Environmental Learning Center Empowers Community

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Pocket
WhatsApp

On Thursday, April 11, Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) held its annual Green Gala which allows the center to continue to offer the environmental education programs to more than 72,000 children and adults across the region per year.

APEC board members and honorees at the 2024 APEC Green Gala at Terrance on the Green (Willy Airaldi)

The 2024 APEC Green Gala honorees included:
• Kirstin Callahan Austin: vice president, Helms Auto Group of Bayside
• Gerrard P. Bushell, PhD: president and CEO, The New Terminal One at John F. Kennedy International Airport
Leroy Street Studio and the New Alley Pond Environmental Center Design Team

This year marks the opening of APEC’s new environmental center, which the Green Gala honorees, Leroy Street Studio and the APEC design team, are credited for.

Kirsten, a Gold Coast resident, represents the third generation of leadership within a family legacy that spans back to 1977. The group, which includes Helms Brothers (established in 1934) Mercedes-Benz, Bayside Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars of Queens, is renowned for its commitment to quality, service, and community. From starting as a receptionist to becoming a managing partner, Kirsten has been pivotal in shaping the company’s success. The auto group employs more than 200 employees and has a deep-rooted company culture that values longevity.

Beyond automotive excellence, Kirstin’s passion for environmental and community engagement shines through. This commitment is embodied in a longstanding partnership with the Alley Pond Environmental Center, Operation Warm’s Cars to Coats, American Cancer Society, Bayside Little League, Toys for Tots and numerous other local charities. Kirstin’s philosophy of thinking globally and acting locally has fostered a strong community bond and highlighted the group’s role in promoting environmental sustainability.

“We selected Kirsten as one of our honorees because she has been a fabulous addition to our board,” APEC Executive Director Irene Scheid said. “We do look for honorees, who have either a definite connection to the organization or have made a difference in the borough.”

Looking to the future, Kirstin is excited about leading Helms Auto Group towards embracing electric and alternative fuel vehicles, underscoring a commitment to innovation and environmental stewardship. This vision and ongoing community involvement ensure that Helms Auto Group remains a cornerstone of reliability and progress within the automotive industry and the local community.

“Gerrard, our second honoree, was recommended to us through a legislative consultant for his work at Terminal One here in Queens,” Scheid said. “And the architecture honorees were celebrated for their commitment to the new building, working with the staff at APEC, trying to get a feel for our needs and then working within the parameters set by the parks department.”

The center, protecting and preserving Alley Pond Park, open spaces and waterbodies, and advocating for sustainable environmental policies and practices, has run in-part on community-supported efforts for more than 52 years.

“What we do here is of value, mostly for children, but clearly it is valued,” Scheid said. “We have a waiting list every year of school groups; the children get hands-on experience with the live animals as well as get out into nature to be able to walk on the trails and learn more about the park. We often hear the children ask, ‘Are we still in New York?’ when they come here.”

APEC is a total escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Continued partnerships and financial support are the key to its success.

“Taking care of our animals is very expensive as everybody who has a pet knows and we have a lot of pets here,” Scheid said.

APEC is located in Alley Pond Park, at 229-10 Northern Blvd. in Douglaston (Queens), just several miles west from the Great Neck border. It is surrounded by lush nature trails where visitors can enjoy NYC’s natural landscapes.

Visit www.alleypond.org to learn more about APEC.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Pocket
WhatsApp

Never miss any important news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Never miss any important news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Recent News

Editor's Pick

x