Mayor’s Message: Voorhees residents honored at awards dinner

The annual Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club Community Awards Dinner honored three Voorhees community members for their work in the township

On Jan. 24, I was privileged to be part of the annual Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club Community Awards Dinner. Juliana Petito-Maffei, Esq. was honored as the 2018 Voorhees Citizen of the Year. Joel Elfman, DDS was honored as the Businessperson of the Year. Brandon Smeltzer received the Selfless Student of the Year Award.

Juliana Petito-Maffei was born and raised in Long Island, attended Georgetown University in Washington DC then graduated from Rutgers University Law School. She has practiced law in Philadelphia and South Jersey for almost 30 years. Juliana married Michael Maffei and they welcomed children. Their joy of children turned to deep concern for their toddler diagnosed with severe autism, which led Juliana and Michael to become involved with the special needs community through Signal Hill Elementary School.

As the parent of a special needs child, Juliana met many wonderful parents and children she wanted to help. In 2009, through the hope and hard work of a group of inspiring parents of children with special needs, SPEAK (Special Needs Parents Educators and Kids of Voorhees, Inc.) was born. Formed to create acceptance and opportunities for children with special needs and their families, Juliana would serve as its president or secretary throughout its 10-year history.

Under her leadership, SPEAK works with the Voorhees School District, Eastern Regional High School, area businesses and the healthcare community to raise awareness of children with special needs. SPEAK created an annual township wide Ability Awareness Week, as well as sports programs and outings for the children and their families. In addition, she pioneered the SPEAKArts program. This unique theatre program gives children with special needs the opportunity to bond with family and friends while engaging in artwork, musical numbers, dancing and acting on stage. Going forward, SPEAK is helping to develop programs for students transitioning into adult life.

Dr. Joel Elfman has been serving the orthodontic needs of Voorhees and the surrounding communities since 1985. Joel is a dual trained specialist with certifications in Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry. He received his degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 1984 where he also had the distinction of being named Chief Dental Resident.

Dr. Elfman is very involved in the community, including such causes as the Alicia Rose Foundation, Run and Walk 4 Family and Friends with Cancer, Toys for Tots, Give Kids a Smile, Daffodil Days, Support the Troops and the American Cancer Society’s Ride for a Cure. He strongly believes that businesses should give back to the community they serve, as a civic duty and to show gratitude for the patients support of the business. Dr. Elfman provides dental education and oral hygiene kits to several local schools.

Brandon Smeltzer was born and raised in Voorhees where he attended E. T. Hamilton Elementary School and the Voorhees Middle School. Brandon is currently a senior at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School. He is on the leadership team for the Bishop Eustace Senior Homeless Project. This program educates the student body on what it means to be homeless and how we as a society can help those suffering in our world.

From a young age, Brandon enjoyed helping others. At Bishop Eustace, Brandon has helped at football games in the concession stand and the school store outside. As a sophomore, Brandon was a cheerleader and helped at the school’s Victory Day, which is a day that children with special needs get to come and be part of the football team, the cheerleading team or the band. Brandon also serves at St. Anthony’s Elementary School in Camden where he tutors kids. Brandon also volunteers with the Red Cross at the front desk, filling the stack station for blood donors and putting together booklets for the Red Cross “Pillow Project.”

The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club has worked passionately and tirelessly since its inception in 2002 for the Voorhees Community. The group has donated thousands of dollars in scholarships to local high school students. They have also donated hundreds of food baskets and countless backpacks filled with school supplies to needy Voorhees families. The club has provided meals for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House and is a fixture at Voorhees Community events, particularly the Halloween Festival. Each year the Club organizes and sponsors our local Egg Hunt.

Recently, the club initiated the “For the Kids Healthy Snack Program” to provide snacks for hungry children in our schools.

The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club meets every Thursday morning at 7:15 a.m. at the Voorhees Diner on Route 73. For more information about the Club, visit www.voorheesbreakfastrotary.org.

On behalf of the residents of Voorhees and the Township Committee, thank you to the Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club and congratulations to Juliana Petito-Maffei, Dr. Joel Elfman and Brandon Smeltzer. All embody the Rotary Motto of “Service Above Self.”

**The Voorhees Arts Center is offering a “Learn to Watercolor” painting class on Feb. 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Voorhees Arts Center & Gallery in the Voorhees Town Center. This semi-private class is for beginners to intermediate students with only 6 spots available. The cost is $15 per class and if interested visit, www.sustainablevoorhees.org or call (609) 315–6218.

** The Voorhees Arts Council is hosting “The Art of Chocolate” at the Voorhees Arts Center and Gallery on Feb. 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. The event will have you creating your own chocolate art through molds and maybe a few chocolate pairings with caramel, strawberries or pretzels. You will go home with your chocolate creations just in time for Valentine’s Day. The cost is $25 each and space is limited to only 10 people. Pre-registration is required with payment by credit card or cash. At this BYOB event, the history and art of chocolate will also be reviewed. If you are interested visit, www.sustainablevoorhees.org or call (609) 315–6218.