NEW JERSEY — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Tuesday honored local first responders, veterans, students, life-saving bystanders, volunteers, teachers, community leaders, and residents during his Fifth District Hometown Heroes Ceremony.
Hosted virtually on Facebook Live, Fifth District residents tuned in to honor the Hometown Heroes awardees, all of whom were recognized for their dedication to helping the lives of their neighbors, families, and communities.
“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. They just do it because they care. Today is their day,” Gottheimer said. “These Fifth District Hometown Heroes are nominated by leaders throughout our community — including our elected officials, faith leaders, and first responders — as well as by friends, family members, and loved ones who believe that they truly deserve the title. These individuals come from all walks of life, but they all share an idea that is particularly special — they embody our Jersey Values and make our community such a special place to live, work, and raise a family. They are actively helping us build a more perfect union. We all should work to live up to their example.”
The December 2020 Fifth District Hometown Hero Honorees in order of appearance:
- Ryan and Dale Durling, Frelinghuysen — a father-son duo who are members of the Green Township and Allamuchy Township Fire Departments, who saved the life of an unconscious individual suffering an overdose.
- Amy Antonucci, West Milford — a West Milford police officer and school resource officer who helped safely deliver a baby on the side of Route 23.
- Eileen Hillock, Glen Rock — a community service leader who helped create the Glen Rock Dog Park dedicated to 9/11 search and rescue dogs.
- Waldwick Fire Department — a volunteer department older than the Borough of Waldwick itself, with around 80 members who have responded to more than 160 emergency calls throughout the pandemic.
- Robin Malley, Woodcliff Lake — a local leader on the Woodcliff Lake Zoning Board and President of the Greater Pascack Valley Chamber of Commerce, overseeing philanthropic projects and advocating for small businesses.
- Jean Perrier & Kathy Bottoni, Newton — Halsted Middle School teachers who have supported the school’s free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch program to bring low-cost healthy options to the community during the pandemic.
- Janet Boyhen, Dumont — an active member of the Dumont Borough Food Pantry and PTO President at Lincoln School, leading fundraisers to purchase laptops and clothing for children in need.
- Dr. Mark Samani, Montvale — a prosthodontist who raised $22,000 during the pandemic to donate more than 72,000 gloves, 1,700 gowns, and 2,750 surgical masks to the Township of Montvale, Holy Name Hospital, and Hackensack University Hospital.
- Caleb Brown, Teaneck — a 25-year-old who produced a short film addressing gun violence in schools, which won an Award of Excellence at this year’s Global Shorts Film Festival in Los Angeles.
- Dr. Iris Kopeloff and Jill Kallet-Lustigman, Woodcliff Lake — who led a drop-off point for PPE, providing collection bins, collecting supplies, receiving donations, and delivering them to doctors, nurses, and staff at Valley Hospital.
- Bob Halberstadt, Blairstown — a 26-year EMS first responder who then decided to become an active firefighter for the Blairstown Volunteer Fire Department at the age of 78.
- Craig Goldman, Franklin Lakes — who established the largest Office of Emergency Management office in Bergen County, the Franklin Lakes OEM; and who sponsored and distributed 250 restaurant gift cards to thank nurses in local hospitals during the pandemic.
- Mike Ryder, Franklin Borough — the Superintendent of the Hardyston Township Public School System, who personally drives meals from the school district to families in need.
- Glen Rock Police Benevolent Association (PBA) #110 — represented today by Delegate James Donnelly and led by PBA President Bob Surdyka, the Glen Rock PBA donated 1,500 masks to Glen Rock’s five elementary schools at the start of this school year.
- Rich Apramian, Old Tappan — who joined the Old Tappan First Aid Corps in 2012 as a 17-year-old, he is now Captain after significantly growing the First Aid Corps through a strong commitment to recruitment.
- Derek Kahill, Oradell — the Oradell OEM Coordinator and an Oradell police sergeant, who has led efforts to organize relief, resources, and funding to help Oradell throughout the pandemic.
