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Monday, October 24, 2005
Members of Olympia Activity Center committee stand in front of the $1.7M facility.  They are
from the left, Rusty Thornton, Dominic Leone, Larry Nelson, John Tiplady, Jack Navarro
(standing in for hisfather John Navarro), James Martinos, Joe Funk and Bob Dennis.
A community
realizes a dream
It started with cheerleaders and Scouts "canning" for change on street
corners, and fund-raising sausage and pepper stands at St. Margaret Mary's
annual bazaar, and a handful of dollars from some parish car washes.
Very quiet and very simple, like most things that happen in Midland Beach.
The seeds for the Olympia Activities Center were planted 12 years ago by
a core group of people who shared the generations-old dream of their
community -- to finally have a place for local kids to play basketball, and
for the adults to host dinner dances and hold group meetings. A place they
could finally call their own.
Yesterday, that dream officially became a reality.
Michael Navarro offers a toast for his father, John, a founding
member of the Olympia Activity Center committee.
faces seemingly glued on, members of the Olympia
Activities Center (OAC) executive committee joined
honored guests in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the
two-story building -- home to a full-length basketball
court, 20-seat computer room and a meeting hall at an
approximate cost of $1.7 million.
"We overcame hurdles at every turn. This is a 100-percent
volunteer effort, and a testament to the belief that nothing is
impossible if people want to see it happen," said OAC
chairman Dominic Leone.
His committee was able to finance the 8,000-square foot
building completely through fund-raisers, private and
corporate donations, and a $500,000 grant from the
state. "People kept telling us we couldn't do this for a
number of reasons, but we never lost sight of the goal,"
Leone said. "Perseverance and patience are the two
key words on this day," said the Rev. Robert Navins,
pastor at St. Margaret Mary for the past 19 years, whose
invocation followed the presentation of the American flag
by the Air Force ROTC from the Michael J. Petrides
School, Sunnyside.
The scoreboard inside the center flashed the numbers of
yesterday's date, along with "93" and "05" -- the starting
and finishing years for the project, which began
construction in 2003 on the site of the former eighth-
grade schoolhouse and playground -- while the right
possession arrow was lit to signal that "we're moving
forward," said Leone.
Joe Funk (secretary), John Tiplady (director of St. Margaret Mary's sports programs), Larry Nelson, Rusty Thornton
and the family of founding member John Navarro, who died in June 2004.
"There are wealthier parishes and communities in my district, but there aren't any richer in spirit than Midland Beach,"
said City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island), who along with Surrogate Court Judge John Fusco, State Sen.
John Marchi (R-Staten Island), Advance Editor Brian Laline, and Credit Suisse First Boston manager director and
chief credit officer Robert O'Brien received plaques for their support of the center. Others on hand included Civil
Court Judge Eric Vitaliano and Elizabeth Dubovsky, executive director of the SI Bank & Trust Foundation, one of
the main financial backers of the center.
"This is a humble community, and they did this in such a humble way. They didn't look for a handout," said Laline,
speaking about the executive committee, which itself received a plaque from St. Margaret Mary school principal
Sister Barbara Heclo. After decades of failure in trying to get such a project off the ground, the idea for the OAC
emerged from the frustration of Martinos and Leone when they were a coach and a parent, respectively, in the
parish's basketball program.
"The same complaints I was hearing as a coach were the same ones I made as a player ... and they were the same
complaints that had existed for years," said Martinos, currently the St. John Villa Academy high school varsity
basketball coach. "A center like this was so badly needed in this community. It's for everyone from kids to senior
The OAC is a nonprofit organization.
Other major contributors include Coca-Cola, which donated the scoreboard; the Richmond County Savings
Foundation; and a number of Chicago-based brokers contacted by Funk -- Dan Curran and Chuck Green for
Sydan & Co., Cliff Bussey of Dempsy & Co., Bill Lilliwits of Melvin Specialists, Mark Romo of Chicago
Securities, Bill Surman of Rock Island, and Steve Abraham of Tradlink.
Stephen Hart is a news reporter for the Advance. He may be reached at

Staten Island Advance has approved the posting of this article.

Visit the Staten Island Advance
1126 Olympia Blvd.
Staten Island, New York   10306

Facility Coordinator:  Peggy Rybarczyk; (718) 351-2452

The Olympia Activity Center was originally constructed for the benefit of the Midland Beach Community,
St. Margaret Mary's School and Parish.  The facility was originally built, maintained and operated by
Olympia Activity Center, Inc.  A non-profit volunteer organization.

Effective June, 2009 St. Margaret Mary Church assumed full responsibility from Olympia Activity Center, Inc.
for the maintenance and operation of the facility.  It is currently maintained and operated by the Parish of
St. Christopher - St. Margaret Mary.

The OAC is used by the parishioners of St. Christopher - St. Margaret May and is available for parties, private
and public events,sporting activities and classroom usage.
The facilities include:
  •  Main Hall; with basketball court,
  •  Meeting Rooms,
  •  Kitchen and
  •  Offices.

For detailed information and reservations, please contact the Parish Secretary, Mrs. Peggy Rybarczy at:
  • St. Christopher Parish Office
130 Midland Avenue
Staten Island, New York   10306
(718) 351-2452
Fax: (718) 351-1174
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:30am - 4:00pm
  • St. Margaret Mary Church Office
560 Lincoln Avenue
Staten Island, New York   10306
Fax: (718) 987-0446
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:30am - 2:30pm
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Staten Island, New York   10306
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