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Sunnyside celebrates Women’s History with inaugural Lily Gavin memorial breakfast

From left to right: Dirk McCall, BID Executive Director; Councilwoman Julie Won; Debra Markell Kleinert, CB2 District Manager; Judy Zangwill, Executive Director Sunnyside Community Services; Maria Medina and Maureen Stathis, BID Board Members. (Photo courtesy of Debra Markell-Kleinert)

April 30, 2024 By Czarinna Andres

Dozens of Sunnyside residents and community leaders came together Monday morning to celebrate women’s history and to honor one of the neighborhood’s most influential figures—the late Lily Gavin—at the first annual Lily Gavin Memorial Sunnyside Women’s History Breakfast Celebration.

The event, held at Sunnyside Community Services, paid tribute to Gavin, referring to her as the “mother of the Sunnyside BID,” whose efforts helped form the organization and have left an indelible mark on the neighborhood.

Lily Gavin (Queens Post File Photo)

Gavin, who died in July 2016 at the age of 85, was a staunch advocate of Sunnyside, and owned and operated Dazies Restaurant at 39-41 Queens Blvd. for more than 40 years. She was a founding member of the Sunnyside BID and, at one point, led the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. She was also responsible for raising money to repair the Sunnyside Arch sign years ago.

Dirk McCall, the executive director of the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, spearheaded the celebration. The event featured musical performances and discussions of the vital role women have played in shaping the area. Pete’s Grill provided the food.

Special honors went to four notable local figures. The first award named after Lily Gavin was given to Debra Markell-Kleinert, the long-serving district manager of Community Board 2.

Council Member Julie Won, Judy Zangwill, executive director of Sunnyside Community Services, and Davi Surujballie-Mondros, co-owner of Pete’s Grill, were also honored, highlighting their ongoing commitment to the community.

Debra Markell-Kleinert with Ebony Young (Photo courtery of Debra Markell-Kleinert)

The event’s keynote speaker, Ebony Young, who is the Queens Deputy Borough President, provided her own insights into the challenges and achievements of women in leadership roles within the borough and beyond. Her speech not only paid homage to historical figures such as Gavin but also aimed to inspire future leaders.

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