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20 Outstanding Citizens Honored by Union County Human Relations Commission at Unity Award Presentation

By kbm0423 on
Union County

Fourteen individuals and six organizations were nominated and selected for their dedicated efforts to foster human rights, human relations, and human dignity among the people of Union County.

The Union County Human Relations Commission’s 2020 award recipients were presented with their long-awaited Unity Achievement Awards on Thursday, June 9th, at Kean University STEM Center in the Township of Union.  

The 19th annual presentation was slated for May 2020 but had to be postponed due to the Covid pandemic.

Award categories included achievements by a corporate/business enterprise, community organization, nonprofit organization, individual, member of law enforcement, public servant, student, educator, clergy, faith-based organization, military/veteran, and member of the media.  

“The commission is proud to recognize our local role models who dedicate themselves to helping others and strengthening our communities,” Commissioner Co-Chair Dr. Martin Dickerson said. 

“These regular people do extraordinary things to make others’ lives better, and the evening’s presentation highlights all of the good that is being accomplished in Union County.”

The mission of the Union County Human Relations Commission is to actively encourage, develop, promote, and strengthen respect for human rights and cultural diversity among the people of Union County. 

 “The volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to serve on the Commission unequivocally agree that one of the best ways to strive to accomplish their mission is to publicly honor those who already do it well,” said Union County First Assistant Prosecutor James O. Tansey, who ultimately oversees the Commission.

The recipients of the 2020 Unity Achievement Awards are 

  • Dr. Michael Skolnik, DMD (Business Enterprise)
  • Moms Helping Moms Foundation (Community Organization)
  • McNany Charitable Foundation (Community Organization)
  • Shining Stars Network (Nonprofit Organization)  
  • Joyce H. Benz, Program Director, Union County Intensive Family Support Services, Mental Health Association in New Jersey (Individual)
  • Union County Department of Corrections Officer Peter Femia (ret.) and Heroes4Heroes (Law Enforcement)
  • Allison Sanchez, Educational Services Commission of New Jersey’s Adult Community Services (Public Service)
  • H. Edward Davenport, Director, Cranford TV-35 (Media) 
  • Mallory Banks, Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (Student)
  • Rabbi Avi Friedman, Congregation Ohr Shalom/Summit Jewish Community Center (Clergy)
  • StarFish Food Pantry of Plainfield and Covenant United Methodist Church (Faith-Based Organization)
  • Maureen Mazzarese, Supervisor of Guidance, Westfield Public Schools 
  • Rodrigo DaSilva and Steven Valeira, SCP Youth Soccer Inc. 
  • Former Police Officer Tiffany Kenny, Westfield Police Department (Special Achievement).  

Two awards were presented posthumously:  Daniel T. Sullivan, United States Army Veteran (Military/Veteran), and Dr. Derrick Nelson, Westfield High School Principal (Educator).

World War II Veteran Daniel T. Sullivan, a Township of Union resident who passed away on April 4, 2020, was recognized for his incredible above-and-beyond the call of duty service to our country, and for a well-lived life full of love, integrity, faith, and respect.  

Known as “D-Day Dan by his family and friends, United States Navy veteran Daniel Sullivan saw action aboard the U.S.S. Texas, the flagship of the bombing force at Omaha Beach as part of the June 1944 D-Day invasion at Normandy.  

He also participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific Theater.

Dr. Derrick Nelson, principal of Westfield High School and a Plainfield resident, was recognized for his selfless sacrifice in compassionate service to others.  

He lapsed into a coma during a procedure to donate his bone marrow to an unknown 14-year-old boy in France and died on April 8, 2019.  

His death came two months before Dr. Nelson and his fiancé, Sheronda Braker, the mother of their 5-year-old daughter Morgan, were scheduled to marry.  

He impacted the lives of people of all races and backgrounds in life and now is seen as a hero to people around the world.

TAPinto Plainfield editor Jennifer M. Popper was also present to receive her 2019 Unity Award for Achievement by the Media.

The Commissioners also recognized Mrs. Ruth E. Positan, who, although not a formal member, has donated her time and assistance in support of the commission since her daughter, Commissioner and Recording Secretary Karen E. Positan, was appointed to the Commission in 1997.

The Commission was created by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in 1991. 

The volunteer commissioners attend five regular meetings each year and participate in the many public offerings that are scheduled throughout the year.

The Commission is actively seeking individuals representing Union County’s 21 towns and our incredible diversity to serve as Commissioners. 

If you are interested in becoming a member, please email

Nominations are now open for the 2023 Unity Achievement Awards. 

In addition to their search for everyone who extends themselves in service to others, the upcoming awards also seek to honor individuals and organizations that extended themselves extraordinarily during the Covid pandemic. 

For more information about the Commission or to make a nomination, please visit its website at