In a decree only made possible by the Italian government, the Italian-American Federation of Brooklyn and Queens, alongside local Queens legislators, presented Toscano with the Ordine della Stella D’Italia (Order of the Star of Italy), along with the official designation of Cavaliere.
The title of Cavaliere (Knight) is given by the president of the Italian Republic and is a well-known honor bestowed on influential public figures of all social classes. The prestigious award and title are earned by those who promote long-lasting relations of friendship and collaboration between Italy and other countries, as described on the government website.
“We all can share this honor together because it reflects well on our beautiful center. And we have to also remember my mentor and the first Cavaliere that I knew, Cavaliere Peter Cardella. He’s not with us but I know he’s smiling,” said Toscano. “I just want to thank him for all his mentorship. I wouldn’t be in this position without him and we are going to hold together, staff, board, seniors, the Italian community, we are going to continue his legacy and serve the seniors for many years to come, Italian and not Italian.”
A grateful Toscano was also joined by her husband, friends, family and the center’s seniors. Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. and Councilman Robert Holden also gave Toscano a citation from their legislative offices.
“Unfortunately, I have senior centers in my district that no longer exist. I have seniors who no longer have a place to go because unfortunately, the pandemic wreaked havoc on our lives and our senior centers. But this senior center, the Cardella Senior Center, lives on stronger than ever, because of Barbara,” Addabbo said.
Holden reflected on his time with Toscano while he served on Community Board 5 for 30 years — knowing the center’s executive director for just as long. He also praised her efforts to keep the center together during the pandemic and recognized Toscano’s community-driven work.
“She’s gone above and beyond historically every year and growing an organization like this, which is so important to anchor the community, she deserves this honor,” Holden said.
The celebration ceremony ended with champagne, cake and cheers from all in the center’s well-attended cafeteria space.