YMCA honors Karen DeChristopher with “Citizen of the Year Award”

Rosemary Linder Day and Karen DeChristopher at the 2017 YMCA Annual Dinner and Awards Presentation

PARSIPPANY — The Lakeland Hills Family YMCA held its annual 2017 Annual Dinner and Awards Presentation on Wednesday, May 17 at the Knoll West Country Club.

The Parsippany High School Small Jazz Combo performed during the cocktail hour. The “Citizen of the Year” is presented to individuals in the YMCA service area who have provided outstanding volunteer service and leadership to improve the quality of life in each of their communities.

Parsippany resident Karen DeChristopher was named “Parsippany Citizen of the Year.”

Inspired by her life experiences, Karen has a long history of giving back. Her award nominator shared this, “Karen continuously offers her talents, knowledge, financial and emotional support to help make a difference in the lives of others.” Karen’s list of volunteer activities is seemingly endless:

A volunteer since 2006 with the Parsippany Office of Emergency Management, she is also a former graduate and presenter at the Parsippany Citizens Police Academy.

Karen spent countless hours helping victims and first responders after Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

She also educates the Parsippany Boy Scouts on emergency and disaster preparedness.

She is extensively involved with Family Promise of Morris County, and actively mentors mothers and children on how to cope with life’s difficulties.

As a three-time cancer survivor, Karen is a tireless advocate for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and serves on the Event Leadership Committee as the Event Lead, Co-Chair.

As a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Par­sippany, and currently serves as Vice President and is the Co-Director and the Chair of Young Children Priority One service projects, as well as being on numerous other club committees in many roles.

Karen is a member of the Woman’s Club of Parsippany-Troy Hills, in addition to supporting and advocating for Prevent Child Abuse-NJ, Jersey Battered Women’s Services, Parsippany Food Pantry, and the Center for Hope Hospice.

Rosemary Linder Day, Sergeant Greg Bogert and Randy Smith

The 2017 Citizen of the Year for Riverdale is Sergeant Greg Bogert. In December 2010, Greg responded to a call at a Riverdale home with the report of an infant who wasn’t breathing. He successfully helped resuscitate the baby and received, at that time, a life-saving award and recognition. Fast forward to April 2016: Greg responded to a call regarding a possibly homicidal young man on the Route 287 bridge near Exit 53 in Riverdale. Greg knew the man was in distress, but also knew he had to take control of the situation. The man ran to the edge of the bridge as Greg approached him, but Greg was able to grab him before he leapt off the bridge. Thankful to save the individual, Greg was also thankful no motorist was struck. Since the incident, he has raised thousands of dollars for teen suicide awareness. An almost 20-year veteran of the Riverdale Police Department, Sergeant Greg Bogert has been widely praised for his heroics and providing us with service “above and beyond.” Those acco­lades are well deserved.

Sergeant Greg Bogert and Nicolas Limanov
Rosemary Linder Day, Sergeant Greg Bogert and Randy Smith

Other Citizens of the Year include:

Boonton: Carolyn Micheletti Dobies – Carolyn’s professional career spanned many decades in education in the Secaucus school system. Her love of children and passion for the arts has taken her down many paths. Our local community has benefitted from her extra time, because her passion has been channeled to the Boonton Area Cultural Arts, St.
Clare’s Harvest Festival, St. Catherine of Siena RC. Church, and the town of Boonton. Carolyn has done everything from transcribe children’s books into Braille, was an assistant at the Lake Drive School for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, and still heads a parental program called Hugs and Hopes for terminally ill children. Carolyn has received a national Teacher of the Year award; now she can add the title of Boonton Citizen of the Year!

Boonton Township: Ron Quade – Ron has been involved with Boy Scouts for over a dozen years, and is an active Scout Leader for Troop 69. His goal is to educate and guide boys to become well-rounded individuals with great respect for others and their communities. Ron is a resident of Boonton Township where he is committed to serving its residents. He is a past member of the Boonton Township Environmental Committee and currently serves as vice chair of the Boonton Township Planning Board. Ron’s nominator for this award wrote, “Ron represents an eagerness to serve his community as a volunteer and his position within the Scouts has enabled him to serve as a role model for future generations.”

