EDISON, NJ – The Edison Chamber of Commerce held its 2015 Edison Achievement Awards recipients last Tuesday evening at the Pines.  Each year at its annual meeting the Edison Chamber recognizes people and organizations who have given of themselves to the Edison community above and beyond the norm.

The 2015 Edison Achievement Award winners are:

Chamber Member of the Year: Regina Riccioni is the Director, Corporate Education and Training at Middlesex County College. She joined the College in 2013 after professional roles at Thomas Edison State College as Director, Office for Professional and Workplace Learning and Rutgers University as Assistant Dean/Director, Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science and Engineering. Regina earned her doctorate in Adult and Continuing Education from Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education and is excited for the opportunity to serve the field in her current role at the College.

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Riccioni is proud of her recognition by the Chamber and is grateful for the opportunity to serve the Chamber on the Board and work with the businesses and entrepreneurs that the Chamber serves.

Outstanding Large Business: The JFK Adult Medical Day Program was established as a result of the merger of the Muhlenberg Adult Day Health Program and the JFK Hartwyck Adult Medical Day Center. Muhlenberg Adult Day Health was established in 1983 and is believed to be the first hospital based Adult Medical Day Care in New Jersey. JFK Hartwyck Adult Medical Day Center was established in 1987 and is believed to be the first nursing home based Adult Medical Day Care in NJ. As a result of this innovation and leadership, countless elderly, medically fragile, and cognitively impaired members of our community have received top-level care by the dedicated professionals of these programs. In an effort to serve the community best, the programs were merged in November 2009, and renamed the JFK Adult Medical Day Program, located at 3 Progress Street in Edison.

Outstanding Mid-Sized Business: James A. Vivelo, President-Founder of T&L is the consummate business executive with over 30 years of professional results oriented experience. His leadership, innovative thinking and strategic solutions to problems are widely recognized amongst his peers and associates.

Vivelo created T&L One from scratch and grew it to the mid-sized business it is today, with 70 plus vehicles and over 50 employees. Vivelo is alert to developing trends in existing transportation services, so as to position his company to respond in advance of issues becoming problems. By staying abreast of legislative matters that impact transportation services he gains an advantage over the competition.

Taxi & Limousine One, LLC, located in Edison, NJ, is a 24 hour, 7 day per week transportation provider of nonemergency medical transportation services. The beneficiaries of these medical transportation services are the eligible and qualified residents of Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties, who require such form of transportation.

T&L One is a preferred service provider, who works in close association with LogistiCare, the State of New Jersey’s third party organization, who orchestrates such medical transport services for the entire State. The company is rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau

Outstanding Small Business: In June of 2013, Seema Jagtiani stepped up as a President of Amogh Agency, acquiring Farmers Insurance Retail Agency, a very successful insurance company from the west coast expanding now to the Northeast.

Jagtiani continues to do what she is best at: providing financial and insurance solutions in a very creative and cost efficient manner. She was recently awarded with the prestigious Blue Vase award consecutively for the two years with Farmers Insurance Company given to top performers.

Jagtiani is the cofounder of Shradhaa Foundation, dedicated to the children and widows of soldiers of third world countries. Seema organizes various community events in support of various causes recently for Nepal where they collected over $53,000 in donations.

Outstanding Business, Economic Development: Len Sendelsky has been a resident of Edison for the past thirty years. Sendelsky lived in the Woodbrook Corners Development for his first ten years in Edison, then moved to the Stephenville ranch home at 66 Richard Road where he and his family currently reside. Sendelsky has a Bachelor of Science and Masters Degree in Civil Engineering from NJIT.

Sendelsky has served as the Vice President of Lenguy Construction Corp. since 1987, located at 3 Stephenville Parkway in Edison, and was project supervisor for construction of Stephenville Park Plaza, a retail and office complex. He has also supervised construction of residential properties and multifamily complexes throughout Edison and surrounding communities, and is responsible for their property management on a daily basis.

Sendelsky was also an engineer and manager at The Ceco Corporation, a multimillion dollar company that built large industrial and retail facilities throughout the country. He also helped to found the USA Home Warranty Corporation in 1998 and was a plan administrator there for seven years.

