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Local Agency Honors Volunteers

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More than 30 volunteers were recognized for their efforts in support of Project Self-Sufficiency at the agency’s annual “Mosaic Awards” on Thursday.    The event recognizes individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations which have provided invaluable support to the agency during the previous year.  The President’s Award was shared by four chefs, Kirk Avondoglio, Bradley Boyle, Andre de Waal and Tim Harder, in recognition of their enthusiastic work during the agency’s annual Taste of Talent, Open that Bottle Night and Taste of Autumn Gourmet Gathering fundraising events.  Project Self-Sufficiency is a local, non-profit agency which specializes in services for low-income families in Sussex County, as well as portions of Warren, Hunterdon and Morris Counties. 

“The Mosaic Awards honors the individuals and organizations that have been instrumental in helping us to pursue our mission throughout the year,” noted Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency.  “This event recognizes that even the smallest contributions can combine with the efforts of others to have a powerful impact on the community.  The lives of thousands of Sussex County families have been changed for the better because of the thoughtfulness and generosity of these individuals.”

Kirk Avondoglio, Executive Chef and owner of Perona Farms, commented, “We try to do anything we can to help the community, and Project Self-Sufficiency definitely helps the community.”

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Bradley Boyle, owner of Salt Gastro Pub and Salt Studio, notes, “As chefs we rely on the public to help us make a living, and when we can help someone out, we pay it forward.  I feel a personal obligation to give back in any way that I can.  I feel flattered and honored that I am in a position that I can help someone else.  Project Self-Sufficiency does such a great job.  Their events are well-run and well-attended.  We really enjoy doing them.”

Tim Harder, owner of The Pizza Bistro in Sparta, enjoys the camaraderie of working alongside other chefs at the culinary events hosted by Project Self-Sufficiency.  Tim uses the opportunity to get advice and adopt new items for his menu.  “It’s a challenge to work with the other guys.  You get to see if you are as good as them.  I have a pizzeria with 38 seats.  It’s amazing what the other guys can do.”  Giving back to the community comes naturally to Tim who also uses his skills to support other non-profit agencies in the area.  “There are a lot of people who are less fortunate; people have to eat and I know how to cook.  You do as much as you can to help somebody else.”

Andre de Waal, Executive Chef and owner of Andres Restaurant & Wine Boutique in Newton, explains his frequent participation in community events by saying, “We understand what it is like to be on the other side and need help.   I don’t think of it as giving back, I think of it as being part of the community and I feel that it is important to participate.”

Assistance with fundraising is appreciated every year.   Heather Lamberson of The Hudson Farm Club and Guy Bignell of Griffen & Howe were recognized for inviting Project Self-Sufficiency to host fundraising events at The Hudson Farm Club each year.  Damien and Jill Del Gaizo of the Andover Flight Academy were honored for contributing a free flight to be auctioned off as a prize at the agency’s annual Open that Bottle Night fundraiser.

Food insecurity is a dire problem for many Project Self-Sufficiency participants, and contributions to the agency’s food pantry, Thanksgiving baskets and other feeding programs are always welcome.  Caroll Lanyi, a participant in the Sparta chapter of Coupons for the Community has made numerous contributions to the agency’s food pantry over the years.  Phyllis Polio was also honored for her ongoing donations to the food pantry.  William Towle was singled out for his contribution to the agency’s weekly Backpack Program, a service which provides backpacks brimming with food to needy children each weekend.  Robert Soldoveri was honored for his overwhelming support of the agency’s annual Thanksgiving food drive.

Project Self-Sufficiency’s annual Back-to-School Fair receives support from numerous businesses in the community.  Salon FiG owner Colleen Guber Decker was honored for supplying free haircuts to hundreds of children each year.   Kelly Ann Auryansen, of the Wal-Mart in Franklin, was recognized for contributing school supplies and other items to the annual Back-to-School Fair.

The Season of Hope Holiday Toy Drive involves the participation of hundreds of individuals, schools, civic organizations and businesses each year.  For the past two years, Project Self-Sufficiency has partnered with Pass it Along to collect more than 10,000 toys for area children.  Diane Taylor, Executive Director of Pass it Along, was recognized for her work on behalf of the toy drive.  The Chatterbox and New Jersey Monster Trucks were singled out for hosting a monster truck event in support of the toy drive for the past two years.  Christine DeStefano was recognized for coordinating an annual toy drive at Hilltop Country Day School on behalf of Project Self-Sufficiency for more than 20 years.

Kelly Simonetti of the Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary was singled out for her assistance with agency Career Center events, including her participation in a workshop for teens and for employing student interns over the summer.  Dance Expressions Dance Arts, a dance academy located in Hardyston, was recognized for their ongoing support of the agency’s Project Vacation summer camp.

The agency recently opened a satellite office in Blairstown in unused space owned by the First Presbyterian Church of Blairstown.  Pastor David Harvey was recognized for his support in bringing the project to fruition.

Access to reliable transportation is an on-going concern for many Project Self-Sufficiency participants.  Hinkley Auto Sales and Shop Rite Partners in Caring have partnered for years to provide refurbished, used automobiles to agency clients.  John Mathews, Nelson Hinkley, and Cathie Miller were honored for their continued support of the program.

Alex Cable, owner of ThorLabs, was honored for his contribution to the agency’s new Fiber Optics program, as well as his work in support of the agency’s A Taste of Talent fundraising event.

Jacqueline Clark, Head Teacher at Project Self-Sufficiency’s Little Sprouts Early Learning Center, was lauded for her exemplary performance towards the children in her care and with the organization.

Teenagers who were recognized for their volunteer work at the agency during 2012 included Megan Bischoff and Laura Pachnos.

Dina Mikulka, Esquire, was honored for participating in the legal assistance and education program at Project Self-Sufficiency, giving free presentations about family law and offering free consultations to local residents.

Finding affordable housing is a crucial concern for many area residents.  JoEllen McNamara was given a Mosaic Award for her continuous support of agency participants as they struggled to find housing.

Past Sussex County Freeholder Susan Zellman was honored for her support of Project Self-Sufficiency’s efforts, including her participation in the annual Celebration of Literacy. 

Retired New Jersey Herald photographer Anna Murphey was recognized for her tireless work at agency events.

Project Self-Sufficiency is a private non-profit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey.  The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children while achieving personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability.  Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 19,500 families, including more than 30,000 children.

For information about the programs and services available at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500.

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