Mardi Gras party has a king and queen
by Ed Wendell
Jan 21, 2015 | 4932 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Participants in the School Sisters of Notre Dame program.
Participants in the School Sisters of Notre Dame program.
A community is the sum of all of its parts, and our community is the sum of some very special parts.

Over the past few years I have been very fortunate to work with some very special groups or organizations, all of whom I have written about in the pages of this paper.

The landmarked Forest Park Carousel, American Legion Post 118, Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps - they all play a part in making Woodhaven a special place to live and I’ve been very proud to be associated with them.

I reserve a special place in my heart for the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women. Helping others is a noble cause, and the sisters excel at that. But beyond just helping people, they actually change lives for the better.

The help they offer is what I like to call “deep and local impact” – helping not just the women that go to the center (many of whom are from Woodhaven), but also their children and their families and, by extension, our community.

Thus, they help add to the good things about our community, they help make Woodhaven a better place to live.

The Educational Center is just over ten years old and has successfully served over 700 women in that time, offering them extremely affordable ESL and high school equivalency courses.

Their mission has drawn the support of many people who are accustomed to helping others, and this year the School Sisters will be honoring two of them at their annual Mardi Gras Celebration.

The king of this year’s Mardi Gras is Michael Sibilia, chief financial officer of JFKIAT, the company that manages the International Air Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Sibilia also serves as president of the Queens Council of the Boy Scouts.

Sibilia came to know the sisters through the work of some local Boy Scouts here in Queens who were helping them renovate classrooms in their basement, and once he learned of their mission he became a big supporter. Of being named king of Mardi Gras, Sibilia says he’s very excited.

“The work they do at the center is marvelous,” he said. “The women learn our language, and they’re able to go to school while their own children are in school themselves. And when they learn English, it helps them in life and gives them more opportunities.”

Joining him as royalty this year is Wanda Sample, regional vice president of Avalon Risk Management, an insurance broker that specializes in the logistics and transportation industry.

Sample first became aware of the School Sisters through her membership in The Semantics, a volunteer organization founded by a group of business people from JFK, whose stated mission is “Benevolence To Those Less Fortunate.”

“They really provide a service that fills a big need,” she said. “If it weren’t for them, the women wouldn’t be able to find the same guidance and educational opportunities.”

Sister Cathy Feeney, executive director of the School Sisters, is very happy with this year’s king and queen.

“Through their volunteer work with other organizations, Mike and Wanda have shown themselves to be very special people, and we are so pleased that they have consented to be our ambassadors for the next year,” she said.

This year’s Mardi Gras celebration is on Wednesday, February 11, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Roma View Catering in Howard Beach. Tickets are $80 and include a full dinner, open bar, raffles, prizes and a lot of fun, all for a good cause.

To purchase tickets or to learn more about the School Sisters, call (718) 738-0588 or email

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