2021 BRIDGES COMMUNITY AWARDS
The Bridges Community Award is given to those persons or organizations who have consistently demonstrated passion, dedication and extraordinary action in support of our efforts to end homelessness. The recipient will have given time, products, and/or funds, and they have done so for the single purpose of making a difference.
Denville Community Church
On top of their regular donations of coats, boots, and lunches, the Denville Community Church has its own Bridges Strike team, ready to meet needs when we name them, and have done so many times, most recently providing reusable water bottles, hygiene items, blankets and other items for Newark Hope Village.
The First Presbyterian Church of Stirling
The giving community at First Presbyterian Church has stepped into consistent monthly giving of fresh lunches. With each drop off comes a commitment to living out their mission and changing the lives of others.
Gargiulo Produce has been an integral part of the Bridges story for years, providing healthy items for our Runs, supplying bananas for our 5k, and generally supporting everything. This year was no different. Every weekend, we receive enough fruit to supply 3 runs. The fresh fruit, a staple item on our runs, is looked forward to by many and is one of the few produce items that work well for our efforts.
Our first Board Chair, Chris reengaged this spring with determination to spread the word of Bridges locally and to become an active advocate in connecting Bridges to potential clients and donors– because he is committed to ending homelessness especially in Summit. His regular appearances at the Summit office mean bags of clothes, checks, or even tallying the donations of the week. His overt enthusiasm and can-do attitude has transformed our local presence and energizes everyone he meets to make a difference.
Kent Place School & Carol Gordon
Kent Place School is our longest standing and still active school. From being weekly providers of bagged lunches in early years, to being one of the only schools to go on Runs this year, Kent Place has made Bridges part of the school ethos.
This year, we want to acknowledge Carol Gordon as she retires from Kent Place. She has dedicated seventeen years to supporting Bridges, both as a chaperone and school coordinator. Her tireless effort has yielded thousands of fresh lunches and tens of thousands of toiletry items, and most importantly has cultivated a sense of commitment to the needs of those experiencing homelessness.
Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors
This powerhouse of a community group found us on Martin Luther King Day this year. The town had literally made thousands of lunches and had even more clothing and supplies to donate. Since then, food donations from Livingston restaurants, individuals, and other organizations get distributed multiple times a week on our runs or with the outreach teams seven nights a week in Newark. There is no shortage of need, and the entire community of Livingston is helping.
The literal driver, the actual person getting and delivering all those items from Livingston is Nick Santinelli. A few times a week and at times a few times a day, Nick has been our community connector. When there is a need, Nick finds a way to solve it. Over the last three months, at the height of vaccinations, he gathered “boxed lunches” leftover from the sites, shared them with us, and they have quickly become a fan favorite in Summit and NYC.
Mercy for Animals
Mercy for Animals, under the leadership of Peter Ortiz has put together various outreach events in Newark, and have worked with restaurants to serve those in need of our help. When many stayed home in the first six months of the pandemic, Peter and his team brought a vegetarian thanksgiving dinner– set up right outside of Project Connect. We are grateful that we can collaborate and find ways to expose the people experiencing homelessness to more ways of eating healthily.
Newark Working Kitchens
When the pandemic caused people to stay home and restaurants to shut down, Audible stepped in and, with the help of myriad partners, helped to keep kitchens working and producing meals for people who are food-insecure – including those who are experiencing homelessness. Bridges has benefitted from this amazing effort – to the tune of about 700 hot meals every week. The contribution we receive from Newark Working Kitchens cannot be understated. Their daily contribution plays a key role in our operation.
Newbridge Church has been a committed partner providing 150-200 sandwiches at least one time a week. They stepped up when Newark Working Kitchens had scheduling challenges. The collaboration between these two organizations has fed people well and consistently throughout COVID.
Optum & Diane Marinari
With the help of Diane and her team, Optum has supplied us with bottled water on a weekly basis since last summer. Eventually, Optum was no longer able to support this effort as a company, so Diane, with the help of some colleagues, kept the water coming out of their own pockets. To date, we have received approximately 11,000 bottles of water.
Our Lady of Peace Church of New Providence & Michael Savage
With their weekly donations, Our Lady of Peace has been supplying sandwiches for both our Monday and Wednesday Night Runs. The parish commitment is simply amazing and organized, with the support of Michael Savage. They are proud to acknowledge that they have been doing this for 64 weeks in a row!
Pingry School & Shelley Hartz
Throughout the pandemic, Pingry School has provided Bridges with its fresh, single serving leftovers every Friday that school has been open. Whether we drive out there, or they drop off to us, we are stocked with fresh food for all the weekend runs and for the outreach team in the evenings. People ate well because of Pingry.
