Women of Distinction
Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino and Councilwoman Michele Johnson, together with Councilwomen Laura Maier and Vicki Walsh, announced that nominations are now being accepted for the Town’s 2023 Women of Distinction Program. At the start of Women’s History Month, residents are invited to nominate extraordinary women who have made a difference in their communities.
“Each year, the Town has the honor of recognizing women who go above and beyond to improve the lives of those around them through our Women of Distinction Program,” said Councilwoman Johnson, who serves as Chairwoman of the Women of Distinction Committee. “If you know a special woman who helps make your community a better place to live, we invite you to nominate her to be a 2023 Town of Oyster Bay Woman of Distinction.”
Supervisor Saladino added, “We are proud to recognize women in our Town and invite residents to submit nominations of those who make a difference and enrich the lives of others. We look forward to sharing their stories and recognizing their efforts to make our community, families and Town a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
Women of Distinction will be recognized at a special awards ceremony hosted by the Town Board in May. Nominations may be submitted for any achievement or honorable cause performed by the nominee. The Town seeks to recognize individuals for their contributions to the arts, education, environment, athletics, community or civic service, volunteerism or business. Honorees must live or work in the Town of Oyster Bay.
To submit a nomination for the Women of Distinction Awards Program, please use the form below or call (516) 624-6380 for an application.
Women of Distinction Nominee Form
Read About The 2022 Town of Oyster Bay
Women of Distinction Honorees
Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award– ELSA VASSALLO
If you’ve ever visited the Bayville Meat Market, you know this woman needs no introduction. Elsa Vassallo has been working at the establishment since she and her husband opened its doors in 1976. The couple had met at a supermarket, where he was a butcher and she was a meat wrapper. Elsa’s husband Pasquale passed away in 1989, leaving her a young widow with four children. She and her son Eddie kept the business going. Elsa worked pretty much every day since, until the start of the pandemic. She is now 85 years old. Elsa is someone who everyone knows – and someone who knows everybody. Her family laughs when they recall how she knows everybody’s business and is not shy to give her opinion. To say she is a beloved member of the community is an understatement. She loves her neighborhood, never wanted to go anywhere else, and displays an unwavering commitment to her work, her family and her community. Although her family advises her not to come in everyday for her own health, she would rather be at the market than be home. She has seen three generations of her family come through the market, which remains and will remain a family run business and staple in the community. The business is now run by her son Eddie and her grandson, Michael. Elsa and her late husband had four children: Eddie, Kurt (who also works at the market), Rita and Nina.
Looking for a volunteer opportunity when her children started school, Judy Carey turned to Canine Companions for Independence, which helps place highly-trained service dogs with people in need. She has helped raise several dogs and while it’s difficult for her to part with the amazing animals she raises, the reward of seeing someone in need get a service dog is all the reassurance she needs. One of her pets, a trained service dog, helps those in need at organizations such as DogAbility, where he helps both children and adults.
Terri Cavaliere worked as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner in the NICU at Northwell in Manhasset from 1982 through 2020 and is now a Professor of Nursing at the School of Nursing at SUNY Stony Brook, a position she has held for several years. Terri is internationally known for her expertise on issues relating to the NICU and Nursing Education. She has mentored hundreds of nurses over her 40 plus years in nursing and education and continues to do so at SUNY. Terri also has served as Board Secretary of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hicksville and is active in the Abraham Comfort Dog Ministry of the church.
Melanie Duffy is the owner of Broadway Gourmet Caterers in Massapequa. Over the years she has made countless contributions to the community, and especially so during the height of the COVID pandemic. She worked to give back to those on the front lines and residents in need, donating hundreds of meals to staff at hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. She initiated a ‘Feed our Heroes Mission,’ through which she matched all donations to feed our healthcare heroes. Melanie also teamed up with retired police officers to help feed over 1,000 of New York City’s police force and helped coordinate meal delivery giveaways to seniors living alone.
Catherine Flanagan is the President of the Plainedge Board of Education and a staunch advocate for the children and taxpayers of the community. She has been recognized numerous times by the NYS School Boards Association, earning awards in areas of leadership, mastery in boardsmanship and board excellence. She is a Board Member for the Nassau/Suffolk School Boards Association Executive Committee, representing all Nassau County School Districts and advocating for all children and all public schools and also serves on the NYS School Boards Association Champions of Change Committee.
Patricia Hart is the owner of Hart & Soul Dance and Performing Arts – a studio for students ages 2-18. While COVID caused a huge setback to her business, her biggest concern was that the children were hit hard both physically and emotionally. As soon as she could get it set up – ‘Miss Trish’ reopened her studio that first summer and never looked back, all the while keeping focus on the students and the need for them to have a safe place to let go, breathe and enjoy dance and music. She also organizes donation drives in her community.
