The Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce recognized four women for their dedication to and leadership of OCNJ CARE during its annual Salute to Working Women luncheon May 1.
The honorees were Ocean City residents Dottie Cianci, Karin Gleason and Kathy Sykes and Margate resident Maria Marinelli, all of whom played a prominent role in the collective efforts of OCNJ CARE, a nonprofit formed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to help with the city's cleanup and recovery.
"There's no way we would have gotten to where we are right now without these women," said Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian during the event, which was held at the Ocean City Yacht Club and which drew about 125 people. "They are absolutely the backbone of this effort."
Drew Fasy, chairman of OCNJ CARE, agreed with the mayor's remarks, adding, "I was in the trenches for the last six months with the women in this room, and we wouldn't be where we are right now without them."
The four honorees were part of the core team of volunteers who jumped in immediately after the storm to help in any way they could, from assisting with debris removal to organizing a holiday toy drive and delivery for families financially affected by the storm, and collecting food, clothing and furniture for those in need. They also helped run the city's relief center for months on end, and they assisted in finding and securing housing solutions for the city's displaced residents.
For their efforts, each of the women received the "Woman of Achievement" award from the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, a "Piece of the 'Walk" from Gillian and commendations from U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, and from the state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Bob Andrzejczak, all D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic.
OCNJ CARE volunteers Sarah Lee, Caitlin Greene, Rose Savastano and Shawnda McGinnis also were recognized for their service to Ocean City during the event. They also received a "Piece of the 'Walk" from the mayor and commendations from Van Drew, Albano and Andrzejczak.
All honorees said they felt they were the fortunate ones for having the opportunity to help those in need.
"I want to thank my family for their patience, for the hours I was out of the house and not around," said Sykes, chair of the OCNJ CARE housing committee, which helped find temporary and permanent housing for the city's displaced residents.
Gleason also thanked her family "for allowing me to be gone for (long) days, opening the relief center at 5 a.m. and not getting home until 10 p.m., and for inspiring and supporting me in this.
"It all started with 'We should do something' and from that I met all of these beautiful, giving women."
Cianci is the coordinator of the Ocean City Ecumenical Council Food Cupboard, which as a result of the hurricane "went from a mom and pop operation to a Walmart in about 24 hours, providing food and cleaning supplies to thousands of people," as Fasy put it.
She said she was humbled by the opportunity to help and is proud to be a part of a strong community.
"We all came together in this effort" Cianci said. "If it was not for the support of OCNJ CARE and our regular volunteers at the cupboard, and the new ones we acquired, we wouldn't have been as successful as we were."
Marinelli, the 2012 President of the Ocean City Board of Realtors, also volunteered on the OCNJ CARE housing committee. She said she doesn't need to be thanked for her volunteerism.
"I had an older woman I helped tell me 'I'm going sleep well tonight,'" Marinelli said. "That's why I did it."
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