RELEASE: Gottheimer Hosts Fifth District “Hometown Heroes” Awards

Hometown Heroes Honors American IDF Soldier, Veterans, First Responders, Teachers, Community Leaders

Dec 20, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer at the Fifth District Hometown Hero Awards Ceremony.

NORTH JERSEY — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) honored local life-saving first responders, veterans, volunteers, community leaders, and residents during his Fifth District Hometown Heroes Ceremony, held at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood. 

Gottheimer honored more than 20 residents as Fifth District Hometown Heroes to acknowledge their dedication to helping improve the lives of their neighbors, families, and communities.

Among many other heroes, Gottheimer honored Edan Alexander of Tenafly, a 19-year-old Tenafly native who was taken hostage by Hamas in the October 7 attack against Israel; Chief John McLoughlin and the Demarest Fire Department, a team of firefighters who saved the life of a man trapped under a boulder during a rainstorm; and Andrew Woods, a 20-year long volunteer EMT who has responded to more than 250 calls every year since 2007.

“We are lucky to have so many unsung heroes in our communities here today, whose quiet power of service goes on every day without the recognition they truly deserve. They just do it because they care. Today is their day. Without the people we are recognizing today, our communities would not be as strong as they are, and North Jersey would not be the great place that it is,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “They all come from different walks of life, but share an idea that is particularly special: they embody our Jersey Values and make our community such a special place to live, work, and raise a family. They help us build that more perfect union of our dreams. We all should work to live up to their example.”

Watch Gottheimer’s Hometown Heroes Ceremony here.

Edan Alexander, Tenafly — Edan has been a Tenafly resident for sixteen years and recently graduated from Tenafly High School. He joined the IDF after graduating high school and is one of the eight Americans still held hostage by Hamas terrorists. Edan is the type of person who would regularly call his mother to check in and his sister considers him to be her best friend. He is devoted to his friends and is always there for his family. Edan is a Hometown Hero for everything he has done for his friends, family, the Jewish community, and to protect Israel, America’s key ally in the Middle East and in our fight against terror. 

Vicki Lindorff, Ho-Ho-Kus — Vicki has worked at the ECLC of Ho-Ho-Kus for nearly 50 years, a school that enrolls around 80 students with a range of special needs — including autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities. As principal, she developed a partnership with local public schools called “The Ripple Effect,” a program that brings public school students to ECLC to participate in and support staff during special events like graduation and holiday performances. She was recognized by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office with the “Be Wise Award” for promoting respect and ending bias. 

John Hansen, Park Ridge — John has been an active member of the Park Ridge Fire Department since he arrived there in 1961. Over his years of service, John has held every rank in the department, including Officer, Lieutenant, Captain, Second Assistant Chief, Assistant Chief, and eventually serving as Chief in 1978. He organizes an annual fire prevention classes for Park Ridge students, and was awarded the John R. Rinaldi Service Award from the 200 Club of Bergen County in October. John has served as Treasurer of the Park Ridge Fire Department Welfare Association since 1968, and has often approved funds to assist his fellow firefighters in their time of need.

Jennifer “Jenny” Jackson, Tenafly — Jenny serves as the Secretary of the Tenafly Chamber of Commerce where she has helped build up a new membership list, create the chamber’s website, and reactivate board meetings. She has recently been named the Director of Events for Tenafly’s Downtown Committee, helping grow the committee to more than 60 members. Her efforts have resulted in new park infrastructure like benches, new businesses coming to Tenafly, additional traffic lights for increased safety, and more. In the wake of the October 7th terror attack in Israel, they quickly turned Tenafly’s planned Winter Wonderland into a “Tenafly Together” event, bringing the community together when it was needed the most.

Chief John McLoughlin and the Demarest Fire Department, Demarest — Chief McLoughlin has been a North Jersey resident for 60 years, living in Englewood, Demarest, and Dumont, and has been a member of the Demarest Fire Department for 20 years. Chief McLoughlin also serves as the Demarest Office Emergency Management Coordinator, Bergen County Deputy Fire Coordinator, and was a member of the Englewood Fire Department for 29 years, ending his tenure as Captain. Chief McLoughlin has been awarded numerous life-saving and unit citations from both the Englewood and Demarest Fire Departments.

Recently, the Demarest Fire Department rescued a man during a rainstorm who was trapped under a boulder weighing more than 200 pounds. The man was in shock and experiencing hypothermia after being trapped for nearly an hour. Chief McLoughlin and the rest of the Demarest Fire Department worked incredibly hard in wet, muddy conditions to lift the man up a dam wall to save his life. Since then, the man has fully recovered.

