By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Bay Ridge school that has been handing out an “International Brotherhood Award” for more than 100 years selected a recipient this year who has been serving Brooklyn in a variety of capacities.
Bill Guarinello, president and CEO of HeartShare Human Services of New York, was the guest of honor at a special assembly at PS/IS 104, at 9115 Fifth Ave., on Feb. 14, where he was presented with the annual International Brotherhood Award by the school’s PTA. In addition to his role at HeartShare, Guarinello is also chairman of Community Board 11 in Bensonhurst and president of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee. From 2002 until 2009, he headed Brooklyn Remembers, a non-profit group that raised funds for the construction of a permanent memorial at the 69th Street pier in Bay Ridge to the borough’s residents killed in the Sept.11 attacks.
“This award means a lot to me because it truly came from the heart,” Guarinello told PTA members, teachers, students, and civic leaders in the school auditorium. “On Valentine’s Day to receive all the love I’m receiving from this school is meaningful,” he said. Guarinello’s wife Donna to whom he has been married for 39 years was also on hand to see him get the award.
The International Brotherhood Award is a tradition at PS/IS 104 that stretches back more than a century, Principal Marie DiBella said. It started as award given out by the school’s Mother’s Club. In the 1950s, the PTA assumed the sponsorship. “It’s a wonderful tradition. It’s a time when we honor people of the community who give back to the community in a special way,” she said.
PTA Treasurer Angela Diyarza said Guarinello was selected to be the recipient this year because of his service to “the vulnerable of all ages.” HeartShare, a non-profit social services agency, provides foster care, AIDS counseling, classes for autistic children, after-school programs, group homes for the developmentally disabled, and programs for senior citizens. Guarinello, who has degrees in social work and in business administration, has been working for HeartShare since 1970. He became its president and CEO in 1993.
“He has an ‘ahead of the curve’ mentality. He anticipates the needs of the community,” Diyarza said.
The students of PS/IS 104 also paid tribute to Guarinello’s work. In a series of sketches they wrote themselves, eighth graders portrayed kids who learn the importance of reaching out the hand of friendship to lonely, vulnerable youngsters. Under the direction of teachers Paul Wiley and Robert Rossicone, the eighth grade students also performed songs about love such as “No One” by Alicia Keys.
In his acceptance speech, Guarinello told the students he was impressed by the skits. “That’s what you have to take with you when you leave this school,” he said. He stressed the importance of being kind to other people. “Everybody’s got to work hard at it,” he said.
The International Brotherhood Award is traditionally followed by afternoon tea. The PTA set up a tea in the school cafeteria following the award ceremony. Guests munched on fruit and homemade brownies.