Sendelsky currently serves the Edison community as the volunteer Chairman of the Edison Zoning Board of Adjustment which oversees approval of responsible building and renovations throughout Edison.

As Chairman of the Edison Memorial Tower Corporation, he and his team have been an integral part of its current success and growth and we will be holding the re-dedication ceremony of the Tower later this year.

Citizen of the Year: Stephen Deak is a lifelong member of the Edison community, and has made it his life’s work to serve the community he loves. While attending Edison High School he was a member of the National Honor Society, and was nominated to the McDonald’s All-American High School Band. He was so respected at his high school that he was asked, as a student at Rutgers, to return as a Staff Instructor in the music Department where he taught students just a few years younger than himself.

After graduating from Rutgers, Deak joined the Edison Division of Fire as a Firefighter/EMT. He has served in the department for the past two decades, rising quickly to Captain in 2005 and now serves as Battalion Chief since 2009. Letters of recommendation for the Battalion Chief promotion came in from all sides praising Deak for possessing strong leadership skills, a commitment to public service, a deep regard for family, and most importantly a commitment to community.

At the same time he served as a firefighter, Deak sought and received certification as a Paramedic, a grueling and difficult process. He took this training and, in addition to his work on the fire department, joined the JFK Medical Center Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU). In this role he has saved numerous lives and served a role-model and mentor for younger paramedics.

In addition to his everyday service to the greater Edison area, Deak was also a part of the Saint Barnabas Burn Transport Team, where he was a first responder following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Charles Backmann grew up locally, attending Kennedy High School in Iselin and the graduating from Rutgers. From an early age, he knew that he wanted to be in the hospitality business and so started working in restaurants in high school, then managing fine dining establishments after college. For a number of years he was happy working at places owned by other people, but he always wanted to explore entrepreneurship and go out on his own.

In 2014 he and his friends, Jason Kijowski and Bill Lutz, started brewing up beer in Jason’s kitchen. Backmann and Kijowski gave some to their fathers who were so blown away they suggested the three young men start their own brewery. For many people that would have been the end of it, a nice dream and a good glass of beer.

But the next day the three friends started scouting locations in Edison, where Backmann and Lutz both live, and they settled on a large building at 30 Nixon Lane and named their brewhouse Cypress Brewery. They quickly signed the papers to take over the facility, and like a true family business brought parents, siblings and friends in to help design the floor, the ceiling, doors and décor. Backmann, Kijowski and Lutz designed their own brewing and refrigeration system, and Jason invented the brewhouse’s computer programs for which he is filing a patent.

The Cypress Brewery crew, the three partners and their family and friends, are dedicated to making their dream a reality. This month their first beer is going on sale, and the team plans to sell regionally in and around New Jersey first and then over the coming years expand to be a national brand.

Veteran Business of the Year: Major (Retired) Marc Krauss is the Editor and Publisher of TAP into Edison. The online newspaper launched in September 2014 and readership has continued to grow since. TAP into Edison is an all-online, objective, newspaper serving the residents, organizations, and business owners of Edison, NJ, and the surrounding area.

TAP into Edison covers local news traditionally overlooked by other media outlets and has reached over 300,000 readers in its first year. TAP into Edison has also started a journalism internship program at J.P. Stevens High School with 10 students, providing real world journalism experience reporting on their school. Marc is also a retired U.S. Army Major with over 21 active duty years of service in both the Air Force and the Army.

Krauss began his military service enlisting in the Air Force and obtaining the rank of Sergeant. While in college he simultaneously attended Army ROTC and served in the Nebraska Army National Guard. Immediately following his graduation in 1996, Marc was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Defense Artillery (Patriot Missiles).

Krauss deployed to Kuwait in support Operation Iraqi Freedom and on April 1, 2003 crossed into Iraq and was in Baghdad shortly thereafter. Krauss returned to Iraq in 2005 for his 2nd tour as an Army Liaison Officer to the U.S. Air Force, 31st Fighter Wing. He concluded his military service as an Operations Readiness Analyst in June 2008 at U.S. Army Headquarters, Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, VA.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Connor Shah has loved sneakers since he was a kid. He decided to put his love of sneakers and fashion together with his drive to make money and create his very own business. His company, Sole Purpose NJ, has hundreds of customers around the world and also creates wearable works of art for clients. Connor is expanding his business by designing and producing clothing in the coming years.

