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Queens Chronicle

They go above and beyond the call

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Posted: Thursday, June 24, 2010 12:00 am

The anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Mead’s oft-quoted words have been an inspiration to community activists of all kinds ever since, a slogan that galvanizes people who are fighting to make their neighborhoods, cities, nations and the world a better place. Queens is no exception.

But Mead only had it half right. It’s certainly true that small groups of people can be the engines who drive great social change. But so too can large groups and individuals.

This week the Queens Chronicle is dedicated to all three, to all the people who volunteer to make our borough the best place to live, work and play that it can be. Inside the paper this week is our annual Celebration of Queens supplement, which this year is dedicated to those who are doing all they can to “change the world” right here.

You’ll get to know activists from all walks of life in all corners of the borough. There’s Vincent Arcuri Jr., the chairman of Community Board 5, who’s served on that volunteer body for 35 years and also co-founded the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol to help fight crime, back when it was far worse than it is today. And then there’s his fundraising for a multitude of groups.

In Flushing there’s the Korean American Family Service Center, dedicated to helping women from that country who are victims of domestic violence or need other assistance to live without fear in the United States.

At the edges of the borough are some of the environmental activists we honor this week: Walter Mugdan in Douglaston, dedicated to keeping Udall’s Cove beautiful; James and Kathryn Cervino, working to preserve the natural ecology of College Point; Steven Fiedler, best friend forever to Juniper Valley Park; and the members of Astoria Residents Reclaiming Our World, or ARROW, who run an organic garden and activities center in that mostly concrete community.

In southeastern Queens, Grandparent Empowered Active Response helps seniors who have been put into the position of having to raise their grandchildren long after their own children became adults. Another family-oriented group is the Real Dads Network, founded by educator Derek Phillips, who is dedicated to celebrating and promoting responsible fatherhood in the black community.

Over in South Queens, another educator, Phyllis Inserillo, is leading the fight against cancer through the annual Relay for Life fundraiser in Howard Beach. In Queensbridge, Ray Normandeau and Rita Frazier are the husband and wife team working hard to keep their fellow tenants safe and make sure they’re provided with the services to which they’re entitled.

And that’s just to name a few. Poverty activists, volunteer medics, students engaged in charity work before they’ve even graduated high school — they’re all here, in 23 articles that give insight into why they do what they do and, just maybe, will inspire even more people to give back to the communities that have given so much to them.

Queens is largely known to the rest of New York and the world as the home of the Mets, the U.S. Open, two major airports, a complicated network of highways and the sadly decaying physical remains of our two great World’s Fairs. But we know life is really about the people here: especially the groups and, Ms. Mead, the individuals who make a positive difference in the lives of everyone else. This one’s for them.

Welcome to the discussion.