Without thinking about it, and without asking for acknowledgement, between teaching classes and other duties, Shelley Hartz coordinated this effort. She is the community connector at Pingry- both for food and for student engagement. For years, she has inspired students to give, while educating them about making connections and finding equity in the work.
Ted has worked tirelessly, driving the area, to make sure that sandwiches are delivered to Newark every Monday morning before the locals start lining up for their midday food. To cap the day, he also drives back to Newark in the afternoon to help with some of our street outreach efforts.
St. Catherine of Siena Church
With their consistent donations and multiple parish collections, St. Catherine of Siena stepped up to donate items ranging from sandwiches to wrapped Christmas gifts. They call, ask what we need, what the timing needs to be, and the parish community simply just does this! Just imagine three carloads of goods arriving on a regular basis.
2021 FOUNDERS’ AWARDS
The Founders’ Award is granted to High School Juniors or Seniors who have faithfully supported the work of Bridges and who have supported those experiencing homelessness. The individuals will exhibit traits that the Bridges Board of Trustees believe will enable them to continue to thoughtfully and compassionately impact the world in significant ways. The student will have demonstrated leadership and initiative in serving those experiencing homelessness. The award is given in honor of founders Ginger and Geoff Worden, the first Executive Director Ellen Maher, the first Board of Trustees, and early volunteers.
Alex Doroski, Chatham High School
Every Friday, right after school, Alex’s first stop is Gargiulo Produce in Hillside where he picks up fruits for the runs. Right after unloading his car, Alex makes himself available to help with any need that arises. In his spare time, Alex continues to run drives to collect clothing and sneakers. Alex’s leadership at Bridges and his advocacy around his parish is nothing short of remarkable. Thank you, and congratulations, Alex.
Paul Dizon, West Morris Central
Bridges has been a part of Paul’s life since tenth grade, and this is his second year being recognized for his contributions. He has been a leader in soup making– something that has taken a hiatus during the pandemic. He has spent time training new volunteers, a critical task in providing consistency in our services. And, he created a web-based ad that helped boost our website traffic. Thank you, and congratulations, Paul.
Brianna Graham, West Morris Mendham High School
Brianna has been involved with at least three runs a year since 8th grade! She will earn the distinction of being the first student nominated from her parish, where she found her connection to Bridges. To quote her nominator, “Brianna has a love for service and for the small steps that stitch together the tears in the fabric of our humanity… She is fiercely principled, independent, and passionate about justice and peace.” Thank you, Brianna, for taking action. Congratulations!
Ivan Grandov, New Providence High School
Ivan volunteered as a member of Teens Tackle Homelessness in grade ten and awaits its revitalization next year. He has participated in Bridges Runs in both Manhattan and Newark. With each Run, he learns how to be of service while also learning from the interactions with so many people. We look forward to your involvement again next year, Ivan. Thank you, and congratulations!
Leonna Ramsey, Morristown High School
Leonna, like all of our awardees this evening, is about serving others. If there is a need, Leonna will be there! She finds volunteering as a new way to reach out and meet new people– truly broadening her perspective of the world. We are grateful for her support of Bridges. Thank you, and congratulations, Leonna
Brian Roca, Leonia High School
At the end of December, Brian began volunteering at both the Saturday and Sunday morning Runs. This is on top of the personal work he does distributing food at Penn Station and other locations with both those experiencing homelessness and those who are food insecure. As his co-volunteer wrote: Brian is a key part of our weekend team, working hard from setting up to packing up the tables– always with a smile for everyone. We are grateful for you. Congratulations, Brian!
Kayla Sullivan, Mary Help of Christians Class of 2021
Kayla has committed herself to the service of others. For the last 9 years Kayla has committed to Bridges, regularly going on Runs and helping provide resources. As well, she serves as a teen board member, a part of the Bridges Team at her Parish, where she offers a teen’s perspective on issues and topics. At her high school, she took leadership on the school’s National Honor Society contribution- no small feat– of collecting supplies and the packing of 200 sustainable lunches! Thank you, and congratulations, Kayla!
Natasha Wan, Kent Place School
This is the second year of honoring Natasha, and it is because she has made individual contributions as well as guiding Kent Place as Bridges Coordinator. Whenever lunches were needed for Runs, Natasha made dozens. Within the school community, she worked at creating more impact and more motivation within the students by updating Bridges student communications to be more visually appealing and showing by example what a single person can do to keep Bridges in the forefront. We note that she gave up a coveted spot on a Run this year so a younger student could get the experience. We are grateful, Natasha, and congratulations!
Again, we are grateful to all of you. In the immortal words of Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.