SUMMIT, NJ – The Ninth Annual Suburban Chamber of Commerce Service Awards Dinner celebrated the accomplishments of three individuals, a family-owned business, and two organizations at its recent dinner. The award-winners came from Summit, Berkeley Heights and New Providence – the three communities represented by the Suburban Chamber of Commerce (SCC).
The names of the award winners had been announced previously: Jack Cooper received the Silver Service Award; Robert Woodruff the Public Service Award; Barth’s Market the Business of the Year Award; Judith Leblein Josephs the President’s Award; Berkeley Heights Winter Walk Committee the Good Neighbor Award and Moms Helping Moms the Organization of the Year Award. Each award winner was well represented at the dinner, which was attended by hundreds of area business leaders and residents.
The awards, a glass plate, were created by young people who work at GlassRoots, a regional not-for-profit for at risk youth from 10 to 18. The plate has the logo of the Sububurban Chamber of Commerce on it.
Prior to the dinner, which was held at The Grand Summit Hotel, guests gathered for cocktails and appetizers in the sun porch. At one end of the room was a photobooth, compete with unique accessories. At the other end, members of the New Jersey Youth Symphony Jazz Ensemble performed.
Appetizers over, Master of Ceremonies Michael Shapiro, CEO of TAPinto.net, and former past chair of the SCC, led off the evening by welcoming all to the evening’s festivities, before introducing Lakeland Bank’s Marcella Gencarelli, the chairwoman of the SCC. She, in turn, after some welcoming remarks, introduced Gary Kapner, who presented the Good Neighbor award to the Berkeley Heights Winter Walk Committee, made up of Bobbie Peer of TAPinto Berkeley Heights and Cheri Pertesis and Hilary Boothby of Anything Floral.
Kapner pointed out the Winter Walk was the “brainchild of the Berkeley Heights Business Community,” and fully funded by that community. In its fifth year, it has already become “a local tradition,” he said.
Peer said, “I’m lucky to have these two ladies next to me who selflessly give of their time and talent to Berkeley Heights to bring a little (or a lot of) festive magic to the streets,” to kick off the holiday season in Berkeley Heights. Since the idea of the Winter Walk first surfaced, it has grown and “we now have over 75 businesses and organizations participating,” with support from presenting sponsor Connell Company, Embassy Suites and Grain and Cane Restaurant and a host of other sponsors and downtown merchants who host attractions in their storefronts. All this helps “transform Springfield Avenue into a Norman Rockwell Winter Wonderland of fun,” Peer said.
None of it would be possible without the support and blessing of town officials, and partnership and cooperation of Recreation Director Tom Barton and Carolyn George, Union County and the Berkeley Heights Police Department and DPW and the volunteers, Peer concluded.
Barbara Lewis presented the Organization of the Year Award to Moms Helping Moms, founded by Bridget Cutler of New Providence in 2011. Cutler said the communities in the SCC “helped us grow from a grassroots organization to what we are today.” That growth would not have been possible “without the local business organizations … They made us what we are today.” Moms Helping Moms began with the basic idea that no baby should ever have to go without life’s basic necessities and has grown into an organization that distributes more than 300,000 critical essentials, has an early literacy program, a dental program and an advocacy program. Accepting the award with Cutler were Megan Deaton, Loriaine Dias-Sotiriou, Michael Futterman, Jackie McCormack and Jerusha Oleksiuk.
Bob Davies presented the Silver Service Award to Jack Cooper of Summit. This award recognizes a private citizen or public servant who has served at least 25 years in multiple volunteer organizations and/or on community board or committees and who has demonstrated a long-time dedication to the community.
Cooper is the president of the Summit Area Public Foundation, and an attorney at Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper in Summit. He said, “I practice law in Summit, attend the Old Guard in New Providence and eat lunch in Berkeley Heights,” towns that are filled with wonderful people and which “the glue of the chamber keeps” together. He is a former Board Member of SAGE Eldercare and a Trustee of the Overlook Hospital Foundation, is a member and past President of the Northern New Jersey Estate Planning Council, and is a past President of the Summit Area United Way, the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad, and the Summit Family Service Association. He is also a past Board Member of the Summit Speech School and served as Vice Chair of Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child.
Gencarelli presented James “Jimmy” Barth of Barth’s Market with the Business of the Year Award. This is a third-generation family-owned and operated business in New Providence that recently expanded its business at 41 South Street.
Barth said the business began as a German pork store and now it is a neighborhood fixture that can “meet the needs of busy families.” He is “proud to support local teams,” but that is only part of what he does. He has also supplied 6,000 lunches to the oncology infusion center, 600 turkeys to the Food Bank. He thanked his “family, employees and friends who helped make Barth’s the success it is today,”
Jim Dimaio presented former Berkeley Heights Mayor Robert Woodruff with the Public Service Award. The award honors an “outstanding, well-rounded citizen who lives or works in our communities and has demonstrated exemplary services by way of volunteerism and community involvement. Woodruff “grew up in New Providence,” lived in Berkeley Heights for 33 years, and “cares about local issues,” said Dimaio. “I can remember Bob would work with the Chamber to make things happen … to help the community and the Chamber of Commerce.
A member of the council for four years and mayor of Berkeley Heights for five, Woodruff who is “of counsel” with Schiller, Pittenger & Galvin, P.C. in Scotch Plains, said his focus has always been on helping the community meet its full potential – from replacing its deteriorating town hall with a multi-use municipal complex, meeting Berkeley Heights’ affordable housing requirements in an appropriate fashion, and improving the infrastructure of the township.
Kevin Cummings of Investors Bank, presented Judith Leblein Josephs with the President’s Award. Josephs, who recently retired as City of Summit’s Director of Community Programs, “faces any challenge with a ‘Can do’ attitude,” said Cummings.
She said, “Tonight is my opportunity to say ‘Thanks and so long,’” then did just that. She thanked former City Administrator Chris Cotter for hiring her, “Thank you for letting me swing for the fences,” and she thanked mayors Glatt, Dickson and Radest for supporting her and her staff. She called the President’s Award an “award for all the people” who helped her over the years.
Josephs, who sometimes seemed to work around the clock between all the events put on by the Department of Community Programs – including movies on the green, or at the pool, float day, the Halloween parade and TryCAN events, just to name a few – said as with all successful women, “Behind me was a hungry man,” something she intends to remedy in her retirement, “I’m going to cook again.”
“I’m proud and fortunate Summit found me,” she concluded, adding, “Summit is the little city with a big heart.”