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The Arc/Morris honors community, staff for dedication during pandemic

MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – The Arc/Morris announced at its 67th Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony last month that the non-profit’s annual distinguished service award was renamed for William R. Testa, who retired last year as executive director after 38 years of service to the organization.

Receiving the inaugural William R. Testa Distinguished Service Award during the May 19 celebration was Steve Somich, who has served with The Arc/Morris since 1984. He has been the non-profit’s treasurer for 10 years.

The Arc/Morris is the largest provider of services for people affected by intellectual and related developmental disabilities and their families in Morris County. Incorporated in 1953, the not-for-profit agency serves this community through residential and day programs for adults; therapeutic recreation for all ages; and support and respite for families.

More than 50 people attended the May 19 event at the Loretta and Julius Krauklis Center in Mount Olive, which also was live-streamed to a virtual audience.

“The pandemic also forced us to find the best in each of us. We discovered that an everyday hero happens to be a health-care worker… or a direct support professional working at Arc/Morris,” Salvador Moran, CEO and executive director of The Arc/Morris said. “There were many examples of staff putting their personal and family aside to continue to provide essential services to the people we support.”

Community member awards:

  • Teacher of the Year: Samantha Corzo, Celebrate the Children, Denville. Corzo has taught at the school for six years and currently works with students who are 8 to 11 years old who are on the spectrum or who have alternative learning abilities.
  • Bill Sackter Citizenship Award: James H. Schleck, resident at the Ketch Road Supervised Apartment program since 1993. This award recognizes those who have prevailed over the difficulties presented by their disabilities to become members of their communities bringing positive change. Schleck works at Employment Horizons in Cedar Knolls/Hanover Township.
  • Health Care Professional Award: Dr. Rachana Chaudhari, Pharmacy Manager at Walmart, Boonton. Dr. Chaudhari coordinated and facilitated Covid-19 vaccinations for the people Arc/Morris supports as well as its workers.
  • Distinguished Caregiver Award: Gail Paradise, Assistant Executive Director at The Arc/Morris, who celebrated 40 years of service at Arc/Morris.
  • Professional of the Year: Joshua Godown, support coordinator and team leader for Bridges Supports Coordination, LLC of Philipsburg. Godown, in his four years in this position, has stood out for his attentive, responsive respectful and patient work in ensuring access to services for the vulnerable population Arc/Morris supports.
  • Guardianship Service Award: Devin Walsh, guardian specialist, Bureau of Guardianship Services, New Jersey Department of Human Services, Office of Legal & Regulatory Affairs Walsh has spent 20 years in this position, enhancing the lives of his wards and advocating for their rights. He serves as the court-appointed guardian for 11 individuals living in Arc/Morris residences.

The Arc/Morris also initiated several awards this year to honor 11 staff members for their dedication and service.

Outstanding Direct Support Professional Award: 

  • Faith Ezekunne, skill instructor at High Avenue Group Home
  • Denise Haynes, skill instructor at Drakesville Supervised Apartment Program
  • Olukunle “Joe” Ojutalayo, skill instructor at Overlook Group Home
  • Shakirat Osunkoya, assistant manager at Mountain Avenue Group Home
  • Iyabo Shobitan, skill Instructor at Mt. Olive Group Home
  • Elaine Walker, skill Instructor at Washington Group Home

Management Effectiveness Award: 

  • Leticia Asamoah, manager of Randolph Group Home
  • Devin Moss, supervisor of the Flanders Adult Training Center
  • Patrice Best, manager at Drakesville Supervised Apartment Program

Service Excellence Award: 

  • Rachel Candido, staff training coordinator
  • Diana Silver, assistant director of the residential department

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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