Those involved in community volunteer work often go unnoticed. But on Thursday, April 24, some of the area’s most dedicated young professionals were formally recognized for their exemplary volunteer service in Ocean County at the 2014 Young Altruistic Professional awards ceremony, held at Hemingway’s Cafe in Seaside Heights. The award, presented by United Way of Ocean County, is a tribute to the “full-time professionals, part-time heroes,” ages 18 to 39, who have made a significant impact in the lives of the area’s local residents. A total of 19 people received the honor.
“We were inspired by this year’s amazing group of Young Altruistic Professional winners and thank them for dedicating their personal time to making Ocean County a better place for their neighbors,” said Linda Gyimoty, executive director of United Way of Ocean County.
|Photo via United Way of Ocean County|
The residents attended a special awards ceremony
at Hemingway's Cafe in Seaside Heights.
Childhood friends who grew up in Beach Haven, Natalie Aftanis, Jane Kleber and Chloe and Catherine Snyder were honored for their organization of the “Let’s Get Sandy Run for a Cause,” a 5K run that, over the course of the two events, brought together nearly 850 people who helped raise $42,000 for Alliance for a Living Ocean and LBI fire departments as well as other local rebuilding projects.
“I am so excited; it was an honor to have won this award,” said Kleber. “After the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused, we saw a need in our community. We love our home, and we wanted to do what we could to help.
“Our runners and volunteers are so amazing; they are who made this event a success,” she added. “We were also very lucky to have worked with the town of Surf City for the first race and Beach Haven for the second, which was an absolute pleasure. It was really amazing to see how everyone came together to help.”
The women are continuing to pay it forward by working with the Mordecai Land Trust in Beach Haven to raise awareness of the importance of the barrier island.
Joanne Sofield, a health and physical education teacher at Pinelands Regional High School, and Brooke Salvanto, deputy director at the Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen’s Museum, were also recognized for their community efforts post-Sandy.
Immediately following the storm, when many of the streets in the community were impassable and considered unsafe, Sofield organized a town-wide Trunk-or-Treat event in less than 48 hours. More than 60 cars and families decorated their trunks and handed out candy, and over 2,000 members of the community participated.
Due to the continued cleanup, Sofield organized another Trunk-or-Treat this past year. More than 70 people contributed to the event, including members of the local fire departments and emergency rescue squads, and over 2,500 community residents joined. Another event is being planned this year.
Looking for a way to bring the community together after Sandy, Salvanto, who serves on the Tuckerton Pride and Celebration and Pinelands 4th of July committees as well as the Southern Ocean County Chapter of the Sunshine Foundation, and is also active in events and initiatives with the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, organized a community gathering and Thanksgiving feast at the Seaport for nearly 600 local residents affected by the storm. The event was held in partnership with 35 local restaurants, complete with a visit from Santa Claus and holiday decoration make-and-take crafts to replace those damaged during the storm. Secret Santas from the local community also gave holiday gifts to more than 340 local children in need.
“We put up a big tent here at the Seaport on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the year after the storm, and we’re going to do it again this year,” said Salvanto.
She said she is flattered to be named a recipient of this year’s YAP awards.
“I thought it was a really wonderful way to honor people who are doing great things in the community,” she stated.
Emily Raleigh of Brant Beach was acknowledged for starting The Smart Girls Group, which includes a website, magazine, online classes, book clubs and campus groups where girls support each other in rising above societal pressures and making a positive influence on the world. The group, which fosters a unique environment that seeks to unite, inspire and empower the next generation of influential women, was created after Raleigh wrote a book for her younger sister about succeeding in high school. Today she has expanded the group into a network of girls throughout the world.
“I’m so grateful to be included among so many incredible young people of Ocean County and am proud to represent Ocean County in my work with Smart Girls Group,” said Raleigh.
Other county residents who received recognition for their volunteer work through YAP include Amanda Bines and Adam Boudreau of the U.S. Navy; Edward Burke and Courtney Chibbaro from The People’s Pantry; Kathryn Colhoun of Ocean Partnership for Children; Danielle DeRosa and Dawn Leiser from Court Appointed Special Advocates of Ocean County; Daniel Goresh of the East Dover Volunteer Fire Co.; Christy Holtzapple and Lea Impagliazzo from Exelon Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station; Joseph Kostecki, borough of South Toms River; Jamie Pawlowski of Shore 2 Recover; and Dina Vicari of R.C. Shea and Associates.
— Kelley Anne Essinger
This article was published in The SandPaper.