He’s only 19 years old, but Whitestone merchant Devon O’Connor has already collected enough money to get a new welcoming sign for his community and finds time to raise funds for charitable causes.
This busy young man who runs a party planning store, last June started Welcome to Whitestone, a nonprofit community relations group supported by local businesses and aimed at uniting merchants and residents for community and charity work.
Devon has also organized a volunteer group for area teens called VolunTeenz. So far, he has about 15 members who work in the community and can earn school credit. City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) helped him put the project together.
O’Connor resurrected the party planning service last year with his younger brother, Logan, 17, a business started by their father, Tom that closed four year ago. The father runs a balloon business from the same location.
Devon also operates 4Laughs Comedy Entertainment Co., booking comedy acts throughout Queens since 2007.
“I’ve never been one to sit around playing video games and eating chips,” he said. “I was raised working with my father, who is a big motivation for me.”
It’s not unusual for O’Connor to work at holiday parties and fundraisers for various groups, such as the 109th Precinct Community Council in Flushing. He helped at a Halloween party there and council President Chrissy Voskerichian had glowing words for him.
“He always offers to help to do good things,” Voskerichian said. “He’s wonderful, motivated and truly caring.”
Over the Christmas holidays, O’Connor held a party at his business, Dabby’s Party World, complete with Santa Claus, and entertainment for youngsters to raise funds for St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside. He recently presented the facility with a check for $750 raised at the event.
“It’s an extraordinary feeling to be able to help others in need and St. Mary’s Hospital for Children has been helping kids in ways I can’t even imagine,” he said. “The work they do is great and I wanted to support that effort.”
His first project with Welcome to Whitestone was to raise money to replace the peeling and faded sign greeting people to the community at the intersection of Francis Lewis Boulevard, the Cross Island Parkway and Locke Avenue. O’Connor said on Friday that he was able to amass $4,000 from merchants and residents for the new placard, which he expects to be installed in the spring by the Parks Department.
“It will have the same art work but will change directions closer to Francis Lewis,” he said.
Welcome to Whitestone has about 70 members and “is doing great,” according to the founder. In the works are fundraisers for the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the local American Legion post. A children’s talent show is tentatively scheduled for March.
Devon says he loved growing up in Whitestone and wants residents and merchants to help each other “and get things going here.”
George Isaakidis, president of the Whitestone Merchants Association, said he hasn’t had much contact with O’Connor yet, but is happy about the new sign and is pushing for another one to be placed elsewhere.