The event raised more than $500,000 for Queens Community House, which will support various programs that impact every stage of life, from the youth to the elderly.
It also highlighted individuals who make a difference in lives of Queens residents. Both Alfonzo and Lew told the nearly 300 people in attendance at the Museum of the Moving Image about the ways the borough held a special place in their hearts.
Lew, who also served as White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama from 2012 to 2013, spoke about a Forest Hills controversy in the 1970s when a proposal called for the construction of public housing in the middle-class neighborhood.
"I came of age in Forest Hills in those turbulent years,” he said. “I watched the neighborhood rip itself to pieces over something that in my household was seen as a good idea.
“There were community leaders and religious leaders who said, ‘you have to stand up and say what you think is right,' even if there are loud voices around that think otherwise,” Lew added.
The controversy ended up shaping his social values locally and on Capitol Hill. Along with public housing, the complex eventually became the home of Queens Community House.
“The development provided not just critical housing to people of all ages and all ethnicities, but also a home for a great organization that’s now providing such critical services, not just in Forest Hills, but throughout Queens,” Lew said.
“Whether it’s the needs of young children or seniors, whether it’s helping people learn leadership skills or having the meals that they need, it’s an organization like Queens Community House that take the big city, which can be a difficult place, and make it a community that people can live in and thrive in,” he added.
LaGuardia Airport general manager Lysa Scully singled Hall-of-Famer Alfonzo out for his “skill, humility, compassion and tremendously professional demeanor on the field,” as well as for being a role model for the city’s youth.
“He’s chosen to make his home here in Queens, to give back and make Queens a better place,” she said.
For Alfonzo, working with Queens Community House has allowed him to help those who are struggling. In September, he met with children in the Queens Community House’s Beacon Program in Forest Hills, where he played catch and gave advice.
“I would never have thought the work that I’ve done would be recognized off the baseball field,” Alfonzo said. “Over the years, I’ve played for many teams, but tonight, I realize that I’ve been playing for a different kind of team my whole life.
“I play for the communities and neighborhoods,” he added. “I play for the families that struggle to pay rent. I play for immigrants like me who’ve come to this country to make a better life.”