By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm turned into a waiter for an afternoon, pouring tea and offering scones on a tray to a group of highly accomplished women at a luncheon he hosted in their honor on Wednesday.
“Victorian Tea, not bad, right?” the congressman said to the group as he held the tea pot and got ready to pour a cup for one of his guests in the library of the Bensonhurst Center for Rehabilitation and Health Care.
It was all part of Grimm’s celebration of Women’s History Month. Each year Grimm (R-C-Brooklyn-Staten Island) honors women in his district for the work that they do to improve the lives of others. To make the awards ceremony more memorable, the congressman hosts a Victorian Tea for the honorees, complete with finger sandwiches, scones, crumpets and a medley of chocolate treats, all on tiered cake stands. The event was organized by Clorinda Annarummo, an aide to Grimm, who makes sure that every detail is observed, even down to clotted cream, the fine china and the tea cozy.
This year marked Grimm’s Third Annual Victorian Tea. The honorees were Karina Costantino, superintendent of School District 20; Dr. Jeannine M. Ferriola, a dentist and community activist who has worked with the Kiwanis Club, the Bridge to Youth organization and Visitation Academy; Dip Yee Lam, a leader of the Asian Community United Society; Dayna Fiorillo Scarso, co-founder and CEO of Pietro’s Fight, a non-profit organization that raises funds for research into a cure for muscular dystrophy; and Theresa Scavo, chairman of Community Board 15.
“I like it the idea of a Victorian Tea because it’s elegant. Women are strong and elegant,” Grimm said. “It’s very important, I think, to continue to have women involved in our community. I’ve met so many good men and behind every one of them is a great woman.”
Annarummo said the tradition of afternoon tea was started in Victorian England by aristocrats who saw it as a way to enjoy a light meal during the long interval between lunch and evening supper. Tea was traditionally served in the late afternoon, she said. Annarummo chose the setting, the library at the Bensonhurst Center, because of its ambiance. “It’s a lovely atmosphere,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle. The cozy library had a fireplace.
Scarso, who founded Pietro’s Fight after her son Pietro was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare form of the disease, two years ago, was cited for her tireless fundraising efforts. “I’m very honored that Congressman Grimm has chosen to recognize me,” she told the Eagle.
“You’re a remarkable woman,” Grimm told her.
Scavo, who in addition to serving as chair of her community board, is also involved in numerous civic organizations, including a local Community Energency Response Team (CERT). Grimm confessed to being in awe of her. "You're one of those people who when we want to get something done, we give it to you," he told her.
Grimm urged all of the honorees to keep up the good work. “I hope that by honoring you, it’s going to inspire more women to get involved in the community,” he said.
According to the federal government’s Women’s History Month website, the the tradition had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when congress passed a resolution requesting that the president to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week." During the next five years, congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as "Women’s History Week." In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, congress passed a resolution which designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month." Between 1988 and 1994, congress passed resolutions each year. Since 1995, presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”