Making the community a better place, one child at a time

The Haddon Fortnightly’s Denise Sellers wins New Jersey Women of Achievement Award

Denise Sellers sits on a bench downtown. Sellers recently won a Woman of Achievement Award from the NJSFWC.

The New Jersey Women of Achievement Awards are given to women who have taken leadership roles in making their communities a better place to live, honoring women who have gone above and beyond in their professional and personal lives to have a positive and lasting impact on others.

The awards honor women exactly like Denise Sellers.

The Haddon Fortnightly education chair and Haddonfield Child Care executive director will be honored with a New Jersey Women of Achievement Award this spring. She was entered through The Haddon Fortnightly for the award, which is co-sponsored by the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs and Douglass Residential College of Rutgers, The State University.

While Sellers knew she was up for the award, she is still not used to the idea of having won.

“It’s very strange. I see all these women I work with at The Fortnightly and women I work with at the state … maybe I’m just very fortunate to be surrounded by so many extraordinary women,” Sellers said. “It means more to me because it’s coming from a group of women who do so much. These women are unbelievably busy and creative and do all kinds of amazing things for their communities.”

Sellers, of course, is one of these unbelievably busy women herself. She has turned Haddonfield Child Care into a community for its kids, volunteers to read at her local elementary school, and serves as the education chair for The Haddon Fortnightly, among a multitude of other things, most all involving children.

“I really believe that children should be our focus all of the time, for so many reasons. Beyond our responsibility to them as young and vulnerable, I think we have a responsibility to raise them to be good citizens and to be the best that they can be,” Sellers said. “Children just need so much support. I know it’s cliché, but like the old Hillary Clinton book ‘It Takes a Village,’ we all have to work on behalf of the children in our communities.”

June will mark 31 years Sellers has been with the nonprofit Haddonfield Child Care. The organization was founded in 1985 by a group of working parents, and Sellers came on as executive director near the end of its first year. It provides care to children enrolled in Haddonfield Public Schools.

Sellers is proud of the program, evident in the animated and passionate way she discusses its strengths and successes, and has worked hard to turn Haddonfield Child Care into a neighborhood for its children.

When in a year-long fellowship at Penn in conjunction with the Philadelphia Writing Project, Sellers wrote a paper about afterschool care that was published in a journal. She is also a national ambassador for the Afterschool Alliance and helped write the code of ethics for the National AfterSchool Association. She credits the parents who started Haddonfield Child Care with encouraging her to get involved as a working professional in state and national groups.

“And that’s really been what kept me working in this job, because it gave me the chance to meet all kinds of extraordinary people,” Sellers said. “It’s really been, for me, a profession, not just a job.”

Not too many years after starting with Haddonfield Child Care, longtime friend Marie Dimatties started bringing Sellers to events and activities with The Haddon Fortnightly. Before long, Sellers decided to join the club. That was 25 years ago.

“It’s an amazing group of women,” Sellers said. “There’s something for everyone in the organization.”

Another way Sellers keeps herself busy is by reading to classes at her local elementary school. Sellers lives in nearby Stratford, and she started reading to classes at Parkview Elementary School when her grandchildren were students there.

“The kids in the school, I walk in and they say, ‘Nana’s here, Nana’s here!’ To walk into the school and the kids know me and trust me — I just think it’s really important,” Sellers said with a smile.

Sellers always wanted to be a Nana, and she credits the strong role models she had in her own parents and grandparents for this desire. She’s the mother of two — daughter Dana Revaitis and son Devin Sellers — and grandmother to two — Ethan Revaitis, 12, and Camilla “Cami” Revaitis, 9. Not only a proud mother and grandmother, Sellers is also a proud daughter, mentioning her father, Joseph Trasatti, recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

As Sellers looks toward retirement from Haddonfield Child Care, she admits it’s not easy to walk away from a program that has been like one of her children for the past three decades. This is the first year one of her original kids is enrolling his own child into the program. She’s attended two weddings of Haddonfield Child Care graduates. One child now sits on the board as an adult.

“I’ve seen these kids grow up into such wonderful adults, and it’s just a rare opportunity to see where your work took someone. Over the years, I’m just amazed at what great kids they turn out to be,” Sellers said. “I want to retire because it’s just such a 24/7 job, but on the other hand, I’m going to miss it. It’s been my life for 30 years.”

To learn more about the New Jersey Women of Achievement Awards, visit www.njsfwc.org and click on “Projects.”