It was a standing-room-only crowd when the Evesham Township Council meeting was called to order at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 — even with many of the evening’s honored guests there past their bedtimes.
With an agenda chock-full of proclamations, Mayor Jaclyn Veasy expressed her delight at how much of it was good news.
“Half of our meeting tonight is celebrations,” she reported to the packed room.
Indeed, there was much to draw applause, laughter and even a few tears as a new officer took his oath of office, student council representatives spoke of their hopes for their schools and a grateful resident gifted a bicycle to the township’s police force.
Derrick Verduchi, flanked by his family and best friend, took his oath as the newest member of the Evesham Township Police Department as his mother held the Bible upon which Veasy swore him in.
Before the ceremony, Chief Christopher Chew spoke of Verduchi’s tenure so far with the department, his background in law enforcement, and how “Derrick rose to the top” of the selection process behind naming a new officer.
“This is another great moment for our organization, any time we have the opportunity to bring somebody into our family,” Chew said, explaining that the new officer will predominately be working on the roads and assisting with both courtroom and council security as he works to become a full-time member of the force.
Much of the audience had flocked to the council meeting in support of the evening’s youngest honorees, the dozens of Evesham Township schoolchildren who comprise the student governments at Jaggard, Beeler, Rice and Van Zant elementary schools.
“We’re going to honor our student councils — I love this because this is really the true form of the beginning of leadership: By stepping up and being a student council representative, you are putting yourselves out there and you’re making a difference in your school communities,” Veasy said to the fifth-graders in attendance.
The students from each school then introduced themselves, with many taking questions from the mayor about their futures in both student council and government, the promises they made to their peers, and the visions they have to make their schools even better.
After a brief break, the council reconvened on a more somber note for the presentation of a bicycle donated to the Evesham Township Police Department, courtesy of resident Nicole Lyons. She gifted the bike to the police in memory of her husband Gregg, who she lost in a car accident two years ago, as a gesture of gratitude for all that the township police have done for her and her daughter, Ava Grace.
While he was quick to mention that he wasn’t one of the first responders on the scene of the tragic accident, Officer Brian Libetti’s relationship with Rice School, where Ava Grace is a student, inspired Lyons to have the officer facilitate the donation.
“I’m honored to be here tonight with you,” Libetti said before handing the mic to Lyons.
Lyons explained that the bicycle reflected a favorite hobby of Gregg’s, who she called “the epitome of a good man, a good father and a good husband.”
“One of his passions was riding mountain bikes through the trails of Marlton,” she said. “He would go for 20-, 22-mile bike rides. He would come back so disgusting and gross — but he looked so happy and had such joy.”
Since her husband’s passing, Lyons has chosen a charity to honor him every year. The bicycle, she explained in a voice thick with emotion, was a way of doing “something very specific to my husband.”
“These police officers were so amazing in such a tragic situation, and the men who were at our home that night, they’re all fathers and I know that they empathized so deeply. And their kindness still rings true,” Lyons said. “So I hope that with this bike, that the officers who are riding it … find as much joy as my husband did.”
Lyons added that the bike will further honor her husband by bearing a plaque inscribed with a favorite saying of Gregg’s: “That’s how I roll.”
The donation, according to Chew, demonstrated exactly what makes Marlton a thriving community that always takes care of its own.
“We keep talking about how we are as a community and how we come together both in good times … and in tragic times,” he said. “We always support each other.”