Christie Jacobson is a highly successful woman both in her professional and personal life. An accomplished attorney, Christie serves as general counsel to public school districts throughout New York State and is often called upon to speak on legal issues for various organizations, including the NYS School Boards Association, as well as others. Christie has been recognized by organizations for her leadership in law, as well as an Outstanding Woman in Law and New York Women Leaders in Law. She is also involved in her local PTA.
Margaret Marchand has been described as a warrior when it comes to defending the rights of children, both in her role as a school board member and parent in her community. She was particularly active at the height of the COVID pandemic, when she helped countless children not only in her hometown, but across Long Island. Margaret worked tirelessly to help maintain some level of normalcy for all students and worked to make sure students didn’t miss out on once in a lifetime opportunities such as sporting activities and graduation ceremonies.
Kathy Nastri is a lifelong resident of East Norwich who has given her heart and soul to the community. Kathy serves as Executive Director of Harmony Heights, a nonprofit which provides mental health and educational support services to struggling young people. She joined the staff over 30 years ago as a clinical social worker, and is currently executive director. Kathy has made a concerted effort to forge a bond between her organization and the surrounding community, feeling it was important for both groups to become more connected and to help alleviate misconceptions with mental health.
Kim Poulos Lieberz is the CEO, Chief Creative Officer, and entrepreneurial spirit of KGI Design Group, a woman-owned creative agency. She is also co-creator and owner of Barnyard Lane Sign Company and a founding board member of the interior design not-for-profit DesignGivers.org. Kim donates funds and services to various non-profit organizations, and is being honored as this year’s Corporate Honoree by the American Cancer Society for her dedication to the organization.
Merrill Zorn is the President/CEO of Zorn’s of Bethpage and the fourth generation to treasure the traditions of her 82-year-old family business. Merrill’s promise to her community and staff is to move into the future, while holding on to the values of the past. Her innovative managerial skills, excellent business insight and knowledge keep the business going strong. For 39 years, she has loved working in all aspects of the business’ day-to-day operations. Merrill is proud to run a business that gives generously – she is dedicated to charities and local organizations and is a member of multiple board and business associations.
Read About The 2021 Town of Oyster Bay
Women of Distinction Honorees
Amy Watson is a world languages teacher in the Locust Valley School District. Within the first few days of the pandemic, Amy began to feel concerned for residents in her community, mainly those who may not be able to get out of the house or couldn’t otherwise receive groceries and other essentials. Amy immediately set up a food donation drive, and before she knew it half the community was involved. She and her family helped oversee operations, sorting goods and making sure all items went to seniors and others who perhaps couldn’t come out of their homes, especially at the start of the pandemic. It wasn’t difficult for Amy to find assistance, she’s the type of community member everybody wants to help. She’s someone that encourages and inspires others, including her students and her neighbors. She’s often described as a local celebrity, and when she battled breast cancer a few years ago the entire community rallied around her – a true sign of how she influences and inspires people every day.
Cyndy Ergen works each and every day to make sure that all students have a fair and equal opportunity at a prime education. In the fall, Cyndy organized and worked with local community organizations to arrange for 100 backpacks filled with school supplies to be given to Locust Valley students who may not have otherwise had the means to obtain them. Cyndy worked with the local libraries in Locust Valley and in Bayville to organize supply lists for residents interested in helping, and also worked to ensure that the privacy of the individuals receiving the donations remained protected. Helping to ensure inclusivity to all in the community, Cyndy also organizes a Bilingual Night at the Bayville library. This event, held at the library twice a year, helps the parents in Locust Valley share information so they can be greater involved in their children’s education, and allows them to work together in managing the district’s website, calendar and other programs. During the pandemic, they Cyndy also incorporated a class to be available in Spanish regarding reaching proper nutrition during the pandemic. These are just two examples of the type of projects that Cyndy participates in to help all students achieve the highest level of success.
Alana Rosenstein has been a lifeline to hundreds of senior citizens in the Plainview, Old Bethpage and Syosset. As the supervising director of programs at the Mid-Island YJCC, Alana helps seniors to successfully age in place. She delivers critical services, including emotional support and assistance, transportation to local medical appointments and shopping, friendly visiting for isolated seniors, as well as various educational, social and wellness programs. The recent on-set of the pandemic did not slow her down. Alana shifted her efforts to help seniors continue to feel connected with others and ensure they had importance resources necessary for the older population during this unusual time. She arranged for check-in calls from either a social worker or nurse, and went out of her way to help countless seniors secure vaccine appointments. She coordinated activities for seniors in whatever means of technology was comfortable to them, whether it be by computer or telephone. She is described as someone who works around the clock to lift the spirits of the senior population.
