel bad that I personally can’t do it, so we are trying to figure out another step,” Menashe said. “Once I’m back from chemotherapy, I will be better than ever.” 

If she does win the $10,000 grand prize, Menashe said she will give back to the community by buying new books and gift cards to ship to residents’ homes. 

For Menashe, being a hero is not wanting a “thank you” in return for the things she does for the community, she said. 

“You just do it because you want to,” Menashe said. “It makes you feel good to help other people.”

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