Brooklyn Daily Eagle: St. Nicholas Home in Bay Ridge Holds 35th annual Garden Party
By John Alexander
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Friday, the St. Nicholas Home, a nonprofit interdenominational residence for seniors in Bay Ridge, hosted a well-attended gala to help raise funds for the home located at 435 Ovington Ave. The beautiful early fall evening brought out a number of elected officials, civic leaders and members of the clergy.
Distinguished attendees included City Councilmember Vincent Gentile; Brooklyn Republican Party Chairman Ted Ghorra; Republican City Council nominee John Quaglione and his wife Kerry; Penny Santo, representing Assemblymember Felix Ortiz; Phillipa Morrish, wife of the late community leader Larry Morrish; Zoe Koutsoupakis, group director and senior vice president of Signature Bank; Ralph Succar, president of the Bay Ridge Community Council; Joe Avignone, president of the Salaam Club of New York; George Jalinos, former president of the Salaam Club; the Rev. Antoine Rizk of the Church of the Virgin Mary; and Rev. Khader El-Yateem of the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge.
Edward Mafoud, owner of Damascus Bakeries and chairman of the St. Nicholas Home board of directors, welcomed guests, thanked everyone for supporting the home and called the event a labor of love.
“Everything that’s been done for this home in the last 35 years has been done with the thought of charity and of helping others,” he said. The event was organized by Mafoud and St. Nicholas Home board member Aida Nicolaou.
Mafoud said the seniors living at the home experience a sense of family and friendship. “For many of the people in our home, we are all they have,” said Mafoud. “We have 70 residents living at the St. Nicholas Home. We provide everything that you would expect from a loving family."
The residents of the home are provided with meals, housekeeping, security and various social activities. “It’s a struggle to keep our residents within our walls based on the fact that government assistance is only giving us $40 a day,” Mafoud said.
“So if it wasn’t for the people under this tent, if it wasn’t for all of you donating generously and other members of our community who do that, we would not be in business today. It’s a struggle from day to day, month to month, year to year to provide for these people,” adding, “but if you continue to be with us, we will continue to be with you.”
Gentile said the garden party was like a class reunion. “The fact that we’re all here tonight reflects how anchored we are in the community… and the St. Nicholas Home fills such a great need in our community for older adults,” said Gentile.
“Although this is my last year as the City Councilman, I will make it my duty to pass it on to the next councilmember, whoever that might be, that their duty will be to keep the St. Nicholas Home in their budget each and every year.”
Quaglione agreed with Gentile and said that he and Gentile have worked together over the years in different capacities, and that if he is elected to the City Council he will heed Gentile’s advice and “stand with St. Nicholas as a friend and as a partner as he [Gentile] has done for so many years.”
The St. Nicholas Home opened its doors in 1982. It was the dream of the late Rt. Rev. Gregory Abboud of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral on State Street to build a residence for elderly people in the Arab-American community. Abboud died in 1978, but not before he signed the contract to purchase the old Bay Ridge Hospital. Along with the help of community leaders Richard and Florence Zarick, the property was secured and Abboud’s dream became a reality.
The old Bay Ridge Hospital building was ultimately renovated into a 74 bed facility to serve the community at large. Today, St. Nicholas feels more like a hotel for seniors than an adult home, and its board of directors includes some of the most distinguished and civic minded members of the community, including doctors, lawyers and clergy.
Mafoud said that St. Nicholas provides its residents with all of the comforts of home while keeping them active and entertained. “Whether it’s singing or dancing, we get them out and on their feet,” said Mafoud. “We do everything so that they can age gracefully and with dignity.”