Denville: Thomas Dean -The consummate Denville volunteer, Tom is known to almost everyone in Denville. To quote Denville Mayor Tom Andes, “Tommy is involved with anything good and wholesome in Denville. He is one of the most generous guys in town.” Many know Tom as owner of Norman Dean Funeral Home, which he took over from his father. Many also know that Tom, a lifelong Denville resident, rarely says no. He is on the Denville P.R.I.D.E. Committee and annually organizes its National Day of Prayer. Tom is currently serving, or has been a member of Denville Lions Club, Denville Chamber of Commerce, St. Francis Residential Board of Directors, St. Francis Fall Festival, the Morris County Juvenile Council, Rockaway River cabinet, and Denville Rivers & Streams. The list continues: Denville Centennial Committee, PAL Olympics, Denville United Methodist Church. He is actively involved with Boy Scouts, and has helped create the newly-formed Denville Business Improvement District (BID).

Kinnelon: Scott Akin – Scott is one of our Citizens to establish a nonprofit organization to benefit a group of individuals in need of outreach services and support. The primary mission of Shelter our Soldiers is to build permanent housing for disabled veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Scott recruits numerous individuals from all walks of life to advance this cause. He also works with the Kinnelon High School student outreach club to provide holiday gifts to almost 100 veterans who live in transitional housing on the grounds of the Lyons VA Hospital. Scott is also involved with the Do Good Student Support Group, which is dedicated to giving scholarships to deserving students who are in need of financial assistance. Its motto is, “Helping America’s Future, One Student at a Time.” Scott is on the front lines of creating change, for the benefit of all of us.

Lincoln Park: Lauren Curiotto – Lauren is the youngest of our 2017 class of Citizens, but her volunteer accomplishments are as extensive. She has been a mentor for the New York University Catherine B. Reynolds Program for Social Entrepreneur­ship “Changemaker Challenge” since 2012, and an instructor at the Entrepreneur School for Girls. The idea of”change the world” has inspired Lauren in many ways, making her the perfect candidate to create the nonprofit organization Finding the Fabulous right here in Lincoln Park. Its vision is to advance the next generation of strong female leaders and role models. Lauren has led the charge for girls aged 5-18 to choose confidence, compassion, and creativity in their journeys to overcome life’s challenges such as fear of failure and lack of purpose or self-esteem. As if Executive Director of Finding the Fabulous wasn’t enough, Lauren volunteers in several capacities at Lincoln Park Abundant Worship Center.

Montville: Mark and Anna Landgrebe – Everybody needs help sometimes. Those simple words turned into something much bigger than Mark and Anna ever thought possible. Spurred into action way back in 1992, M ark and Anna delivered food to the homeless in NYC during the holidays after learning about a similar program. Those holiday visits turned into regular Saturday night rituals, trying to help as many individuals as possible. On Saturday evenings, the Homeless Bus (yes, there really is a bus) leaves Montville and heads to NYC.  On board are volunteers who have dedicated themselves to providing food such as sandwiches, Cup of Noodles soups, hot chocolate, water, fresh fruit, and baked goods; travel-size toiletries and clothing are offered as well. With the networking among the homeless population, Mark and Anna have become familiar faces, and have forged close relationships. Mark and Anna have poured their heart and soul into helping the homeless, and the world is a better place for it.

Mountain Lakes: Thomas ”Mac” McEldujf- When “Mac” was nominated for this award, many reasons were given on why he is so deserving. However, the best reason was priceless: ‘We believe the selection of Mac would be met with great local enthusiasm. But there is one more reason why he would be a great choice: Because he would hate it!” There aren’t many “Lakers” who have volunteered for so long, for so many, in so many capacities. From coaching girl’s recreation lacrosse and soccer, to teaching Sunday school at Mountain Lakes Community Church, from volunteering with the Medical Needs Foundation to being a volunteer firefighter, Mac has proudly, but humbly, served his community. From Santa each Christmas at the tree lighting, to a Project Graduation coordinator, to substitute teacher, Mac has been there to help through it all; for young and old, through storms and hurricanes, his selflessness is unmatched, and for perhaps this once, he’ll let the spotlight shine down upon him so that we may honor him.

Pequannock: Russell Hall – Russ should be more accurately called the Morris County Citizen of the Year. His work on behalf of those less fortunate lead one colleague to state, “Russ is doing great things on behalf of all county residents.” His body of service includes trustee, Morris County Affordable Housing; member, Morris County Assistance Services; executive committee member, Morris County Continuum of Care; member, Morris County Fair Housing Committee. Russ continues to serve our community through Interfaith Food Pantry, Housing Alliance of Morris County, and the Housing Authority of Morris County. As with many individuals who humbly decline to accept awards, Russ had to be coerced by many to agree to be honored this evening. Most assuredly, by his long list of accomplishments and by helping so many, especially in finding the basic of services, shelter and food, Russ is a most deserving individual.





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