WEST ORANGE, NJ — The North Essex Chamber of Commerce celebrated outstanding individuals, businesses and students within its membership area at its Leadership Recognition Banquet on June 9, when more than 50 members and guests gathered at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange.

The North Essex Chamber is the official Chamber of Commerce for nine towns in northern New Jersey: Montclair, Verona, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Caldwell, North Caldwell, West Caldwell, Roseland and Fairfield. Its mission is to ensure that businesses grow and prosper in the community, while supporting the community in return. 

President Holly Kaplansky of Minuteman Press in Newark said, “While the Chamber is about business, it is also about people.”

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The honorees came from numerous places, but many were from Montclair. The President’s Award was given to two members: Kaitlyn Kurdyla of The Conference Center of Montclair, and Barbara Ruiz of C3Workplace, also in Montclair. Both were cited by Kaplansky for their unflagging enthusiasm for the chamber, and for their work in organizing events and reaching out for membership.

Outstanding Business went to Kearny Bank, which was noted for its engagement in all the communities it serves. Outstanding Non-Profit went to Toni’s Kitchen, the food ministry of St. Luke’s Church in Montclair. Presenter Jo Ann Short, Immediate Past President of the NECC, said last year the ministry provided 52,000 meals to those who needed them, and it was on track to supply even more this year.

Accepting the award, Anne Mernin said, “Montclair is an affluent community, but it is also a diver socio-economic one—the need for food and security is growing most in the suburbs.”

There were two people honored as Outstanding Chamber Members: Danielle Deptula of Kearny Bank in West Orange, and Oana Drew of Minuteman Press in Newark.

Deptula is involved with multiple chambers throughout the area, and was noted for her unflagging enthusiasm and her dedication to the chamber, often being the first to show up at events and the last to leave.

Drew was cited for her work with the very successful Women’s Tea, conducted by the chamber. Drew thanked her “partner in crime, my husband, Barney” who can often be found working events such as the Tea with her.

Denny Klein, of Rand, Feuer and Klein in Fairfield was named Outstanding Community Member for his years of community service leadership. Klein was unable to attend the awards, as his daughter was a finalist in the National History Bee, taking place in Chicago.

Accepting for him was Assistant Vice President Joey Klein, who said, “My father would stand here and say what he always says: it was a group effort and I just happened to be there.”

Two students from towns in the chambers area were awarded $1,000 college scholarships based on merit, achievement and aspirations. Shauna Dietz is a James Caldwell High School student who will be taking up veterinary studies this fall. Dietz thanked the chamber for a “once in a lifetime unusual opportunity to pursue my dreams.

Amya Dumay is a Montclair High School student who was lauded for her intelligence and achievements, including a 4.0 grade-point average and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. She will be studying business administration.

At the end of the evening, Short said the chamber had to take care of its “legal stuff” and induct the governing board for 2016-17.

They include: President Holly Kaplansky of Minuteman Press, Newark; Immediate Past President Jo Ann Short of the YMCA of Montclair; Executive Vice President Michael Daniels of Financial Focus Group, Jersey City; Secretary Desiree’ Johnson of the YMCA of Montclair; VP Finance Julia Tsoy of Smolin Lupin & Company, Fairfield; VP Membership Barbara Ruiz of C3Workplace, Montclair; VP Programming Kaitlin Kurdyla of The Conference Center at Montclair State; VP Corporate Relations Claudia DeLaCruz of BCB Community Bank, Fairfield and VP Marketing Nina Tucker of Noesis Marketing, Montclair.