South Orange Villager of the Month
Past Villagers of the Month
The Villager of the Month award honors diversities whether physical, religious, racial, or other characteristics which have contributed to making south orange the vibrant community it is. Students may also be nominated if they have exhibited an outstanding commitment to their community.
In order to nominate a candidate, they must live or work in South Orange. Current Village employees and sitting members of Village committees are ineligible for the Villager of the Month Award. (They are eligible for other Village recognition).
Nominations are reviewed by the Community Relations Committee.
Please visit the South Orange Villager of the Month Award to nominate someone today!
2020 Villager of the Month Award Recipients
FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) of South Orange and Maplewood
View Proclamation awarded on September 14, 2020
Founders/Members: South Orange Residents Ava Martin, Barbara Santoro, and Roshni Patel
Has over 1,300 members
YouTube Video (video credit Jamie Meier of Live Love Lens)
Kudoboard of Participating Restaurants
Article about FLAG's partnership with the Columbia High School Prom Shop
Participating South Orange Restaurants
|Cait and Abby's|| La Villa Mexican and Salvadoran Food
|Giorgio's Ristorante|| Pirate's Pizza
||Town Hall Deli|
|Grid Iron Waffle Shop|| Sonny's Bagels
||Walia Ethiopian Restaurant|
|Inkosi Café|| The Dancing Blender
|Jackie and Son|| The Order
View Proclamation awarded on September 14, 2020
Founders/Members: Jacob Ezzo, Zubin Guha, Nino Badridze, Jesse Busch, Devyani Guha, Irene Langloi, Mark Litwin, Jim Myracle, Luke Nunn, Brad Schenker, Kevin Wadsworth, and Christina Wright
Delivered 47,712 face shields, 14,645 ear savers, and supported 39 hospitals and included the distribution of face shields to our local South Orange EMS, Police and Fire Departments
SOMa Sewing Volunteers
View Proclamation awarded on September 14, 2020
Founders/Members: Alba Hochman, Jean Ng-Gilio, Maria Sensenic, Tina Kelley; More than 517 volunteers
Donated 30,000 masks to hospitals and non-profit organizations including 1,000 to the Navajo Nation
PROCLAMATION HONORING AND COMMENDING THE MAPSO YOUTH COALITION AS "VILLAGERS OF THE MONTH" FOR AUGUST 2020 FOR THEIR WORK IN THE TOWNSHIP OF SOUTH ORANGE VILLAGE <p>
WHEREAS, it is the intention of the Village President and the Board of Trustees of the Township of South Orange Village to monthly recognize individuals in the Village for their noteworthy contributions to the betterment of the Village; and
WHEREAS, upon recommendation of the South Orange Community Relations Committee (CRC); the Township of South Orange Village ("Village") is pleased to honor the members of the MAPSO Youth Coalition for their social justice work in the Village; and
WHEREAS, Carmen Maitinez, Former Director of the Oakland Library, said: "The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them. And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community."; and
WHEREAS, in early June 2020, the MAPSO Youth Coalition formed and is composed of youth from South Orange and Maplewood to promote racial justice in policing, education and action. These youth, up to the age of 26, have worked to embed anti-racism in SOMA, Essex County and NJ at large; and
WHEREAS, many of the MAPSO Youth Coalition faces have become familiar to the community as they took part in other groups that focused on climate change, student rights and rights for the disenfranchised; and
WHEREAS, during the height of the COVID pandemic, the country witnessed the murder of a George Floyd in Minneapolis by a Minneapolis Police Officer and the subsequent Black Lives Matters protests that began forming; and
WHEREAS, the youth that makeup MAPSO Youth Coalition organized quickly to create and promote visible protests and events through our community. These protests and events created a way for the South Orange community to take part locally and provide our community with a way to express their views on racial inequities and negative policing practices. Recognizing the continued impact that COVID has on the community, each protest and event encouraged people to be socially distant and to wear face coverings; and
WHEREAS, the first event that the MAPSO Youth Coalition organized was a Juneteenth Celebration, which celebrates the commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States which happened two years earlier under the Emancipation Proclamation; and
WHEREAS, the MAPSO Youth Coalition next focused on the importance of voting and understanding who our elected officials were by co-hosting a Town Hall on Freeholder Candidate Q&A Forum; and
WHEREAS, recognizing injustices for students in our schools, they assisted on creating a Student Bill of Rights to be provided to the local elected officials; and
