By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The principal of a Catholic school for girls and the president of a computercompany who has donated much of his time to charitable endeavors will lead the march up Third Avenue in Bay Ridge for the 46th Annual Ragamuffin Parade for children on Sept. 29.
As part of the exciting build up to the event, Ragamuffin Inc., the parade sponsor, held a luncheon at the Bay Ridge Manor catering hall on Sept. 16 to honor Grand Marshal Arlene Figaro, principal of Visitation Academy, and Ragamuffin Man of the Year John Abi-Habib, president and C.E.O. of MSI Net, Inc.
Bay Ridge’s elite turned out in large numbers to congratulate Figaro and Abi-Habib and to hear about the plans for the big parade. The Ragamuffin Parade is one of the biggest events in Brooklyn. Thousands of children participate in the march wearing cute, colorful, homemade costumes.
The parade is all about making children happy, according to Ragamuffin Inc. President Colleen Golden. “There’s nothing better that seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as they march,” she said.
Figaro was chosen to be the grand marshal of a kid’s parade because of her dedication to children, Golden said. “She cares so much about children and about education,” Golden said. Figaro has been at the helm of Visitation Academy for 10 years. The school, located at 8902 Ridge Boulevard, educates girls from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. “When I was told I was to be the grand marshal, I was overwhelmed,” Figaro said.
Golden described Abi-Habib as a man who “epitomizes the word friend.” Abi-Habib has often donated his time behind the scenes to assisting people in the community who need a helping hand, Golden said. In addition to running his business, Abi-Habib is involved in numerous civic organizations, including the Salaam Club of New York, a group founded by Lebanese Christians. “He has so much energy. I don’t know how he does it!” Golden said.
Abi-Habib’s company, MSI Net Inc., headquartered at 415 86th St., installs computer systems, repairs computers, and serves as a troubleshooter in the event of Internet problems. MSI Net Inc. installed the computer systems in many of Bay Ridge’s schools and institutions.
In his acceptance speech, Abi-Habib, whose daughter Jenna is a Visitation Academy student, paid tribute to Figaro. “You have done so much for Catholic education,” he told her.
Abi-Habib said he was pleased to see such a huge turnout for the luncheon. The main ballroom of the manor was jammed with people. “I’m very, very happy to see all of you. I can’t thank you enough,” he said.
Abi-Habib also announced that the Salaam Club plans to donate all of the proceeds from its annual dinner this year to Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Atlanta. The dinner will take place on Dec. 8 at the Water’s Edge, a banquet hall in Long Island City.
Bay Ridge’s elected officials congratulated Figaro and Abi-Habib and presented the honorees with plaques and certificates. U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm. State Sen. Marty Golden, state assembly members Alec Brook-Krasny and Nicole Malliotakis, and Councilman Vincent Gentile each took a turn at the microphone to pay tribute to the grand marshal and man of the year.
The 46th Annual Ragamuffin Parade will take place on Saturday, Sept. 29, 1 p.m., on Third Avenue. The parade route starts at 76th Street and ends at 92nd Street.