RAHWAY, NJ — Mayor Richard A. Giacobbe delivered his ‘State of the City” Address on Thursday, March 2, at the Union Performing Arts Center in Rahway. He discussed the police having new de-escalation training, cleaning up the local parks and hosting a first-time arts fest in the city.
Members of the Rahway community were honored during the night with awards for their service to the community by Councilmembers Jeremy Mojica and Joanna Miles. Serena Brown was awarded the Volunteer of the Year Award for her volunteer work at homeless shelters and aiding homeless individuals in the community.
“When I was told I would be receiving this award, the first thing I said was that God gave me the gift to serve, so I better put it to good use,” Brown said after receiving her award. “Thank you, Mayor Giacobbe; thank you, City Council; and most importantly, thank you to the city of Rahway. This is not just for me. We can still do so much more together. Rahway’s homeless shelter at Zion Lutheran Church needs volunteer cooks, so please volunteer and help ‘Operation: Warm Heart’ succeed this year.”
Andrew Bencsko was awarded the Artist of the Year Award for his contribution to art education as an educator of 15 years at the New York City’s High School of Art and Design. In addition to teaching at the School of Visual Arts for six years he has been creating artistic work as a painter for 30 years.
“Mayor, thank you so much. Thank you to the City Council. And to my fellow honorees tonight, congratulations,” Bencsko said at the address.
Dorothy Kelly was awarded the Senior of the Year Award for her work as vice president of the AARP and for her fundraising efforts to help displaced Ukrainian families who moved to Rahway after the invasion by Russia, according to Mojica.
“I am not one for speeches, so I am going to thank my family and my crazy friends out there,” Kelly said during her speech. “Without them, I could not do what I do. Thank you.”
James Walker was awarded the Special Achievement Award for his mentorship work with local youth, training them to become licensed barbers and shop owners, as well as for hosting fundraisers to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“I am very much appreciative of this award. One thing that I always tell kids is to get involved,” Walker said during his acceptance speech. “Do something. Do not just live here; become a part of the city. To make your city better and your life better, if you give the best that you can, everyone benefits. When you do not, then no one benefits.”
Due to the pandemic, the Rahway 2021 Rising Stars were not honored during the last “State of the City” Address, so the 2021 and 2022 Rising Stars were both highlighted during the night. Additionally, the Garay brothers and the Brandao sisters were highlighted at the event for their service to Rahway over the past 70 years.
During Giacobbe’s address, he highlighted via video the policy accomplishments that have occurred during the past year, including hosting the first-ever arts fest in the city in the fall, having the annual Spooktacular Parade and Christmas tree-lighting, as well as celebrating seven new Rahway firefighters graduating and joining the department and providing COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to residents. Additionally, Rahway created a new Brazilian jiu jitsu training program to help police de-escalate conflict without the use of firearms or choke holds, as a part of New Jersey’s new statewide use of force policy. Lastly, Rahway emergency responders now have access to drones and surveillance technology to help search and locate residents during a natural disaster or other emergency situations.
“So, as you can see, the ‘State of our City’ is stronger than ever,” Giacobbe said during his address. “And thanks to people like yourselves who work, day in and day out, for the city.”
Before the address concluded, there was a brief performance by the cast of Rahway High School’s theater club, who previewed their upcoming play, “Into the Woods.”
Giacobbe closed out the address by issuing a few words to the community addressing ways to continue to improve the city.
“I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight, truly, from the bottom of my heart,” Giacobbe said. “We highlighted a lot of people here tonight, because it is not about me, it is about us. It is about all of us here in this community because, individually, there is only so much that we can do, but when we come together, we can accomplish anything. God bless and good night.”
Photos by Javon Ross