Twelve Honored For Human Rights Contributions

A sociologist who has dedicated herself to combatting bullying and bias, a ROTC high school student who consoled her school and community in the wake of a tragedy, a veteran who made a difference then and now, a cancer survivor and yogurt business that graciously reach out to sweeten the lives of other cancer patients, a reverend, a police sergeant, a mother who lost her only son to violence only to reach out to at-risk youth in his honor, and others who provide support, inspiration, and hope to children and adults who need comfort or physical aid and support — these individuals and organizations were singled out for their humanitarian contributions during the 13th annual Union County Human Relations Commission’s Unity Achievement Awards presentation earlier this week.

Commissioners and award recipients, family members, friends and co-workers attended the ceremony at the Elizabethtown Gas Company facility on Morris Avenue in Union Township.

“We appreciate this opportunity to honor those who have made a difference in our communities and in our lives,” said Commissioner Barbara Boyer, who co-chairs the Commission. “In whatever way these awardees offer help, support or opportunity, the result is that they better the lives of individuals, families and their extended communities.

The awards were created to recognize the activities and efforts of culturally-diverse individuals and organizations that go above and beyond to celebrate and promote diversity, respect and human dignity, Boyer said. These individuals are publicly honored for their personal embodiment and achievements of the Commission’s mission.

“The mission of the commission is to intervene to eradicate the conditions that cause bias and hate, to cultivate dialogue, communication and respect, and to promote human rights and cultural diversity,” said Union County First Assistant Prosecutor Thomas K. Isenhour, who also co-chairs the Commission. “These awards help us to celebrate the richness of life, and to publicly honor those who work toward the same goals as the Commission within their communities.  Our Unity Award recipients have dedicated themselves to making things better for people and between people.”

The 12 Unity Achievement Award recipients for 2014 include Dr. Paula Rodriguez Rust, Spectrum Diversity LLC (Special Achievement); Lisa Petrillo of Mountainside (Individual); Yo-Delight Frozen Yogurt of Springfield (Business Establishment), accepted by owners Ed Campbell and Kristopher Brus; U.S. Army veteran Joseph Barbella of Union Township (Veteran); The Birthday Box of Scotch Plains (Non-Profit Organization), accepted by Stacy Bergerman and Jennifer Wilner; Young Men of Resilience and Sarah Cherry-Cadogan of Plainfield (Community Organization); Detective Afstratios “Steve” Zevlikaris, Linden Police Department (Law Enforcement); Dulce Cabezas, Linden High School senior (Student); Dr. Danny Robertozzi, E.D.D., Linden Superintendent of Schools(Educator); Ralph Bernardo of Clark (Public Service); Rev. Princeton H. Holt of Plainfield (Clergy); and Sgt. Larry Brown Jr., Plainfield Police Division (Special Achievement).

Commissioner and Co-Chair Barbara Boyer of Plainfield was recognized for her great energy, hard work and inspired leadership of the Commission.  She served as Co-Chair from 2012 to 2014.

Award recipients were also presented with individual personalized resolutions sponsored by the New Jersey Legislature, and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The Union County Human Relations Commission consists of a voluntary group of Union County residents and professionals, who themselves represent diverse racial, ethnic, religious, and personal backgrounds.

The commission is one of the most active and respected in the state.  Current programs include bias and prejudice reduction and bullying and cyber-bullying prevention workshops for educators, students and the public, the locally renowned “Police and Teens Together” high school program.  As part of its role as conflict mediators, the commission has presented a series of public forums for distressed homeowners educating them about free state and local resources that can offer assistance and hope.  Educational programs are being explored and developed for host sites which are a part of the InterFaith Community Network, and Union County’s houses of workshop are always invited to join the Network.

Click here to view the 13th Annual Unit Achievement Award Presentation

For more detailed information about the Unity Award recipients and the Union County Human Relations Commission, visit the commission’s website at

The annual Unity Achievement Awards, presented by the Union County Human Relations Commission, honor those who promote respect for human rights and cultural diversity.  Recipients of 2014′s 13th annual Unity Achievement Awards are (front row, from left) Jennifer Wilner and Stacy Bergerman of The Birthday Box/Scotch Plains (Achievement by a Non-Profit Organization); Lisa Petrillo/Mountainside (Achievement by an Individual); Dr. Paula Rodriguez Rust, Spectrum Diversity LLC (Special Achievement); Dulce Cabezas, Linden High School senior (Achievement by a Student); and Sarah Cherry-Cadogan, founder and president of Young Men of Resilience/Plainfield(Achievement by a Community Organization); (back row, from left) Yo-Delight Frozen Yogurt Springfield owners Ed Campbell and Kristopher Brus (Achievement by a Business Enterprise); Sgt. Larry Brown Jr., Plainfield Police Division (Special Achievement);  Ralph Bernardo/Clark(Achievement in Public Service); Dr. Danny Robertozzi, E.D.D., Linden Superintendent of Schools(Achievement by an Educator); Detective Afstratios “Steve” Zevlikaris, Linden Police Department(Achievement in Law Enforcement); Rev. Princeton H. Holt/Plainfield (Achievement by the Clergy); Not pictured:  WWII U.S. Army veteran Joseph Barbella/Union (Achievement by a Veteran). The annual awards presentation was held in the Atrium of the Elizabethtown Gas Company in Union Township on May 5, 2014