UNION, NJ — A community dinner spearheaded by Jason Krychiw, a Union community activist and former candidate for township committee, was a who’s who of community leaders, all under one roof at Mario’s Restaurant in Union on Feb. 20.
Union Chamber of Commerce members, religious leaders, Board of Education members and township and county officials came together with the shared purpose of moving Union forward.
In attendance were: Assemblyman Jamel Holley, Union County Freeholder Vernell Wright, former Democratic congressional candidate Peter Jacob, Director of the Islamic Center of Union County Wail Rasheed, Operation Rebound Team Captain Michael Boll, and Union Board of Education President Ron McDowell, among others.
Krychiw told the Union Leader that while running for a seat on Union’s township committee last year, he met many people who he felt could move the township forward.
“When I was running for office last year, I met tons of great community-driven people in Union,” Krychiw wrote in a Feb. 7 email. “Ever since the election, a lot of them have been reaching out, offering to help me in the community projects that I do or to ask for help coordinating projects they themselves want to see around town. I just figured if all of these like-minded, innovative people were in the same room and got to know each other, the sky is the limit for the things we can accomplish together.”
Krychiw said that his goal as a Union resident and community activist is to put Union on the map in a big way, and that requires the support and teamwork of the community.
“A lot of people will contact me about helping organize or promote projects in town because they think I know better or that I alone can make it happen, but in reality, it’s the opposite,” he said. “Simply, my vision is to make Union the place that every town around us aspires to be like,” he said. “I’d even go as far as to say the place that every town in New Jersey aspires to be like. We have the population, the resources, the location and the diversity to make that a reality.
My message to those who attend is that in the right hands — driven by innovative community, civic, religious, business and political leaders — we can accomplish this together.”
Boll, who was there due to his charity work, including Operation Rebound, addressed the crowd at the event, saying that that he puts Union’s youth and community first.
“Our most important resource is our kids,” Boll said, noting that Union is one of the most diverse towns in the state. “It’s all about continued investment in the community. We have to make this community the best it can be.”
McDowell, who has lived in Union since 1961, said the BOE continues its commitment to transparency in all facets of the school district. He also lauded the diversity of Union, stating that Union’s schools have students from all backgrounds.
“As long as we have the support of the community, we can continue to do great things for the kids,” McDowell said at the event. “What helps youth helps Union. The board will continue to do a great job as long as we have your support.”
Krychiw said that many people are not aware of how much they can do to help the community.
“A lot of people think that as an ‘average resident,’ there isn’t much they can do day-to-day to impact the community, but that’s not true,” Krychiw. “At one time, every civic association leader, community activist, and business owner was just an ‘average resident,’ but they didn’t like what they saw in some area or another and they decided to do something about it.
I know people’s schedules are busy and can be hectic, but even just once a month, go out and try to get involved — things like attending a civic association meeting or volunteering at a charity drive that a business or organization is running in town. Everyone is good at something or has a topic they are passionate about; you just have to find your niche and contribute as much as you can to help out in the community.”
Krychiw said he is thankful to have met many business owners and community leaders who are already active in town.
“I think we click well because my vision for making Union an example to the towns around us through innovation, new ideas, fresh energy and community involvement naturally aligns with their goals, too,” he said. “For community and civic leaders, they look to help their own neighborhoods and areas of town by getting the people involved and active in promoting positive change. For business owners, it is their livelihood on the line so they are always open to hearing new ideas on how to revitalize and reshape commerce locally. Some businesses and leaders already do this, but you also have some that are isolated.
I hope by bringing more people together, like with this dinner, it will encourage others to be more open and create a more tightknit effort to better the town.”
Krychiw also noted that after the election in the fall, he felt as though he had let people down.
“A friend reached out to me and she said something I think about every day,” Krychiw said. “She told me, ‘You only let people down if you quit on a fight worth fighting.’ Well, Union doesn’t raise quitters, and the fight to put people first and move Union forward is one that neither I nor this community will back down from.”