If there was ever a person who possessed the qualities described above it is Lidia Szczepanowski, Esq., Model Citizen’s 2021 Woman of the Year. She inspires and brings hope to others the way a beacon of light guides ships at night. Lidia exemplifies the real-life embodiment of the words success, independence, entrepreneurship, and glamour and she does so with humility, integrity, and passion. Lidia acquired a plethora of knowledge over the years as a litigation and business development attorney, business strategist, entrepreneur, black belt in karate, and international spokesmodel. More importantly, despite her extraordinarily busy schedule, she has always been most passionate about “giving back” through proactive “hands-on” participation in philanthropy and philanthropic activities.
John Dowling: Good to hear it. I want to let you know that you have officially been nominated as Model Citizens Man of the Year for 2021!
Russ Cassata: Sounds great.
John Dowling: Congratulations.
Russ Cassata :This is a great honor. I appreciate that, very humbly.
John Dowling: You’ve done a lot for so many not to mention Model Citizens Magazine itself and it means so much. I think sharing your story is going to inspire a lot of people and that’s part of the hope of this interview is that we inspire a lot of people to actually get involved and to do more for our community.
Russ Cassata: I agree. The Cassata Foundation is just one aspect of everything. I’ve been lucky in life.
John Dowling: Well our readers and fans would like to hear more about that, so let’s get into this interview.
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.
It is with great pride and honor that I present to you the 2021 Model Citizens Magazine Awards issue. Every year our former model citizens, our board of advisors, and our readers provide feedback and vote on Model Citizens of the year. I am honored to announce that Christopher Cassar and Colleen Rey Cassar are this year’s Model Citizens Couple of the Year. ROSARIO S. CASSATA Is Model Citizens Magazine Man of the Year. Lidia Szczepanowski, Esq.Is model Citizens Women of the year. Each has served our community by paying it forward, providing unparalleled services, and with love. There are a few more awards within the issue, the top photographs of the year, my own thoughts on Hopes for 2022, and heartwarming stories about caring, giving, and making our world a better place. I also offer several of my NFT’s in this year’s Gift Guide. As always Live in Gratitude. Pay it Forward. And Cherish your Chapters of Love
John: Hey CJ, just wanted to congratulate you on being nominated as a model citizen and thank you for all the support you provide not only to the creative community but to my creative endeavors as well. As you know, I am a huge fan of your products and your company. Please share with us how you got started in this industry.
CJ Forker: Hey John. Thanks John. We enjoy what we do and are always looking for ways to collaborate and help those in our industry. Personally, it was by happenstance. A friend of mine was a caddy for an employee years ago and that’s how I found out about LexJet. 16 years later and I’m still here. On the company side, our owners figured out early on when inkjet was just becoming available, how to effectively add color to braille signage (aka polycarbonate). That’s the a ha moment. The “Lex” in our name is derived from Lexan and the “Jet” is derived from inkjet.
John: A truly entrepreneurial start and now with 16 years under your belt, I’m told your truly the guru all things Lexjet. How does it make you and your team feel knowing your helping artists like myself facilitate the unique look to their art because your metallic paper and full service approach of supporting artists is truly an amazing combination for us artists. First off my work only shows the way it was meant to be seen on your sunset papers and your service and knowledge base across your whole team is really unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced industry wide.
CJ Forker: It’s all around a great experience, and we strive for that in everything we do. When someone can turn to you looking for guidance or advice on something that can be so personal or subjective, and together you can hit that mark, it’s special. We pay a lot of attention to feedback and the experience. It helps drive new solutions, products, and connects all of our teams.
John: So congratulations Alex on being recognized as Model Citizens Magazine Photographer of the year for all of the Philanthropic contributions you make to charities.
Alex: Thank you John, I appreciate the recognition.
John: Well thank the readers of Model Citizens Magazine and our board of advisors as they are the ones who voted for you. In fact it was an overwhelming majority of votes that went to you. For the sake of our new readers and followers would you please review some of the charities you support, and why?
Alex: Certainly my ongoing favorite is the Michael Magro Foundation. MMF represents a class of charities that provide direct and immediate support of familes in need. Terrie and Paul Magro work tirelessly to raise funds to help pay bills for families focused on health emergencies at the expense of work and finances. They have events small and large, my favorite being a food tasting at The Carltun in Eisenhower Park. The event gets great support from the restaurant and dessert community with live performances from Broadway stars. I am on the golf committee for Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County since 2012. CPNassau.org has day programs in Roosevelt and houses in many communities. The services they provide are far reaching. I actually watched an 8 year old girl walk for the first time, thanks to treatment and programs funded in large part by people like us. I have been involved with Adults and Children with Learning Disabilities, Leukemia lymphoma Society, Change 4 Kids, Ronald McDonald House, and many, many more.