WHEREAS, the next event was an Independence from Independence Day Walk and Rally in conjunction with SOMA Justice that focused on recognizing Juneteenth and educating the community on the disparity of perceived freedom by recognizing Independence Day over Juneteenth; and
WHEREAS, since then, the MAPSO Youth Coalition has attended many BOT meetings, the Community Police Collaborative and more to ensure that they are being heard; and
WHEREAS, the MAPSO Youth Coalition continues to have an important impact in creating dialogue around social issues within our community. They embody traits and characteristics in youth that we want to see in our leaders in recognizing an issue, bringing attention to it and providing forums and solutions to rectifying it. They continue to grow in numbers to more than 30 youth and are constantly mentoring the next generation; and
WHEREAS, our South Orange community prides itself on the diversity of our residents and in 2017 declared that "Everyone Belongs Here". In order to continue to ensure that is occurring, we honor organizations like the MAPSO Youth Coalition in keeping us motivated, bringing light to the tough issues in our community and looking out for their fellow citizens. NOW, THEREFORE, I, SHEENA C. COLLUM, Village President of the Township of South Orange Village, County of Essex, State of New Jersey, on behalf of the residents of the Township of South Orange Village, the Village Board of Trustees and myself, hereby do recognize and commend the MAPSO Youth Coalition and its members as "Villagers of the Month" for August 2020 for the work they have done in, and their wonderful contributions in the Township of South Orange Village and I encourage all citizens and residents to celebrate the valuable contributions of this dynamic group of youth and to encourage the members of MAPSO Youth Coalition to keep up the outstanding work.
2019 Villager of the Month Award Recipients - No One Nominated
2018 Villager of the Month Award Recipients
There’s a moment in many a young life when, suddenly, your brain clicks in and your outlook changes forever. For Chaz Gordon, that moment was after a group skating lesson at age 8. As he unhappily compared his performance to that of the older kids in his theatrical skating troupe, his dad, Ken Gordon, launched into the first serious talk Chaz recalls about self-motivation. “Never give up,” said Ken. “You have to keep pushing.” His mom, Lynn, a former national figure skating champion, chimed in too: “When you feel you’re about to fall back, that’s when you give 10% more.”
Steeled for “pushing through,” Chaz became a top-level competitor with the U.S. Figure Skating Association. He brought home bronze and silver medals from Logrono, Spain in 2013, and Paris in 2015. He got there practicing 2 to 3 times a week, 1 to 4 hours per session. He spent 10 years with Bravo Theater on Ice at Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange, the only competitive theatrical skating troupe in New Jersey. Realizing the mirrored skills between skating and dance, Chaz took up hip-hop in middle school, then became a dance performer, choreographer and instructor for the Columbia High School Special Dance Company. For Chaz, “pushing through” meant more than athleticism. He graduated from Columbia High in June with a perfect 4.0 average. He was a mentor and coach to multiple youth groups, founder of an annual coat drive, and a leader in the North Jersey Chapter of Jack and Jill of America. Now, he’s an aspiring clinical psychologist, aiming to follow in his mother’s professional footsteps.
As he heads to college this summer, Chaz leaves with a foundation of care nurtured by his family and the community of South Orange. Here, he volunteered at two food pantries and served as a skating mentor to Special Olympics athletes. He treasures his four-year participation in the Minority Achievement Committee at CHS. MAC, as it’s called, inspires academic excellence among African-American students. In his third year, Chaz joined MiniMAC, taking the program to Jefferson Elementary School. As MiniMAC progressed through the school year, discussions between older and younger students grew more serious, and once, Chaz opened up about a defining personal experience. A local police officer “tried to make me feel like I was out of place,” he told the kids. “It was very scary to me.” Some of the kids were shocked. Some got emotional. Most said Chaz didn’t deserve the treatment he got. “It was eye-opening for them and it made them appreciate the lessons of MiniMAC because it’s all about who they are as people. We try to teach selflove.” Later this summer, Chaz is off to UCLA to study psychology and try out for the school skating team. He hopes someday to be a psychological researcher, studying the impact of the classroom setting on minority students. It’s an aspiration worthy of his racially aware upbringing in South Orange. Chaz Gordon will be prepared for his future. After all, he knows from his family about pushing through, and from his community about sharing his heart. What more could he need?