Judy Wichter is someone who exemplifies the word benevolence. Feeling concern for those who may be struggling as a result of the sudden shutdown brought on by the pandemic, Judy wanted to do something to help. She decided to set up a ‘sharing table’ outside her home – offering free food, toiletries and cleaning supplies to those in need. People are invited to take what they need and if possible, leave what they can. While the concept is pretty simple, the lasting effect it has on the community is immeasurable. Judy was determined to help those struggling with job loss and food insecurity due to the pandemic. She set up items such as non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, toiletries and boxed food items, and set up a large banner that read ‘Take what you need, and leave what you can, if you can!’ The table was a tremendous success, with great participation, and a true no judgement zone for people who visited. Judy is no stranger to helping make things better for others. In her everyday job, Judy works with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Matilde Broder helps those in need across our borders. Born in Argentina, Matilde moved to the United States as a teenager and has made a great impact to countless of residents through her business in the Plainview community. She opened a travel agency in the neighborhood almost 30 years ago, at a time when many women were not business owners. In addition to helping clients fulfil their wish of a dream vacation, Matilde has helped countless children in Kenya through the Kenya Education Fund. Each year, Matilde hosts a consumer event inviting hundreds of clients and suppliers in the travel industry. At this event, many prizes are raffled off, with the proceeds going to the Kenya Education Fund. To date, Matilde’s efforts have raised $780,000 for this organization, which helps children in Kenya attend school. They even recently celebrated with a student who attended Harvard a few short years ago. As you can see, Matilde’s efforts go beyond her home community, as her benevolence extends across the world.
Donna Zaino’s commitment to our community has made her a significant resource that many know they can rely on. As a Parish Ministry Coordinator at St. Edward the Confessor, Donna is involved in running the food pantry, coordinating pantry volunteers, distributing backpacks with school supplies for those in need, gathering gift cards for families during the holidays, as well as other activities. Donna distributes parish-wide emails, which has helped many people feel connected to their parish during the pandemic. Donna also helps connect pantry clients with St. Vincent de Paul neighbors in-need and assists them with bills, insurance matters and other financial obligations. Donna’s service extends into the community, and she especially helps those who may be unable to make it personally to the parish remain connected. As a volunteer at Syosset Hospital, Donna would distribute Holy Communion to patients as well as coordinate the schedule for Eucharistic ministers to visit the hospital. As a Pastoral Care Coordinator at Cold Springs Nursing Home, Donna ran various prayer services each week for patients, as well as organized distribution of communion. She is a true advocate for the community and helps those in need at every opportunity.
Brenda Judson is described as someone who always sees the best in others. After retiring from the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Brenda became a member of the Hicksville School Board, where she has served as vice president the last few years. As a representative of the School Board, Brenda was the driving force behind the Social Emotional policy for the district. She also chairs a District Safety Committee, which has worked to implement a district-wide safety program with frequent drills in all school buildings, as well as training of all staff regarding response to an active shooter or other emergency situation. Throughout her tenure in the district, Brenda has demonstrated time and again that the safety, security and mental health of the children is at the forefront of her priorities. Brenda has held numerous leadership positions in the Hicksville PTA, and has also served as a Girl Scout leader and Gold Award advisor. In addition to the countless young men and women she has inspired in her years as a district representative, Brenda is a role model to two very important women in her own personal life – her beautiful daughters, both of whom are products of the Hicksville School District.
ROSEANNE PUOPLO-CARTER – ‘DR. ROE’
Roseanne Puoplo-Carter has some impressive initials which follow her name as she is a highly-respected local dentist. ‘Dr. Roe,’ as she is called, DDS, FAGD, is not only a well-known professional in her community, but is equally well-known for her neighborhood involvement and benevolence. For the past 30 years, Dr. Roe has been an active member of the Sea Cliff and North Shore School District communities. In addition to running her practice, she has generously supported community projects and given time and service to various programs. As an active parishioner of Sea Cliff’s St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, she has given her time and talents to teaching religious education for almost 20 years, long after her own children had completed their religious education. In addition, Dr. Roe has supported the local youth programs sponsoring Little League Softball teams, has worked with the PTAs in her local school district and supported local small business. She has an unassuming nature and truly loves to care for others, whether it is through providing rides to someone in need, making a meal for a neighbor who is ill or calling to ensure others are safe during a storm. She is a role model for others, demonstrating a great ability to balance family life, a professional career and service to her community.
