As he was driving to work in Long Island City in late March 2020, Charles Boyce grew tired of hearing about the ventilator crisis that was plaguing New York City days during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president of Boyce Technologies Inc. made up his mind to tackle the ventilator crisis head-on and convened a meeting with several engineers at his company’s Pearson Place headquarters.
Within 24 hours, Boyce and his team successfully repurposed components and software from Boyce Technologies’ line of mass transit emergency communications equipment and constructed a working ventilator. A short time later, Boyce received a call from a friend who asked him to join a group of manufacturers that were developing emergency ventilators.
“In the end, we abandoned our internal design, although we were able to leverage much of the research that we’d already done,” Boyce said. “It wasn’t about commercialization or who got credit for a ventilator at that point; it was about saving lives.”
On Dec. 1, Boyce was honored along with 10 other business leaders at Terrace on the Park as the Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual Business Heroes of the Year Awards Dinner. This year, the event paid special tribute to the business leaders “who went above and beyond to support small businesses and the Queens community” during the pandemic.
The honorees included Nupur Arora of Queens Curry Kitchen, who began a food delivery service donating thousands of Indian meals to seniors, COVID-19 patients and other patients undergoing intense medical procedures.
Declan Morris of Austin Public & Stacked Sandwich Shop, who was forced to close one of his restaurants when the pandemic hit but quickly pivoted to feed frontline workers and families in need, was among the honorees.
So too was Patrick Oropeza of Bolivian Llama Party, whose crew worked tirelessly to provide food donations to those in need and supported local charities in the face of his restaurant’s financial challenges. Also honored was Mark Boccia of Bourbon Street, who in March 2020 launched the “Food for the Fearless” campaign, which raised more than $100,000 to donate 10,000 meals to frontline hospital workers.
Frank Russo of Russo’s on the Bay was recognized for donating grab-and-go lunches to New Yorkers in need throughout the pandemic and has raised millions of dollars to fund education and research of life-threatening diseases.
“The past two years have been incredibly challenging for our borough, and throughout this unprecedented time, so many men and women have gone above and beyond to support their neighborhoods and our small business community,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Grech said. “It is our pleasure to thank them and recognize them for their hard work and selflessness at this year’s Business Heroes of the Year Awards Dinner. They may come from different industries and different walks of life, but they all represent the very best of Queens.”
Other honorees included Rachel Keller of Aigner Chocolates, who at the height of the pandemic donated Easter chocolates to seniors in isolation and a 2-foot-tall chocolate bunny to frontline workers at Elmhurst Hospital. Melva Miller of the Association for a Better New York was recognized for leading the organization’s outreach efforts for the 2020 census, working to ensure a fair and accurate count of all New Yorkers particularly those living in historically underserved communities.
Also honored was NYC Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris, who took the helm at SBS two months into the pandemic, and has “tirelessly advocated for entrepreneurs and small business owners since stepping into the role.”
Larry Zogby of RDS Same Day Delivery was recognized for helping the chamber deliver over 1 million face masks and PPE to small businesses at the height of the pandemic, and Michael Peterson of the Peterson Foundation was recognized for launching the Small Business Resource Network, which embedded a team of small business recovery specialists within each of the five Chambers of Commerce in New York City.