The Oceanside Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual New Year cocktail reception on Jan. 24 at Kombert Caterers at Temple Avodah, where it installed its 2019 officers and honored three residents who have made a big difference in the community.
Leo Bonacasa was named Citizen of the Year by the chamber, while SVS Fine Jewelry, owned by Sami and Morgan (Nicki) Saatchi, was awarded Business of the Year.
Bonacasa earned the accolade for his hard work with many community organizations, including the Oceanside Soccer Club and Oceanside Kiwanis, and for serving as president of Oceanside Community Service, a volunteer organization that has been assisting community members in need since 1949.
“You start out here in this town, you have a family, you get involved,” Bonacasa said. “You get the call from the PTA, you have to go flip some burgers, you have to go help the school, and that’s what you do. You want to help. You want to make this the best community for your children, and that’s what you do.”
Bonacasa also thanked his wife, Jill, for her unwavering support and the Oceanside Fire Department for always being there for the community. He and Jill have four children, Leo, Matthew, Julia and Melanie.
A lifelong resident of Oceanside, Bonacasa joined the soccer club in 1997 when he began coaching intramurals. In 2004, he was elected to the board of directors and served as club president for three consecutive terms.
In 2009, Oceanside Kiwanis awarded Bonacasa with its Heart of Gold award for his efforts on behalf of children in the community. He is frequently found flipping pancakes each year at the Kiwanis’s annual Super Bowl Pancake Breakfast, which is scheduled this year for 9 a.m. at St. Anthony’s Church on Feb. 3. He has also participated in many events to support sending underprivileged children to Camp Kiwanis.
Bonacasa is now serving his third consecutive term as the president of Oceanside Community Service. As part of his role, he helps organize the annual Turkey Shoot with Oceanside High School students, where more than 150 families receive a Thanksgiving meal. He also hosts food and toy drives during the holiday season.
Sami Saatchi is a 10th-generation jeweler, and his family established SVS Fine Jewelry in 2003. Since he and Morgan opened their business in Oceanside, SVS has been heavily involved in the community, and has also set forth on a charitable mission to Cohen Children’s Medical Center by generating donations to help build a surgical suite at the hospital.
SVS features a full-service jewelry repair shop, provides custom designs, resets diamonds and its employees are gemologists who graduated from the Gemological Institute of America. Sami and Morgan praised their staff for their hard work upon accepting the award.
“We are not doing this alone,” Sami said. “We could not ever do anything like this without having a staff who supports us, who sets standards every single day and they contribute and make sure that everybody who walks through our door feels as special as we do.”
Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito also swore in the 2019 officers and board of directors at the event. Adam Kritzberg returns as chamber president in 2019, while Edward Scharfberg (vice president), Alan Levine (second vice president), Leslie Braun (treasurer) Maria Heller (assistant treasurer) and Bob Transom (secretary) also took an oath.
Stuart Berr, Joann Calabro, Paul Engel, Tom Lanning, Charles Lyon, Andrew Mallor, Monica Rubin, Betsy Transom and Corey Zylbert were sworn in as part of the board of directors.
“All of you people out here should all be proud of yourselves,” Bonacasa said. “You’re all volunteers for this community, and that’s what makes it a great community to live in. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”