PARAMUS, NJ - Nearly three dozen residents from around northern New Jersey were recognized Monday morning for their contributions to the community.
During the fourth annual Hometown Hero awards, which were held at Felician University in Lodi, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer honored a group that included first responders, veterans, business owners, students, seniors, community leaders and veterans for their dedication to others.
Gottheimer said, “Today’s awardees are bound by a shared sense of duty. We are lucky to have so many unsung heroes in our communities, whose quiet power of service goes on every day without the recognition they truly deserve. None of these people stood up because they sought recognition, they did it because they wanted to do what was right.
He added, “That’s what Jersey Values are about and that's what makes me certain that we live in the greatest country in the world. On behalf of the Fifth District, I couldn't be more proud to honor these Hometown Heroes today.”
Honorees from Paramus and Hackensack are listed below, along with biographical information provided by Gottheimer's office.
Dana Forcarelli, Paramus
"Following the horrific Paramus school bus crash that took the lives of 10-year-old Miranda Vargas and teacher Jennifer Williamson, Dana, who is a school counselor in Paramus, had a difficult job to do for hundreds of kids who had to make sense of this tragedy. Dana has been there for our children, she has helped them when they needed it most, and she has continued to be a shoulder to lean on."
Gary Terzano, Hackensack
"Gary has been instrumental in establishing the community garden that has sprung up in Johnson Park where people have been coming together and planting fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. That garden is there in large part because of Gary’s hard work as chairperson of the Hackensack Environmental Committee Board. Not only is it a beautiful addition to Johnson Park, but it is teaching students about agriculture and allowing people to meet and connect through volunteerism."
Imam Moutaz Charaf, Hackensack
"Imam Moutaz is a leader in building stronger ties between all faith communities; each year, Imam Moutaz hosts an interfaith Iftar - to bring different churches, synagogues, and temples from across northern NJ together. Whenever there is an opportunity for him to strengthen ties between different faith communities, he is there - from leading delegations from his mosque to interfaith events at synagogues and churches, to speaking out about the need for strong relationships between all faiths, Imam Moutaz is always showing up to build bridges."
Julia Orlando, Hackensack
"Through her tireless and groundbreaking work with the Housing Authority of Bergen County and the Director of Bergen County Housing, Health, and Human Service Center, she has become a nationally renowned expert in working at the intersection of housing, mental health, and veterans’ services. And it’s well deserved: she led the effort to make Bergen County the first county in the country to end veteran and chronic homelessness."
Jennifer Brewer, Hackensack
"Jennifer is committed to both her faith community and to the larger Hackensack Community. She’s a member of Hackensack’s New Hope Baptist Church ministerial staff, where many say she holds the collective community of faith together. Jennifer has fought for seniors, while serving on the Board of Directors of Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior Center, to get the resources they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. She’s also brought her focus on healthy living to the wider community by partnering with Hackensack to host community health awareness days."
Carolyn Davis, Hackensack
"Reverend Carolyn Davis is a lifelong Hackensack resident who, along with her husband Reverend Robert Davis, is the Co-Pastor and Co-Founder of Cornerstone Baptist Church. Carolyn retired after 42 years as a nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center. She is an advocate at school board and city council meetings, and she is the president of WorkGroup, which brings together community groups to figure out how they can work together to solve local problems. Carolyn is an active member of the Hackensack Fellowship of Black of Churches, the Passaic Fellowship of Churches ministry, and she teaches bible study at Hackensack’s Martin Luther King Center."