PLAINFIELD, NJ - TAPinto Plainfield’s Editor Jennifer Popper was among the nineteen individuals and four organizations recently recognized by the Union County Human Relations Commission at their annual Unity Achievement Award dinner on May 6. Chelsea Young, a Plainfield High School student, was also nominated.

According to Commission, the award recipients were nominated and selected for their philanthropic and volunteer efforts, and for fostering and promoting human rights and dignity among the people of Union County. Award categories again included achievements by a corporate/business enterprise, community organization, nonprofit organization, and individual, member of law enforcement, public servant, student, educator, clergy, faith-based organization, military/veteran, and member of the media. 

“The Commission is proud to recognize our local role models who dedicate themselves to helping others and strengthening our communities,” Commissioner Co-Chair Jo Ann Hamilton said. “These regular people do extraordinary things to make others’ lives better, and the evening’s presentation highlights all of the good that is being accomplished in Union County.”

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Popper was unable to unable to attend the awards due to a previously scheduled trip. In a statement to the Commission, Popper reflected on the human interest stories that she has covered over the past three years with TAPinto Plainfield that highlight exceptional people who do amazing things and who live in her town:

“I saw a Jewish women’s organization from Westfield and Muslim women from Plainfield serve a hot meal to those in need at a mosque. I met with members of the Plainfield Police Department who took local youth ‘camping with a cop’ on an overnight trip outdoors. I learned about bilingual students who shared one of our articles on college applications and will now go on to study to become doctors and engineers. And I interviewed a hometown hero, the first African-American female helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard. Not long before that, the Coast Guard had saved my life in Maine. The opportunities that arise can vary day to day. The chance to meet new people, and learn about their lives is what makes writing for TAPinto Plainfield so rewarding. It’s the human interest stories that really connect our communities, and I am grateful to be able to tell the stories that deserve to be told.”

The award reads:

Recognition for her editorial and personal commitment to the City of Plainfield and its citizens

Jennifer Popper is the editor of TAPinto Plainfield, a daily online publication dedicated to disseminating news articles about the city of Plainfield.

As an editor and as a person, Jennifer truly personifies commitment and dedication to a cause. She is honest, has a fearless style of writing, and possesses a seemingly infinite knowledge of what makes the City of Plainfield tick. She has been invaluable to the community by shining a spotlight on the various activities of charities in Plainfield, and the many worthwhile community events that are taking place. She has engaged a diverse group of individuals, city officials, business owners, and organizations that comprise Plainfield, and has shared stories that might otherwise go untold.

Jennifer graduated from Syracuse University in 1990 with a degree in TV, Radio, and Film Management. She moved to Plainfield in 2002. For most of her career, she has worked as the Advertising Research Director for national magazines, including Golf Digest, Rolling Stone, Ladies’ Home Journal, Parenting, and TV Guide Magazine.

In 2016, she was approached by representatives of the Plainfield YMCA, the organization that purchased the TAPinto Plainfield franchise, to work as its editor. She accepted and immediately immersed herself in the digital world right within her own community.

In addition to the value Jennifer lends as an editor, she is also a busy volunteer. She has done volunteer work for The Plainfield Symphony and has served on the Board of the Netherwood Heights Neighbors, a nonprofit group organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, as President, Vice President, and Communications Director.  She recently became a volunteer with the Plainfield Rescue Squad, and she established the Michael Popper EMT Scholarship for them, in memory of her late husband.

For a little over two months in the summer of 2018, in honor of her husband, she walked 800 miles from Cranford, New Jersey to Gouldsboro, Maine to raise funds and awareness for the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile protected biking and walking route that runs through parks in Union County, and Freewalkers, a local group that promotes long-distance walking, for which she was recently inducted as a Trustee. She documented her trip at www.jennsjourneynorth.com.

“The volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to serve on the Commission unequivocally agree that one of the best ways to strive to accomplish their mission is to publicly honor those who already do it well,” said Commission co-chair and Union County Prosecutor’s Office Director of Communications Mark Spivey. “We received approximately 225 pages’ worth of nominating materials for this year’s awards, serving as a moving and powerful reminder of just how much good is being done right here in our home County.”

The recipients of the 2019 Unity Achievement Awards included:

Nancy Polow, Ph.D. (Business Enterprise);

Dr. Norma Bowe, Professor, Kean University’s Be the Change Organization (Community Organization);

Social Justice Matters, Hon. Leland McGee and Rabbi Joel Abraham (Community Organization);

Liam’s Room, Peter and Lisa McNamara (Nonprofit Organization);

Family Promise, Karen Olson (Nonprofit Organization);

Betsy LaVela (Individual);

Sgt. Margarita D’Avella, Union County Prosecutor’s Office (Law Enforcement);

Sgt. Dennis Carovillano, New Providence Police Department (Law Enforcement);

Bette Jane Kowalski, Chair, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders (Public Service);

Chelsea K. Young, Plainfield High School (Student);

Frank Stebbins, Arthur L. Johnson High School (Clark) (Educator);

James Silkensen, United States Army Veteran (Military/Veteran);

Don Sweeney/The Cranford 86 Project (Military/Veteran);

Lockey Maisonneuve, Author, “A Girl Raised By Wolves” (Special Achievement);

The Prom Dress Project (Plainfield), ShonTe Smith and Ashlee Jackson (Special Achievement); and

Jennifer Popper, Editor, TAPinto Plainfield (Media).   

Dr. Paula Rodriguez Rust, Spectrum Diversity LLC, who received a Unity Achievement Award in 2013, was also honored for her support and active participation for the past 15 years in many of the Commission’s activities. She has served as an instructor for several of the Commission’s leading-edge training initiatives and public forums, including bullying and cyberbullying awareness and prevention training. For the past two years, she has been the Commission’s keynote speaker on LGBTQ issues, providing the first statewide educational training forum for parents and the community on understanding transgender individuals, and, for educators, with the added components of creating a safe school environment and understanding federal and state laws and statutes.

Nominations are now open for the 2020 Unity Achievement Awards. For more information about the Commission, or to make a nomination, please visit its website at www.ucnj.org/uchrc.

Photo Caption: Front row, L-R: Nancy Polow, Ph.D., Dr. Norma Bowe, Betsy LaVela, UCPO Sgt. Margarita “Maggie” D’Avella, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chair Bette Jane Kowalski, Lockey Maisonnueve, Chelsea K. Young, ShonTe Smith, UCHRC Co-Chair Jo Ann Hamilton.

Back row, L-R: Claas Ehlers (CEO, Family Promise, accepting on behalf of Karen Olson), Don Sweeney, Frank Stebbins, Hon. Leland McGee, Rabbi Joel Abraham, James Silkensen, New Providence Police Department Sgt. Dennis Carovillano, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Vice Chair Alexander Mirabella, UCHRC Co-Chair Mark Spivey.

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