Simotas & Maloney Celebrate Women’s History

Officials honor 3 local women for achievement in community service and education
May 14, 2018

Astoria, N.Y. – On Friday, May 11, New York State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney hosted their annual luncheon to celebrate Women’s History and to honor three exceptional local women for their commitment to community service. Invited guests attended the celebration which was held at George’s restaurant at Kaufman-Astoria Studios.

The honorees were: Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, founder and Executive Director of the non-profit organization Hour Children which is based in Long Island City; Sadete Mujovic, an English teacher at NYC’s Legacy High School and Public Relations Coordinator for the Astoria-based Queens chapter of the Muslim American Society; and Marie Torniali, Executive Director of the Central Astoria LDC and Chairperson of Queens Community Board 1.

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas said:

“Congresswoman Maloney and today’s honorees inspire me to continue serving the needs of my community and putting my heart and soul into that work, as each of them has done in their own unique way. Throughout our nation’s history, women have fought for justice, equality and the well-being of their communities and these special women continue in that tradition, making better each of the different worlds that are touched by their wholehearted commitment to serving others.”

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said:

“These three women are outstanding members of the Queens community, and well deserving of this honor. As Chairperson of Community Board 1, Marie Torniali helps to shape the landscape and to keep our neighborhood thriving. Sister Tesa Fitzgerald’s work as Executive Director of Hour Children has helped countless incarcerated and formerly incarcerated mothers and children successfully rejoin our community and rebuild their lives. As Director of Education for the Muslim American Society, Sadete Mujovic is an integral part of a movement to better the individual, and society as a whole, through imparting Islamic learning, promoting community service, and engaging in political activism. Without these women, Queens would not be what it is today. Their dedication and commitment serves as an inspiration to us all.”

Sister Tesa Fitzgerald is the Executive Director of Hour Children which helps women in prison and provides supportive housing and other services to formerly incarcerated women and their children. Sister Fitzgerald founded the non-profit in 1992, after transforming her convent into a home for children whose mothers were incarcerated at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Her two core beliefs are the foundation for the help Hour Children provides: 1) Change takes time and; 2) Love makes the difference. Sister Fitzgerald has been named a CNN Hero (2012), a White House Champion of Change (2013), the 2014 winner of the Opus Prize, and in 2015 was awarded the Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontific. In 2017, she was named to the Irish American Hall-of-Fame.

Sister Fitzgerald said, “Women are the heart and the strength of our world! They bring to birth the best in humanity with creativity, compassion and love – reasons to celebrate today and every day!”

Sadete Mujovic has been a dedicated educator for 15 years and currently teaches high school English to students with learning disabilities at New York’s Legacy High School and serves as the coordinator for students’ Individualized Education Programs. She gives back to the community through her work at the Queens chapter of the Muslim American Society, where she ran the after-school programs at their Astoria center for 6 years and now handles public relations and outreach.

Sadete Mujovic said, “I would like to thank our Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and our Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas for conferring this honor on me. I am grateful to be recognized as one of today’s honorees and to be able to celebrate the vital accomplishments of women throughout history and in our community. Congresswoman Maloney and Assemblywoman Simotas are great role models and an inspiration to women in our community. I also thank the countless other wonderful women who everyday do the hard work of growing and keeping our community prosperous and healthy.”

Marie Torniali has lived in and devoted herself to the betterment of Astoria for the past thirty-nine years and says she “would not think of living anywhere else.” Her devotion to community service began at the Central Astoria LDC working on its creation of the Steinway Street Business Improvement District. She was appointed its executive director in 2003 and has expanded Central Astoria LDC’s cultural programming, community development and affordable housing preservation in Astoria ever since. Concurrently, Ms. Torniali has served on Queens Community Board 1 since 2010 and is now the elected chairperson.

Marie Torniali said, “Astoria is the great neighborhood that it is in large part because of the strong women who dedicate their time and energy to make it so. We are blessed to have two outstanding and inspiring women as elected officials, Congresswoman Maloney and Assemblywoman Simotas who put our community’s well-being first and strive to make our world a better place. I thank them for this kind recognition. I am proud and privileged to be honored alongside two exceptional women, Sister Tesa Fitzgerald and Sadete Mujovic who both exemplify dedication to community and the power of women to get the job done.“

Assemblymember Simotas concluded the event by offering her deep gratitude to Kaufman-Astoria Studios and specifically to President Hal Rosenbluth and Vice President Tracy Capune, as well as George’s restaurant for their generous support in making the event a success.