MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Chamber of Commerce held its 54th annual awards banquet March 11, when six residents and two organizations were honored for their contributions to the township.
Twenty-year UNICO member Vivian Cleffi was honored as Citizen of the Year by the chamber.
She currently serves as chair of the Charitable Goals Committee, a sub-group that determines who receives the donations, according to presenter and Chamber Board Member Larry Casha. Cleffi has lived in Montville Township since 1979.
In 1975, she lost her eight-year-old son Jim to cancer, and realized that there were 32 cases of a rare form of the disease in a small geographical portion of the state. She created a media firestorm, and she formed a group called We Who Care with other concerned parents to remediate the toxic causes of the cancer in the area known as Cancer Alley.
“She will roll her sleeves up and get involved,” Casha said. “She is never afraid to make good things happen to those who need it to happen. […] When God calls you back, rest assured that you have made a difference in individual lives and you have made this earth a better place to live.”
Cleffi called the award a “wonderful honor.” She called Montville Township the finest community to raise a family and live in.
“When I look out at everyone here, I think you’re all citizens of the year,” Cleffi said. “You support us. You’re what our heart is about. Without you, we couldn’t do the job we do. I’m sharing my award with all of you. You’re the pillars of our strength.”
She also thanked her husband, sons and their wives, and her UNICO “family,” all of whom she called her “personal pillars.”
To see video of the presentation, click:
Aran McDermott and Ryan McDermott
The chamber named brothers and owners of Harrigan’s and Columbia Inn restaurants Aran McDermott and Ryan McDermott as Business Persons of the Year.
The brothers’ father Joseph changed Jerry’s Tavern into Harrigan’s, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Columbia Inn is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Their father would call home and have young Aran and Ryan come in to fill in at Harrigan’s as needed, said presenter and Board Member Joe O’Dowd.
“This taught them at an early age what it meant to work hard,” O’Dowd said. “They also learned the importance of community. They support all the various activities and functions in town. They support all things ‘Montville Township’ and provide a great example to other businesses, as they always hire local kids to entry-level jobs.”
Ryan McDermott said it is “truly nice to be recognized.” He congratulated all this year’s winners, especially Vivian Cleffi. He also thanked his mom for “showing us what being a good person is truly all about.”
The chamber honored Montville Township High School teacher Anthony Sia with the Public Service Award. Sia is the advisor for the School of Rock at the high school. This organization “combines classically trained and self-taught student musicians to form a rock-n-roll band,” according to a chamber release.
“For the last 11 years, the group has been donating the proceeds from its concerts to worthy causes,” said presenter and Chamber Board Member Daniele Speciale. “The groups include Montville Township Drug Awareness Council, Homeless Bus, Girl Up, Emma’s Angels and 11th Hour.”
“Whenever possible, students meet with the recipients of the funds they raise, so they can realize the difference they’ve made. The impact is profound and empowering,” Speciale said.
The students display camaraderie among themselves and with Sia, practicing a minimum of 15 hours per week, she said.
“This award is not only to recognize the time and resources you’ve sacrificed, but also the lasting impact you’ve continued to have on these talented students and the impact you’ve all, as a group, continued to have on our community,” Speciale said.
“I love Montville Township and I love the things we do for our children,” Sia said. “I’m very honored by this award. If Montville Township had a band, it would be the School of Rock, because we play for what Montville Township believes in, such as the Homeless Bus, the Drug Awareness Council, and the Montville Education Foundation.”