UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Union County Human Relations Commission presented 16 individuals and four organizations with Unity Awards on Monday, May 9, at the Elizabethtown Gas Co. headquarters in Union. The 15th annual awards ceremony recognized the efforts and dedication of county residents and programs for raising and honoring the human spirit.
“This annual award recognizes programs, services, activities, and efforts being put forth by local role models that promote cultural diversity, strong community relations, and human rights,” commission Co-chairman Leonard Guarino said in a recent press release. “Those who are nominated for this award are regular people who do extraordinary things. Their efforts make others’ lives better.”
“The commissioners who volunteer their time and energy to serve on the Union County Human Relations Commission unequivocally agree that one of the best ways to strive to accomplish their mission — to actively encourage, develop, promote, and strengthen respect for human rights and cultural diversity among the people of Union County — is to publicly honor those who already do it well,” said the commission’s other co-chair, Union County Prosecutor’s Office Director of Communications Mark Spivey, in the release. “The evening’s presentation highlights all of the positive and good that is being accomplished in Union County.”
Griffin Spielman was the 2016 recipient for the Unity Award for Achievement by a Student. The 18-year-old senior at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights has collected thousands of dollars and has spent hundreds of hours volunteering and fundraising for Second Chance for Our Recreational Equipment, a program he started as a seventh-grader.
Starting with one empty box in his school with a sign reading “Please donate your used sports equipment here,” the program has rapidly grown. Spielman currently has almost 400 pieces of donated sports equipment to deliver and he also has written instructions as to how to start the same program in other school systems, and is building a website to encourage students nationwide to get involved.
The Paul Jackson Fund received the Unity Award for Achievement by a Nonprofit Organization. The award honored Paul Jackson, the fund’s deceased founder, and was accepted by his sister, Mary Doherty. The initial fund was created to help Jackson, a young athlete left paralyzed, pay medical bills. Jackson later took control of the fund and set out to raise money to help others in need. Today, the nonprofit charity continues to serve as a resource of last resort for individuals and families facing financial crisis due to a debilitating long-term illness or disability.
Other Unity Award recipients include Lori Gonzalez and Joan Fruciano, of Union County Spectrum All Stars; Alluem Yoga founder Gina Pachkowski; Lorrie Sanchez and Carol Blank, of Utterly Global LLC; Theodore Schlosberg of The New Jersey Workshop for the Arts; Sgt. Russell Gottlick, of Plainfield Police Division; Nancy Bates, of the Union County Courthouse; The Unique Divazz of Plainfield; Rev. Elizabeth Alexander, of First Presbyterian Church in Cranford; Col. Edward Chrystal, of the Army National Guard; Charles Newman, of the Union County Office for the Disabled; Community Access Unlimited’s Union County Interfaith Coordinating Committee Council; Jim McKeon, of Rahway; Capt. Ralph Gregson, of Cranford Auxiliary Police Department; Gerald McDermott, of the Summit Police Department; Andrew Ertman and Det. Paul Pasternak, of the Elizabeth Police Department; and Sgt. Leonard Guarino, of the Elizabeth Police Department.