Colleen Cassar: We met in the summer of 1986. At that time, Chris was in between his 1st and 2nd year of law school. After a few months of dating, we fell in love and decided to take the necessary steps and sacrifices to eventually marry after his graduation. Chris studied every night and didn’t have time for gainful employment so I started working as much as I could to save money to marry. He graduated in 1988, passed the NY Bar 1989 and then we were married the summer on 1989.
For the first 2 years of our marriage and 1 1/2 years prior, Chris worked at the Brooklyn Legal Aid Society where he obtained courtroom experience and trial advocacy in the area of criminal law. I was working in the accounting dept of a private corporation where I was trained by the CEO of the company. By 1991 our first child Christopher was a year and a half and the need for more income was evident. So, with the help of family, we signed an office lease and took a leap of faith and opened our law practice – just a lawyer and a secretary – Chris & Colleen.
Now, 30 years later, we have a small what we like to call boutique law firm with 4 lawyers, a law school graduate (our son Christopher) and a support staff of 6 people. Many of our staff have been with us over 20 years.
This past election cycle has been a whirlwind of change. Many voices have risen claiming that the policing practices that have been in use for many years are inherently racist. This isn’t going to be about whether they are or not, this is a plea for people to realize the role of the police in our society, and why they need our support. Now the pushback to this trend has already started with the surprise win of the Republican Candidate for Virginia’s governor race upsetting the former Democrat governor, and the too close to call race in heavily Democrat New Jersey, not to mention the law to disband the police department in Minneapolis being voted down.
The news has been filled with the dramatic increase in violent crime since the “Defund the Police” movement started. Violent crime in Minneapolis is up nearly 30% this year compared to the first 10 months of 2019. The police force has lost about a third of its officers and response times for 911 calls now average about 15 minutes. Our major cities have abandoned the practices of upholding the “lifestyle” violations and following the broken windows method of law enforcement that cleaned up NY City under the Giuliani administration. In Seattle more than 300 officers have resigned or retired in the past two years. Seattle has seen some 443 shootings this year, up from 332 in all of 2019. The streets are full of homeless, human waste and the downtown businesses struggle with a rise in shoplifting and drug use.
John: Scott this is John Dowling the publisher of Model Citizens Magazine. I would like to congratulate you on being nominated as Model Citizens Magazine Survivor of the year 2021. Please starting with that horrific hit and run, please share what you have been through.
Scott: In 2011 my wife and I me were going to Arizona. We were going to North Carolina before heading there to say goodbye to her sons. On our way in Virginia getting gas, we were in a car accident on a head on collision. It was a lifted pick-up that hit us. We were stopped and not moving, when they it hit us. They were drunk and it was a woman driving. They hit-and-run, but we were lucky that my wife took a picture of their license plate. We called the police and they were able to find them and it found out that she was a armed robbery and she was out on parole. We had to take a tow truck to take us to Charlotte. After we said goodbye to the boys, we had to take a rental car to take us to Arizona. When we got there, we went to the ER and they said we had to go to see a spine specialist. Luckily my wife wasn’t hurt but I was lucky that I wasn’t paralyzed. The doctor found that my spine was compressed from my 2nd to the 7th vertebrae. I needed surgery and to have them fused. Since that time, I am not able to work anymore. We got an attorney and after 6 months in Arizona, we needed to go back to Charlotte. Thankfully, we still retained the attorney. I got disability but it did not kick in until 2015. In November 2017, I had a stroke that hit aortic heart went to the left side of my brain. Then a week after, I had a second stroke. I was sent to rehab and I was there for about a month and a 1/2. In February 2018 I had a seizure and I was dead for about 2 minutes. The ambulance brought me to the hospital. Since the rest of that year, I had 8 more seizures and I am on blood thinner and many other medications. The doctors had a few months until they were able to control my seizures. Since then, my strokes and my seizures have stopped. I have a very problem with my speech and my balance and confusion. Since the strokes and the seizures, I am not allowed anymore to drive myself. I am home bound, I now to have depend friends or Ubers to take me back-and-forth for doctor appointments. Recently I had a bad fall. I was coming down on the stairs to and hit my door and cracked it with my head. Obviously, I no longer allowed to go on stairs.
It is once again our honor to share with you this the February and March issues of Model Citizens Magazine. We combined the February and March issues due to Covid affecting aour team and our families. Family first always. We are back to our publishing schedule on a monthly basis with the April Issue. In 2021 the publishing schedule may vary a bit depending on Covid19 and the effects on our team, families, and society, but generally we publish the week of the 15th every month. As always live in gratitude, pay it forward, and cherish your Chapters of Love.
What about Covid19 and dogs? Read more about how to care for your pet and rescues during this unprecedented time in our society.
In honor of Women’s History Month and women’s entrepreneurship, QBO Help a new entrepreneurial bookkeeping and management consulting partnership is being recognized as a Model Citizen Partnership. Three women who gave up their corporate lives for a company of their own. Despite the risk and covid19, these veterans of bookkeeping and management consulting bring complementary strengths and experience to provide the best service offering in the industry. Hands down, great value.
But why with Covid19 and so much uncertainty would three corporate executives leave their positions to start a new company? A few reasons, first off they felt the largest providers of services in the industry are not making the grade, they are simply not providing the level of professional service that they are all used to providing. That means that there are clients out there across the country who need help and that there are few companies who provide virtual services quite as good as this team of women. Christine Cooper the Chief Operating Officer and Managing partner and her CFO/CPA Partner Kaylynn Dalebout as well as their Chief Marketing Officer & EVP of Real-Time Service Ashley Smith.
