County Recycling and Planning Bureau chief wins award

JoAnn Gemenden accepts her award.
JoAnn Gemenden accepts her award.

UNION COUNTY, NJ — JoAnn Gemenden, Union County Recycling and Planning Bureau Chief, was recently earned an Education Award for her development for two interactive, educational tools. One was a Jeopardy! game she created and the other was the New Jersey Clean Communities Litter Activity Book. These creative marketing tools have been added to an ongoing campaign to educate citizens about litter’s harmful effects on the environment and how to reduce it. The Jeopardy! game was created for the campaign coordinators while the activity book is aimed at younger school-aged children.}

“I was asked to come up with questions for the final day of our Clean Communities three-day certification class so I thought it would be fun to design the questions in a Jeopardy format,” Gemenden told LocalSource. “I came up with litter-related categories and questions with varying degrees of difficulty. I then went on YouTube to learn how to design the game so it would work just like on TV and after a lot of trial and error, the game was born.”

“Developing new programs to educate the public about the harmful effects littering has on the environment and wildlife is always a challenge,” said Gemenden, of Rahway in a recent press release. “But the Clean Communities program encourages us to create fun and interactive methods to reach audiences of all ages. With the help of these educational tools, I hope that many more New Jerseyans will learn about the importance of not littering and contribute to the overall effort of a cleaner environment.”

Gemenden had the public and her family in mind when she created these tools. She fondly recalls the time she spent in nature as a child. This was the beginning of her career path toward becoming Chief of the Recycling and Planning Bureau.

“I grew up as a camper; that was the only vacation my family and I ever had,” Gemenden told LocalSource. “We traveled extensively throughout the United States and visited many national and state parks and campgrounds. I think my appreciation and respect for the environment and wildlife was instilled in me from those life experiences.”

Gemenden wouldn’t be able to do what she does for the county without her assistant, who she credits with helping her with the challenges of her job. Without the help of other county workers, Gemenden wouldn’t be able to help the thousands of people she services throughout Union County. She is very grateful for those who work with her to help her succeed.

“The County Recycling Office consists of two people,” Gemenden told LocalSource. “My assistant, Felicia Douglas and I deal with thousands of people a year, whether on the phone or at an event, and trying to please everyone is definitely a challenge. We attempt to help everyone as we want people to have a positive impression about government and the services offered by the County of Union Board of Chosen Freeholders. We work every day to make that happen!”

Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen congratulated Gemenden on receiving the award.“JoAnn’s development of educational vehicles on recycling have enlightened many different audiences about the importance of recycling,” Freeholder Bergen said. “The Freeholder Board commends her for these achievements and for the positive impact her efforts have in our community and environment.”

“Every County and municipality in New Jersey has a Clean Communities Coordinator so there is an established network of people throughout New Jersey that develop litter abatement and education programs,” said Gemenden.“We all work together, help each other and share ideas. Ten years ago, a group of five county coordinators developed a ‘Best Practices Overview’ which can be found at and is a comprehensive guide to all Clean Communities education, enforcement and cleanup programs throughout the state. These are just a few more items to add to the many great ideas others have already shared.”