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As summer heats up, typical Whitestone 19-year-olds are spending their time playing video games, going to the beach and working crummy jobs at local stores.
But Devon O’Connor is anything but typical.
In February, he and his 17-year-old brother, Logan, restarted Dabby’s Party World, a business their father shuttered four years ago, and since 2007 Devon has run the successful 4Laughs Comedy Entertainment Co., which books and plans comedy shows in Queens.
He has also long been interested in helping people and he stages comedy fund-raisers and other events to raise money for good causes. On a recent day off from working for his own companies, he and his brother painted a graffiti-covered divider off the Clearview Expressway.
Now he is putting his qualities of entrepreneurship and benevolence to work to benefit Whitestone in a whole new way through “Welcome to Whitestone,” a group he recently started in order to boost his native neighborhood.
“I like doing stuff for the community,” he said. “Everything just all works together. Being only 19 years old, it’s cool to be able to make a positive impact on the community.”
With a two-week-old domain name and only $500 raised so far toward its first planned project — a $4,000 initiative to replace the weathered sign welcoming visitors to Whitestone — the group is in its infancy.
When he came up with the idea last year to spruce up the sign, he went to then-City Councilman Tony Avella, the 109th Precinct and other leaders in order to figure out what such a job would entail. In December 2009, he received the permits to begin the project. Now money is the main obstacle.
But beyond fixing signs, O’Connor has grand plans for the endeavor, which he hopes will act as a business roundtable and community town hall with meetings between business owners, residents and local leaders. He has already enlisted a number of businesses whose owners intend to become involved in the group and who would fund the group through annual fees to enjoy the group’s promotions, and he has already begun to look into applying for nonprofit status.
“I want to do a lot of things throughout the year for families. We have the Whitestone Park over there and nothing’s really done there. I want to get this town going,” he said. “I want to get into replacing signs, fixing potholes, community projects.”
He would also like to spread the concept — one major purpose of which would be to attract businesses to Whitestone — to other areas of Queens, creating Welcome to College Point, Welcome to Bayside and other affiliates that would all fall under one umbrella.
“[Avella] thought it was a great idea. He liked that I want to do things in the community,” O’Connor said, “In Whitestone, there are a lot of things to do, but no one does anything and there’s no way to find out about anything.”
For more information, please visit welcometowhitestone.com.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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