Young volunteer aims to make a difference

Valery Carpio, a 12-year-old Middle Village resident, likes to give back.
On May 16, the seventh-grade honor student at The Dorothy Bonawit Kole School worked for hours with Officer Barnwell and Officer Cherenfant of the 112th Precinct, this columnist, aunt Julia Carpio and grandma Judy Pesantez to paint several green relay mailboxes and scrub blue mailboxes in Forest Hills.
Unsightly graffiti and rust that built up for approximately 15 years became a distant memory within hours. The paint was donated by Gleason Paint Place in Woodside.
“A lot of days I walk around or I’m in a car, and I see graffiti everywhere,” Carpio said. “It doesn’t make the community look great. Once we cleaned up the mailboxes, I saw how much nicer and cleaner the whole community is.”
Local residents and business owners, including Yosef Simhayev of NY Hot Bagels & Bialys, thanked Carpio, inspiring her to volunteer more.
“We walked around to each mailbox and saw everybody thanking us and congratulating us for our work,” she said. “The smallest thing you can do can change everybody’s perspective.”
Carpio also volunteered for the Arts For Life competition, a recent breast cancer fundraising initiative in partnership with Paddle For The Cure, Elmhurst Hospital, and Ridgewood Savings Bank.
She even submitted a work of her own, a pink ribbon along with floral elements titled “Love, Life, Nature Forever.” It is now part of a permanent display for cancer patients and their families at Elmhurst Hospital.
“My artwork represents the hope and love that I have for all the patients,” Carpio said. “I am hoping to visit Elmhurst Hospital and see how my artwork is presented.”
Carpio hopes she can encourage other residents and her classmates to volunteer.
“When everybody’s collaborating, we can make a whole community nice and clean,” she said. “We can pick up garbage in parks, do more for our environment, and continue to help like we did last weekend.”
When Carpio is not volunteering, her passions are singing and acting. She was recently in a school production of “The Little Mermaid.”
“We understand that it’s not only important to work hard and get good grades, but find ways to make yourself relevant by going out there,” said her father, Mauricio Carpio. “Valery approached me and said she wanted to find ways to contribute to the community.”

Historic Midway Theatre reopening

On May 14, the Midway Theatre at 108-22 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills will reopen its doors. Operator Regal Cinemas decided last fall to close 543 theaters due to the pandemic, and the Midway was one of them.
“I thought they were shutting their doors for good, so this is such wonderful news,” said local resident Christina Gennaro. “The history surrounding Forest Hills is what made me want to move here. Movie theaters like the Midway are living history.”
With a largely intact vertical beacon, curved façade, and whimsical circular lobby with a sweeping staircase, the Art Moderne theater is one of the borough’s oldest, operating since 1942.
The Midway was named after the Battle of Midway in World War II. Opening attractions were the U.S. Navy’s Technicolor short The Battle of Midway, as well as The Pied Piper and Just Off Broadway.
Among the celebrities who made appearances were Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, who conducted a meet and greet.
Over time, it transitioned from a single screen to a quad to nine screens. In more recent times, digital advances and recliners were introduced.
“It holds fond memories,” said Jennifer Vega of the theater. “I’ve went there with my parents and siblings in the 1980s, had dates there in the late 1990s and 2000s, and then watched movies with my son.”
The Midway was designed by America’s foremost theater architect, Scotland native Thomas White Lamb, along with consulting architect S. Charles Lee. Today, Tom Andrew Lamb of White Plains is preserving his great-grandfather’s legacy.
“The most compelling reason that the Midway is worthy of preservation is the history that has taken place in this neighborhood theater,” he said. “For almost 80 years, this place has seen first dates, family outings, and solo trips on lonely nights. In our throwaway world, these spaces hold our collective experience and are repositories of memories.”
North Carolina resident Richard Delaney was six when the Midway opened.
“The opening was a big deal, it was like a black-tie event” he recalled. “It was modern Art Deco and completely different from the 1920s theaters.
“The Midway definitely needs to be preserved” Delaney added. “It’s an architectural treasure that was very ahead of its time.”
Over the years, the Midway hosted a range of events, including anniversary galas, benefits, and floor shows.
“My friends and I were the shadow cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” said Joseph Pormigiano. “I played the criminologist in the floor show,”
Marco Zanaletti is an airline employee from Italy. He has had the opportunity to visit Forest Hills on several occasions.
“I noticed the Tudor-style residential buildings and the Art Deco presence in places like the Midway,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘wow I am in the U.S. and in a real community, not just as a tourist coming to New York shopping along 5th Avenue’ I started to feel a part of New York history around me.”
“The Midway is a landmark in my life,” added Thomas Duffy, whose Midway journey began in 1982 with E.T. “My first date with my longtime partner was at the Midway in 2000, when we saw Down to You. I hope to see a blockbuster or two this summer.”

