Four Local Women Awarded For Empowerment

Pictured left to right are JoAnn McCann Vice President, Kim Santora and Amy VanBezooijen from The HOPE Center of Toms River and Patricia Dows, President of the Soroptimist International of the Central Jersey Coast. (Photo by Deborah Weingroff)

LAKEHURST – Four local New Jersey women, two from Howell and two from Toms River, were honored recently as the 2018 recipients of the nationally recognized Soroptimist International of the Central Jersey Coast Awards at La Bove Grande Restaurant in Lakehurst.

The Soroptimist Awards are given to those who demonstrate exceptional service and empowerment in their professional lives. This year’s recipients happened to all be women, including Mariella J. Pedercini and Hannah Misyak of Howell, and Amy VanBezooijen and Kim Santora of Toms River.

“It was a really lovely evening to honor these lovely ladies,” said Deborah Weingroff, volunteer at The HOPE Center and member of the Soroptimist International of Central Jersey Coast.

Weingroff remarked that all of the recipients and their families were present and the evening was filled with lots of laughs and smiles.

Soroptimist International of Central Jersey Coast is part of “an international women’s organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world,” according to their website.

“These are national awards,” said Weingroff, emphasizing what a great achievement it is to be chosen.

Pedercini was the recipient of the Live Your Dream Award. This award is an education and training award that is meant to acknowledge empowerment through education for Pedercini as she goes on to pursue a certification in the medical field. The Live Your Dream Award is usually given to a female head of household, someone who is working to improve the lives of both herself and her children through further education.

Also from Howell is Hannah Misyak, senior at Howell High School. Misyak was honored with the Violet Richardson Award, Honoring Young Women for Volunteer Action, for those ages 14-17.

Patricia Downs, President, Mrs. Misyak, Hannah Misyak, recipient of The Violet Richardson Award and JoAnn McCann of Soroptimist International of the Central Jersey Coast. (Photo by Deborah Weingroff)

Misyak has demonstrated her great volunteer work capabilities through her time with the Girl Scouts. She has earned Bronze and Silver Awards, volunteered countless hours to the Rescue Ridge animal shelter, and most impressively, has established the “4 Paws Sake Family Fun Fest.” This is a charity event that benefits rescue animals, which is also helping her pursue her Girl Scout Gold Award.

“When she goes to apply to college, they will look favorably on that,” said Weingroff about Misyak.

Misyak’s “4 Paws Sake Family Fun Fest” will take place on April 21 from 11-4 a.m. at Allaire State Park. This program will benefit homeless animals and raise awareness about what it means to own a pet.

Both staff members at The HOPE Center in Toms River, VanBezooijen and Santora, were the honorable recipients of the Ruby Award, Women Helping Women. This award is meant for women who have dedicated time to improving the lives of other women through professional endeavors.

The HOPE Center is a non-profit organization that aims “to provide support, resources, referrals, food to clients as they work to overcome a current life crisis,” according to their website. The work that VanBezooijen and Santora perform here helps to empower other women in their everyday lives.

Weingroff said that the Soroptimist organization chooses the candidates for each of the three awards. They submit a list of names of those who might be good candidates and they choose from there.

As the spotlight continues to shine on women’s issues, Weingroff noted that “it’s nice to know that there are women out there empowering other women.”

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Kimberly Bosco is the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications. A recent graduate of Rutgers University, she has spent the last four years studying both English and Journalism Media Studies. Kimberly has also recently worked for both Visit.org Dialogues @RU as a writing and editing intern.