UNION, NJ — On April 7, the Union Township Chamber of Commerce held its annual gala at Galloping Hill Caterers in Union, where a variety of awards were given to members who exemplify the mission and values of the longstanding organization of 300 members.
Recipients included Deep Foods Inc., a major employer in Union; Charles Minton, a longtime member and a Rotary District Governor; Union Township Clerk Eileen Birch,; Kevin Woodridge, of Union’s Recreation Department; Gateway Family YMCA; ConnectOne Bank; and Maplecrest Ford Lincoln.
There to present resolutions to the awardees on behalf of the Union County Freeholders Board was Freeholder Vernell Wright, along with Union Mayor Suzette Cavadas, who presented resolutions on behalf of the township. Union County Sheriff and Township of Union Democratic Municipal Chairman, Joe Cryan, was in attendance as well, along with Union Township Committee members Manuel Figueiredo, Michele Delisfort and Clifton People Jr.
At the gala, students of Kawameeh Middle School, under the direction of instructor Nancy Schoenberger, presented a rendition of “There’s No Business Like Chamber Business” to a thrilled audience.
According to James Masterson, executive director of Union’s Chamber of Commerce, the past year has been a busy and successful one.
Initiatives and programs include The Theater Project, which promotes the arts in Union center as a way to increase foot traffic. In addition, the Chamber published a comprehensive promotional guide to Union, which was distributed to all local homes and businesses.
“We’ve partnered with the Welcome Wagon to provide new residents with information about the township and its businesses, held a successful 5K Run with 57 sponsors and 300 participants, and partnered with students of the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University to create a marketing and communications plan for the Chamber,” Masterson told the Union Leader in an April 14 email.
Other initiatives include the presentation of a scholarship to a graduating Union High School student who plans to major in business.
According to Masterson, the Chamber has grown its membership and has great plans for the coming year.
“The Chamber is working to enhance and increase participation in its member-to-member discount program,” Masterson said. “We will be redesigning its email communications and web page. The Chamber is also partnering with the Union Board of Education in creating internship/mentoring/co-op programs between high school seniors and Chamber businesses.”
Masterson said a strong and thriving Chamber is indicative of an equally strong township.
“A strong and growing Chamber is one indication of the economic vitality of the township and its desirability as a great place to live, work, start a business, shop and dine,” Masterson said. “A strong Chamber means that the business community wished to be connected to each other and maintain communication about the town. There is also a pride in being part of the community and taking part in local activities and charities.”
Chamber Board President Angel Cartagena discussed some of the organization’s initiatives in an April 14 email to the Leader.
“This year, the Chamber partnered with the Seton Hall Business School and its students to develop a marketing plan for the Chamber,” Cartagena said. “Students did several types of projects and conducted surveys as part of their class assignments. The results, are a well- developed plan for the future of the Chamber.”
In addition, said Cartagena, the Chamber, in conjunction with Worrall Newspapers, published the “This is Union” booklet, which featured articles about the history of Union.
“The booklet has been well received and as a result, the Chamber has added more than 40 new members,” Cartagena said.
David Arminio, the Chamber’s vice president of economic development, told the Union Leader that the organization has been a pillar of the community.
“I believe that the Chamber of Commerce is a great support for the town and for the businesses that are members,” Arminio said in April 16 email. “Just as the SID supports and markets the businesses in Union center, the chamber help businesses in marketing.”
Arminio said that he believes Union’s diversity adds to the township’s economic strength.
“The town is going in the right direction,” Arminio said. “The diversity of the town is a strength that will keep the economic development growing. With positive attitudes and with the school system continuing to improve, Union will keep getting stronger. That is why I continue to remain a member of the chamber and as an executive in the Union Township Historical Society.”
Masterson lauded the recipients of this year’s awards.
“Charles Minton has been a part of the Chamber for more than 22 years, and he was instrumental in establishing this award,” Masterson said of Minton, who received the James T. Schaefer Award. “Charlie was a big help in some of the Chamber’s formational years, and he is a dedicated Rotarian, currently district governor of that organization.”
The President’s Award went to Deep Foods, which manufactures Indian cuisine.
“Deep Foods is a major employer in Union, and has consistently been a great corporate partner and friend,” Masterson said. “Last year, Deep Foods was the major sponsor of the Chamber’s 5K run and helped us to support the needs of a local Union resident afflicted with ALS.”
Deep Foods issued a statement to the Union Leader, expressing gratitude at receiving the award.
“We accept this award on behalf of all of our employees who work here in Union. We are truly grateful to call Union our home base and for the great honor of being recognized with the 2017 President’s Award from the Chamber of Commerce. We also congratulate all of the other award winners for their contribution to the community.”
The Spirit of Union Award went to Eileen Birch, who Masterson praised for her work as township clerk.
“Eileen has remained a helpful and dedicated civil servant,” Masterson said. “Her leadership of the Union Food Pantry and her activities as a Union Rotarian earned her our praise for being an integral part of the community.”
In a recent phone interview, Birch told the Union Leader that she is honored to have received the award.
“I was very honored and humbled to receive it,” Birch said. “I love working here and living here, and this is a real honor.”
Masterson also praised Kevin Woodridge, who also received the Spirit of Union Award.
“Kevin Woodridge, of the Union Recreation Department, has — in a short period of time — established programs that benefit the families of Union, such as the Trunk or Treat, which attracted thousands and numerous other events,”
Masterson said. “We presented this award to Kevin to encourage him in his good work and to inspire others to do the same.”
Woodridge said that he was grateful to the Chamber, as well as the the mayor and Township Committee for their support.
“I’d like to thank the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber committee,” Woodridge told the Union Leader in a recent phone interview. “This is one of the first awards I’ve received in town and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. The people of this community have supported me. I’m hoping that the younger generation will see this award and that it will inspire and empower others.”
The You Are the Chamber Award went to the Union branches of the Gateway Family YMCA for their support of the Chamber’s Annual 5K, said Masterson, specifically for the Kid’s Run portion of the event.
Gateway also provided free memberships to all seventh-graders in the area as part of a wellness initiative, in addition to providing more than $700,000 in annual scholarships for residents who cannot afford membership, Masterson said.
The Business of the Year Award went to ConnectOne Bank and Maplecrest Ford Lincoln, “for their support of numerous community and civic events, and for their dedication to the mission and vision of the Chamber,” Masterson said.
Cartagena lauded Chamber members, the board and those involved in the annual gala.
“Galloping Hill Caterer and owner, George Thomas, did a fantastic job, along with Sharon Patel, owner of Patel Printing, in putting it together,” he said. “We thank all of our honorees for their outstanding contributions to the Union Township community.”