Shah has had many entrepreneurial ventures since an early age and hopes to continue learning as he attends Rutgers Business School in the fall

Secondary School Educator of the Year: Patricia DiGioia-Laird has enjoyed being an educator for 42 years. She is a product of the Edison Township School District and received a Bachelor’s Degree from Douglass College and a Master’s degree from Rutgers University. She is currently teaching fashion and textiles as well as financial literacy.

DiGioia-Laird has been instrumental in the development of curriculum for the Family and Consumer Sciences classes, and serves as President of Educators of Family and Consumer Sciences of NJ. Over her tenure, DiGioia-Laird also served as the chapter adviser for the FCCLA program at Herbert Hoover Middle School, Edison High School and John P. Stephens High School.

As an adviser, she has worked countless hours to allow student to grow to their greatest potential through service projects and competitive events. Under her guidance, hundreds of students have earned medals in state and national competitions. Regardless if it is staying until late hours for a fundraising event or coming in early to motivate students on the executive council, everything she does is always in the best interest of her students.

For the past 20 years, DiGioia-Laird has served as the State Adviser for New Jersey Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. DiGioia-Laird spends many hours each day working on program implementation, organizing conferences, helping members with projects and activities, and so much more.

As a State Adviser, she has mentored over 120 state officers, 7 national officers, and has seen statewide participation grow to over 7,000 students. No task is too big or small for her and it is always inspiring to see DiGioia-Laird at work with a smile on her face in the service of others.

Middle School Educator of the Year: John Fischer has been proud to call himself a teacher for the past 16 years. Prior to becoming an educator, Fischer worked in advertising for Donald Trump for a decade before making the decision to leave the corporate world, go back to school, and follow his dream of contributing to our society by becoming a teacher.

Fischer earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Supervision with Honors from Rider University in hopes of improving his instruction and to better serve the school community. He has also received the Governor’s Teacher of the Year award in 2006, as well as Edison’s VFW 2014 Teacher of the Year Award.

Fischer and his students began the Make a Difference Club 15 years ago as a school-based service project and have raised over $23,000 in an effort to make the world a better place with such causes as Operation Smile and The Wounded Warrior Project.

Primary School Educator of the Year: Roseanne Vallely is a homegrown Edison teacher having been born and raised in South Edison, N.J. She is a product of the Edison school system and is proud to feed back into the very educational system which helped to raise her into a well-rounded citizen.

Vallely’s strong values of education and the need to contribute to the greater good of others is a direct result of her parents, Rosemarie and Frank Pacella, who not only raised a family in Edison, but also owned Pacella’s Deli, a thriving “Mom and Pop” local business. It was there that she learned a strong work ethic as she watched her parents work 7 days a week and still found time to connect with their customers and give back through community service.

Vallely calls Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary home. After nearly 20 years of teaching at the same school, she makes sure that each year is as fresh as the first by delving into as many opportunities as possible which bring the staff and students together.

One example of this is the St. Jude Children’s Cancer Research Math-a-thon whereby over $55,000 has been raised over the course of several years. Students earn prizes for their work, but soon realize that the gift of hope, love and sense of community is the truest reward. She also leads the school as Human Relations Committee facilitator where she spearheaded a whole school character education based project called Pay It Forward February where children recorded acts of kindness for an entire month.

Edison Chamber of Commerce/ Annamae Baerenbach Scholarship: An Edison resident, Matthew Jansen attended Edison High School where he was inducted into the National Honor Society. He graduated in 2014. He is determined to pursue a Liberal Arts degree as a Business major at Middlesex County College and then continue on to a four-year university while continuing his employment and involvement in the community.

Working 20+ hours a week, Jansen also earned the highest honor in Scouting as an Eagle Scout. As a dedicated member of the Boy Scouts of America, he has been participating in community service projects since he began scouting in the first grade. These projects have included assisting in community clean-up projects, collected and distributed non-perishable food to the local food banks, visited and socialized with residents of nursing homes, and taught skills to younger Scouts.