Business & Finance

West Orange Chamber Awards Honor Police, Fire, Education and Business Leaders

West Orange firefighters were honored for saving a teens life after he was shocked while creating an art project using electricity to burn wood. Credits: West Orange Chamber of Commerce
Two West Orange Police officers were honored for volunteering to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Credits: West Orange Chamber of Commerce
West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi and Essex County Chief of Staff Philip B. Alagia spoke to the crowd at the 20th Annual Community Awards Dinner on May 9. Credits: West Orange Chamber of Commerce
West Orange Chamber of Commerce members greeted guests at The Wilshire Grand Hotel prior to the awards dinner. Credits: West Orange Chamber of Commerce
St. Cloud Elementary teacher Gerard "Gary" Franck receives an award for Educator of the Year. Credits: West Orange Chamber of Commerce
Staff from The Wilshire Grand Hotel were awarded Business of the Year 2018 for their commitment to West Orange. Credits: West Orange Chamber of Commerce

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Five West Orange firemen who saved a teen from near death earlier this year were among the honorees at the 20th Annual Community Awards dinner hosted by the West Orange Chamber of Commerce (WOCC) on Wednesday night at the Wilshire Grand Hotel, the 2018 Business of the Year.

“I am very grateful for what you did,” said Evan Ferranto, the 17-year-old West Orange resident who went into cardiac arrest in January after being shocked while using electricity to burn wood for an art project.  “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you guys.”

The crowd of more than 150 attendees rose to its feet as plaques were awarded to the 2018 Firefighters of the Year: West Orange Fire Captain George Hesse, Acting Captain Matthew Keenan and firefighters Patrick McGovern, Craig Vanderhoof and Nicholas Manzella.

Sign Up for E-News

“Individual accomplishment is often overshadowed by the crew’s work,” said Fire Chief Anthony Vecchio, adding that there was no easy way to pick just one firefighter for the award because more often than not, it’s a group working together.

According to WOCC Executive Director Jessica Marrone Parkes, the annual dinner is an opportunity for the WOCC to honor exemplary service to the West Orange community.

“We greatly appreciate the community, our members, our speakers and our generous sponsors who come together to celebrate our honorees each year,” she said. “This year, we had near-record attendance and that is a testament to the growth of our town and the support we have in West Orange from businesses and citizens.”

Township Mayor Robert Parisi spoke about the changes in society and why events like the awards dinner are important for communities.

“We’ve come to a place in society where police are being vilified more often than honored; where firefighters and first responders are being second-guessed; where teachers are being seen as more of a problem than part of a solution,” said Parisi. “We can’t control what fact, or interpretation of facts, the media covers. And we can’t control what becomes popular on social media. None of us can control the hearts and minds of others. But as a community, in rooms just like this, we can make the decision to honor our police officers, make the decision to respect our firefighters and we can make the decision to revere our teachers.”

Also celebrated Wednesday night was Educator of the Year Gerard “Gary” Franck, a fifth-grade teacher with more than 25 years at St. Cloud Elementary school, whom a colleague loving referred to as “Definitely the oldest kid in fifth grade.”

Franck was chosen for the award for many reasons, according to West Orange Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Rutzky, but one of the most poignant reasons is that Franck is known for creating a sense of community for his students.

“He creates a sense of belonging,” Rutzky said. “There’s importance in that.”

Two West Orange police officers, Officer Jeffrey James and Detective Sebastian deLeon, were honored for volunteering to go to Puerto Rico for two weeks following the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The pair was selected from the pool of volunteers to travel to the island as part of a larger, statewide effort.

“I have been an annual visitor to Puerto Rico for the past 17 years,” deLeon said. “To see an island become a disaster zone was humbling.”

Receiving the Business of the Year award was The Wilshire Grand Hotel, where the event was held.

Over the years The Wilshire has been a steadfast contributor and support to the community, said WOCC member and Township Councilwoman Susan McCartney, who presented the award to Edward Reagoso, the hotel’s general manager.

“It is truly an honor to share a stage with policemen, firefighters and an educator,” Reagoso said. “We couldn’t do any of this without our staff.”

Business in West Orange is booming and millions of visitors are coming to West Orange each year.

Essex County Chief of Staff Phil Alagia, keynote speaker for the WOCC event, noted that there were nearly 2 million visitors last year to the South Mountain Recreation complex that houses the Turtle Back Zoo and the Cody Arena.

“We are bringing millions and millions of visitors to West Orange,” Alagia said. “I can’t even begin to calculate how much that must help with the gas stations, convenience stores and business.”

