When Dolores Rome prepared for the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce’s recent installation dinner, she grew nervous throughout the evening as she awaited the arrival of her granddaughter.
“Her flight was delayed in Boston,” said Rome, who was to receive the chamber’s 2017 Person of the Year Award that night.
“It was also my birthday,” she laughed. “Everyone was so wonderful. They allowed me to speak last to give my granddaughter time to change in the dressing room. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time because my family was there to share it with me.”
When Rome learned that Chamber President Frank Camarano Jr. had chosen her for the honor, she was shocked. “I sat down with him to make sure that he went through every single person that has benefited the East Meadow community,” Rome recounted. “I wanted to make sure that anyone else who deserved this recognition got the recognition.”
But Camarano insisted that Rome take the title. “She’s such a vital part of the community,” he said, adding that many people know Rome because she works part-time as the legislative administrative assistant for Norma Gonsalves, the Nassau County Legislature’s presiding officer.
“Have you ever met someone who doesn’t know Dolores?” Camarano asked. “Because I haven’t. She has been a part of the East Meadow community for a long time through her volunteer work and devotion to many local organizations.”
Born in the Bronx and raised in Whitestone, Queens, Rome moved to East Meadow in 1985 with her husband, James, and two children, Craig and Keith. She began working for Richard Bivone, president of East Meadow-based RMB Drafting Services, as the executive administrative assistant in 1992. Her work opened many doors for her and sparked a desire in her to do community work.
“I met so many people through that job,” Rome recalled. “When you coordinate several events, you have to make connections with people. I began creating a web of connections, not only in East Meadow, but beyond.”
At the same time, Rome served as the executive assistant for the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, which serves more than 50 chambers. She was instrumental in organizing the council’s annual Small Businessperson Breakfast, a much-anticipated event that draws more than 500 people each year. Rome was the special events coordinator for the Bellmore, Levittown and Wantagh chambers, among others. She has co-chaired the East Meadow Memorial Day Parade since 1999, and has co-chaired the East Meadow chamber’s annual holiday menorah and tree lighting ceremonies since 2001.
“That one’s my favorite,” she said with a cheeky smile.
As a grandmother of four, and great grandmother of three, Rome said that children are a part of her favorite events. “I love watching the children paint their ornaments and meet Santa and have fun with their families,” she said. “It just warms my heart each year. It’s something that’s so tiny — the event itself is only an hour and a half long — but it means so much to the kids.”
When she became the East Meadow chamber president in 2013, she took the community by storm.
“Dolores is the love of my life,” Hempstead Town Clerk Nasrin Ahmad said. “She has a heart of gold. If anyone reaches out to her, she will do anything to help. She simply can’t say no to people, especially to veterans.”
Reminiscing about the first time she met Rome, Ahmad said she nervously attended her first ribbon-cutting as town clerk, and Rome suddenly approached her, smiled and introduced herself. “She broke the ice,” Ahmad recalled. “Ever since then she’s always included me in everything. That’s the kind of person she is. I’m glad they made her the Woman of the Year. I’m all for women power!”
Gonsalves said that it’s common to receive calls from strangers asking, “Who is that woman in your office? She’s so nice!” In fact, Gonsalves said that visitors enjoy interacting with Rome so much, that they sometimes call to leave compliments.
“What took them so long to give her this award?” Gonsalves joked. “I would’ve thought they’d awarded Dolores as Person of the Year a long time ago because of her involvement with the chamber and the community. I’m very glad and happy she is honored. She truly deserves it.”
Despite her long list of awards, Rome said that the best reward is seeing the community thrive. “Frank is doing a great job as president,” she said. “I just enjoy watching other people help the communities I love. That’s the best part of becoming involved with so many things. That, and spending time with my family when I’m at home relaxing.”
Rome slipped into her black coat. “I’m kidding,” she said. “I never relax. I send my best emails at 2 in the morning, and I absolutely love it.”