The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club hosted its 11th annual Voorhees Community Service Awards Dinner Jan. 24, recognizing four outstanding individuals from the local community who made positive impacts on the lives of others.
At the banquet, local township officials, school administrators and first responders were among those gathered to honor the 2019 award recipients: Raymond Gunther as Voorhees Citizen of the Year, Bruce Karpf as Voorhees Businessperson of the Year, William Walsh as First Responder of the Year and Kelli McGroarty as Selfless Student of the Year.
Mayor Michael Mignogna spoke at the ceremony before the four honorees were individually acknowledged, thanking them for their service across the community as well as their dedication toward helping others before themselves.
In further recognition of their selflessness, Mignogna said the four residents also received commendations from the township.
“On behalf of my colleagues, as well as the Voorhees community, we have brought commendations for the honorees,” Mignogna announced. “Thank you to the four honorees for being such great ambassadors for Voorhees Township.”
Gunther was the first to receive his award, which recognized him as Citizen of the Year due to his lifetime of “being a good neighbor, friend, volunteer and supporter of a variety of causes and institutions in Voorhees and surrounding communities,” according to the program.
Steve Wenick, a close friend of Gunther’s, presented the award, noting that if a resident needs assistance with something, Gunther is the person to ask.
“Ray helps his community in [various] way; some are big, some are small,” Wenick said. “If you want lightbulbs changed in your cathedral ceiling, just ask Ray. If you want a leaky faucet repaired, just ask Ray. If you want furniture moved, just ask Ray. If you want a sports team coached, just ask Ray.
“If you want this, you want that … just ask Ray.”
Gunther also has assisted the community in various other capacities, such as starting the Chad Gunther Memorial Fund in memory of his son to raise money for the Bancroft School’s Special Olympics Softball team. He also assists in team’s events year-round.
Funds raised through the memorial fund also have gone toward the Voorhees Police Department’s holiday fundraiser to support needy families at Christmas.
Businessperson of the Year Karpf had his award presented by one of his daughters, Alyssa Karpf Ronan, who noted it was a unique experience, for once, to celebrate her dad’s successes.
“For as long as we can remember, my dad has spent so much time celebrating our successes, no matter how small,” Karpf Ronan explained. “So it’s not every day that a kid gets to celebrate the success of her parents, and in my dad’s case, it’s certainly not for a lack of great achievements.”
Karpf, a member of the Voorhees board of education, has given back to the community and supported various youth, religious and educational organizations through his business, Sprinklz.
Karpf opened his business in 2014 with hopes of being involved in the community. Looking back on his family’s experiences while his daughters were growing up, he said he loved creating memories they could all look back on fondly, inspiring him to create a place where families can do the same.
Outside of his business, Karpf also has been an active member of the Eastern Education Foundation Committee and the Community Theater Program, and helped bring the Sturbridge Swim Club to Voorhees.
Walsh’s Voorhees First Responder of the Year award was presented by his wife, Abigail.
In learning about her husband’s childhood through close family and friends, she said Walsh’s desire to become a police officer and help others in various ways was always a dream. Now a member of the Voorhees Police Department, he showed interest in the career path during kindergarten, when he would impersonate a police officer.
Walsh became a police dispatcher, performing the job throughout high school while working toward his college degree. Within the police department, Walsh paved the way for increased community involvement and communication.
During Walsh’s time with Community Affairs, Voorhees became one of the first agencies in the state using the Nextdoor app to engage residents and assist them with local issues. He also helped establish regular communication with the local and regional school district in an effort to strengthen the bond.
Walsh also helped launch the community’s first National Night Out activity back in 2015, as well as the Coffee with a Cop event.
Potentially inspiring the most passion is Walsh’s work to train police officers nationally on issues such as mental health, homelessness and substance abuse. That effort recently helped Walsh earn the International Association Chiefs of Police 40 Under 40 award.
Selfless Student of the Year McGroarty is an outstanding senior athlete at Eastern Regional High School who will have her soccer jersey retired in the spring, ahead of her graduation in June. Early last year, she was recognized as the first Eastern athlete to be named the Gatorade NJ Girls Soccer Player of the Year. She helped lead her team to a state championship in 2018, while setting Eastern career records in categories such as career goals, goals in a season and career points.
Yet McGroarty received the student award not for her athletic achievement but for impacting the lives of others. The Gatorade award earned her a $1,000 grant for a nonprofit of her choice.
Upon entering a contest for only Gatorade winners, McGroarty wrote about her relationship with her late friend, Kara Lemanowicz, who passed away shortly before starting her freshman year of high school. The emotional essay won McGroarty another $10,000; she then donated that amount and her $1,000 grant from Gatorade — for a total of $11,000 — to Smiles From Kara, a nonprofit started by the Lemanowicz family to support area students who want to play youth sports.
With Lemanowicz being associated with the number 11 throughout her life, McGroarty said her donation from the beginning was meant for Smiles From Kara.
“I was lucky enough to win that contest to donate an additional $10,000, and if you do the math, it was meant to be, and I knew that before I’d written it,” McGroarty noted.
“I was able to hopefully help many children enjoy sports as much as she did.”