Maureen Felici, Northvale — Maureen recently celebrated her 85th birthday and is still one of the most active volunteers in the Borough of Northvale. For nearly 15 years, Maureen has served as a part-time employee at the Northvale Senior Center and goes well beyond her part-time status — logging far more than the expected number of volunteer hours. There, you can find Maureen decorating, setting up bingo, making coffee, and so much more. She even hosts a holiday tree-lighting event with food and drinks. Maureen volunteers for every Borough event. At the Memorial Day parade, she can be found serving food. At Northvale Town Day she manages the concession stand. She serves as the bunny’s assistant during the annual Easter egg hunt. She also helps those who have served our nation at American Legion Post 366.

Jim Oettinger, Closter — Jim has served as the Director of the Closter Recreation Department for more than twenty-five years. During that time, he grew the challenger sports program which includes basketball, baseball, and track for special needs adults and kids from ages five to 99. He also helped incorporate the towns of Haworth and Demarest into Closter’s Recreation Department — helping keep all of the students, who mostly attend the same high school, together with their friends. Every year, he helps organize and host the Wounded Warrior Softball team and raises money for those who have sacrificed so much for our great nation and to protect our freedoms. When Closter Borough Attorney Ed Rogan passed away in 2021, Jim helped create the Ed Rogan Memorial Scholarship for students at the Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest pursuing a law career.

Bernard “Skip” Kelley (posthumously), Westwood — Bernard “Skip” Kelley lived in Westwood from 1973 until his passing late last year. A Vietnam War veteran, Skip was an Airman in the Air Force from 1964 to 1968 and served for 12 months in Vietnam. He served on Westwood’s Borough Council and as Mayor of Westwood until 2003. During that time, Skip spearheaded the committee charged with creating the 9/11 memorial in Westwood’s Veteran’s Park. Skip also mentored hundreds of people through alcohol abuse issues, and worked as a youth sports coach for years. 

Andrew Woods, Demarest — Andrew is a dedicated EMT, serving in the Demarest Volunteer Ambulance Corps for more than 20 years. He joined when the organization was in dire need of more volunteers. Andrew rides every day from 6 AM until 8 PM, and Wednesday nights from 8 PM until 6 AM. He is always around to mentor new members or share his skills as a contractor to maintain building facilities and Corps vehicles. Andrew answers more than 250 calls every year since 2007 and performed eleven CPR saves, including one on Christmas Day. Andrew has been recognized as a top responder by the Demarest Volunteer Ambulance Corps and has twice been selected as EMT of the Year.

Karen Prinz-Cunanan, Dumont — Karen was nominated for her work as President of the Dumont Community Group, a nonprofit committed to bringing the community together through events, activities and service projects — even assisting the Dumont Food Pantry and Social Services with grants and donations. Karen has been president of the Community Group since 2020, and a member since its inception in 2016. Since then, Karen has been able to help families in need by hosting community event fundraisers like the annual Dumont 5k. Karen also serves as the leader of the Borough of Dumont’s Cultural Affairs, Inclusivity and Diversity Committee, where she helps the Borough represent the diverse interests and needs of the community.

Leanne Scaturro, Bloomingdale — Leanne was nominated for her work as President of the Bloomingdale Parent-Teacher Association. In just her first few months as president, Leanne has exceeded every fundraising goal, raising more than $10,000 for Bloomingdale students. Leanne recently joined the Bloomingdale Economic Development Commission, where she helps plan events to promote Bloomingdale’s small businesses, making sure the whole town knows about the great things happening within the Borough. Many of these events, like “Cones with Cops,” where you could get free ice cream, have focused on connecting law enforcement directly with the community they serve.

Carol Rauscher, West New York — Since 2013, Carol has served as President of the North New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, with 13 towns under her jurisdiction. Over the past 10 years, Carol has grown the Chamber’s membership from around 40 to more than 150 members, established Englewood’s “Shop Small” campaign to promote small businesses ahead of the holiday season, and has worked to make Bergen County events as multicultural and inclusive as possible. Carol formerly served at the United Way of Passaic County as the head of development, later joining the United Way of America. With United Way, Carol helped get the Passaic County chapter out of debt, working tirelessly to claw back money to the Fifth district from the Tri-State United Way. 

