LODI, NJ (Bergen County) – Six residents of Sussex and Warren counties were among the new Hometown Heroes honored by Congressman Josh Gottheimer. He hosted his fourth Hometown Hero Awards at Felician University in Lodi on Monday, honoring North Jersey residents who have made outstanding contributions to our community.
Fifth District Hometown Heroes Awards were presented to community leaders, first responders, veterans, members of the business community, students, and seniors to recognize their dedication to improving the lives of their neighbors, families, and all Jersey residents.
“Today’s awardees are bound by a shared sense of duty – to their families, their communities, and their country. They are our veterans, our firefighters, our first responders, our educators, and our family – our brothers and sisters and our sons and daughters. We are lucky to have so many unsung heroes in our communities, whose quiet power of service goes on every day without the recognition they truly deserve. None of these people stood up because they sought recognition, they did it because they wanted to do what was right. That’s what Jersey Values are about and that’s what makes me certain that we live in the greatest country in the world. On behalf of the Fifth District, I couldn’t be more proud to honor these Hometown Heroes today,” Gottheimer said.
Richard Ohl of Hardwick is a decorated tenure in the US Army, where he earned the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the US Army Expeditionary Medal, and the Cold War Commendation, Richard eventually settled in Hardwick and his quiet mark exists all over. Richard has cared for our seniors and veterans. Whether it was delivering hats and scarves to disabled veterans in a nursing home in the winter, providing transportation for seniors to get to their doctor’s appointments, or helping veterans with their VA paperwork so they can get the care they need, Richard is always eager to help where he can.
Martin O’Donnell of Vernon along with many others in Vernon, has done an outstanding job advocating for his town in the face of illegal dumping, including one Waste Mountain that has threatened the local environment and the community’s drinking water. Martin, who has been focused on this issue since the start, is the president of People Against Illegal Dumping (PAID) has fought to stop the dumping and is now fighting to get the site cleaned up.
Kenneth French of Frankford is in his sixth year as Chief of the Frankford Fire Department and he also owns a local small business, Wheels and Props Marina. While being a fire chief, putting his life on the life to fight blazes and terror, running a small business, and raising a family, Kenneth has also been committed to completing the new Frankford firehouse. Those who know Kenneth have said he has the unique ability to listen to the concerns of anyone in the community and to bring people together to find a solution.
John Kaufmann of Belvidere, a Lieutenant who serves in the Washington Township Police Department, is not only committed to responding to crime and to putting his life on the line to protect the community, but he has also become the face of the police department throughout the community. John can be found strolling into a local business, through parks in Oxford, and at community events. For those who know him, John represents the kind of person we should all strive to be.
Ed Vander Berg of Wantage, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, is represented by his son Daniel. Ed, along with his son, spent much of his free time caring for the historic 240-year-old Papakating Cemetery in his hometown of Wantage after it had fallen into disrepair. Ed, himself a Vietnam War veteran, worked with a local Boy Scout troop and the Kiwanis Club to establish a veterans memorial at the site where six Revolutionary War veterans, as well as many others, are buried.
John Kwelsaif of Hardyston is the president and founder of Custom Wood and Furniture, Inc., and has owned and operated businesses in Hardyston for decades, is committed to revitalizing downtown Newton. With the help of the mayor and council, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, John is helping to provide the necessary resources to maintain a thriving and beautiful downtown. The streets of Newton, filled with commerce, tourism, and excellent food, have a bright future thanks to John’s work.
Below are more biographies of the Hometown Heroes:
- Jeff Keenan of Dumont is a Lieutenant in the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, constantly answering the call to duty, putting himself in harm’s way to protect our families without flinching. So when he got a call from his best friend, fellow sheriff’s officer Jason Hoefler, who needed a kidney transplant, Jeff didn’t flinch. Jeff gave a kidney to Jason, saving his life and giving them matching scars to boot.
- Gary Terzano of Hackensack has been instrumental in establishing the community garden that has sprung up in Johnson Park where people have been coming together and planting fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. That garden is there in large part because of Gary’s hard work as chairperson of the Hackensack Environmental Committee Board. Not only is it a beautiful addition to Johnson Park, but it is teaching students about agriculture and allowing people to meet and connect through volunteerism.
- Imam Moutaz Charaf of Hackensack is a leader in building stronger ties between all faith communities; each year, Imam Moutaz hosts an interfaith Iftar – to bring different churches, synagogues, and temples from across northern NJ together. Whenever there is an opportunity for him to strengthen ties between different faith communities, he is there – from leading delegations from his mosque to interfaith events at synagogues and churches, to speaking out about the need for strong relationships between all faiths, Imam Moutaz is always showing up to build bridges.
