What a fun evening! The Eighth Annual Kidsbridge Humanitarian Awards and Reception took place on Thursday, November 6 at the Trenton Country Club. This group of four business, foundation and educational leaders were being honored for their humanitarian efforts and community service. By their actions, they each have displayed a dedication to improving the quality of life in our community with positive and lasting results.

During the formal presentation, each honoree was introduced and spoke about why they feel connected to Kidsbridge. Eloquent and passionate, attendees were treated to a glimpse into their diverse backgrounds and what makes each honoree tick — making it easy to see why these individuals are deserving of their awards.

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(L to R): Lynne Azarchi, Marc Linowitz, Lori Danko, Lisa Forrester, Dr. Barbara Gitenstein, Will Smith, and Frank Lucchesi.

The 2014 honorees

Lisa Forrester, Owner and Executive Director Harmony Schools

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Lisa Forrester

Lisa Forrester founded the first Harmony School in 1981, after teaching elementary and middle school music in the public school system for seven years. She is the recipient of the Athena Award (Women in Business Leadership, presented by the Mid-Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce), the Princeton YWCA Women of Distinction Award, the Blue Chip Enterprise Award (National Chamber of Commerce), and was a member of the first class of the Top 50 Women in Business by NJBIZ Magazine.

Harmony is an early education program serving children from infancy to kindergarten, twelve months per year. Harmony’s tagline, “where little dreams grow” is embodied by the fact that over 10,000 families have been served at up to 6 different locations in central New Jersey since 1981. In addition to ensuring that children are loved, valued, and prepared for their next step on the education ladder, good citizenship is a cornerstone of Harmony’s philosophy and curriculum. A “kindness” component to the curriculum teaches even the youngest children the importance of treating each other fairly and gently.

Lisa currently serves as a Trustee on the board of Peddie School and as first vice president of the board of the Hopewell Valley YMCA. She is a believer in service to the community personally and professionally. Staff and families at Harmony walk annually in the “March for Babies,” gather food for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, and conduct clothing drives for the Rescue Mission of Trenton. Lisa and her daughters have raised $19,000 for breast cancer research.

The College of New Jersey, Represented by President Dr. R. Barbara Gitenstein

college_of_nj_160 Finding the right partner is key to a vision, and Kidsbridge found the perfect partner in The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). TCNJ generously housed Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum theonly youth tolerance museum in the United States on its campus in Forcina Hall. Since opening in March 2006 and relocating in June 2014, more than 15,000 children and youth along with their teachers and counselors have visited the museum and participated in this “transformational experience.”

Kidsbridge feels very fortunate for our ‘win-win’ collaboration with TCNJ’s Departments of Education and Psychology, and will forever be grateful for receiving in-kind museum space at the college. Without that space and support, Kidsbridge could not have accomplished what it did in the past eight years. Aligned with and supporting TCNJ’s mission to provide transformative education, Kidsbridge interacted with more than 250 college students and 14 faculty/staff members, each year, to inspire, teach, and motivate visiting youth and educators, and the mentored college students.

Kidsbridge was also extremely lucky to receive TCNJ President R. Barbara Gitenstein’s endorsement and unwavering encouragement, something we will treasure always. In her words, “The Kidsbridge Museum’s messages of tolerance and genuine celebration of difference are echoed in TCNJ’s core beliefs values that we seek to instill in all of our students. The college’s mission asserts that we aim to create the leaders of the future who, by embracing these values, will enrich and sustain the communities in which they live.”

Marc Linowitz, Rose and Louis H. Linowitz Charitable Foundation

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Marc Linowitz

Marc Linowitz is dedicated to Trenton area youth. Having grown up in Trenton and graduated from Trenton High School, he understands the value of education and the importance of good citizenship.

Marc is a trial attorney in Miami, Florida – but makes frequent trips to his roots in Mercer County to give back to our community. Marc has been very generous to Kidsbridge and its annual KidsBridge to the Arts Camp. Through The Rose and Louis H. Linowitz Charitable Foundation (established in 2004 “to better the lives of children in the Trenton/Mercer County area”), Marc also provides support to: Trenton Children’s Chorus, Passage Theatre, and the ‘Music for the Very Young’ Program of the Trenton Community Music School.

In 2010, his Foundation created the Linowitz Citizenship Prize to provide awards for those Trenton High School graduating seniors who have shown excellence through: extracurricular activities, outstanding academics, and leadership in the school and community. Awards have been given the past five years to graduating seniors who have best displayed the qualities of good citizenship during their high school years.

Ten years ago, the Linowitz Foundation initiated a challenge grant for the Trenton Times/Kiwanis Fund. Each year hundreds of Trenton youth are able to go to camp because of this Fund. The Foundation also supports the Annual Trenton Times Holiday Fund – which benefits a local nonprofit charity each year.

Marc and his Family Foundation continue to demonstrate his passion for youth leadership, youth arts and character education by supporting the programs that benefit at risk urban youth in Trenton.

Will Smith, General Manager/COO of Trenton Thunder Baseball Club

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Will Smith

In 2014, Will Smith completed his sixth year as the Chief Operating Officer & General Manager of the Trenton Thunder, the Double A affiliate of the New York Yankees. Will donates his time locally to the Mid Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Port of Trenton Foundation, RWJ Hamilton Hospital and Trenton Thunder Charities.

For the past 21 years, the Trenton Thunder has supported the greater Trenton community through a variety of outreach programs. The team’s roster of initiatives includes Boomer’s Book Buddies presented by the NJEA, which sends the team mascot out to schools during the winter to stress the importance of reading.

Other noteworthy programs include Trenton Thunder HOPE Week which allows the team to use its place in the public spotlight to recognize outstanding organizations and individuals in the community, and the FUNdraising program which gives local non-profits a powerful money generating option when they attend a game. Trenton Thunder Charities hosts a unique special fundraising event each year – a Treasure Hunt – that sends fans throughout the region as they compete, all while raising funds for the team’s Community Grant Program. All told, over $5.4 million worth of goods, services, and monetary donations have been given back in team history.

2014 Photo Gallery

Photos by Cie Stroud: Web Site / Facebook Blog

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