Marrone Parkes thanked the committee members, the attendees and the sponsors, which included: Bederson LLP, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., FMBA Local 28 , Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Superior Officers Association Local 228, The Wilshire Grand Hotel, The Wilshire Grand Caterers,Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, Trenk DiPasquale Law Firm, West Orange PBA, JAG Physical Therapy, Mayor Robert Parisi, Mark & Julie's Homemade Ice Cream, Regal Bank, The West Orange Chronicle and TAPinto West Orange and keynote speaker Essex County Chief of Staff Philip B. Alagia.

Don’t miss important news in your town. Click HERE to subscribe for free, or follow us on Facebook and on Twitter at @WestOrangeTAP.

To download the FREE TAPinto App, Click here for Android or Click here for iOS

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

West Orange

Free Flavors Soft Serve Ice Cream (Jr. Cup or Cone) With Coupon

May 23, 2018

Fairfield, NJ - Flavors Homemade Ice Cream is offering a FREE soft serve ice cream (jr. cup or cone) when you spend $10 or more with coupon.

Flavors Homemade Is located at 653 Rt 46 West (1.98 mi) in Fairfield, New Jersey 07004 next to Jose Tejas.

*Homemade Ice Cream

*Italian Ice


*Fresh waffles 

*ice ...

Evolve Cycle And Fitness Presale Happening Now!

CALDWELL, NJ - Evolve Cycle and Fitness is now offering 10 classes for only $90. That’s only $9 a class when you purchase before its official Grand Opening on Friday, June 1, 2018. 

Only two weeks left to take advantage of this limited time offer! Call Martha at 973-979-5919 or click here to sign up.

Evolve Cycle and Fitness is a Premier Fitness Boutique ...

Montclair HS Student Reported Sexual Assault in All-Gender Bathroom, Officials Say

May 17, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - According to published reports on Wednesday, Montclair Police officials are investigating allegations of sexual assault reported to have occurred in a bathroom at Montclair High School.

Montclair police officials state that officers received a report about an incident at the high school of a sexual nature that occurred around 3:18 p.m. on Monday. The ...

Upcoming Events


Mon, May 28, 10:00 AM

Township Hall, West Orange

2018 Memorial Day Observance

Community Calendar


Mon, May 28, 8:00 PM

West Orange High School, West Orange

Board of Education Meeting

Community Calendar Education


Tue, May 29

Essex County

Primary – Vote by Mail deadline

Clarifying Points Made in Article About WOHS Air Quality Issues

May 14, 2018

Dear Editor, 

I am the advisor to West Orange High School's student newspaper, The Pioneer. My Editor-in-Chief, Anna Favetta, is the student who researched the topic and wrote the article bringing this issue to light. She worked on the article for 4 months before she had adequate and proper information for it to go to print. 

An article on the BOE presentation of the ...

What It Means to Me - A Baseball Story

We are all in amazement of the dedication and talent of our young West Orange athletes. One of the goals of our youth sports programs is to develop our players so they are ready for high school and are prepared for success at that next level of play. Throughout the course of the year we will be featuring some of our talented young athletes and coaches. This week we have the perspective of ...

West Orange On Three!

The spring season is in full swing, and we are excited to debut this new column focusing on all things youth sports!  We thought we would kick things off with an overview of the programs West Orange has to offer, and then go behind the scenes to see what makes youth sports tick.

West Orange Police Athletic League (PAL) and Mountain Top League (MTL), together with the West Orange ...

Summer 2018 Events at the West Orange Public Library

May 15, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Beginning in June, the West Orange Public Library will offer the following events for area residents of all ages:

Dinosaurs’ Rock!                                             

Monday, June 11, 4:00 p.m.

Field Station Dinosaur visits with the ...

10-Year-Old Cancer Patient Receives Donation from Randolph Hockey Family

May 21, 2018

RANDOLPH, NJ — While the inter-town hockey battles on the ice between Randolph and Roxbury are fierce at every age level, when it comes to real-life battles off the ice, there is no hesitation to offer help to their neighbor.

Such is the case with a recent gesture of unity and support from the members of the Randolph varsity hockey team, when they came together to ...

A Royal Pain

I went to a big wedding over the weekend.  It was in England.

I like to think I was invited, but according to the Royal Guards and the Thames Valley Police I was not.  But more about that later.

You see, not too long ago I received an evite addressed to me from H&  Curiously, it was in my spam folder with a warning message. For an evite it was pretty ...

'Turning Off the Morning News' brings comic twist

‘Turning Off the Morning News’ tackles today’s issues with a comic twist

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, N J – Despite the late night comics, no one quite captures the insanity of the political/social status world like Christopher Durang.

His latest play, “Turning off the Morning News” hit the ground running.  John Pankow as Jimmy addresses the audience, ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...