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Local Agency Honors Volunteers at Annual Awards Ceremony

Lisa Pachnos

Friday, January 31, 2014 • 7:13pm

Volunteers and representatives from local businesses and organizations were recognized for their outstanding efforts in support of Project Self-Sufficiency at the agency’s annual “Mosaic Awards” on Thursday.    The event recognizes individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations which have provided invaluable assistance to the agency during the previous year.  The President’s Award was bestowed on Project Self-Sufficiency Board Member and former agency participant Cheryl Brewer in recognition of her years of support.  Project Self-Sufficiency is a local, non-profit agency which specializes in services for low-income families in Sussex County, as well as portions of Warren, Hunterdon and Morris Counties. 

 

“The Mosaic Awards honors the individuals and organizations that have been instrumental in helping us to pursue our mission throughout the year,” noted Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency.  “This event recognizes that even the smallest contributions can combine with the efforts of others to have a powerful impact on the community.  The lives of thousands of local families have been changed for the better because of the thoughtfulness and generosity of these individuals.”

 

Each year Project Self-Sufficiency singles out one volunteer who has demonstrated overwhelming support of the agency to receive the Michael J. Holub President’s Award, named in honor of the agency’s late Board President.  The 2014 President’s Award was given to former Project Self-Sufficiency client and current agency board member Cheryl Brewer, a mother of four children who has been a full-time employee of the Newton school district for decades.  “Cheryl Brewer is a living, breathing example of the possibilities that exist here, as long as you are willing to work hard and not give up hope,” noted Deborah Berry-Toon.  “She is a Project Self-Sufficiency success story but we are also very proud to be able to call her our friend.”  Cheryl Brewer approached the agency for assistance more than 20 years ago when her former husband walked out leaving her with four young children.  Today, Cheryl volunteers as a member of the agency’s Board of Directors, and along with her son who is a professional chef, she has catered the annual holiday party for Project Self-Sufficiency participants for years.  She also assists at all of the agency fundraising events.

 

Assistance with fundraising is appreciated every year.   Crystal Cottrell and Kim Wolfe were honored for helping to facilitate two of the agency’s major fundraising events, A Taste of Autumn and Open that Bottle Night, at the Hudson Farm Club.  Chocolate Goat Gift Shoppe owners Stephanie Austin and Jennifer Todaro were thanked for their support of the agency’s signature fundraiser, A Taste of Talent, since the event’s inception.  Several volunteers were recognized for volunteering as servers at agency fundraisers including Fern Babstock, Brandon Quinn and Ruthie Steelman.

 

Food insecurity is a dire problem for many Project Self-Sufficiency participants, and contributions to the agency’s food pantry, Thanksgiving baskets and other feeding programs are always welcome.  The College of Knowledge, an informal group of individuals led by Project Self-Sufficiency Leadership Council member Roy Knutsen, contributes funds towards the purchase of hundreds of frozen turkeys at Thanksgiving each year.  Members of the College of Knowledge who were on hand to be recognized included Rhil Becker, Tony Borgese, Richard Celli, Doug Ernst, Bob Flynn, Mike Grablutz, Jim Hunt, Tom Iredell, Artie Jones, Kathy Kaltsas, Jeff Little, Sue Maine, Darren and Dave Manser, George Morville, Anthony Norod, Virgil Rome, Richard Rowe, Ken Syberg, Lou Sylvester, Bob Trouse, Homer Wannamaker and Rick Wundrack.

 

In addition to providing packaged food to its clients, the agency is now fortunate to have a working vegetable garden.  Several volunteers were thanked for working tirelessly during the spring and summer months to ensure that agency participants have fresh fruits and vegetables, including Frances Gould Naftal, Claudia Kunath, Elysia Ochs, Liz Ostuni, Laura Quigley, Rhoda Seider, Mary Spector and Pat Wilson.  

 

Several organizations were singled out for their assistance to the community.  Mary Ann Maikisch and Steven Spinner of the American Red Cross of Northern New Jersey accepted an award for their agency’s response to Hurricane Sandy.  Dr. Linda Hendrixson of the Sussex County AIDS Taskforce was recognized for originating the Sussex County AIDS Task Force and sustaining it for 25 years.  Helen Homeijer from the Sussex County Department of Health and Environmental Services, was honored for chairing the Sussex Warren Chronic Disease Coalition and for her prevention work in the community. 

 

Project Self-Sufficiency’s breast health education program includes participation in the Komen for the Cure® North Jersey Affiliate’s annual Race for the Cure.  Breast cancer survivor and agency volunteer Pamela Iberer was singled out for raising the most funds for Team Project Self-Sufficiency during 2013.

 

Project Self-Sufficiency clients are often in need of warm clothing, so the agency is proud to be a recipient of the United Way of Northern New Jersey’s annual Gift of Warmth Campaign.  Dianne Ross and Kathy Kwasnick accepted an award for coordinating the Gift of Warmth Campaign which provides warm coats to children and adults each year.

 

Gaylene Finch, Stevie Fava and the members of the Sparta Women’s Club are two-time recipients in recognition of their continuous, long-term support of the community, including offering scholarships, creating homemade scarves and hats, and conducting toy drives on behalf of agency clients.

 

Mountain Broadcasting reporter Melissa Estock was recognized for her efforts in showcasing Sussex County through her broadcasts over the years.

 

Former Project Self-Sufficiency client Jeanne Farelly was recognized for her on-going efforts to advocate on behalf of the organization, including giving speeches at agency events.

 

Michael Nelms, Esquire, was honored for his long-term participation in the legal assistance and education program at Project Self-Sufficiency, giving free presentations about bankruptcy and offering free consultations to local residents for more than 20 years.

 

Finding affordable housing is a crucial concern for many area residents.  Gloria Marino was given a Mosaic Award for her continuous support of agency participants as they struggled to find housing.  Once a home is found, many participants cannot afford routine upkeep.  David Kihm, Executive Director of the Christian Outreach Project, was recognized for coordinating teams of local teenagers to assist with household repair projects for agency clients.

 

Project Self-Sufficiency’s Back-to-School Fair assists hundreds of children as they prepare for a new school year.  Young Megan Kunles was honored for collecting new school supplies to be included in students’ backpacks which were distributed to needy children at the fair.

 

Monetary donations to Project Self-Sufficiency help to provide crucial services to families in need.  Carole Sobiechowski was honored for spearheading a unique donation program in honor of loved ones who have passed away.

 

The Season of Hope Holiday Toy Drive involves the participation of hundreds of individuals, schools, civic organizations and businesses each year.  For the past two years, Richard and Faith Vohden have served as co-chairpersons of the event.  They were recognized for their efforts which included visiting local organizations and schools, and speaking on television and radio about the need for toy contributions in our area.  Also honored for their contribution to the toy drive was Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, which conducts a toy drive within their parish, and also supplies teen volunteers to assist patrons as they select toys for their children.

 

Volunteer Patricia Wolfrum was thanked for her work with the agency’s prom shop, toy shop and Thanksgiving food drives over the years.

 

Project Self-Sufficiency is a private non-profit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey.  The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children while achieving personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability.  Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 19,500 families, including more than 30,000 children.  For information about the programs and services available at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org.

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