- Julia Orlando of Hackensack Through her tireless and groundbreaking work with the Housing Authority of Bergen County and the Director of Bergen County Housing, Health, and Human Service Center, she has become a nationally renowned expert in working at the intersection of housing, mental health, and veterans’ services. And it’s well deserved: she led the effort to make Bergen County the first county in the country to end veteran and chronic homelessness.
- Peters of River Vale served our country overseas, doing two tours in Vietnam, came home and went right back to work, serving his community. He’s a third-generation firefighter — and a great one at that; as a firefighter, he saved lives by putting himself in harm’s way, but his work for our community didn’t stop there. He literally wrote the book on how to search for and purchase new fire equipment to keep our first responders safe and save our towns and taxpayers money. In 2015, he was given the lifetime achievement award by Fire Engineering Magazine, partly because Bill sees teaching as a critical part of his job.
- Holly Goshin of Glen Rock has been on the frontlines of the fight for equality in Bergen County. 2019 was a historic year here: just last month, eight towns in my District raised the Pride Flag to tell our LGBTQ brothers and sisters that they are not alone and they are not just tolerated, but welcome in our communities. Holly’s leadership as president of the Glen Rock Pride Committee in raising that rainbow flag allowed members of our community to feel welcome — to feel home.
- AJ Luna of Fair Lawn serves as the Director of Veterans Services for Bergen County and is constantly working on behalf of the veterans in Bergen County to get them the help and resources they need. He served our country himself in the Army from 2000 to 2006, and was instrumental in ending veteran homelessness in Bergen County.
- Jennifer Brewer of Hackensack is committed to both her faith community and to the larger Hackensack Community. She’s a member of Hackensack’s New Hope Baptist Church ministerial staff, where many say she holds the collective community of faith together. Jennifer has fought for seniors, while serving on the Board of Directors of Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior Center, to get the resources they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. She’s also brought her focus on healthy living to the wider community by partnering with Hackensack to host community health awareness days.
- George DeRosa of Hillside, who served in the Navy during the Korean War, and who was named Bergen County Legionnaire of the Year in 2003 for his recruitment of more than 30 new members for American Legion Post 162, is an active volunteer with Meals on Wheels, the Hillsdale Public Library, and the Hillsdale Historical Society. George is committed to providing seniors in need around the County with nutritious meals and, at the library, George teaches English as a second language.
- Linda Williams of Bergenfield is dedicated to advocating for both children and seniors who are less mobile. She has led several fundraisers for a new, special-needs accessible playground to be installed in Veterans Memorial Park. Linda has also been a leader in the Barrier Free Committee to help create a more accessible community for those living with disabilities. As the president of her tenants association in her senior housing facility, Linda often helps her neighbors set up meetings with non-profits and government agencies to get them the help and the resources they need
- Donna Faulborn of Dumont is Dumont’s Director of Senior and Social Services, Donna created a space in the community where vulnerable seniors and at-risk families can feel safe, get the help they need, and get back on their feet. Donna also spends countless hours helping file Medicare and Medicaid applications for seniors, helping young people create resumes to get back in the job market, and always lending a shoulder to lean on. On Memorial Day, when most people are off work, Donna opened the food pantry at 11pm to help a family in need.
- David Keil of Old Tappan commitment to his community is evident through his more than 20 years as a volunteer firefighter with Old Tappan’s Volunteer Fire Company, including his role as chief, and as the head of the Old Tappan Environmental Commission. He’s served as the Volunteer Fire Company’s financial secretary for 12 years, saving taxpayers valuable resources and ensuring our first responders are safe, as well as the New Jersey Fireman’s Association Relief Treasurer, to give back to those in need. Through the Environmental Commission, David helped start a community garden that donates produce to the borough pantry.
- Paul Shackford of Harrington Park, for the past 23 years, by coordinating efforts at his church – St. Andrew’s Episcopal, has been an unstoppable force in alleviating homelessness in New Jersey. He has offered thousands of beds to the homeless in our community and has coordinated volunteers to ensure they’re fed and clothed. Paul has also worked to create the program All God’s Children, so that the families of special needs children, who may have difficulty sitting through a church service, have a special service designed to fit their needs.
