Giving Back

Founder of Westfield’s Imagine Center to Receive Union County Women of Excellence Award

March 16, 2014 at 4:00 PM

WESTFIELD, NJ – Mary Robinson, Founder and Executive Director of Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss, will be one of 10 recipients of the 2014 Women of Excellence Awards given by the Union County Commission on the Status of Women. She will be honored at the 22nd annual Women of Excellence dinner on Friday, March 21, at Galloping Hill Caterers in Union.

“I'm grateful for this recognition, and for being nominated by the Imagine board, because of the opportunity to bring more awareness to issue of children's grief and grief in general,” said Robinson. “Kids in grief are kids at risk for unhealthy or destructive ways of coping with painful feelings. The loss of a parent especially is a traumatic loss for a child, but it does not have to leave a child traumatized. A grief support program like Imagine is one way to support grieving children and families.”

Robinson said that what she loves about Imagine’s model is that it is long-term and ongoing—children and families can attend for as long as they need.

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“There is no timeframe to grief and children especially need ongoing, long-term support because they will re-grieve their loss during their different stages of development,” she said. “A colleague said to me years ago, ‘The world is driven by unresolved grief. Whether you are talking about our world leaders, a country's despot, or you or me, the world is driven by unresolved grief.’ I know that to be true and see it all the time. Walk into any 12-step program, any therapist's office or any psychiatric unit in any hospital and you will hear stories of loss. Imagine is designed to intervene before that happens. Our goal is to transform grief, loss and trauma into resiliency, empathy and compassion and to help children grow up emotionally healthy and able to lead meaningful and productive lives. When my father died 40 years ago no one knew what to do or say. Fortunately that is changing. The community pays attention now. It has become normal to get support and that is a very good thing.”

Residents of Union County and out-of-county residents who are active in Union County affairs were eligible for the award.

The honorees for 2014 are:

Debora Brody of Scotch Plains: Business

Marilyn Coplan of Linden: Lifetime Community Service

Kathleen DiChiara of Summit: Community Service

Carolyn Dorfman of Short Hills: Arts & Humanities (Carolyn Dorfman Dance Co., Union)

Trisha Espinoza of Rahway:  Women’s Advocacy

Colleen Gialanella of Scotch Plains: Government

Geraldine Hickey of Berkeley Heights: Medicine/Health Care

Donna Hofer of Franklin: Education (Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District)

Bernice Jalloh of Franklin: Law (Kantor & Jalloh, LLC, Union)

LaTia McNeeley-Sandiford, MSW: Entrepreneurship (Union)

Mary Robinson of Madison: Mental Health Advocacy (Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss, Westfield)

“The Women of Excellence award celebrates the rich contributions of women to the quality of life in Union County,” said Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak.  “Our ten honorees represent all those who uplift our community through their professional achievements, their work in advocacy efforts, and their volunteer services.”

The Commission on the Status of Women is sponsored by The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Each year, awards are given in different fields including education, health care, the arts, government, business, law, community service, technology, humanitarianism, public service, women’s advocacy, and lifetime achievement.

Tickets for this year’s annual Women of Excellence awards dinner are available at $45 per person. For more information and to purchase tickets, contact Madeline Brigantino at the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholder offices, 908-572-4144 or

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