Created in the spirit of the Christie-Guadagno Inaugural theme, “Rebuilding New Jersey Together: Pride Through Service and Community,” New Jersey Heroes allowed citizens from around the Garden State to nominate the everyday heroes in their community.
Hundreds of nominations were submitted through the inaugural website, representing a cross section of men and women from all corners of the state who quietly serve others and their community. The five nominees selected will represent all of the nominees at the three inaugural events on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 and were selected by a committee headed up by New Jersey’s future First Lady, Mary Pat Christie.
“The interest in the New Jersey Heroes program was greater than we ever expected and we were overwhelmed by the excitement with which people offered up their friends, relatives and neighbors for this simple honor,” said New Jersey Inaugural 2010 Committee Chairman Todd Christie.
“The stories shared with us over the past weeks have been inspiring and humbling and are truly a reminder that anyone can do amazing things for others and their communities. Choosing only five people out of all the extraordinary nominees to represent this program was an immense challenge. I offer my thanks to all who were nominated for their work and dedication to their communities. New Jersey is a better place because of these men and women.”
The Five Heroes are:
Carolyn B. T. Wallace of Newark: Forty years ago, Carolyn Wallace and her late husband, James, founded the International Youth Organization (IYO) in Newark as a way to help youths from in and around Newark. Since then, Wallace has dedicated her life to helping Newark’s children and teens, creating an organization that transforms lives through an emphasis on education, community service and personal empowerment. As one person who nominated her said, she transforms “instead of seeing a brick wall at every turn, the young people at IYO find a path to a healthy, rewarding future.”
Dave Girgenti of Cherry Hill: In 2007, lifelong South Jersey resident Dave Girgenti created Wish Upon A Hero, a website that empowers anyone to be a hero. The largest social helping site in the world, Wish Upon A Hero allows anyone who visits the site to either make or grant a wish. Wishes range from seemingly small requests, such as clothing and groceries, to near impossible dreams, like Lasik surgery for an Iraq veteran and reuniting a family that had been separated for thirteen years. Wish Upon A Hero uses social media and the internet to harness the spirit of charity and goodwill around the world and channels that spirit into the powerful medium of granting wishes. To date, over 48,000 wishes have been granted.
Tammy Evans-Colquitt of Pennsauken: Ten years ago, Tammy Evans-Colquitt created a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping improve the image and self-esteem of economically disadvantaged women and men. Her organization, Image and Attitude, provides women transitioning from welfare to work with professional clothing and job-interviewing skills. Image and Attitude also works with men transitioning from incarceration to the workplace. Tammy and her organization have helped thousands of people in the Camden County area.
Jim Benedict of Freehold: Jim Benedict started and runs a lunch kitchen out of a hall donated by St. Peters Church in Freehold. For over ten years, Jim has been cooking and serving hot meals to approximately 200 people three days a week. He does this with no formal funding and is totally dependent on donations to keep the kitchen afloat.
Chip Paillex of Pittstown: Chip Paillex is the founder of America’s Grow-A-Row, a nonprofit organization that seeks to feed the hungry through the cultivation and donation of fresh produce to local food banks. The idea originated in 2004 when he learned his local food pantry was seeking donations of fresh fruits and vegetables. Upon hearing this, Chip began his own garden and working with local farmers to secure the donation of surplus produce from their farms as well. In 2008, with the help of nearly 700 volunteers, America’s Grow-A-Row was able to donate 225,000 pounds of produce to area food pantries.