Ariel Franzone, Newton — Ariel is a senior at Newton High School and a proud Newton resident. Ariel lives with some obstacles in her way, including dyslexia and ADHD, but she’s turned these challenges into a force that drives her to succeed and help others. She has persevered, excelling in academics, Girl Scouts, and even becoming a team captain at the local Robotics Club. Ariel is a National Honors Society member and loves soccer, bowling, and golf. In her free time, which must be hard to find, she’s a part of 4-H and volunteers for Wreaths Across America. She also volunteers with Pass It Along, a youth group that helps bring people out of their shells and teach them leadership qualities, and delivers meals during Thanksgiving with the Girl Scouts. Ariel helped collect more than 150 books and school supplies to donate to Miriam Ave Elementary School.

Kim and Darrin Chamber, Frankford — Kim and Darrin founded their charity Maverick’s Legacy — a nonprofit organization that educates the public on choking hazards and arranges donations of airway clearance devices to first responders and schools. They started this charity following the passing of their son, Maverick Scott Chamber, who tragically passed away on April 23, 2022, at just 4 months and 26 days old from a choking accident. Through darkness, Kim and Darrin have found light by honoring their son’s legacy. The Heimlich Maneuver only works for about half of choking accidents, and so, they’ve begun a campaign advocating for parents to carry special lifesaving tools, such as LifeVac, which work to mechanically clear the airway of someone choking. Their work has already saved the life of a young boy, Zachary Cook, whose parents purchased a LifeVac after being encouraged to do so by Kim and Darrin’s advocacy.

Gary and Carol Tyler, Ho-Ho-Kus — Gary has been a member of the Ho-Ho-Kus EMT department for nearly 30 years. Over the past 10 years, he has led the Volunteer Ambulance Corp in call volume — more than 3,000 service calls in total. Carol has been a member of the Ho-Ho-Kus Volunteer Ambulance Corp for the past 35 years and serves as President of the Northwest Bergen Captains Association. She has been awarded multiple times for being a top ten responder and has taken more than 2,500 service calls in her time as an EMT. Carol also serves as coordinator for the Bergen County Animal Response Team. The Tylers handle most of the local mutual aid calls, and provide assistance to thousands of residents of towns in the area. Both Carol and Gary were among the brave first responders on 9/11, looking for survivors and transporting patients for three days after the attack. Carol was also a first responder during the 1993 Car bombing of the World Trade Center.

Chris Singleton, North Arlington — Chris chairs the Mount Olive Baptist Church Board of Trustees and helps run their very successful Food Drive. By coordinating volunteers, he was able to make sure the church reopened safely after the COVID-19 pandemic. He serves on the Board of Directors for Russell B. and Edna T. Logan Center, helping host even more food drives and community events. Immediately following 9/11, as a part of the Verizon Restoration Team, Chris helped bring up all telecommunications for hospitals, medical Units, and lower Manhattan residents — helping countless families and friends get in touch with loved ones to check in and make sure they were safe. Chris is also the co-founder and a previous board member of WINGS, a mentorship program at AT&T that organizes book bag giveaways, Christmas for senior citizens, scholarships, planting trees for the environment, and even setting up homeless shelters.

Captain Tom Gusta, Waldwick  Captain Tom Gusta is celebrating his 50th year with the Waldwick Volunteer Fire Department. He joined at the age of 16 as a Junior Firefighter and served as Secretary of the Department for 23 years, eventually becoming the Fire Police Captain — the role he’s held for the past 10 years. Captain Gusta has been captain of the Fire Department and captain of the Ambulance Corps on and off for more than 40 years. Captain Gusta has been a school crossing guard in Wyckoff and Ho-Ho-Kus, was a night custodian at Traphagen School in Waldwick, and held several positions at the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, ultimately serving as Supervisor of Plant Operations for 28 years. 

Jonathan O’Connor, Fort Lee — Jonathan has served the Fort Lee community as a firefighter for six years, starting when he was just a junior in high school. At the Nest Adult Activity Center, he came up with the idea to start organizing free Thanksgiving meals for seniors in 2014. During the pandemic, he worked to deliver those meals directly to seniors. In his current position with Fort Lee General Services, he cooks and serves Thanksgiving meals to more than 400 people in need across the Borough of Fort Lee.

Below: Gottheimer with the family of Fifth District Hometown Hero, Edan Alexander, an American IDF soldier held hostage by terrorists in Gaza.

Below: Gottheimer with Nina Kelley, the wife of Fifth District Hometown Hero Bernard “Skip” Kelley (honored posthumously).

Below: Gottheimer with Fifth District Hometown Heroes Darren and Kim Chambers and family.

Below: Gottheimer with Fifth District Hometown Hero Parris Terry.

Below: Gottheimer with Fifth District Hometown Hero Andrew Woods.

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