Art contest doubles as cancer fundraiser

A virtual art contest and breast cancer fundraiser broadcast from Ridgewood Savings Bank in Forest Hills last Friday attracted 33 artists.
Money raised from the event benefited Elmhurst Hospital and local nonprofit Paddle For The Cure (PFC).
It was produced and co-hosted by this columnist and PFC founder Leah Salmorin. Technical support was provided by Michael Wechsler.
“Salmorin is a former patient of our Hope Pavilion Cancer Center, where our excellent team of cancer specialists provide more than 12,000 visits a year treating people with cancer,” said Ruchel Ramos, associate director of Public Affairs & Community Engagement for Elmhurst Hospital.
“Faith, Hope, and Goodness” is a drawing by Judy Pesantez, a Middle Village resident who immigrated from Ecuador.
“The faith of cancer patients, represented in the background behind a pink ribbon, has a large sun for everyone to grasp,” she explained. “Hope is represented by the pink ribbon. Goodness is represented by caduceus on an evergreen field, which symbolizes the work of health professionals and first responders.”
“Unravel My Heart” by Forest Hills resident Nelly Lester took top prize in the painting category.
“My canvas is mostly filled with bright acrylic colors and clean designs,” she said. “My preference is usually flowers, women, and children in abstract form. My artwork tends to represent reality and true happiness, and that’s a sign of freedom.”
Photographer and animator Amy Lipson was the winner in the photography category with “N.Y. City: Home Base.”
“The symbolism of a strong foundation surrounded by plant life relates to the resilience of New York City and the comforting power of nature that my home base of Forest Hills provides during these trying times,” she said. “Staying local this past year allowed me to profoundly explore its beauty and peacefulness while on my daily walks.”
David Chatowsky, an artist and owner of three galleries from Rhode Island, entered his painting “Hope.”
“It features a young woman harvesting dates from the Judean Date Palm, which was extinct until recently when it was cultivated from 2000-year-old seeds,” he said. “The sun rays represent a blessing on her of health and security, and they go back into the rising sun, which represents a hopeful new day for all creation.”
The winner in the drawing category was 17-year-old Tina Zhao of Elmhurst.
“Tina decided to draw my older sister Panny because she has so much respect for her,” said her cousin, Amy Zhao. “Panny is an emergency room nurse who had to work countless hours. Being surrounded by death and mourning families and being separated from her loved ones just to keep them safe took a toll on her mental and emotional health.”
“I jumped out of my seat when I heard I was one of the winners,” said Glendale resident and Poland native Dorothy Stepnowska, who owns Flower Power Coffee House NYC.
Stepnowska won in the mixed media category for her installation “COVID-19 Memorial.” She donated her $100 prize to Elmhurst Hospital.
The prizes were made possible thanks to a donation by Ridgewood Savings Bank.
“Ridgewood Savings Bank believes that banking is all about people, helping them obtain their dreams, and making a positive impact on each other and the communities we share,” said Forest Hills branch manager Nancy Adzemovic.

Art competition to benefit cancer patients

An art contest is uniting diverse artists from Queens and beyond with a mission of bringing hope for cancer patients.

On April 30 at 5:30 p.m., Paddle For The Cure founder Leah Dulce Salmorin and this columnist will co-host an art show on Zoom and Facebook from the landmarked Ridgewood Savings Bank at 107-55 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills.

“Arts For Life” will feature numerous artists competing in the categories of painting, photography, and drawing.

Winning artists will donate their artwork to be displayed at the Hope Pavilion Clinic. Entries will be judged by Mervin David, an artist and nurse practitioner with Elmhurst Hospital.

They will also receive $100 donated by Ridgewood Savings Bank. Artists who enrolled paid $20, which will benefit Elmhurst Hospital’s Hope Pavilion Cancer Clinic and Paddle For The Cure.

“Ridgewood Savings Bank has always been a bank that prides itself on its community.,” said branch manager Nancy Adzemovic. “I want to go out into the community and search for more partnerships.”

Over the years, the bank has funded history murals, sponsored the 112th Precinct’s Night Out Against Crime, organized blood drives, and coordinated a carnival-themed family festival.

The contest was inspired in part by an exhibit at Jade Eatery in Forests Hills Gardens by this columnist titled “Reflections of Historic Forest Hills.” Since 2019, it has been the center of several fundraising events for Paddle For the Cure.

Salmorin is herself a breast cancer survivor. She founded Paddle For The Cure, which supports fellow survivors through recreational opportunities to foster a healthy lifestyle and offer emotional support and team spirit.

“I vowed to give where I can, to help others affected, and I feel that I cannot waste the rest of my life without making an impact on this planet,” said Salmorin.

To maintain a healthy body and state of mind, Salmorin swims, bikes, does yoga and acupuncture. She serves as a lector at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Joan of Arc.

Her story, “Humility & Faith,” discusses her two lessons as a survivor and was featured in “Faces of Inspiration,” a book that spotlights breast cancer stories.

“Giving me the gift of life is also my way of giving back to Elmhurst Hospital, my home away from home where I was treated. I will never forget the first time I stepped into the doors and the entire staff welcomed me with beautiful smiles.

“I also believe that there are many artists who need to be recognized, and this event brings every individual together as one for a great cause,” she added. “Art is the key to healing that can touch one heart to another.” Purchase tickets for the virtual event here.

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