People of the Year

2023 Community Leader of the Year: Lori Panarello

The first ever North Fork Pride Parade this summer in Greenport brought joy to residents that was visible, palpable and has had lasting positive effects for the community.

Eleanor Thomas, president of North Fork Women, said the event was “heartwarming.”

“Everything just felt very spot on,” she said. “The impact was that it wasn’t just good for us marching in the parade, but I felt a real joy from the people that were watching.”

The mastermind behind this festive event was Lori Panarello of Craft Hair in Greenport. Due to the parade’s lasting impact in the community, she has been chosen as The Suffolk Times’ Community Leader of the Year for 2023.

“Seeing that in her own imagination and then making it happen in such a pivotal time, I think deserves recognition,” Ms. Thomas said.

Ms. Panarello purchased a home on the North Fork nearly a decade ago and opened her Greenport salon during the COVID-19 pandemic after years of working as the global artistic director for KMS Hair. She immediately immersed herself in the community through her participation in groups such as North Fork Women and Beauty United Against Bullying, a nonprofit Ms. Panarello launched in 2016.

She has since recruited salon owners in New York, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and other cities to join the fight against bullying s. As she traveled the world for her work with KMS, she also enlisted international salons to join the fight. 

“I always wanted to do something to help people who were picked on or abused — whether it was gay youth or people who were being bullied for different reasons,” Ms. Panarello said in an interview with the Suffolk Times in March.

She had been mulling the idea of a North Fork Pride Parade for years. Her friend Lori Cohen, a past president of North Fork Women, described Ms. Panarello as “selfless.”

“She’s very much about community and inclusion and helping other people,” Ms. Cohen said. “. Every community should have people like Lori — and it would be a better community.”

The North Fork Pride Parade provided a platform for local businesses and other nonprofit organizations to give back even more to the community.

“Now we try to do more collaborating with others,” Ms. Thomas said. “More of our people are volunteering at CAST, we’re working on various partnerships and educational forums with Queer Long Island, we have an ‘In the Know’ series with Peconic Bay Medical Center … we’re reaching out for all our allies to work our programs. This was a great fit, too.”

Anne Sherwood Pundyk, co-chair of Save Mattituck Inlet, recalled first meeting Ms. Panarello and her partner nine years ago while finishing a jog on a snowy winter evening. She said they spoke for about four hours.

“The same sort of warmth that I felt personally, I see she extends to not only the people she works with and her customers but young people in the community,” Ms. Sherwood Pundyk said.

Bridget Elkin from The Elkin Team at Compass has gotten to know Ms. Panarello well because their Greenport workplaces are next-door to each other. 

“Lori brought our community together in solidarity to celebrate the freedom to love and the importance of taking pride in who we are,” Ms. Elkin said. “There is a strong current of acceptance and support in our community but to gather hundreds of neighbors, friends, business owners, full-time residents, part-time residents, local families who have been here for generations, next to the newest members of our community — to all celebrate together … dancing, laughing, embracing in the streets of our village … it was incredibly uplifting.” 

Being kind comes naturally to Ms. Panarello, her friends attest.

“The parade, you could say, is tangible evidence of her style, her charisma, her caring and generosity,” Ms. Sherwood Pundyk said. “She’s there every day on the ground doing it … Anyone who knows her, knows that she does good deeds every day.” 

Previous Winners

*The award was previously called Civic Person of the Year
2022: Rena Wilhelm
2021: Rev. Natalie Wimberly
2020: Kenny Black
2019—Cathy Demeroto
2018—Rev. Dr. Ann Van Cleef
2017 — Mindy Ryan
2016 — Valerie Shelby and Sonia Spar
2015 — Don Fisher
2014 — Designer show house organizers
2013 — Ron and Doris McGreevy
2012 — Group for the East End
2011 — American Legion Post restoration volunteers
2010 — Peggy Murphy
2009 — North Fork Community Theater
2008 — Lori Luscher
2007 — Committee for Phil McKnight
2006 — Relay for Life organizers
2005 — Merle Levine
2004 — Christine Roache
2003 — Barbara Taylor
2002 — Kim Tetrault
2001 — Elinor May
2000 — Mark Miller
1999 — George Hubbard Sr.
1998 —Ed Siegmann
1997 — Freddie Wachsberger
1996 — Shelley Scoggin
1995 — Craig Richter
1994 — Stewardship Task Force
1993 — Walt Krupski
1992 — The Eklunds
1991 — Bill Grigonis
1990 — Merlon Wiggin
1989 — Jeanne Marriner
1988 — Ray Nine
1987 — Bessie Swann