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Seeds of Hope: Call for Nominations

February 27, 2012 04:09 PM ET | Ashley J. Cerasaro | Permanent Link

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One of the best parts of my job as associate editor of New Jersey Monthly is telling the inspiring stories of our annual Seeds of Hope winners. If you know a volunteer whose story needs to be told, it’s time to let us know.

Every spring, we ask our readers to nominate a New Jersey resident who deserves recognition for his or her volunteer efforts—someone who dedicates a lifetime to planting seeds of hope and kindness in others and the community.

A distinguished panel of judges has the difficult task of narrowing down the field to five Seeds of Hope winners. Those selected are profiled in our September issue and honored at a luncheon that same month.

While I wrote profiles for only three of those honorees in the last two years, I met every single winner. Each interview and each speech inspired me—many moved me to tears. I cried when 96-year-old Nancy Liverakos of Highland Park (a 2010 honoree) shared a family tragedy, but laughed when she explained how she couldn’t shop for supplies for the holiday meals she once prepared for Women Aware Inc. because, “I’m old, you know.”

This year marks the ninth anniversary of the Seeds of Hope awards, and the staff of New Jersey Monthly, along with sponsors PNC Wealth Management and Crystal Plaza, are again asking you to help us recognize the state’s most dedicated volunteers. Nominations, which are accepted through April 20, may be made here.

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Tags: Seeds of Hope


Michael became a person with a disability when his feet had to be partially amputated because of his diabetes. He became a long term care resident at Bergen Regional Medical Center. His life suddenly and dramatically changed from that point on.

Most people in Michael’s situation would be overcome by the depression and the new and severe limitations that he encountered, but Michael pulled himself out of it by helping others. His new philosophy was “We are not disabled but differently abled.”

Michael Augustowicz has been involved with our agency, Heightened Independence and Progress (hip) since 2005. As Advocate for the agency I first got to know Michael as a volunteer that frequently appeared to help with various agency tasks from time to time. I was struck by his upbeat and sociable personality and his willingness to take on any task we needed help with. He was hard working and efficient in all that was asked of him.

As time passed and I got to know Michael better, I was so impressed with his concern about others and his generosity , giving his time and effort so freely whenever someone he knew was in need. This in itself would be admirable, but in addition, Michael was the consummate self-advocate and would encourage others to be their own advocates whenever possible. He constantly encourages those he knows to participate in community activities and not to isolate themselves. He would frequently check on them, especially those who did tend to remain alone, and would almost always succeed in getting them to try getting out and about. Michael was responsible for many residents living at Bergen Regional Medical Center getting to our agency’s meetings and recreational activities. Michael would sometimes even pay the transportation fees for them if they did not have any money left out of their $35 monthly allotments because he felt it was so important that these residents participate in community activities outside of their long term care living situation.

As evidence of his commitment to community participation and self advocacy, Michael organizes periodic voter registration drives at Bergen Regional Medical Center to encourage all long term care residents to exercise their vote. He visits the residents in their rooms, encourages them to attend the event (of which he is the primary coordinator) in their building to be sure they are properly registered so they will be able to actively participate in the most important aspect of our democratic process.

A Career Through Technology (CTT) is a group of young adults with developmental disabilities who meet regularly to discuss self-advocacy. When the regular facilitator was out ill for an extended period, because of his commitment to self-advocacy, Michael was asked to facilitate the meetings in her absence and did an outstanding job.

Michael began attending meetings of the Monday Morning Group’s Bergen Regional Advocacy Network (BRAN). The group was having a bit of difficulty moving forward because of some membership and leadership changes. Michael recently took on a leadership role in BRAN and is working hard to expand the group’s membership and move the group towards projects that will have a positive impact.

Posted by: Paula Walsh, Bergen County | Apr 02, 2012 17:51:24 PM |

Linda Barba

Kula for karma
Shelter our sisters
Matthew Larson children’s pediatric brain tumor foundation Marie Claire hospice foundation Valley hospital foundation Holy name medical center foundation Initiated the mayors wellness program in franklin lakes Franklin lakes woman’s club Franklin lakes valley hospital auxiliary Arch diocese of Newark with the superintendant of schools Fort lee chamber of commerce franklin lakes campaign for city council election Children’s aid and family services Arch diocese of Paterson development office American cancer society Bergen county mental health
Center for discovery. Severely autistic children
Working w fort lee health department for wellness awareness

Posted by: Stephanie Heyer, Franklin Lakes | Apr 12, 2013 15:16:58 PM |

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