Integral members of the Great Neck community Adrienne Vaultz and Kenneth Gray were honored by the Town of North Hempstead in a celebration of Black History Month at the “Yes We Can” Community Center in Westbury on Feb. 8.
The theme of this year’s event was Black Excellence and celebrated African-American entrepreneurs. At the awards ceremony, prominent members of the North Hempstead community, who have displayed remarkable generosity in their care and service of the town, were honored.
“Black History Month is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to learn about and celebrate accomplishments of the culture,” said Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “This year’s theme of Black Excellence allows us to highlight and honor the influential entrepreneurs and business people in our community and recognize them for the major contributions they have made to our community and town.”
Vaultz, a former chemical engineer turned accountant, who is vice president of operations and finance at an IT firm, was recognized by Councilwoman Anna Kaplan. As a child, Vaultz’s mother taught her to always “do more than right” and to appreciate the value in sharing whatever you had, and her father pushed her to excel in whatever she did. Her parents instilled the value of education at an early age, and she feels blessed that she was born to such wonderful parents. As she grew, she realized that not all youngsters had the same opportunities, and believes that encouraging children to excel in every walk of life should be our collective goal. She started The Focus! Youth Organization in the ’80s, is a youth leader at First Baptist Church of Great Neck and serves as vice chairman of the Manhasset-Great Neck EOC.
Gray, who was recognized by Councilwoman Lee Seeman, moved to New York from Alabama when he was in sixth grade, and attended Bayside High School, going to class at night and working for International Auto Exchange during the day, developing his love of repairing cars. At 20 years old in 1982, he met Dominic Lucarello, with whom he formed an unbreakable bond and began working for him at Luke’s Service Center in Great Neck, honing his skills under Lucarello’s tutelage. In accordance with his boss’s wishes, he became owner in 1995 and the two continued working together until Lucarello passed away in 2002. With his early earnings, Gray bought his grandmother her first home. This generous man also regularly donates to the North Shore Hospital Holiday Gifts for Children, Adopt a Family and Mother Hale’s House. He loves to make children happy, and advises them to stay in school, work hard, set goals and remain determined to achieve them regardless of the obstacles and, most of all, they should remain hopeful.
Other honorees included Leonard “Sparrow” Llewellyn, Dr. Leon Mullen, Rev. Monte Malik Chandler, Timothy Thurmond, Lynette Batts, Betty Hardy and Bernard Hardy.
“This annual celebration of Black History is even more important this year as we reflect on Black Excellence and pay homage to Black Wall Street. Success and Black Excellence is an existing state of affairs yet often overlooked,” said Councilwoman Viviana Russell. “This year’s honorees are true examples of Black Excellence and their incredible contributions to our community make them very deserving honorees. Their success is our success.”