- Susan Elman of Woodcliff Lake, who has been a member of Congregation Beth Shalom for more than 35 years, has left her mark on the community by volunteering her time to help teach English as a second language to children of all different backgrounds. Susan has also worked with the parents of students to learn basic phrases and questions to they can understand and ask the right questions during their children’s pediatrician visits. Susan’s work helps these children become more conversant and confident with the Enligsh, which helps them make new friends at school. Jim Folkerts of Oakland, first as treasurer and then as president, has long headed up the Sport Association of Oakland, a non-profit organization that allows Oakland youth to participate in sports including football, baseball, wrestling, basketball, and soccer. Jim ensures there are enough resources in the leagues so that each child who wants to play can. He also coaches basketball, baseball, and soccer. Building on his passion for helping young people reach their potential, Jim has also served as the leader of Oakland’s Boy Scout Troop 49 and on the Board of Directors for the Boy Scouts of America Northern New Jersey Council.
- Michael Ferraro of Ridgewood has been a firefighter and EMT for 32 years, protecting our families and our community. He has also been involved in local Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association (FMBA) chapters and he’s currently serving as the state delegate for FMBA Local 47. Michael organizes a picnic each summer for retired firefighters, so they remain connected to the community, and he visits local schools for presentations and trainings on fire safety to ensure children know what to do during an emergency.
- Mary-Edna and Alan Krutchoff of Fairlawn – What started with a car accident with a distracted co-worker, whose son-in-law had recently been deployed to Iraq, led to Mary-Edna and Alan “adopting” a few Marines to whom they sent care packages to give them reminders of home. Today, “Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon” brings in more than half a million dollars in revenue annually to get more of our brave servicemen and women these care packages. Mary-Edna and Alan have also expanded their efforts to endeavors like Operation Wounded Care, to support our wounded veterans and provide services and adaptable necessities to increase their independence and self-esteem.
- Patty Hughes of Hillsdale serves as the Director of Recreation for Hillsdale, where she is constantly working on events that bring the Hillsdale community together: parades, town days, swim meets — Patty is organizing everything. Patty works with leaders and neighbors throughout Hillsdale to get the job done and to ensure Hillsdale’s recreation events are enriching and fun. Those who know her describe her as “the most dedicated person they’ve ever met” and “literally always on the go.”
- Dana Forcarelli of Paramus – Following the horrific Paramus school bus crash that took the lives of 10-year-old Miranda Vargas and teacher Jennifer Williamson, Dana, who is a school counselor in Paramus, had a difficult job to do for hundreds of kids who had to make sense of this tragedy. Dana has been there for our children, she has helped them when they needed it most, and she has continued to be a shoulder to lean on.
- David Lancaster of Midland Park – or Font, as everyone knows him – has been with the Midland Park Recreation Department for more than 42 years. David is a beloved baseball coach, he volunteers his time with the Recreation Board, and he has owned the baseball card store in town for the past 30 years. David is famous for taking his players out to ice cream after games and he continues to be a role model for all young people participating in Midland Park’s recreational sports.
- Shannon Arrieta, Dania Huie-Pasigan, Tom Boyce, Melina Williams, and Amanda Castaldo, on behalf of the Bergenfield Schools Parents’ Associations – Following the devastating tragedy of the passing of a 10-year-old boy who was struck by a bus in Bergenfield, Shannon, DAnia, Tom, Melina, Amanda, and many others all manned collection boxes and held fundraisers to donate the proceeds to the family. The Bergenfield Schools Parents’ Associations came together to help give the boy’s family one less thing to worry about during a time of unimaginable pain.
- Reverend Carolyn Davis of Hackensack is a lifelong Hackensack resident who, along with her husband Reverend Robert Davis, is the Co-Pastor and Co-Founder of Cornerstone Baptist Church. Carolyn retired after 42 years as a nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center. She is an advocate at school board and city council meetings, and she is the president of WorkGroup, which brings together community groups to figure out how they can work together to solve local problems. Carolyn is an active member of the Hackensack Fellowship of Black of Churches, the Passaic Fellowship of Churches ministry, and she teaches bible study at Hackensack’s Martin Luther King Center.
- Nicole Mattina of Fair Lawn – While local Fair Lawn student Brandon Higgins was working to beat his brain cancer, the disease stole his ability to walk, speak, and eat on his own. Nicole, who is the assistant principal at Fair Lawn High School, organized a fundraiser with her friend John Cosgrove, which raised over $70,000 to help the family afford a new, handicap-accessible van to make sure Brandon could get to his doctors’ appointments and get around town. Nicole’s efforts helped launch a local movement, with this past March being officially declared “Brandon Higgins Month” in Fair Lawn.