NEWARK, NJ – Several “unsung heroes” of Newark receive well-deserved recognition for making their community a better place to live (see list below).

On May 7th, the Russell Berrie Foundation will recognize unsung heroes from across New Jersey for “Compassion and Selfless Commitment to Others” in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award.

This year there will be one grand prize of $ 50,000, four prizes of $ 25,000, and 14 prizes of $ 7,500. The award has now raised $ 3.75 million, each with an inspiring story about how they made a difference in their communities.

According to a press release from the Foundation and the Ramapo College of New Jersey:

“Over the past year, as communities across New Jersey and across the country faced a series of challenges caused by the pandemic, concerns over racial injustice and natural disaster unrest, unsung heroes emerged to feed their neighbors, to comfort and educate; and otherwise protect public health and safety. “

In Newark, these people include:

ENVIRONMENTAL CRUISER – Newark-based Kim Gaddy has fought on the frontline for environmental justice in New Jersey’s color communities for more than 20 years, starting in her own neighborhood, South Ward, where she raised three children who suffered from chronic asthma. That personal experience and the loss of her brother-in-law to a fatal asthma attack forced her to be a voice for communities affected by industrial pollution. After a decade of tenacious endorsement by Kim and other environmental leaders, New Jersey now has the toughest environmental justice legislation in the nation. In recognition of her staunch leadership, she received an award of $ 25,000.

FIGHTING FOOD SAFETY – Maria Torres of Newark became manager of the pantry at United Community Corporation’s Champion House a few weeks before COVID-19 started. She was recently diagnosed with lupus. She was at extremely high risk, but never wavered in her commitment to the community. As lockdowns and unemployment led to a huge increase in food insecurity, the pantry served 150,000 people in 2020 – an increase of more than 1,000 percent over previous years. Maria receives a $ 25,000 award for her dedicated service.

GEM PROJECT – Amanda Ebokosia, Newark, is the founder of the Gem Project, which educates young people about critical issues affecting their communities through activism and service learning. Young people strengthen their leadership skills and organize themselves into communities. Ebokosia receives a $ 7,500 award.

PARENTS COUNCIL – Wilhelmina Holder, Newark, is President of the Newark Secondary Parents Council. Decades after having children in the public education system, she continues to advocate justice and opportunity for young people at Newark Public Schools. The holder will receive an award of $ 7,500.