- Beth Potter, Harrington Park — a decades-long resident of Haworth who is a local steward of Haworth history, who has led historic home tours and fundraised for library renovations.
- Fran Carrasco, Lodi — a Vietnam War veteran who serves as the 49th Commander of Lodi American Legion Post 136; 87th Bergen County American Legion Commander; and chairman and co-founder of New Jersey’s Mission of Honor for Cremains of American Veterans.
- Ryan Schwertfeger, Oakland –– a 25-year-old who has successfully brought his mother Jill’s idea for a dog park to life after she passed due to complications with cancer.
- Heidi Gross Kelley, Allendale –– who revitalized the Saddle River Allendale Rotary Club and leads the “Gift of Life” organization to sponsor children from impoverished countries who need heart surgeries.
- Tom Lepore, Park Ridge –– the Chief of the Park Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, Tom has been an integral part of the Park Ridge COVID-19 Task Force, helping facilitate communication between emergency services, the Borough, and the schools.
- Perry Solimando, Emerson — the Emerson Deputy OEM Coordinator and Superintendent of the Department of Public Works, who has been committed to keeping the community safe during the pandemic.
- Ginny Kopperl, Frankford — who has made 4,700 masks during the pandemic and raised more than $9,000 to support church food pantries, animal rescue organizations, and other volunteer groups throughout Sussex County.
- Judy Fisher, Hardwick — the 40-year Clerk of Hardwick Township who was nationally recognized this year on the 2020 Municipal Clerks Honor Roll for her dedication and commitment to the community.
- Jason Jacoby, Midland Park –– a member of the Ridgewood Volunteer Fire Department and President of FMBA Local 47 President, who has received two unit citations for lifesaving actions: for saving two individuals trapped in a flooded car during a hurricane and for saving a Ridgewood resident trapped underneath the tire of a bus.
- John Calabrese and David Delia, Lodi –– Lodi police officers responsible for saving the life of an 80-year-old resident from the Garden Apartments fire in June.
- Tammie Horsfield, Frankford –– the President of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce for 30 years, who has helped local businesses and the Sussex County community weather the economic uncertainty throughout the pandemic.
- Dr. Mona Tantawi, Franklin Lakes –– a Primary Care Pediatrician at Hackensack University Medical Center, taking care of patients, and where she has been responsible for the Hackensack Health Fair, with more than 40 booths providing a range of services to low-income members of the community.
- Darren Muso, Oxford –– a local business leader who has helped beautify and fundraise to improve downtown Oxford, who volunteers to help seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia, who recently brought Santa through town on his red tractor.
- Harry Kaplan, Newton — the Commander of American Legion Post 86, now-retired 40-year member of the U.S. Postal Service, and Vietnam War who advocates for improvements to veterans’ care.
- Chris Simkins, Dumont — a 30-year member of the Haworth Department of Public Works, who has served as DPW Superintendent for the last five years and helped lead Dumont throughout the pandemic.
- Eugene Marshall, Hackensack — a 91-year-old U.S. Army Veteran and local leader, who has spent a lifetime working to improve the lives of others through leadership in a multitude of civic and social service organizations.
- David and Dominick Romano, Lafayette — local grocery business leaders who support hundreds of local organizations in their charitable fundraising efforts, focused on improving the quality of living for Sussex County residents.
- Alan Herrmann, Hackensack — a Vietnam War veteran and former Bogota VFW post Commander, who helps lead charitable work and fundraising to support veterans in need.
- Joe Meighan, Wyckoff — a 20-year leader for the food pantry at St. Elizabeth Church, who picks up and distributes food to multiple soup kitchens and pantries in North Jersey.
- Alex Helmer and Sean Hubbard, Allendale — police officers responsible for saving the life of a 68-year-old Park Ridge woman whose airway was blocked, who had stopped breathing, and who no longer had a perceptible pulse.
- Michael Reilly, Oxford — a Chief of the Mansfield Township Police Department for more than 26 years, who created the department’s first K-9 program and helped lead the annual Toys for Tots Drive, Special Olympics Torch Run, and pandemic response.
The full video of the virtual ceremony can be found by clicking here.