JENNIFER TACTIKOS SMITH
As a leader in the field of tree preservation, Jennifer Smith exemplifies a true business acumen. Always showing a flair for business, Jennifer began working for her father’s company – Arbor Consulting in Massapequa. She rose through the ranks, becoming a principal of the company, and learned that she had to work twice as hard to show the industry could dominate in a traditionally a man’s field. Jennifer ultimately took the steps needed to make Arbor Consulting a Nationally Certified Woman Owned Business. Jennifer has always been a bright young woman and has been described as a ‘force to be reckoned with.’ She shows determination to succeed in any project she undertakes and doesn’t let anything stand in her way. Although being personally and professionally impacted by challenges brought on by events like Super Storm Sandy, as well as the COVID pandemic, she has always put others first and helped countless of people in need through donation drives and other efforts. Like she has throughout all of the other trials she has faced, Jennifer continues to keep a positive attitude towards life, her family, business and her community.
Anna Cote is a junior at Locust Valley High School. Like so many students, especially those in the later years of their educations, Anna was very impacted by the sudden onset of the COVID pandemic. Especially at the beginning, many students faced a tough time and struggled through the first few months – but not Anna. Anna took a difficult situation and turned it into something extraordinary. Always determined and certainly very community-minded, Anna jumped right into action. She felt a strong desire to help others and wanted to act immediately. So what did she do? She purchased a sewing machine! She watched instructional videos on how to put together masks, and she began – by hand – making protective masks. And she has donated them to anyone in need of one – hundreds and hundreds of masks. Anna is a true inspiration not just to her peers, but to women everywhere. Thank you Anna, for making a difference and for bringing some much-needed light to a dark situation. The Town of Oyster Bay is pleased to recognize Anna Cote as its first ever Junior Woman of Distinction!
Lauren is a nurse manager at LIJ, who oversaw a COVID Unit at her hospital and spearheaded the COVID response. Over the past year, her dedication to the well-being of her patients, as well as her staff, has shown her true selfless nature. Lauren has been recognized by the hospital and the nursing community for her unique abilities in caring for psych and dementia patients. Additionally, she has organized clothes drives among the staff, where much-needed clothing, shoes and coats were collected for patients in need upon their discharge from the hospital. Lauren is a prime example of a medical professional who has kept it together for the sake of her family even when the job has proven to be particularly devastating, especially over the past year.
Kelly is an art teacher in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, where she teaches computer graphics and media arts to high school students. She is also an advisor for the National Honor Society, through which she oversaw activities that raised over $18,000 for charitable causes including the Alzheimer’s Association, Relief International, Doctors Without Borders, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Heart Association, St. Jude’s and many more! During the pandemic, when many strived for a sense of normalcy, she taught her students an important lesson … she told them that creativity wasn’t canceled. She kept her students engaged, looking for fun but meaningful virtual experiences. Kelly is someone who is always willing to go above and beyond for her students, as well as for her own and surrounding communities. Many of her weekends are spent helping her students with a food pantry in the Plainview community, all while being a ‘supermom’ to her own young children. Like many moms, Kelly keeps it all together and just does what she needs to do. She is an inspiration to her students, her family, and her community.
An active member of her school district, the neighborhood and her synagogue, Robin is always looking to lend a helping hand. For years, she has played a significant role on the Syosset PTA, serving as president and serving on the PTA District Council. Through her local civic association, Robin was an active participant in the Cerro Wire Coalition and helped with the community effort to oppose the building of a mall on the property several years ago. An avid member of her temple, she has served as a member of the Board of Trustees for over a decade and has been president of the sisterhood for multiple terms, in addition to chairing multiple committees. During the pandemic, Robin was instrumental in organizing events in a safe and secure fashion, whether it be moving events outdoors or to virtual methods when necessary. Through these efforts, Robin helped ensure that both the good work of the congregation could continue, but that the members also could continue the important feeling of connection and community. Thanks to her vast efforts, the members of the congregation enjoyed baking together, monthly book discussions, and fundraisers that help the entire temple, its Religious School and Library as well as the community as a whole.
Maureen McDonough is someone who inspires others. She not only promotes and supports women in positions of cosmetology through her role as a mentor in the Cosmetic Executive Women mentorship program, but in her position at Drybar, she gives women confidence and self-esteem. Maureen’s daily goal is mentoring other professionals and leading the way with the younger generation, helping young professionals develop plans to achieve their career goals in the beauty industry. She helps them grow personally and professionally by encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones and maximize their potential. A professional in the beauty industry, Maureen promotes the importance of seeing beauty on the inside, as much as the outside. She is a true trailblazer – just as involved in her local community as she is in her professional life. She serves on the board for the Towers of Freedom Monument, volunteers with the Bowery Mission, Girl Scouts, Wednesday Child and Dress for Success, among others. Throughout the pandemic, she has helped provide food, clothing, or other resources to those in need.