The Great Neck Chinese Association (GNCA) had a perfect, sunny day for its annual barbecue at Steppingstone Park on Sunday, June 9, which had been rescheduled from the previous week due to thunderstorm warnings.
Hundreds of GNCA guests of all ages, including members, local elected officials and school board members, gathered for delicious food, fun games, board elections and the honoring of three GNCA Lily Wang Community Service Award winners.
Named for former GNCA board member Lily Wang, the award was established in 2016 by Wang’s family and GNCA to honor people who have made significant contributions to the Great Neck community through time, actions, talents and dedication.
Wang, a former GNCA board member, who was passionate about promoting community involvement, diversity and multicultural understanding, passed away in 2015 after battling breast cancer for eight years.
This year’s three recipients, John Motchkavitz, Li Chang and Kingsley Liu, embody Wang’s passions and were recognized for their dedication to the community.
Motchkavitz is a fourth-generation, lifelong Great Neck resident, whose great-grandparents arrived on the peninsula during the first decade of the 1900s.
The 29-year educator has been teaching at Great Neck South for 17 years and has served as department head of the Great Neck South Business/Technology Department since 2006.
He is also lead mentor for South High’s Rebel Robotics Team, which has qualified for the World Championship eight out of 12 years since 2007.
Motchkavitz earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Buffalo State College, a Master’s Degree from Adelphi University and a School District Administration Degree from Stony Brook University.
He is extremely involved with the Great Neck community, often contributing his time to Cub Scouts Pack 178 and the Gold Coast Alliance. The award recipient is a 34-year member and ex-president of the Great Neck Alert Fire Company and won the 1997 Nassau County Medal of Valor for firematic rescue.
In 2016, Motchkavitz was the recipient of the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce Jesse Markell Award, and in 2014 he was named a finalist for Top Teacher in America by ABC’s Kelly and Michael show.
Chang is the founder and CEO of a mortgage big data company, Recursion Co. Before founding Recursion in 2015, she worked for Wall Street companies, such as Paulson & Co. and Citadel investment group for many years.
In 2009, Chang and a few friends sharing the same values, cofounded the Little Fir Foundation, a charity that provides tuition assistance to financially underprivileged children in China. In 2016, Little Fir started its Happy English summer camp, bringing qualified teachers from the U.S. and U.K. to expose underprivileged young children in China with educational experiences in a different style. Chang worked as the administrator onsite in 2018 and 2019.
Along with Melody Li, Chang served as the chief director of GNCA’s elaborate Lunar New Year show in 2019, bringing the quality and influence of the annual event to a new level. More than 300 performers prepared for more than six months for the 18 performances. With the help of 200 volunteers, the show attracted an audience of more than 700 people.
Chang earned a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Architecture from Tsinghua University in China. She joined the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University as a research fellow in January.
Liu came to the U.S. in 2002 for graduate school and moved to Manhasset with his wife and two daughters in 2015.
He studied journalism and filmmaking and is a talented photographer and musician.
Liu has shared his professional skills by volunteering for numerous community and school events in Great Neck and nearby communities. He has acted as the music and lighting director for the GNCA Lunar New Year galas in the last five years and helped organize many music performances in schools and local senior centers.
He has also been active in local civic events, including helping to organize a protest against the opening of a marijuana dispensary in Manhasset and participating in voter registration drives.
Struck by the devastation of the AIDS endemic in parts of China, Liu has donated his time to the China AIDS Fund, helping raise funds and AIDS awareness for the organization.
During GNCA board meetings, Wang’s name is still brought up often, which makes people feel that she has never left. With the Lily Wang Community Service Award, the GNCA board hopes that her name will continue to inspire and be remembered by future generations.