NUTLEY, NJ - The 46th annual Dr. Virginius D. Mattia Award for Distinguished Community Service was presented to Nutley Thriving Survivors on May 9 at Nanina’s in the Park in Belleville.  The Mattia Scholarship was awarded to Alexander Peña, a 2018 Nutley High School graduate.

The award is in memory of former Hoffmann-La Roche president who died at age 49 in 1971. He served as president from 1965-1971.

Nutley Thriving Survivors provides emotional, financial and physical support to those suffering from breast cancer by providing meals, transportation, wigs, personal contact and other services. Members of the group often accompany patients to and from chemotherapy. They also educate those undergoing treatment to ease fears and anxieties they may have about treatment and after effects. 

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Committee President Mark Boffa, grandson of Dr. Mattia, welcomed the crowd. The Rev. Jill Fenske, secretary of the board of trustees was the master of ceremonies and also gave the benediction.

President of the Thriving Survivors Michele Fleitell accepted the award on behalf of all the men and women who battled breast cancer. “It’s about them, not me,” she said.

According to Fleitell the organization is one of a kind. “We contribute personally,” she said.

Nutley Thriving Survivors, led by Fleitell, was established in 2003 with the help of then Nutley mayor Joanne Cocchiola. Cocchiola who is now Nutley’s municipal judge said, “Before I was the mayor I wanted to do something local for women not just giving money to Komen Foundation. I called Michele [Fleitell] and that was the beginning.”

Boffa said, “Congrats to the Nutley Thriving Survivors, what an incredible organization; a testament to the power of compassion.”

Sister Jane Feltz, principal of Good Shepherd Academy said, “I googled Dr. Virginius Mattia, what a well-rounded dedicated young man; many diverse fields.”

Feltz gave the invocation, “…In reaching any direction one will reach all directions. We are loved by unending love.”

Mayor Joseph P. Scarpelli said the new Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine located on what’s now known as On3, the former Hoffmann-La Roche campus, will open in August. He also mentioned that Modern Meadow, a company that creates leather through biotechnology, is already working on the campus.

Barbara Carrino, 2017 Mattia Award recipient, presented Fleitell the award. Fleitell said, “You are not just surviving, you are thriving. Every time you get up and live it’s a beautiful day.”

Scholarship Award

Nancy Shaulis, treasurer and a member of the board of trustees presented Alexander Peña, the 2018 Mattia Scholarship Award. The scholarship was in the amount of $3,000.

Peña has been involved numerous volunteer activities throughout his high school years and plans to continue while in college. In high school Peña was on the honor roll and maintained an above 3.5 grand point average. He is a member of the Spanish honor society and World Language National Honor Society.

Peña will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson University in the fall taking academic undergraduate requirements necessary to attend law school. He wants to pursue a career as an attorney-at-law litigating criminal cases.

Studying Taekwondo since he was a young child, he has achieved the rank of second degree black belt. Peña has studied the culture, art and martial arts of Korea. He is currently on the staff at his school Warrior Star Taekwondo.

He has also been involved in a highly selective leadership program called Tum 2 Foundation (Jeter’s League). The program puts heavy emphasis on community service, academic achievement and living healthy lifestyles by remaining drug and alcohol free.

Peña has volunteered at New York Presbyterian Hospital and he has also been a volunteer mentor at an after school Parks and Recreation Center in Harlem, New York. He has also traveled to Chicago for a biennial conference on current world problems and Kalamazoo, Michigan to participate in a biennial service project to help build a playground. Peña also took a trip to Siena College to help pack a food drive and New Orleans to help rebuild schools affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Peña said, “This is definitely a great honor to receive. I’m very excited to start the new chapter in my life. I’m very humbled to be selected. I’m very grateful for [JoAnn] Andriola to give me this opportunity.”

Related story: Nutley Volunteer Barbara Carrino receives Mattia honor is a member of the New Jersey Press Association, and is the only locally owned news organization serving the community. Sign up for our FREE daily eNews. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TAPintoNutley  and Instagram @TAPintoNutley

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