Four Cherry Hill residents honored with County Freedom Medal
Melinda Kane has always had a passion for working with veterans in the community.
Her family tree is deeply rooted with military connections, including her father, who served as a Marine in World War II — and her late husband, Bruce, who served as a major in the Army.
In 2010, Kane lost her eldest son, Jeremy, who served in Afghanistan. And since then, she has dedicated much of her time to the American Gold Star Mothers Organization, The Jewish War Veterans, the Military Support Group of New Jersey and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
With the help of Rutgers-Camden — and its Veterans for Education group — Kane established the Jeremy Kane Run to raise money for veterans to continue their education at Rutgers.
And last year, Kane ran for a seat on the Cherry Hill Town Council.
Kane said winning the election has marked a milestone along her journey.
“My candidacy and election are the next steps in giving back to the community that has given so much support to my family,” Kane said. “This is an opportunity to make a difference and bring my life experiences to the governing body and to continue making Cherry Hill a great place to live.”
Kane, along with three other Cherry Hill residents, were recently honored by Camden County for their community efforts. Last month, Kane, Lori Braunstein, Haroon Durrani and Linda Holscher, along with 10 other county residents, were awarded the Camden County Freedom Medal during a ceremony at the Camden County Boathouse.
The award was created in 2001 and is presented to community leaders who exhibit the ideals of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“This was a very special year for the Freedom Medal because it marks the 10th anniversary of presenting these awards,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. “I am constantly amazed and humbled by the people who don’t seek the spotlight, but (who) serve their fellow residents so well and so selflessly.”
Durrani has served his community in a different way, dedicating his time and sharing his medical knowledge with the community he calls home.
Durrani’s family is originally from Pakistan.
There he received his medical training and has been a member of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA). Locally, Durrani provides seminars on preventative measures against disease.
His local chapter of APPNA has raised funds for flood victims in Pakistan and has also helped during the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti two years ago.
Durrani is also an active member of the Tamarind Society, a not-for-profit cultural and educational entity that promotes and fosters an appreciation of South Asian performing arts in the tri-state region.
Durrani said he was not expecting to be rewarded for the work he does. In addition to the Freedom Medal, he and the other honorees from the township were awarded a proclamation from Mayor Chuck Cahn. Durrani said he also received a letter of congratulations from U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken.
“It’s a great honor,” Durrani said. “It’s a very good feeling. I don’t think I deserve all of these things — it just makes me happy.”
After working for 30 years in the family business, Holscher decided to run for the Camden Board of Education. She served on the board for three years.
She now works as a volunteer at Christus Academy in the Cramer Hill section of Camden. She is also an active member of the Christus Church community associated with the school.
At first, Holscher said, serving in Camden was a challenge.
“It was quite a shock to my system. Then, I fell in love with Camden because of its diversity,” Holscher said.
The honor from the county was one Holscher said she wasn’t expecting.
“I’m not real big on honors. I do it because I like to. God gave me the gifts that I need to give back,” Holscher said.
Lori Braunstein may be a recognizable name in the community to some, in part, because she helped to get the township on the path to becoming more sustainable.
Braunstein, director of Sustainable Cherry Hill, said her passion to make her community greener for future generations is a constant motivator.
“Five years ago, I began noticing that every natural system that we, as humans, need to survive, was in a state of decline. As a mother, I realized that one day my kids would look me in the eye and ask, ‘Why didn’t your generation do anything when you had the chance?’ I realized I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try to make a difference so my kids and future generations could have a healthy, abundant, prosperous future,” Braunstein said.
Moving forward, Braunstein said she hopes to further the connections between the township and school district to help move the community forward sustainably.
“I am also thrilled to be able to facilitate a collaboration between the schools, the township and the community as we look for opportunities to work together on projects that move Cherry Hill toward a sustainable future,” Braunstein said. “No other town in the state is addressing sustainability in such a comprehensive manner — and the possibilities are limitless.”
The honor is more than just a medal for Braunstein. It’s about bringing the company she’s sharing the honor with.
“Martin Luther King Jr. taught us much about the value of community service and the unwavering pursuit of justice,” she said. “I am inspired by his teachings each day and was so honored to receive the Freedom Medal in the company of so many other incredible citizens.”