WEST ORANGE, NJ — Leaders of the business, education and public service communities of West Orange were honored at the annual awards dinner hosted by the West Orange Chamber of Commerce (WOCC) at The Manor on May 17.

This year’s honorees included: Business of the Year, JAG Physical Therapy; Educator of the Year, Debra Coen; Firefighter of the Year, Chief Peter Smeraldo; and Police Officer of the Year, Sgt. Patrick Matullo. Guest speakers included Hugh Weber, president of Prudential Center and the New Jersey Devils; and Terry Smith, Lead Pastor of The Life Christian Church, author of “Live Ten: Jump Start The Best Version of Your Life.”

Megan Brill, executive director of the Downtown West Orange Alliance, said the annual awards dinner is a unique opportunity for the members of the business, education, police and fire communities to see the best of what each group has to offer.

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“This is always a great event—it’s a tradition in town to recognize people from our education system, police and fire and as a chamber event, it celebrates businesses in the community,” said West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi. “Tonight, we’re happy that we’re honoring JAG, who’s not only a successful business but very supportive of the community. Name a town event, JAG is always there as a sponsor—whether writing a check or donating giveaways or even just having people there to help out.”

On behalf of JAG Physical Therapy, president John Gallucci, Jr., accepted the award for Business of the Year. He said the comprehensive outpatient physical therapy company has been a proud member of the West Orange community for 13 years.

“No company, no organization, can ever have success if not for its team—whether it be the fire department, the police department, the New Jersey Devils staff and team—no matter what organization you are, you need an unbelievable group of people to help you put your best foot forward,” said Gallucci. “The most important thing is JAG Physical Therapy stands for some principles that my mom and dad instilled in me, which is to treat everybody as an individual, to treat each individual as a VIP…every single day, the only way you succeed is to truly be involved in your community.”

Gallucci also recognized his wife for being the anchor of not only his own family but the anchor of the JAG Physical Therapy family as well.

“None of this would have been possible without my wife and children’s support,” he said.

In keeping with the theme of accepting these awards as a family rather than an individual, West Orange Fire Chief Peter Smeraldo said he was humbled to be recognized, but that he would not be there without the other members of the department.

“I’m accepting this on behalf of my members because I’m not the reason why we’re so great,” he said. “It’s a team, so I’ll take this on behalf of the team.”

West Orange Chief of Police James Abbott, who presented the Police Officer of the Year award to Sgt. Patrick Matullo, said that although many awards commend the recipient for valor, honor, or other attributes, the police department unanimously nominated Matullo for the everyday acts that make West Orange a better place.

“Those things do need to be recognized, but it’s really the day-in and day-out things that affect the quality of life,” said Abbott. “Pat is our traffic supervisor and community services supervisor, and these are the things that go on every day.”

The 2017 Educator of the Year award went to Deb Coen, a technology and engineering teacher at West Orange High School (WOHS). She began her career at Roosevelt Middle School, teaching technology education. In 2013, she moved up to the high school and currently teaches digital photography, Introduction to iSTEM and basic electricity.

“We are incredibly grateful to have such a compassionate and gifted teacher like Deb Coen at West Orange High School,” said WOHS Principal Hayden Moore “She is a dedicated professional and an integral part of our West Orange High School family. We all congratulate Deb on her well-deserved recognition by the West Orange Chamber of Commerce.” 

The WOCC annual awards dinner is the most prestigious chamber of the event of the year. To read more about the WOCC, click HERE