John Dowling: Congratulations on being nominated as a Model Citizen for this month’s issue of Model Citizens Magazine.
Orit Hodarkovsky: Thank you, it’s an honor.
John: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Orit: Well, I am a mother of two amazing children. I work for an investment firm and am also very involved in my community. I am now working on an amazing line of clothing called I GOT Vaxxed Apparel where the proceeds are going to support children and families who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. So I am now also an entrepreneur!
Orit: I live in Cold Spring Harbor and absolutely love it. One thing that I enjoy doing is walking the nature trails near us. I bring along my two dogs and some friends, and we have a great time. Something that makes me unique is that I was born and raised in Israel.
John: When did you come to the United States?
Orit: I moved to the U.S. in 1987 when I was 9 years old with my family – we moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey – which is where I grew up.
John: What made your family decide to come to the US?
Orit: What brought my family here is actually a very interesting story and something I think that relates closely to the work I am doing with I Got Vaxxed Apparel. My father was a chemist in Russia and in Israel. He specialized in heat resistant polymers and has about 130 patents in this field. My dad created the insulation material that was used by Russian astronauts and the Russian Space program way back in the day. Pretty cool, right? The United States Government offered him the opportunity to open up a factory in New Jersey to manufacture one of his patented materials. This particular patent was going to be utilized to produce insulation material for U.S. army tanks. My parents were excited to live in America and we moved. They were risk takers, and I am too. I see the opportunity to help end COVID-19 and I am doing it!
The age-old question of…what do I do with $10,000? I am sure you’ve all had the thought. As a financial professional I have been asked this question numerous times and the right answer, at least to me, is not what you might think.
When asked this at perhaps a party or networking event, the first thing that comes to mind is, how do I answer this and have it be really impactful and positively affect this person’s thought process? This is where my writing talent and passion can cross over into my more analytical life in financial planning. Do I use a food analogy? Perhaps something in nature? Or maybe construction? This decision, which must happen quickly while I’m in the moment, really depends on who asks the question. For the purposes of this column, I am going with food. Lasagna to be exact. So here goes…
We all know that lasagna is layered. That is what makes it soooo delicious. But what if you just threw everything in with no plan, no structure. What if you lumped it all in a pyrex and put it in the oven, would it cook? Yes. Would it be actual lasagna? No, it would be a pile of mushy soup. You wouldn’t really reach your goal if you chose the quick and easy route, right?
Being in business for over 20 years, I have had many people working on my team, helping my customers. Over the years, I have had many different personalities, lots of success, and just as many failures at building my team. What I have found is that the success of any business is based on many factors and varies by industry. But the one common denominator is building the dream team.
A dream team will have many different looks, and it is based on the culture of the business. The types of team members who I find out work best for me, won’t necessarily be a great fit at many other insurance agencies, much less in many other businesses. My team is built on the vision that my father and I have developed in establishing our agency and are deeply ingrained in our family values.
The key things that are important to be a good fit on my dream team are very much dependent on being part of the family and treating people with respect. We are in a service business, that our competitors are constantly trying to make it seem like that price is the only thing that matters. But Superstorm Sandy has shown many people how who is helping you with your insurance is much more important than how much you are paying. A few dollars a month in savings can cost tens of thousands of dollars in a claim that is either underpaid or denied.
Being a Model Citizen of the Year, I have to acknowledge the contribution the members of my team have made in order for me to be able to spend so much time working with my community, help the not for profits, and being so involved in so many things, while building a growing business. My team shares my vision of giving, and they also have their own charities and programs that they work with in their personal time.
John Dowling: Hello Jennifer, congratulations on your nomination as a feature in this month’s Model Citizen Magazine. Tell me a little more about yourself – share with our readers who Jennifer Vartanov is.
Jennifer Vartanov: Well, I’m 39 years old, I live on Long Island. I’ve been a lifelong resident on Long Island, where I chose to raise my three children, my wonderful husband, and our two four-legged friends. I’m a dog person – I love animals. While it’s definitely a lot of work, it’s totally worth it. I’m also a businesswoman. I have been in the business world for nearly two-decades. Professionally, I’m the co-Founder of Merchant Industry and Swipe4Free. In the community, I am well known as the co-Founder of the Concerned Jericho Parents, one of Oyster Bay’s largest civic groups.
John: You’re an entrepreneur, actually, aren’t you? Tell us a little more about your entrepreneurial efforts – I know you and your husband work together — which could be challenging as we all know — but you both have seemed to do it very well.
Jennifer: Yes, my husband and I are both entrepreneurs. Over the years, like anything, there have been challenges – but, like all couples, we have learned how to deal with it. There’s an interesting dynamic in the workplace because we are partners as well as husband and wife. At the same time, though, I have learned so much about working with my husband over the years and I think it has been a wonderful thing. If you have the opportunity to be a husband-and-wife team, it’s important to know that your roles change in the workplace. At home, you are spouses, at work, you are there to run a business. People are relying on you; you have responsibilities, you have employees. You have to recognize that you are wearing different hats at different times, and being able to have those two roles and work together, side-by-side, is a really special thing.