Dr. Bret with Town Administrator Jim Leach (right). Mr. Leach received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his 50+ years of service to Jefferson Township. Police Chief William Craig presented Mr. Leach with his well-deserved award. (Photo: Jefferson Township Chamber of Commerce/Facebook)

The Jefferson Township Chamber of Commerce hosted their 2017 Awards Dinner on April 20th at Casa Bianca Restaurant. More than just a chance to network over excellent food, the event was truly a celebration of all the best that Jefferson Township has to offer. Awards were given to a student, an educator, a businessperson, a civic organization, a private citizen and a special lifetime award to Jefferson Township's Administrator Jim Leach.

The evening opened with welcoming remarks by Chamber president Dr. Bret Hartman of Total Wellness of NJ and Board of Directors member Chris Brancato of the Department for Persons with Disabilities (DPD). Both set the tone for the evening by telling those in attendance the activities of the Chamber and the accomplishments of the DPD.

A Q&A with Dr. Hartman in which he discusses the role of the Chamber can be found here.

The first award was the Doris Roberts Business Scholarship which was sponsored by Kipp's Books and was presented by Dr. Hartman to Shaun Bishop of the Jefferson Township High School Class of 2017. Among Shaun's accomplishments were being named JTHS's Male Scholar Athlete for his performance as a center-back on the soccer team and in the 800 and 1600 meters on the track team as well as for his exemplary scholastic achievements. Shaun has been named the Valedictorian of the class of 2017 and will give the Valedictory address at this June's Graduation ceremony. He will use the $1,000 scholarship when he attends FDU-Madison this Fall where he plans to continue his soccer career while pursuing a double major in Finance and Wealth Management

The next recipient was Jason Nicholas of j2n Architecture, receiving the Jefferson Highlights Presidents Award given by Art Bonito for his many years of working with the Jefferson Highlights Program.

Lynette Daniels-Skok of Harmony Salon and Spa was presented with the Businessperson of the Year Award sponsored by PostNet for her many years of continued participation in and service to various worthwhile community organizations in Jefferson.

A link to a recent Q&A with Ms. Daniels-Skok can be found here.

Following a performance by stand-up comedian Joe Conte, the dinner buffet was served and the Award for Public Service sponsored by Total Wellness of NJ was presented by Scott Milliken of DPD to Lou Migliacci, president of Jefferson Township Education Association and Municipal associations, better known as JTEAM. JTEAM is a partnership between the Jefferson Township Education Association and municipal organizations in Jefferson, whose goal is to fight substance abuse in Jefferson through education.

Next on the dais was Dr. Timothy Plotts, principal of Jefferson Township High School, who presented the award for Educator of the Year, sponsored by the DPD, to Cara Schwimer, who teaches Drama and Communications at the high school., and most recently was the faculty advisor for the school's production of the play "The Addams Family Musical."

A link to a recent Q&A with Ms. Schwimer can be found here.

The final award of the evening was a Lifetime Achievement award sponsored by Bridge Marina and presented by Police Chief William Craig to Jefferson Township Administrator Jim Leach. Leach, who started his career in public service as a member of the police force in 1967, has had a half century of dedication to the township that serves as an inspiration for anyone who is looking for an example of how to give back to our community. His speech touched on several areas of how the township has changed and grown over the years and included some anecdotes that had the audience's rapt attention.

A link to a Q&A with Mr. Leach can be found here.

In addition to their individual plaques, each recipient was also given a proclamation by State assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, which was read in the State Assembly and celebrated each recipient for their individual achievements.

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Michael Chirichella has worked in the Sports Information Departments of Marquette University, the University of Dayton and the University of Memphis, where he also served as a staff writer for University's Office of Media Relations. He's also served as an interim sports editor for weekly newspapers in Central and South New Jersey. He can be reached at michael.chirichella@thejeffersonchronicle.com.