John: First off I just want to congratulate you on being nominated as a model citizen for Decembers issue of Model Citizens Magazine. I nominated you and one of our previous model citizens seconded your nomination. You were nominated for your amazing dedication to the arts and your determination.
Sirena: Thank you! I’m so honored to have been nominated by you.
John: You are very welcome. After meeting you and hearing your music and how humble you are as such a talented artist, I just felt it was warranted. When did you first get started singing and writing music?
Sirena: I started singing when I was very young. It’s always been something I gravitated towards and enjoyed. Writing came a little later on (I’d say around being 12 years old).
From a young age I was enamored by artists like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood; people who could tell such a captivating story through such few words. It made me want to do the same.
John: Tremendously talented artists and excellent role Models! What are your favorite subjects to write about and where does your inspiration come from?
Sirena: I have written about various things through the years. It’s very much a therapeutic process, I think. Many of the songs I’ve written are love songs from the different experiences I’ve had throughout my lifetime. I think that love songs are often some of the most universally relatable songs a person can write. Almost every great song you can name is a love song.
John Dowling: Vince congratulations on being nominated as a Model Citizen for Model Citizens Magazine December 2021.
Vincent McMahon: Thank you very much, it’s an honor to be in your magazine.
John Dowling: You were nominated because of your consistent efforts to help those struggling with handicaps or disabilities as well as your style of always taking the “High Road” or being the bigger man when faced with conflict. I understand that you have aspirations of becoming a full time model and actor. What is it about modeling and acting that intrigue you?
Vincent McMahon: It’s my pleasure, I’m glad to help out anyone in need. I really would hope to be a professional actor one day to not only entertain people but inspire people as well and also to share my creativity with the world and hopefully bring direction and hope to many people’s lives.
John Dowling: So acting and modeling is really just a means to continue to help people? Does this have anything to do with your strong religious beliefs or your martial arts disciplines?
Vincent McMahon: Yes, I hope to speak out and help guide people in the right direction. God and martial arts have helped me a lot in my toughest times and hopefully I’ll be able to spread the knowledge of what I learned to help others.
John Dowling: Nicole congratulations on being nominated as a model citizen by Robert Zabbia last year’s model citizen of the year. He nominated you for all of the work that you do with the Leukemia and the lymphoma society.
Nicole: Well I’m involved with many efforts in the philanthropic community but I believe I first heard of Model Citizens Magazine and you at Asaf German’s Ferrari fundraiser.
John Dowling: Yes I did donate my time at that event, I believe you were quite busy but we did meet if I am not mistaken.
Nicole: I was Asaf’s campaign manager.
John Dowling: That’s probably why he had so many fans and raised records amount of donations.
Nicole: I was also at the Gala at the Heritage Club that you photographed as well.
John Dowling: I believe when his team was holding up the numbered cards with the entire amount he raised you were stage as well.
Nicole: I actually think I might have been.
John Dowling: Then I definitely have photos of you.
John Dowling: So, you got started with charity work when?
Nicole: So I always did work for LLS. But in 2014, right when I graduated from college, I started working at the leukemia lymphoma society.
John Dowling: So, I’m John Dowling and I am here with Mohammed Esmaelsadah the president and founder of Embroidme in Melville New York.Well, first off, I want to congratulate you on being nominated as a model citizen for Model Citizens Magazine.
Mohammed Esmaelsadah: Thank you.
John Dowling: You’re welcome. I nominated you and Alex M. Wolff a former nominated model citizen seconded your nomination.
Mohammed Esmaelsadah: Well then a thank you to Alex as well.
John Dowling: We nominated you for all the work you do for schools and for charities. And I know you don’t really like to talk about it much, but for the high school teams and athletes you’ve done some really nice things for them recently and over the years.
Mohammed Esmaelsadah: Yes, they are my neighborhood schools and I want to help them with during Covid with all of the challenges and difficulties they are going through.
John Dowling: So share with our readers what you actually do for them, because first off you manage a boutique frame shop, right. And an embroidery shop and you do some marketing with all kinds of free creative services for the artist community. But for a recent graduating class, didn’t you give them like 350 or so embroidered t-shirts for the seniors free?
I hope that 2022 will bring us all a new beginning. A new beginning where we all appreciate what we have with our society despite its flaws. That we once again learn that just like with all of the challenges 2021 held for us with Covid, that we are soon going to be through it. Let’s hope that our political leaders will again give it a go at working together for what is best for our country, not what is best for their re-elections.
Let’s hope that while we think of the “one for all and the all for one” mentality, we also recognize that you can not continually take from one family and give to another where class wars start within our society. That whether rich or poor you have to work, and you have to think of the Alpha and the neediest in your flock or you will not survive. Yes, we are all in this together, but we do have our own self to consider just as much as we consider all.