1999-10-16 / Columnists

Meet The Irish

by Harry McGuirk

One Man can make a difference. That isn’t an idealistic statement—it is reality—right here in Rockaway!

Civic associations, and there are plenty throughout the peninsula, often are the recipients of the credit for the "progress" that takes place. But, look around you. While civics serve an important purpose in the community, providing a collective voice and power in numbers, the individual efforts often go unmentioned.

It is these individuals that are the ones getting the ball rolling, often providing leadership in new direction. They are the ones putting in their time, sweat, tears, and often money, to bring about positive change for the community.

Who are these people?

Well, they can be someone like Joe Hartigan, who watched a ferry transport commuters from a port across from his workplace and said, "Why not in Rockaway." He began to make the phone calls, do the research, and get the numbers. His commitment to this goal for Rockaway made ferry service a feasible transportation alternative, with the Port Authority issuing a study, Congressman Weiner pledging support, and ferry operators coming out of the woodwork.

There’s Esther Grillo, who belongs to the Rockaway Artists Alliance, but undertook an individual effort to beautify a part of Rockaway. She has painted murals on the "wave" bus stops along Shore Front parkway, even making it a community project with art students in local schools. Esther spearheaded this project, finding the funding, supplies and putting in the hours to bring the community a sight for all to treasurer.

Sometimes the journey for these individuals is long and lonely…
Not everyone is thinking beach preservation, but Ingrid Ain continues to address the need for dunes on our beaches, while Liz Sulik attended a coastal coalition conference in Washington, D.C., at her own expense, to learn about beach conservation for Rockaway.

Yes, even Bernie Blum, environmentalist extraordinaire, makes the list for individual efforts (especially one on a lonely journey).

We could never forget our teachers, who constantly impact the life of children in Rockaway. One such person is Mary Dever, a reading teacher at JHS 198 in Arverne. She believes in "her" children and is proud to display their talents and gifts to the community, letting residents know that Rockaway’s kids are definitely special.

Then there are religious and parent leaders, such as Reverend Dr. Henry and Lucille Maddox of New Beginning Church and the Beach Channel High School Parents’ Association. They make us aware that parental involvement is essential in a child’s life, as well as the impact it has on the school environment.

There are many more people who add to our quality of life and are moving Rockaway in new directions. Look around you. Maybe it’s that person planting flowers at the end of your block. How about those that volunteer for cleaning empty lots and beaches? Could it be the tenant leaders at Hammels, Redfern, Edgemere and Arverne Houses? They are all around us!

Mark Yost once said, "History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small."

Rockaway’s success will be judged based upon the many average joes and janes, who want to make their community just a little better for themselves and their neighbors.

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