The group Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens – “Our Communities” has proven its commitment to civic pride and fostering neighborliness by hosting periodic meet-ups, advertising small businesses and volunteer initiatives, promoting special events, spotlighting local history and coordinating and supporting fundraisers.
On February 5, the group held its one-year anniversary meet-up at Ovo Sodo, a popular Italian restaurant at 110-60 Queens Boulevard. Approximately 35 members attended, exchanging dialogue over food and live music next to a gallery by local award-winning artist Katherine Liepe-Levinson.
The Facebook group, which has been recognized by NY1, has grown from 900 members to 4,320 members within a year under the guidance of the five administrators, Michele Dore, Virginia Tuller Weiner, Luicina Antoinette Gaiser, Beauregard Gould, and “this Forest Hills Times columnist,” in addition to the humanitarian spirit of present and past community residents.
“Being an owner of a business takes lots of dedication and passion,” said Ovo Sodo owner Marco Del Peschio. “There are days that all your work pays off, and the meet-up was one of those days. It was a pleasure to see so many people socializing.”
“My main goal is to be happy while trying to make people around me happier,” said Dore. “This is exactly what I wanted. We have a mix of young and elder folks of different cultures and occupations.
“Many local business owners are members, so I wish they will post their special events and offers more often,” she added. “We are a local reference, and I want our members to open our page and find everything they are seeking in one place.”
As local communities continue to evolve, Weiner predicts a bigger impact.
“It is great that we have been able to make our voices heard, and I hope we will continue to have an influence with local businesses, as well as our city representatives to make our neighborhoods even more desirable,” she said.
“Our community is what a real community is all about,” said member Alicia Venezia. “I am amazed how once you post an inquiry, so many people respond. For example, I needed a good framing shop, so members recommended that I visit Art World, a longtime business on Metropolitan Avenue.”
In November, the group and FoHi Wellness joined forces to host a toy drive for Forestdale.
“What I truly love about our group is how the community comes together when someone is in need,” said FoHi Wellness co-founder Fadia Mohama. “We held a toy drive and potluck lunch at the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps. We had a major part in collecting over 1,000 toys, where every foster kid and some of their siblings received a toy for Christmas, and over $8,000 in donations for their Christmas Party.”
Dr. Arthur Gudeon, who has called Rego Park home for over 70 years and has been a podiatrist for 56 years, still plays tennis locally and remains active with the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer research. As a newcomer to meetups, he became a social butterfly.
“I was thrilled to be able to connect with so many locals and look forward to future get-togethers,” he said.
Lisa Yma aims to become a health and wellness practitioner with a focus on yoga, nutrition, and spirituality.
“I recently left my full-time work in order to spend more time with my family and pursue a career in this industry,” she said. “I shared my new path with the group, and everyone seemed eager to help me.”
Danca Marinkovska is new to Forest Hills.
“The first anniversary celebration was wonderful, as I had the privilege to meet new people in the area, and the group has allowed me to familiarize myself with restaurants, bakeries, shops, and bars all at my doorstep,” she said.
Kathy Fogel Semble has attended pervious meet-ups at Red Pipe Café and Dee’s. After losing a close friend to cancer, she said, “This event was just what I needed after a very emotional week. I have made many new friends, and we've become a very large family.”